Bikes > Quickshift

Hardcore Brothers parts ways with Royal Enfield

To focus on bringing in BSA motorcycles

It's 'goodbye RE, hello BSA' for Jimmy Barinaga of Hardcore Brothers. PHOTO FROM HARDCORE BROTHERS

Jimmy Barinaga, president and CEO of Hardcore Brothers Custom Motorcycles, remembers the early days of selling Royal Enfield in the Philippines. Known as the oldest motorcycle brand still in production since 1901, the English brand has an interesting history, first starting out as an English operation, and eventually evolving into the Indian-owned and -manufactured brand that it is today. An Enfield today is appreciated for its English roots, and also respected for the quality of its Indian engineering.

But in 2012, the brand had yet to earn that status.

Marami talaga noon na pupunta sa showroom tapos nagandahan dun sa Classic 500,” he shares with us. “Tapos tinatanong kung saan gawa. When I told them ‘India,’ tumalikod lang ako sandali tapos pagbalik ko, wala na pala akong kausap.”

The Interceptor 650 was a huge hit for Royal Enfield when it was first introduced. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Yet it was a challenge that Jimmy and his wife Flerry didn’t give up on. “I really liked the bikes, and it was up to us to build the brand here in the Philippine market,” he says.

Bike by bike, customer by customer, Jimmy steadily built a community of Royal Enfield owners. He formed the Royal Enfield Association of the Philippines (known as the REAPers), organizing rides, sharing maintenance advice, and keeping the fire alive within the community.

I remember the first time I stepped into a Royal Enfield showroom at their old location in Makati. Any doubts I had about the quality of these Indian-built bikes, or the after-sales support I’d be depending on once I got one, were quickly soothed by the warm professionalism of the staff. In the two years that I enjoyed with my Interceptor, I got great service and a wonderful community with which to ride.

BSA built everything from guns and aircraft components to bikes during both World Wars. PHOTO FROM BSA

And that’s why I’m excited about the next chapter in Hardcore Brothers’ journey. After sharing with me that he had decided to part ways with Royal Enfield for, um, various reasons, Jimmy is gearing up to launch BSA in the Philippines.

If you know your vintage bikes, BSA (or Birmingham Small Arms Company) is a legendary British brand that was founded all the way back in 1861. The company built everything from firearms, tools, and aircraft components to cars, bicycles, and motorcycles throughout both World Wars, and the motorcycle division reached its heyday during the 1950s and the 1960s.

During that era, one in four motorcycles sold all over the world was a BSA, and 80% of Britain’s motorcycle exports were by BSA by 1968. Unfortunately, the rise of Universal Japanese Motorcycles in the 1970s brought about the demise of many British brands including BSA, which went bankrupt in 1972 and ceased production a year later.

The Gold Star is BSA's first modern retro bike. PHOTO FROM BSA

The rights to the brand were purchased by BSA Company Limited in 1978, then in 2016 it was bought by Classic Legends Private, which is partly owned by the Indian powerhouse Mahindra Group. So, much like the story of Royal Enfield, which started out British and ended up as an Indian product with English character, Mahindra is doing the same with BSA. The brand recently launched its Gold Star retro roadster in the UK earlier this year.

As Classic Legends’ first foray into the Southeast Asian region, Hardcore Brothers has a lot riding on this investment. Jimmy has yet to open a single showroom or launch the Gold Star here. But if his team can duplicate or even better the winning formula that made Royal Enfield a popular and aspirational bike in the country, then BSA is in good hands.

“We are excited with the prospect of creating a new movement and a solid riding communitywith BSA, together with our partners Classic Legends,” he declares. “As the first territory to break the brand in the Asia-Pacific region and outside Europe, we will show Filipino riders a different kind of experience as we continue having a good wind, safe ride, and an endless road of gold.”

Who will shepherd Royal Enfield now is anyone's guess. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

With no news yet on who will take over distributorship for Royal Enfield in the Philippines, one could say that the brand is in limbo while dealers scramble to fill the void.

In the meantime, fans of classic-styled bikes can look forward to seeing how Hardcore will bring the spirit of BSA to the riding community.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.