Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 review, road test, specifications and price
Royal Enfield has its own community of diehard followers. These motorcycles have more Brit flavour and are somewhat easier on your bank statement than their American cousins. These bikes have made their own identity and needless to say, have created a market of their own. Struggling to get the numbers right on the sales chart is a thing of the past. If you want one today, wait for months! Royal Enfield’s move to introduce new or rather updated versions of their road thumping motorcycles has, over the years, made the brand reach a new set of people.
Royal Enfield must have noticed the followership and decided to break the code with some new age design, engineering and yes, better performance! The result is the new Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 and also gets us to the big question most non-Bullet fans ask : is it worth spending close to Rs 2lac (on-road) for an Enfield?
Thunderbird has always been confused about the state of segment in which it falls, genes from both a street bike and cruiser has been infused to make something which looks striking on road but not one of the most elegant. Standing tall, Thunderbird’s attention grabbing new development is its new projector lamp, with daytime running lamps to add a touch of modern-ness.
Visual changes include new tachometer which has been painted with blue backlit. Sitting just above the projector headlamp steel housing, the twin-pod display is hybrid of digital and analogue. The right pod has been exclusively taken by the tachometer while the right analogue meter shows your speed. The little digital display has the more valued information like fuel level, odo meter, trip meter, service due warning, clock and something which generally would not find on many bikes for masses; an average speed meter. Eh? Chaps at Royal Enfield surely tried to fit as much as they can as features of the bike though in a neat manner. The overall look of the heavy duty machine is quite good in real life but then, it does take time to believe that any Royal Enfield has retro-fitted projectors. Most general population who were unaware of the move by British company commented as “nice after-market job” after getting a look of the projectors though. Shedding the Retro tag from its sleeves, Thunderbird al so gets to show-off a new fender, more comfortable split seats, a rear disc brake and a host of changes which makes it look more modern.
Thunderbird might look lazy because of its over-sized looks, but then, there are few things done on the engineering desk to make the lady to perform like a hyper active kid who would not lose a grip no matter how you walk. The handling has been massively improved with new wider 41mm forks, a 240mm disc brake at rear, a new swing arm with shorter wheelbase and new rubbers from MRF : all these additions make it a whole new story to take the bike through the corners. With wide handle-bars and comfortable riding position, you always feel like you are the author of your own riding stories and bike will move perfectly with slightest hint of your command. Although the bike is heavy, you can flick the bike without doing hard manoeuvres. The comfortable riding position does not bothers your back while going for long week-end rides or those short dashes to work during the thick traffic situations of weekdays.
Thunderbird is primarily built for touring and the huge 20-liter tank which feeds the 500cc fuel- injected motor to churn 27.2 bhp of power and 42Nm of maximum torque proves the fact that it is still built for those long rides. The 5-speed gearbox has long ratios and first timers will be taken aback with the speeds it can do in 1st gear for example. The torque rich engine can keep the machine to run at 100km/h whole day without giving a slightest indication of being tired with just mild vibes settling in form the pegs and the bars. With those long gearings, the bike feels the best in open roads, where you would not worry much about using your left foot to use the gear lever too much. As characteristics of being a Royal Enfield, the bike still has some vibes, but then, that is what defines the Enfields and what is how they are supposed to be.
In city, it takes a bit of time getting used to the wide bars and long turning radius though within two days, I felt comfortable during my ride to office in Gurgaon. The suspension seems to have been working on for the good, absorbing bumps in a way that my Pulsar 220 never had! Lastly, expecting magical figures from the bike every time you tank up would be unfair – after all there is an engine as big as the Nano’s (well, almost) between the two wheels.
With a sticker price of Rs. 1.68 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) the Royal Enfield Thunderbird lives up to its name. On paper, that’s a lot of money but then again, you do get a lot of bike for that dough. The torquey engine, the comfortable riding position and new features sure gives a reason to new buyers to know what Royal Enfield is all about. Retro looks fused with modern engineering have surely given birth to one of the best long distance motorcycles in India. If you do buy one, chuck the original exhaust for a better (read – free flow) one, invest into saddle bags and a tank bag and reserve a week from your working calendar every month!