A stuff of legend with more thunder

A stuff of legend with more thunder

There is an eclectic taste settling in India, for motorcycles bearing grand, powerful and monumental proportions. From the days when mileage dictated the terms of motorcycle demand and pricing, the market today has served up almost everything it can offer on the platter, and the buyer stands spoiled for choice. And one immensely popular segment which is seeing a lot of interest is that of ‘cruisers’, where the evergreen Royal Enfield is fielding its crucial position with a new machine.

While Royal Enfield has always tried to upkeep a traditional look when it designs its cruisers, that trend appears set to change, as the legendary mid- to heavy motorcycle-maker enters uncharted territory with its newest kid on the block - the Thunderbird 500X.

When the company rolled out the first Thunderbird way back in 2000, it set a new paradigm in Indian motorcycling. The market was nascent, and the motorcycle imbibed a sense of awe among patrons, who beheld a true cruiser design in India for the first time. In 2012, Royal Enfield launched a facelift of the Thunderbird across 350 cc and 500 cc trims, which derived quite a fan following. Today, cruiser market is dotted with marquee foreign brands, with their magnificent bikes. And it’s imperative to see how RE sets its own standards in the highly competitive market with the Thunderbird 500X.

The Royal Enfield Thunderbird boasts of its own innate individuality. A cruiser built for the highway and the open expanse of the countryside, yet bearing an urbane practical aura. This is one of the main factors that has set the quality of Royal Enfield’s products, in comparison with most of the competition. Bearing almost all seasons, these motorcycles are seen lasting a lifetime, ageing tirelessly, yet gracefully. And the Thunderbird is no exception, even ‘after 18 years on the road’.

Getting younger

The Thunderbird X Series injects youthfullness into the otherwise imposing Thunderbird. Snazzy colour schemes and a chiselled appearance are what first meet the eye, but there definitely is more substance beneath the exterior.

Royal Enfield has decided to roll out the X Series in the 350 variant as well, much like the traditional Thunderbirds, but seemingly has a different target audience in mind in terms of the aesthetics.

Riders will have the option of four bold colours - Whimsical White, Roving Red, Drifter Blue and Getaway Orange - and rest assured, the 500X will get you plenty of eyeballs, be it at a signal or on the highway.

In terms of mechanical technicalities, it carries almost the exact specifications as its conventional predecessor.

The rider is astride a 499 cc air-cooled single-cylinder fuel-injected engine that boasts of 27.2 bhp at 5,250 rpm. Added to that, the 500X has a five-speed gearbox, though going beyond third gear on city roads is a near impossible task.

Through the years, one would always know that a Royal Enfield was in the vicinity, going by the distinct thunderous roar of the engine.

Government regulations and adopting modern technology have almost made the thump a thing of the past. Newer engines are more refined and a lot quieter, with the 500X being no different.

BS-IV-compliant machine

The 500X has a BS-IV regulated engine, which is meant to keep the engine a lot quieter. First impressions may seem so, but when the power really kicks in the second gear, it will be music to any rider’s ears.     

Customising a Thunderbird has been widespread among owners with many opting for a shorter handlebar or a matte finish on the exhaust, and it seems that Royal Enfield has eventually taken stock of the situation and delivered.

A stark difference on the 500X, and a welcome one, is the ride position. Royal Enfield has done away with the cruiser handlebar, while opting for a flatter one, which definitely takes riding comfort up by many notches. Also, it comes with a matte black finish on the exhaust and other peripheral parts.

Tubeless alloy wheels with nine colour-coded spokes make for better safety in the urban setting, considering the condition of the roads in the city and across the country. The suspension is another brownie point as the 500X comes with 41 mm forks, 130 mm travel in the front and the rear with twin gas-charged shock absorbers with 5-step adjustable preload, 80 mm travel.

When DH test rode the 500X, the placements of the foot pedals, handlebar and the single-mould seat made manoeuvering Bengaluru’s chaotic cityscape a lot easier.

Be it cutting through traffic or overtaking, the 500X seamlessly fits in.

Call for an ABS

Breaking is also optimum with the twin disc brakes, but the manufacturers have missed a trick or two by not including the vital ABS or even having it as an add-on. This miss is quite in the face, considering that several mass manufacturers are offering the integral safety feature on some their conventional, affordable machines. One must realise that the Thunderbird is a sought-after motorcycle for road trips through the Indian hinterland, and it rather feels incomplete without an ABS.  

Riding pillion isn’t the best experience either on the 500X. With the seat rest being an add-on, the punch that the bike packs in the first two gears makes it uncomfortable for the pillion rider, with the grab-rails below the seat providing little assistance. There will be respite for potential owners as there will be an option of getting the seat rest as an add-on feature.

Another shortcoming is visible with the speedometer and RPwM meter. Though the two are well-lit and visibility isn’t an issue at lower speeds, both are made of light plastic and at higher speeds, vibrations make it uncomfortable for the rider.

With a standard 20-litre tank and a kerb weight of 197 kg (exactly like the Thunderbird 500), the 500X is expected to have an average mileage of about 35 km to the litre. 

Priced at Rs 2.48 lakh (ex-showroom Bengaluru), the 500X seems a tad overpriced, but the design and futuristic elements could definitely play a crucial role in attracting buyers.       

Overall, it may not be the stuff of dreams for a true blue Royal Enfield enthusiast, but certainly would strike a chord with new-age riders and road trippers.

Royal Enfield’s masterpieces never seem to get old!