Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 – Long Term Review

“Not the ones speaking the same language, but the ones sharing the same feelings understand each other”, says Rumi.

Well, this proverb would absolutely come to life once you spend a little bit of some time with the rustic yet charming piece of machinery in picture here, which strikes a certain chord with the heart and is called the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500.

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One might have a sluggish baritone and she, a roaring thump, but still it wouldn’t take long to sing along in unison, about a distinct sense of freedom, the air of which sways you as you sit across adorning the throne with your head held high.

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The motorcycle beholds the position of being the company’s flagship cruiser and would be very much at the helm, until the iconic brand ventures out to disrupt mid-size segments with newer products in the 600-800cc categories in the coming future.

The Thunderbird 500, till then is the synonym for a dependable long distance workhorse, which very well understands your urges and desires of going out to explore the beautiful vistas Mother Nature has on offer.

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STYLING

The Thunderbird 500 has that quintessential Royal Enfield design flair and in its current avatar, the designers have arrived at just the right blend of old school class, layering it with dashes of modern touches. The overall styling is unmistakably that of an RE, with a heavy tank, long wheel base and large handlebar.

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The contemporary touches, which immediately escalate the bike’s appeal, start right from the front, where the circular headlamp gets an LED pilot ring, which looks beautiful to say the least. This gets coupled with a projector setup for the low beam, which lends a solid futuristic touch to the motorcycle upfront.

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The fuel tank is massive and gets a ‘teardrop’ design in RE speak and does look elegant and goes on to sport an offset fuel filler, which brings in some fresh unconventional breeze and enhances the tank’s look from the rider’s view.

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The sides see an engine finished in all black. Then, there are dashes of chrome underneath the saddle, which give the bike that good old world charm and make it a delight to be gazed at. The straight exhaust pipe is again a full chrome unit and complements the other subtle chrome highlights, like the multi-spoke rims and the indicator stalks, together, all of which paint the Thunderbird with a classy brush stroke.

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The last breath of newness comes at the rear where a full LED tail lamp sits in an oval pod and with the small little effort of its shape, it ceases the beauty of the design from the back.

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INSTRUMENT CLUSTER AND SWITCH-GEAR

The instrument binnacle gets twin-pods, with a digital-analog combination. On the left side sits the speedometer, with a digital odometer, two trip meters, a digital clock and a digital fuel gauge. The right one houses the tachometer, along with warning indications, which include side-stand warning, hazard light indication (yes, RE has thrown in this cool and usable feature too!)  and the active indicator notification.

Royal Enfield-thunderbird-500_27The two meters also show a full sweeping effect of their needles when the motorcycle is put in the ignition-on mode, which looks kind of cool and again gives a modern touch to the bike. The instruments also come with a blue back-lighting and this lends a very nice ambiance to the cluster, which is very soothing to the eyes, especially during the night. The readability of the digital counters during day time however, isn’t all that great and the numbers get muffed under the sun’s reflection.

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Coming to the switchgear, Royal Enfield has left a lot to be desired in terms of the quality of the switches, their tactile feel and their ease of operation. The indicator button for instance, sometimes requires a lot of effort to get engaged and an equal amount of force is needed to disengage it. Leaves scope for some more engineering time to go in here.

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ENGINE AND GEARBOX

The Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 gets the much acclaimed Unit Construction Engine or the UCE from RE’s stable, which also powers other motorcycles in its large family. In its 500cc avatar, the Thunderbird comes with an Electronic Fuel Injection system, which pumps in fine strains of fuel into the single-cylinder air-cooled engine, leading to ample power and torque output for the motorcycle’s size. It comes with a self-starter unit and comes to life every time the button is pressed, without showing tantrums to kickstart every morning.

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The twin-spark engine produces 27 BHP of power and around 41 Nm of peak torque. And the way in which the engine throws out all that power, makes the motorcycle a delight to operate. The torque comes in right from the low rpms and then there’s oodles of it across the rev band, all the way up to 4,000 rpm. The motorcycle idles at 1,400 rpm and pulls cleanly in every gear to arrive at its comfortable cruising speed of 80 kmph-85 kmph. A gentle twist of the throttle is enough to propel you ahead with similar aggression, albeit with a lot of vibrations post this point, which set the foot pegs and the rear view mirrors abuzz.

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The bike also produces a gentle and sophisticated thump from the exhaust in lower speeds, which gets pronounced gradually as speed builds up and in the entire rev range, the exhaust note is a sweet sounding one and makes for a pleasant riding experience.

Royal Enfield-thunderbird-500_5The engine comes mated to a 5-speed heel-toe shifter unit, which is extremely clunky and slotting in gears is definitely not the smoothest thing to do on this motorcycle. There are false neutrals on more occasions than one and the gearbox is even reluctant to go into the lower gears while downshifting from higher gears after slowing down considerably. It is one of the sore points in the whole package and definitely is one of the areas where Royal Enfield should put in its time and energy, so as to offer a thoroughly remarkable experience to its customers.

(Watch – Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Detailed Video Review)

RIDING CHARACTERISTICS

The Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 quenches that thirst for an enjoyable ride. The seating posture is quite upright, owing to the slightly forward set foot pegs and a wide handlebar, both of which lead to a very comfortable and relaxed seating stance. The rider’s seat itself is quite substantial, offering good amount of firmness and padding to aid long saddle hours without causing much numbness.

The pillion gets a seat back-rest, which gives fair enough support and the rear foot pegs also provide a relaxed seating posture to whoever sits at the back.

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The front gets regular telescopic forks and the rear ones again are standard gas filled absorbers, both doing a phenomenal job of making the Thunderbird offer ride quality, which is nothing short of sublime. The bike simply smothers down bad patches on highways and never lets you feel unsettled by road joints or undulations.

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Hence, long distance rides could easily be traversed in utmost comfort, letting the rider gulp in the beauty and the varied diversity of the surroundings he/she is riding through, mapping equally beautiful imagery in the hippocampus for revisiting them again in the years to come.

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The Thunderbird also remains amply stable at high speeds and keeps going in a straight line without any fuss. The high kerb weight and good contact patch with the road help in this aspect. The bike is also quite an able corner carver. One can easily lean into a corner and come out of it, maintaining good amounts of speed, without worrying much about stability or losing the line midway.

Having a long wheelbase, the bike is a bit tough to maneuver in city traffic conditions, but it is not that much of a task, given the ample torque playing low down as soon as the clutch is released and this helps the bike crawl in dense traffic situations with working out just the clutch and the brake levers, with the engine taking care of the rest of the inching forward activity on its own.

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The Thunderbird also comes with a dual disc setup, with a 280mm disc at work at the front wheel and a 240mm one playing at the rear. Both of them give the motorcycle fantastic stopping power and the bike always comes to a halt in a very composed manner, without being skittish at the rear or even diving abruptly to the front. This inspires a lot of confidence to easily take the motorcycle to higher speeds while being fully in control of things.

FUEL EFFICIENCY

Being a capable highway machine that it is, the Thunderbird 500 also delivered some very respectable numbers for the amount of fun it offers to the rider. The motorcycle returned a healthy fuel efficiency figure of more than 34 kmpl on a long 680 kilometer highway run.

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In pure city riding conditions, the bike tends to become a bit thirstier with all that power and returns between 28-30 kmpl, which again is quite a decent number for the sheer riding pleasure it offers at every twist of the right wrist. The 20-litre fuel tank is a big boon and takes the tension of refueling away on those long expeditions.

EXPLORATIONS AND VERDICT

So, as is visible from the story hitherto, the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 is a complete package and offers delectable performance and supreme comfort while riding in both city and on highway conditions.

It becomes one with you and unknowingly senses one’s instinct of simply blowin’ with the wind and enjoying the picturesque alluring landscapes that could be ridden through to satiate those dire hunger pangs of getting lost in nature, to find your true calling.

 

 

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