While Royal Enfield is now a very popular brand, a decade and half ago it wasn’t as big a brand then as it is now. The Bullet model along with its many variants weren’t good enough. When launched in 2002, Thunderbird was a different breed, targeting the urban audience. The cruiser theme, a new territory for the brand and also us, became a big hit and the gamble paid off. Thunderbird sold in thousands and now Royal Enfield has given it a refresh in the form of Thunderbird X, which comes in two variants – 500X and 350X. Is the X series just a paint job or does the Thunderbird has anything more up its sleeves?
From afar, many could think that the 500X is Thunderbird's Redditch series and we can’t really blame them. Get closer and 500X starts showing its colours, pun intended. In typical RE fashion, the company has decided to make the 500X available in Getaway Orange and Drifter Blue colour options while the 350X will come in Roving Red and Whimsical White. You cannot mix and match. So, the X series get new colours with matching wheel stripes. The colours, though only limited to the tank, do pop beautifully and the rest of the bike is finished in black. New 9-spoke alloy wheels, flat handle bars, new single seat unit and new grab rails make up the new features of 500X. The features may not look much but they do make an impact.
Mount the bike and the flatter handle bar makes for a much sportier sitting position. It’s not just for aesthetics purpose as the low handle bar also helps in better handling in traffic jams. The single piece seat features a central patch of fabric that promises more comfort and won’t leave you with a wet bottom. There are no changes to the instrument cluster.
Mechanically, Royal Enfield didn’t mess around with the engine of the Thunderbird. The power and torque output remain same at 27.2 bhp and 41.3 Nm respectively and as the kerb weight of the bike also remains the same, there’s no change in the performance. The engine has got strong pulling power from the low end and the going is smooth till about 4,000 rpm. Post that, you will feel the tell-tale vibrations in the handlebars and foot pegs that we have come to accustom with REs. Go fast and leave the world in your rear view mirror in a blur; not because of the speed but the vibrations make it impossible to view the world behind. The typical Bullet thump is there, albeit in a muffled manner.
Ride quality is as good as ever and the lower handle bar makes it easier to manage the bike. Though the pillion backrest is missing, the new tail end gives the Thunderbird 500X a neat finish. The grab rails too compliment the rear end with its integration.
So, if you have been thinking of buying a Royal Enfield or a Thunderbird, the 500X offers a good combination of style and stature. The additional features, though not many, has made the Thunderbird 500X sportier, younger and cooler to ride this summer.