To keep the brand in the limelight before the launch of the highly anticipated 650cc motorcycles, Royal Enfield launches a hip, urban version of the much-loved Thunderbird.
We finally got our hands on the new Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X, and rode it around Maximum City. We chose to ride it in a crowded urban setting primarily because RE claims that the Thundbird 500X is a street version of their popular Thunderbird 500 cruiser. There will also be a Thunderbird 350X, but there’ll be no difference between the two variants – apart from the engine, of course.
The X variant differs from the Thunderbird predominantly in its design and colour options. RE has introduced alloy wheels for the first time on a product – primarily, to keep up with the trend. The other main difference is the new handlebar, which is now set lower and further away from the rider. This means that the riding posture of this variant is different from the one of the traditional Thunderbird. The bike also gets tubeless tyres – the same size as the original Thunderbird though.
Including the black rims and tyres, the entire Thunderbird 500X is blacked-out – meaning that there’s next to no chrome on this motorcycle. The handlebars, the headlight casing, the engine, the exhaust and the forks and fenders are all painted black. And personally, I think it looks quite nice and modern. The seat is now very wide, with contrast stitching that matches the funky colour options available. So, if you opt for the orange colour, like our test bike, the stitching of the seat will also be orange. Oh, and the rims have a pin stripe that also matches the colour of the bike. The other colour options of the Thunderbird 500X is blue. The 350X, on the other hand, is available in red and white colours. I have a feeling that not everyone might welcome these new funky colour options. Personally, I think that the bike’s style and new colour layouts are quite cool.
Even though the look and feel of the new variant has changed, the quality standards have not improved. The overall build quality still needs a lot of work. The engine is exactly the same – a 500cc single-cylinder unit that’s good for about 27bhp and 41Nm of torque. I think it’s a decent engine that provides enough grunt for city use.
The most modern (& expensive) RE
One of the qualities that I’ve always loved about the Thunderbird is its suspension. And to my relief, the Thunderbird 500X retains the same front forks and rear springs that offer a smooth ride. In the city of Mumbai, where the roads are equivalent to an off-road park, I think this bike really handles well and keeps the rider comfortable at all times. The handling of the Thunderbird has always been good, but with the lower set handlebars, the new bike offers slightly improved handling. Even though there really isn’t much difference in the overall riding style and ride quality when compared to the Thunderbird 500, I do think that the Thunderbird 500X is certainly better suited for urban conditions. I obviously wouldn’t think of taking this version of the bike on any off-road expeditions though – for the sheer fear of bending the alloy rims. But, for city use, this machine should work just fine – and it’ll certainly draw eyes wherever it goes.
There really isn’t anything new that the bike offers, in terms of engine dynamics or ride quality, but without a doubt the Thunderbird 500X is the most modern looking Royal Enfield we’ve ever seen. And, more importantly, it’s also now the most expensive motorcycle offered by the Indian bike maker. I’ve always liked the Thunderbird 500. And I must say that I also admire its new avatar – but what I’m really waiting for is the bigger 650cc unit to roll out later this year.
- Thunderbird 500X
Engine: 499cc / Single-cylinder / Air-cooled
Power: 27.2bhp @ 5,250rpm
Torque: 41.3Nm @ 4,000rpm
Price: Rs. 1.98 Lakh (Ex-Showroom, Mumbai)
X-factor:The most contemporary RE available.
• Good engine for the city
• Quality issues
• Exposed wiring