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Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 - Long Term Review

Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 - Long Term Review

Snapshot: How was our experience of riding the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 for more than 3,000kms? Read on to know!

It is almost 15 years since Thunderbird brand came into existence. A few years back, Royal Enfield brought sweeter, more technical updates to the Thunderbird series. The motorcycles got even better looking, improved in terms of performance and became more refined. The Thunderbird 500 got electronic fuel injection when compared to the carburetted fuel mill in its smaller sibling.

I kept the bike for more than a couple of months covering 3,000 km on it. Also went outstation couple of times to see how it performed out on the highways as this is exactly what it’s meant to do. It’s a bold, solid cruiser and it’s meant to munch miles without putting a strain on the rider back. So is the Thunderbird 500 worth spending Rs 1.80 lakh on? How does it feel like to live with and ride on a daily basis? You are just about to find out all the answers for the questions you must be having by now!

How comfortable is it?

If you are someone who travels about 50 odd kilometers every day or if you commute to another city for college or work, then the Thunderbird 500 might just be the best choice to invest your money on. It is because as soon as you hop on the saddle, you will realize how natural it’s riding position feels. There are absolutely zero pressure points while sitting on the bike, be it your arms, legs or back.

The seat makes sure that your bum gets all the right support which is critically important when traveling for hours. Handlebar extends just correctly putting zero strain on arms. The foot rest designed slightly forward and sits just in the right place that doesn’t put any stress on the foot. The comfort is definitely on the higher side for the rider, the pillion on the other side is decently comfortable but still its comfort is not as plush as it is for the rider, which we reckon is the same case with all such motorcycles. All in all, it is one of the most fantastic bikes for the long highway journeys, perhaps a bike you can tour the whole country on. Also, it is among one of the few bikes which can occupy 20 liters of fuel at once. So a long range to go along with, saving space for exterior mounted jerry cans.

But someone who bought the bike will not just tour around the countryside, he’ll also have to ride in the city. The bike is great in that sense too, being a comfort ride it won’t hurt your back for sure. But in crawling traffic you might have to put some effort to make your way through tight spaces. Though it doesn’t feel heavy when moving but you might feel its 195kgs kerb weight when trundling through dense traffic. Clutch doesn’t feel heavy, and is on the lighter side, making its use easy and not tiring at all.

How well does it ride?

It gets powered by a 499cc single cylinder, air-cooled, Twinspark, air cooled engine that manages about 27.4bhp of maximum power and puts out around 41.3 Nm of peak torque. The engine comes mated to a 5-speed constant mesh transmission. It picks up the pace quite nicely from a stand still and will reach the 100kmph mark sooner than you would expect. If you want to know how much top speed it can touch, well, it is certainly more than 130kmph.

On the ride part, its suspension did the job pretty well. The roads around my home were dug recently, so no prizes for guessing where I got to put these suspension to test. It manages to glide over all the uneven patches without any drama and hence is suitable according to our roads which apart from big potholes, can even literally throw farm animals at you. The bike feels happy cruising between the 80-100 kmph, riding above it will give you a free massage. At low speeds, the vibrations are minimal, if not zero.

How about the brakes?

It comes with disc brakes, both at the front and the rear. At the front, it is equipped with a 280mm disc twin piston caliper brake while at the rear it has a 240mm disc single piston caliper. Take these as being good brakes but still not the best. They have the progression but still can use some more bite to bring the bike to halt from higher speeds. So all in all, Thunderbird can still use some better brakes and an ABS at this price point is always welcome.

What about the mileage, spare parts availability, and servicing?

I am certain that you would be satisfied when it comes to its fuel economy. I am one of those riders who can’t ride at a constant pace, I need to keep the throttle pumping in order to keep my nerves under control. So even after carrying so much torture on the 500, it managed to make me smile every time I did the math on its mileage part as it returned more than 40kmpl, which in all sense is commendable.  

Talking about the parts availability and servicing, the service will not cost you much as doing a research I found out the service cost to vary around Rs 1800 to Rs 2000 on the max. While there might be some little wear and tear issues, but the usual parts are available without any fuss and in case a rarer part gets damaged, you might have to wait for a while before the part arrives. But at the end, it varies from dealership to dealership and hence you can easily ask for the same from various other RE dealerships, thanks to the widespread network of the brand. Hence, servicing and spare part availability shouldn’t be a problem either.

Should you buy it?

Well, let’s assume you have Rs 1.80 lakh to spend on a bike and your preference is comfort and style, Thunderbird 500 does tick all the right boxes. What else? It rides pretty nice, is still a onetime investment and won’t weigh much on your pocket after the initial purchase. And is there anything else in its bracket that makes such a solid statement as the Thunderbird 500? We don’t think so. It is the bike for your weekend getaways which makes sense if you are looking for a bold cruiser and spending bit on the higher side is not a problem.

Photography: Mohd. Nasir

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