The new Thunderbird X is almost identical to ride as the regular Thunderbird, which isn't a surprise given that it's the same mechanically.
So, it still has a light throttle, the gear shifts are reasonably precise, and it still feels happiest when ridden between 2,000-3,500rpm. At these engine speeds, the vibrations are well contained and there's enough grunt to haul the bike around without it feeling lazy or sluggish. What’s more, whacking open the throttle produces a nice intake roar instead of unwanted flat spots.
But, rev it past that, and things turn bad quite fast. The vibrations, which can be felt via the seat, footpegs and handlebar, become unbearable past 4,000rpm. Plus, the rate of acceleration drops significantly post this, leaving you with no motivation to rev the bike anymore. The redline is around 5,000rpm and it cuts in quite rudely.
In fact, the Thunderbird 500X is best ridden between 80-90kmph in fifth gear. This also allows you to work around the wooden feel of the brakes. The front ones, in particular, offers very little feel, and I found myself using the rear brake quite often to compensate for an unexpected locked front wheel. And yes, there's no ABS on the 500X to save you from that.
The ride again is a mixed bag. The bike handles minor road undulations and bumps and potholes without troubling the rider much. But, in the face of something more severe, the rear bucks around like a bull. The latter isn't very good for your back.
Considering that its suspension, chassis, the wheel and even tyre sizes are the same as the regular Thunderbird, there's very little difference in machine handling between the two bikes. But, the X gets a flatter handlebar. And that means it has a slightly more forward-bias seating ergo. As a result, the motorcycle's response to steering input is surer and more connected than the ape-handled older version.
And yes, the new one piece seat is certainly more comfortable than the split unit on the older bike.