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Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 X First Ride Review

01 March 2018, 05:41 PM Vikrant Singh

What is it?

Why would I buy the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 X?

Is 'the' hooligan bullet, makes filtering through traffic a breeze, draws eyeballs.

Why would I avoid the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 X? 

Vibey nature, poor brakes, needs better suspension setup.

This is new Royal Enfield Thunderbird. It has the same engine, the same chassis, the same brakes, and the same performance as the older Thunderbird. Which, by the way, is still on sale.  

But, the new bike gets an extra moniker, a brighter fuel tank, no rear back rest, and a new handlebar. Nevertheless, the thing I appreciate the most is the inclusion of alloy wheels and tubeless tyres. 

Sure, spoke wheels look great. But given the life of convenience we lead these days, tubeless tyres are just easier to live with than tubed versions. Who in their right mind would want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a puncture just so one can polish a set of chrome wheels on any given Sunday?

How is it to ride?

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. 

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Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X

Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X

  • Displacement499 cc
  • Mileage - Owner Reported31 kmpl
  • Max Power(bhp)27.2 bhp
  • Kerb Weight197 kg
  • ;

Last known Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 1,98,798

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.

Anything else I should know?

For starters you can have the 500 X in any colour you like as long as it's black. But yes, you can have the cherry in either blue or orange. 

Also, this approach of putting on a bright fuel tank and giving the resultant bike a new name isn't new for Royal Enfield. It did the same with the Classic Redditch editions. And, the interest there must have been huge for RE to give it a go on its not-so-successful Thunderbird range.

 

If this clicks, it will get even more difficult for the likes of fashionably late entrants to this space like Honda, TVS and Triumph, to catch up with RE.

 

And did we mention just the handlebar change has made it a hooligan? Well, it has! You can go play with on dirt, wheelie it or just filter through traffic like it were standing still!

Should I buy one?

If you were in the market for the Thunderbird, but didn’t get around to buying it for obvious reasons - like an uncomfortable seat, tube type tyres and the dowdy styling - the 500 X might just change your mind. It's definitely more attractive now. I also like the new one-piece seat more. And, when it comes to riding, the new flatter handlebar does give the X a racier, more connected feel than the older Thunderbird. 

Where does it fit in?

The new 500 X competes against the UM Renegade range and the Mahindra Mojo in terms of price and product description. But, it's also an alternative to the likes of the RE Classic and the Himalayan. And if you are feeling adventurous, you could also test the X against the Apache RR 310; that's of course if you still haven't completely bought into the supersport dream.

Gear Check

1- Shoei X-Fourteen Helmet : Rs 50,000

Meant essentially for track use, it does have good ventilation. Comfort levels though, aren't very high. 

2- Helstons Sonny Mesh Jacket : Rs 15,990

A little heavy for mesh jackets, the Sonny with its CE Level 2 protection does score high for safety, style and quality. 

3- Helstons Wind Mesh Gloves : Rs 5,990

A blend of leather and mesh and light in weight, these fit well and have enough ventilation to keep hands cool even on the hottest days.   

4- Helstons Corden Stone Riding Jeans : Rs 17,990

These armoured denims come with CE Level 2 protection and offer daily wearability and high resistance to impact and abrasion.

5- Daytona AC Pro Boots : Rs 19,990

Short riding boots for everyday wear, these use a mix of authentic leather and of the perforated PU variety. Titanium toe sliders are standard. 

Photography by Kapil Angane

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