Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350X Review
Royal Enfield, after decades of offering motorcycles with a classic appeal, has finally changed its own game with the Thunderbird 350X. Based on the standard Thunderbird, the 350X takes inspiration from custom motorcycles aforementioned for a completely different appeal altogether. Also, comparing the success of the Classic 350, the Thunderbird does not rake in much numbers for the manufacturer. Royal Enfield will hope to change that too, with the Thunderbird 350X.
+ Custom bike appeal, well cushioned seat
- Vibe-y from the word go, stiff suspension setup.
Until recently, the idea of a 'macho' bike usually involved an unnecessarily heavy, iron laden motorcycle. That moniker, today, primarily speaks to cruisers with blacked-out components and flashy paint jobs. Even Harley-Davidson has taken that route.
Now, Royal Enfield, after decades of offering motorcycles with a classic appeal, has finally changed its own game with the Thunderbird 350X. Based on the standard Thunderbird, the 350X takes inspiration from custom motorcycles aforementioned for a completely different appeal altogether. Also, comparing the success of the Classic 350, the Thunderbird does not rake in much numbers for the manufacturer. Royal Enfield will hope to change that too, with the Thunderbird 350X.
To get straight to the point, the quality of components on the Thunderbird 350X is surely above average if not the best. The handlebar grips on the bike feel better than the ones on the standard model. And while for the most part, the finish of the bike is up to the mark, one cannot ignore the inferior feel of the new plastic mirrors. I found myself re-adjusting them every 10 minutes as they droop down thanks to the vibrations and wind. While this is bothersome, it also poses a safety risk.
As with all Royal Enfield motorcycles, the paint on the 350X is top notch. The attention to minute detail is applaudable; the triple bolts that hold the headlamp are finished in anodized silver for a custom look. The LED projector headlamp with the LED DRL gets a slightly smoked reflector that also boosts its overall look. The new one-piece seat gets an Alacantra-like material with white stitching at the center of the seat that has a nice, premium feel to it.
With a kerb weight of 195kgs, the Thunderbird 350X is anything but light. However, once astride, the bike feels considerably nimble. Most of this feel comes from the short handlebars which offer a relaxed yet slightly upright riding posture. It also makes filtering through traffic easier, adding brownie points to the Thunderbird 350X’s city cruiser characteristics. The one-piece seat is bliss to the backside. The rider’s seat consists of the right amount of contours and cushioning, while the pillion gets a wide area too. Although the absence of a backrest (like on the standard Thunderbird) could be a disadvantage to some, you can always swap the side grab rails for one at the dealership.
The bike rides well over smooth roads and minor undulations are taken care of without much fuss. But as you travel over bumpy roads, the suspension setup acts like the friend who is not there when you need them the most (sigh). Royal Enfield and vibrations are synonymous to each other since the beginning of time and the 350X is no different. The bike is vibe-y from the very moment you press the ignition switch with vibes felt at the handlebar and foot pegs.
While I thought I wouldn’t be able to take my mind off the vibrations and enjoy the ride, the Thunderbird 350X felt relaxed once on the highway. Shift to the highest gear and it feels at home cruising at the 80-100kmph mark. Mind you, this is at 3500-4000rpm and the bike redlines at around 5000rpm and that is where the vibrations kick in again.
The 350X is powered by a 349cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled engine. Although its 19.8bhp, 28Nm output might not seem like a lot, it is more than enough to pull you out of a traffic signal first. It also allows starting off even on the 3rd gear with barely any effort. The five-speed gearbox is clunky and false neutrals are a part of the experience.
Being a cruiser, speed is not the Thunderbird 350’s forte. It manages to do a top-speed of 120kmph in its own time. As I mentioned earlier, this bike is a breeze in traffic. However, lean into the corner and you can feel the weight of the burly engine. It is not very confidence inspiring, but again, scraping foot pegs is not what the Thunderbird 350X is meant to do.
Royal Enfield has equipped the bike with a rear disc brake, the biggest boon given I could hardly feel the bite of the front brakes. On the other hand, I came to love the exhaust note of the bike. Unlike the muted thump of the Classic 350, the Thunderbird 350X gets a gurgle in its tone, indicative of the bike’s nature.
Well, the 350X is equipped with everything you could get for an equal or even lesser priced motorcycle. Besides that, it does get features that are missing out on other Royal Enfield products. For one, the bike sports tubeless tyres; a first for the manufacturer. After all you would not want to be stranded with a flat tyre and a 195kg motorcycle anywhere. These tyres are wrapped on 9-spoke alloy wheels, also a first on any Royal Enfield motorcycle as standard.
It continues to get the twin-pod instrument cluster with chrome bezels from the standard Thunderbird. The unit is well lit and the digital display is readable even in direct sunlight. The 350X misses out on the parking light which features on the standard bike.
The 350X returned just under 30kmpl, 29.3kmpl to be exact. The figure is low but it doesn't come as a surprise. The bike does weigh nearly 200kg, after all. But, add to it a fuel tank capacity of 20 litres, and it has a theoretical range of almost 600km. And that's not bad at all.
Fitness of Purpose
The Thunderbird 350X is aimed at the youth who want a bit of modernity in their Royal Enfield. The bike ticks the right boxes with its all-black components, alloy wheels, loud colour options and matching rim tapes that lend it the look of a custom bike. Even the shorter handlebar proved to be more than just an aesthetic element as it eased handling of the bike in tight traffic conditions.
The Thunderbird 350X does look the part and attract attention; in our case, from Harley owners who thought it looked like one of theirs. However, the bike lags behind in terms of overall build quality. Better brakes, a more forgiving suspension setup and a vibe-free ride would make it a fun motorcycle on the highway as well as in the city.
Photography by Kapil Angane
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