Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 : First Ride
There are only two ways you can think about a Royal Enfield motorcycle – either you like them or you don’t. In all these years of watching the Bullet thump by, I have never encountered someone who doesn’t have an opinion about them, but if there’s one fact that even the haters will have to agree to, it’s that RE’s bikes exude a certain old-time charm that is simply lost in today’s age of technology. With the Thunderbird 350 being in existence for over ten years an upgrade has been due for a while and that’s just being subtle about the delay! Of course, the big cruiser evolved in the years since, moving from the AVL lean burn motor to a more sophisticated Twin Spark unit.
Despite its biggest USP being its classic appeal, to stand the test of the times technology has to be embraced and the Thunderbird had to become sharper not just in form but also in function. You’d think it would be an easy task plonking in modern technology given the resources available today but to have to retain that old school charm is definitely a challenge. It seems though that the crew at Royal Enfield sure know how to.
At first glance you’ll almost feel like nothing’s changed at all, but it’s only when you take a good look that you see how different the new Thunderbird 500 is from its smaller engined predecessor. The trick with this is that the Thunderbird isn’t made to look like a sibling to the 350, but in fact like a 350 that has put on more muscle and shaped up in the right areas. So the bike’s very attractive upswept stance remains, but that form has been given an extremely attractive makeover.
The headlamp unit remains round, but now gets an integrated H7 55/55 W spec projector lamp with a very BMW-ish halo around it that acts as a day time running lamp and looks super cool! The chrome twinpod meters are now shorter and get a matt black base. The instrumentation itself gets a classy touch with great blue backlighting and a digital readout for the odometer, tripmeter and fuel gauge, now also incorporating a handy trip computer that gives you entertaining information such as the average speed and such. The tell tale lights though could have been better illuminated to be able to spot in daylight. There is also a neat hazard light function in the new bike as well. Switch gear is all-new and there’s a very neatly crafted handlebar bracket that has the Royal Enfield logo etched in.