×

Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350- A 15,000+ km Review

Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350- A 15,000+ km Review

Royal Enfield Thunde..

  • 10 Oct 2016, 61776 Views

Praveen

Enthusiast

Member: 01 Dec, 2015

Total Posts: 2027

  • 10 Oct 2016, 7:01 pm ( 6 Photos )
The Thunderbird was one of the most advanced, practical motorcycles ever to come from the stables of Royal Enfield, until the Continental GT and the Himalayan came into the picture. The motorcycle comes with many touring-friendly features which one doesn’t find on other bikes like the Classic or the Bullet. Adding to this, the community which Royal Enfield offers is unparalleled. So, when I was looking to buy a good touring motorcycle, I decided the Thunderbird fits my bill the best. So, I booked the bike in December 2014 and got it delivered on February 19th, 2015. After almost one and a half years and 15,000+ km later, here’s what I have to say about the bike:
Powerplant and Performance:
The Thunderbird is powered by a carburetted 346 cc air cooled Unit Construction Engine. Power and torque delivery is quite linear. The engine gives the bike a gentle but steady push and the powerband tapers off post 4000 rpm. Low-end torque is decent, but the difference is felt considerably when compared to the Himalayan. Of course, Himalayan comes with an oil cooled 410cc long stroke engine. The biggest enemy of this bike’s acceleration is its kerb weight. At 192 kilos, the kerb weight is a bit too much for a 19.8 bhp motorcycle. But hey, it is a Royal Enfield! Speaking of power figures, the said peak power comes in at 5,250 rpm, which is way too high in my opinion. Especially considering the fact that the bike redlines at 5,500 rpm which is next to impossible to hit owing to severe vibrations that will rattle you to your soul, and your granddad’s soul. A maximum torque of 28 Nm peaks out at 4,000 rpm and the shove, as mentioned before, is pretty much apparent while riding the bike.
The best cruising speed for the bike is 80 kph at fifth gear with the tachometer hovering around 3100- 3200 rpm. The gear ratios are long and are decently spaced. At 80 kph, the vibrations are just under control so as to give you a pretty decent riding experience. Going at any speeds past that will be welcomed by more severe vibrations which are quite intrusive, honestly. At 60 kph, the bike feels most refined with minimal vibrations (going by Royal Enfield standards :P ) and almost negligible exhaust noise.
Coming to the exhaust note, it is really mild and docile compared to the rest of the products in Royal Enfield’s portfolio. You can hardly hear the distinct ‘thump’ at low speeds. But yes, the thump is more pronounced when revving the engine but it is not as good as the Bullets of the yore.
<!-- ##phrase_image_larger_version_x_y_z_0## -->

Ride and Handling:
Yes, the weight plays spoilsport when it comes to low-speed handling but despite that, the motorcycle is pretty agile for its class. The front rake has been decreased from the previous generation Thunderbird and this has resulted in a shorter wheelbase. Consequently, the handling has improved over the previous model. Once you get used to the big handlebars, manoeuvring the bike is manageable, provided you put in good effort to turn. Reversing the bike is a pain, especially for shorter riders despite the low saddle height, the width of the seat hampers easy movement. High-speed handling is quite satisfactory for a Royal Enfield and the heavy weight indeed aids in stability, giving the bike a planted feel. The frame too offers a reasonable balance between rigidity and versatility. However, the bike doesn’t inspire confidence while making sharp turns at high speeds. The bike comes with 41mm front forks and twin gas charged adjustable shock absorbers at the rear. The front offers 130 mm of travel while the rear offers only 80 mm of travel, true to a cruiser’s credentials. The suspension compression is on the firmer side, because of which the bike handles well at high speeds. But, things can get juddery when riding over potholes. The rear suspension is also hard with most of the undulations of the road directly transferring to your back. The harshness in ride quality is particularly felt in the small-ish pillion seat as it is just behind the rear suspension mount. The small backrest is convenient to hold and provides a little respite to the lower back but yeah, the hard suspension will make the pillion complain about the ride.
When it comes to the braking department, the Thunderbird is equipped with a 280mm disc with a twin-piston calliper at the front and the rear is anchored by a smaller, 240mm disc with a single calliper. The brakes are spongy and lack direct feedback. It sure slows the bike down with haste, but it lacks vigour. The brakes could have certainly been better. As with most of the non-ABS equipped bikes with rear disc brakes, this one locks up under hard braking as well. What with the generous front suspension travel, the bike does dive in under panic braking, which is not a good thing.
<!-- ##phrase_image_larger_version_x_y_z_1## -->

Design and Features:
The Thunderbird sports a traditional cruiser style look with the front sporting a mini ape-hanger handlebar and a pair extremely practical wide angle rear view mirrors. They may not gel that well with the design, but are very useful in seeing whoever is creeping up on you from behind. Use any other rear view mirrors after the Thunderbird’s and you’ll feel others are woefully small. The headlight is a round projector unit with a semi-circular LED light guide. The twin pod instrument cluster nests atop the headlamp unit and is loaded with information. The left pod houses the analogue speedometer (marked both in kph and mph readings) and a digital display showing the odometer reading, dual trip meters with average speeds, time, service indicator, low battery warning indicator and a seven-bar fuel gauge. The right one comprises of an analogue tachometer and the portion below it is reserved for all the tell-tale lamps viz., left and right indicator lights, hazard lamp warning light, lights-on indicator, side stand indicator and a high beam indicator. The switches are of decent quality although I have noticed they tend to lose their efficiency over a period of time. My motorcycle got drenched in the rains recently and now the indicator button spring seems to have lost its action a little. Spraying some WD 40 would help. Also, the pass button is giving me trouble then and there. Most of the time it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. The only company advised solution is to replace the entire switchgear, which I am reluctant to do because of the obvious cost.
The petrol tank is a tear drop design and is executed way better than the previous generation Thunderbird. It is nicely shaped and gels well with the silhouette of the bike. The tank not only looks large, but its capacity is quite generous as well. The fuel cap is offset so that you can fill the bike to its brim. At 20 litres capacity, you can literally fill it, shut it and forget it! The saddle is very comfortable, but it could do with a bit more cushioning. The pillion seat is a tad short in length. The footpeg positions are spot on. The rider side footpegs are quite relaxed and complements the cruiser stance. I’ve rope-wound the front crash guard to give it a unique look. Plus, it prevents the crash guard from getting scratched. Yes, I have OCD. The crash guard is a butterfly-type which is the preferred fitment for the Thunderbird. It is pretty wide so you’ll have to be careful judging the width of the bike.
Also, I have installed an additional set of crash guards to protect the rear portion of the bike, including the exhaust. So now, I don’t have to worry about other bikes scratching my exhaust in parking lots. More importantly, it will also protect my leg in case the bike tips over me. The rear crash guards were installed on the suspension mounts at the top and exhaust/ footpeg mounts at the bottom. The only disadvantage is that the pillion would find it a little difficult to get used to the set up. I have dropped the bike twice and I could say it works wonderfully well!
The crash-guard set-up looks like this:
<!-- ##phrase_image_larger_version_x_y_z_2## -->

The rear ends with a small backrest and an LED tail light. The indicators are standard round ones. I quite like the rear design. It is simple and the fairly fat rear tyre completes the cruiser look. The sturdy saree guard doesn’t look out of place either. The exhaust is a long straight unit and the long heat shield ensures your feet doesn’t get burnt. On the sides, there are two oval chromed out compartments, complying with the Thunderbird design language. The left one has space for keeping documents and first aid kit and the one on the right encloses the stock toolkit. Opening the toolbox is done by an Allen key stored in the rubber loop next to the battery, in the battery compartment. So if you want to open up the tool box, you’ll have to use your bike key to open the battery compartment first, then take out the Allen key. It is a bit tedious process. Alternatively, just take the Allen key and pair it with your key-chain. But another problem would be the metal flailing all over the handlebar clamp. That results in nasty scratch marks.
<!-- ##phrase_image_larger_version_x_y_z_3## -->

Competition and Verdict:
The Thunderbird 350 has a lot of direct and indirect competitors. The direct competitors include Mahindra Mojo, Bajaj Avenger 200 and UM Renegade Sport. Honda CBR 250R, KTM 200 Duke come under indirect competition. Each bike has its own purpose and I feel the Thunderbird really stands on its own. Coupled with the community that Royal Enfield offers, it is indeed one of the best motorcycles for a person who loves to ride and make friends with like-minded fellow riders. For this exact reason, I don't regret my purchase decision despite experiencing much better bikes. I have met a lot of interesting people because of this steed. The Thunderbird is priced at INR 1.42 Lac, ex-showroom, Delhi. The thing is, a rider who wants to buy a Royal Enfield will go for a Royal Enfield, no matter what the competition is. That’s something no other brand has achieved in India, I believe.
<!-- ##phrase_image_larger_version_x_y_z_4## -->

<!-- ##phrase_image_larger_version_x_y_z_5## -->

Viraj_Parkale

First Gear

Member: 12 Oct, 2016

Total Posts: 1

  • 12 Oct 2016, 1:29 pm
Praveen
Dude I also own a TB350, and my bike is facing poor performance issues. Problems like tappet noise, knocking noise, engine vibrations are ingrained in my RE's DNA.
My bike has run 38K Km as of now. Within first 20K kilometers, I have changed my battery, Chain Sprocket, Front Shocks (Twice). When you ride the vehicle at more than 80 km/hr engine will vibrate like hell and makes your worry- "what happened??". I am still using this bike because I have invested my money on this. Else I would have thrown it away!!!

CorsaVeloce

"Stage 3 Mod"

Member: 01 Dec, 2015

Total Posts: 1305

  • 12 Oct 2016, 3:17 pm

"Originally posted by Viraj_Parkale"
Praveen Dude I also own a TB350, and my bike is facing poor performance issues. Problems like tappet noise, knocking noise, engine vibrations are ingrained in my RE's DNA. My bike has run 38K Km as of now. Within first 20K kilometers, I have changed my battery, Chain Sprocket, Front Shocks (Twice). When you ride the vehicle at more than 80 km/hr engine will vibrate like hell and makes your worry- "what happened??". I am still using this bike because I have invested my money on this. Else I would have thrown it away!!!

These issues are common with most carb-REs. I own a Electra, which is powered by the same engine and have also faced multiple issues with the various parts of the bike. Most people who buy an Enfield for the first time hate this about the bike and get to terms with it after a while.
For the enthusiastic rider, these problems with the bike become sort of symbolic of the attention that your bike needs from and it becomes a part and parcel of the ownership experience. I love my bike so much that I cannot even think about letting it go, forget throwing away.
I would reccommend that you go to a reputed RE mechanic or service station and get the bike checked for signs of wear depending on the age of the bike. Maintenance of an RE is not dependant on the mileage as much as it is on the number of years.

Jithin_Joseph

First Gear

Member: 30 Aug, 2016

Total Posts: 1

  • 12 Oct 2016, 4:18 pm
Viraj_Parkale If you rev your bike hard, you will have tappet problems, RE bikes are meant to be ridden in a calm manner. Sudden revs and quick gear shifts affect the engine life. The reason is because it's a push rod engine.

Kavinraj_Karupa..

First Gear

Member: 16 Jun, 2016

Total Posts: 31

  • 7 Nov 2016, 7:01 pm
Viraj_Parkale
Check for a reputed Bullet mechanic in your locality. there will be one atleast. He will be the better person to solve the problem with your bike. But REs are famous for vibrations post 80kmph speed. Mostly the technicians you find in a RE showroom service centres are recently trained and doesnt have much experience on the issues.

mano

First Gear

Member: 28 Dec, 2016

Total Posts: 1

  • 28 Dec 2016, 10:00 pm
Which is the best bike for 1000+ km raid? Honda CBR 150R or RE Thunderbird 350 or RE Bullet 350?

Praveen

Enthusiast

Member: 01 Dec, 2015

Total Posts: 2027

  • 29 Dec 2016, 12:45 pm
mano I think the Thunderbird 350 would be the best among the three. It has thicker forks than the Bullet and has a better range too. I think you'll have to make some modifications before you hit the Raid. I'd suggest you get knobby tires, fork gaiters, off-road mud guard, knuckle guards, engine bash plate and a free flow, upswept exhaust with performance air filter. The CBR 150 R has the weight advantage but I am not sure if a complicated 150 cc liquid cooled engine with a tarmac racing-inspired chassis can take all the beating off the road. I have seen a number of riders use the Thunderbird (modified) for off-road events and it's pretty apparent why. Also, be careful while using the rear brake. The rear disc is too powerful and locks up pretty quickly (at least that's what I've experienced). So, the rear disc is no good without ABS. Hope this helps. CorsaVeloce , your thoughts on this?

Praveen

Enthusiast

Member: 01 Dec, 2015

Total Posts: 2027

  • 15 Feb 2017, 2:06 pm
19,000 km Update:
Just one day of freak rain in the middle of Delhi winter ruined my instrument cluster. It wasn't exactly in the pink of its health before anyway. The buttons took effort and precision to operate but after the rain the 'mode' and 'set' button stopped working altogether. It was time for service too, so I gave the bike for service yesterday at Manzil Motors, Gurugram.
Actually, I already had my cluster replaced at 2,697 km in Chennai because of the geniuses at Royal Enfield Service center. They water-washed the entire console, causing it to short-circuit. Now, the service head refused to change because it is only a month away from the expiry of the warranty period. What does that even mean? It's still technically under warranty, right? After a little bit of goading, the service head agreed to replace it free of cost, under warranty. The odo now is back to zero again. So much for racking up 19,000 kilometers. But on the plus side, I got the newer 2016-onwards spec cluster, which is much better than the 2015 or the previous gen clusters. The button quality has improved considerably and is now easy enough to be operated with Gloves. Actually, this was a very simple, yet glaring design fault and the fact that RE took a couple of years to sort this out is sad and appalling at the same time. I mean, who decided to put the hazard lamp-button right in between the two pods, in a nook which is impossible to reach with gloves?! It's basic ergonomics, bro!
Back to the new cluster, it is now more accurate as it gets an extra decimal point in the kilometer readout. So, now it shows xxxx.x km in both odo and the two trip meters. It's easier to now calculate distance because it is accurate up to a hundred meters.
Apart from the new cluster, I got the fork oil replaced as the oil was losing its viscosity (it's been two years, so I guess that's reasonable) resulting in only 2-2.5 inches of travel. The seals are still intact, though. After I got the oil replaced, the suspension damping is much better now. I also got the cylinder head nuts replaced because I saw a grease-stain on the engine.
Other than that, there was the regular oil-change affair. I wish the T-bird came with a much bigger service interval. Getting things fixed every three months is a bit tiring. Or am I asking for too much?
P.S. Now the engine is butter smooth. There's barely any noise even at 80 kph, not even the tappet sound! Yay! I couldn't be happier. This calls for a nice trip down the highway.

Bhaskar

First Gear

Member: 17 Apr, 2017

Total Posts: 1

  • 17 Apr 2017, 7:48 pm
Hello guys, i am so much confused about thunderbird 350.I already booked a thunderbird 350 bs4 model but in intenet i am geting lot of bad reviews about thunderbird 350. Such as it has high maintenace issue . Rear disc problem. electrical problem ( indicator not working). What should i do now. Please give me a good suggestion.

Praveen

Enthusiast

Member: 01 Dec, 2015

Total Posts: 2027

  • 19 Apr 2017, 11:09 am
Bhaskar You could go through my review in this thread about my Thunderbird 350 and then decide appropriately. Cheers.

Fourth Div