Throwback Thursday: 5 Reasons The Royal Enfield Lightning 535 Was India’s OG Cruiser

  • May 18, 2023
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It’s even attributed on the Super Meteor 650’s page on Royal Enfield’s website

Royal Enfield has won accolades for its flagship cruiser, the Super Meteor 650. But very few people know about the brand’s first cruiser (in India), the Lightning 535. So on today’s edition of Throwback Thursday, we tell you exactly why the Lightning 535 was India’s OG cruiser.

The first true Indian cruiser

Till the Lightning 535 came about, the Indian biking scene was chock full of ‘standard’ road bikes, case in point the Hero-Honda Splendor, Escorts Yamaha RX100, TVS Suzuki Samurai or Kawasaki Bajaj KB100, all characterised by their flat seat and upright riding position. Even Royal Enfield’s own Bullet followed the same philosophy. 


The Lightning 535, then, with its long wheelbase, opened up an all-new segment. This was what led to the emergence of machines like the Kawasaki Bajaj Eliminator (which later became the Bajaj Avenger), the Yamaha Enticer and subsequently Royal Enfield’s own slew of cruisers.

Characteristic visuals

Most manufacturers of the time had moved away from metallic (and especially chrome) parts, electing for cheap and easily available plastic. Royal Enfield, however, left no stone unturned with Lightning 535. Every single body panel was metal, with an abundance of chrome on the pillion backrest, exhaust heat shield, and especially the emblems, the latter being something Royal Enfield has carried over till date.


Timeless silhouette

The Lightning’s high handlebar, scooped seat, laid-back riding stance, and (relatively) raked-out front, was quite the eye-catcher in a sea of upright commuters. Agreed, its footpegs weren’t nearly as forward set as today’s cruisers. But what the Lightning 535 put forth has since remained unchanged, first being adapted for the Thunderbird and Thunderbird X, then the Meteor 350, and finally the Super Meteor 650.

 Big, grunty  engine

As the name suggests, the Lightning boasted a 535cc air-cooled engine, the largest-displacement single of its time (and till date in India, in fact). And along with the modest 22PS, it also churned out 38Nm, giving it the required pulling power on uphill runs, a prerequisite for the Ladakh trips all Royal Enfield bikes are destined for.


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Sky themed name

Royal Enfield’s cruisers have always looked skyward for their names. That’s why they’ve had names like the Constellation, Meteor (and Super Meteor) and Thunderbird. In the midst of all these, the Lightning name definitely fits the bill. 

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