It wasn’t until the late 90’s that riding started to be widely recognized as a leisure activity, and it was the owners of Royal Enfield motorcycles who spearheaded the revolution. Although their products were well-received by leisure riding enthusiasts, Royal Enfield realized that they didn’t have a true-blue cruiser on their range. Hence, in 2000, the Thunderbird was born. Developed with long-distance riding in mind, it offered more relaxed ergonomics than its stable mates, but it did not have much else to set it apart from them.
Twelve years later, Royal Enfield reinvented the Thunderbird, and this time, they made sure that it is equipped with all that a long-distance rider would need. We ride the new Thunderbird 350, to find out if it has the go to match its show.
The new Thunderbird looks like a quintessential cruiser should – tall handlebars, a massive fuel tank that’s mounted high, forward-set foot controls, and a low seat height – but with a modern touch, having none of the retro air that other bikes in the Royal Enfield line-up carry.
Being a cruiser, the Thunderbird has the virtue of exceptionally comfortable rider-ergonomics. The high handlebars and forward set foot controls fall within the natural extension of the arms and legs. The rider saddle is sized generously, but is a tad hard. Pillion comfort is quite good too, despite the small rear seat.
Compared to the previous generation model, the new Thunderbird’s build quality is much better. The paint finish is excellent, and the quality of materials is good too. Still, there were a few niggles on our test bikes.
The 346cc carburetted single-cylinder engine used in the Thunderbird 350 is the same that’s employed in the Bullet and Classic. The 19 horses that the motor produces allow the 195 kg motorcycle to accelerate pretty quickly, while its torquey nature allows for relaxed cruising. The biggest drawback though, is the vibration. At 100 kmph, the bike vibrates quite hard, making it difficult to hold that kind of speed for long. The Thunderbird 350 feels happiest when cruising at 80 kmph.
Don’t let the cruiser-style set-up fool you, for this is probably the best-handling Royal Enfield, after the more focussed Continental GT. It’s got a low centre of gravity and good cornering stability, which means you can take turns at speed confidently, and weave into and out of and tight gaps with relatively ease. It is also rock-steady in a straight line, and unflustered even when heavy cross winds hit it. The Thunderbird’s ride quality feels firm and isn’t overtly comfortable, but there is sufficient play in the suspension to soak up most undulations on the road.
The Thunderbird comes with a disc brake on either end, but regardless, braking performance isn’t up to the mark. A tyre upgrade should improve things a bit, but ideally Royal Enfield should seriously consider beefing up the brakes, since it is the only weak link in an otherwise good chassis set-up.
You’d be surprised to note that unlike other Royal Enfields, the Thunderbird comes abound with a multitude of thoughtful practical features. The headlight is a projector style unit that offers excellent illumination for night riding. The instrument cluster consists of an analogue speedometer and tachometer, along with a digital readout that displays the odometer, tripmeter, fuel level, and the time. Also included is a handy hazard light switch, which flashes both indicators simultaneously. The rear seat can be removed to mount luggage, which could prove useful for long solo road trips.
Torquey motor – check, large fuel tank range – check, features that would sweeten the whole experience – check. At around Rs 1.4 lakhs (on-road, Delhi), we think the Thunderbird 350 is well priced, getting you a little more than what you pay for. If you’ve got this budget, and want a stand out motorcycle that can tackle both the daily grind as well as the occasional road-trip with equal aplomb, the Thunderbird 350 is all the bike that you’ll ever need.
Special thanks to Classic Motors, Ambattur, Chennai, for providing us with the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 for the review
Disclaimer: This review is purely based on the test conducted by "ChooseMyBike.in". All views expressed in this review are that of ChooseMyBike.in's, and not of the manufacturer's.
(c) ChooseMyBike.in. All Rights Reserved.
|Engine||Single Cylinder, 4 stroke, Twinspark|
|Power||19.8 bhp @ 5250 rpm|
|Torque||28 Nm @ 4000 rpm|
|Chassis Type||Single downtube, using engine as stressed member|
|Brakes||Front:Disc, dia. 280mm
Rear:Disc, dia 240mm
|Suspension||Front:Telescopic, 35mm forks, 130mm travel
Rear:Twin gas charged shock absorbers with 5-step adjus
|Fuel Tank Capacity||20|