Royal Enfield has a special place in the annals of India’s motorcycling history. One of the oldest brands in existence in the world, it was first introduced in India in 1949. Its influence on Indian motorcycling was so strong that many Indians would have either started out riding a Royal Enfield, or experienced one at some point in their lives. It was Royal Enfield which gave birth to the concept of leisure motorcycling in India. Their bikes possessed an inherent sturdiness and relatively simple mechanicals, which meant they could be ridden anywhere without much trouble.
"Royal Enfield's influence on Indian motorcycling was so strong that
many Indians would have experienced one at some point in their lives."
Earlier, the company had only a few models in their range, which were bought by a niche segment of consumers. Today, the company goes beyond the iconic Bullet, to cater to a wider audience. Royal Enfield’s range now encompasses four distinct product lines, the quintessential Bullet, the retro Classic, the modern Thunderbird, and the sporty Café Racer. We’ve brought together a bike from each line, to help you understand which one you should choose. Let’s hit the road and find out!
The Bullet is Royal Enfield’s signature bike. It is an icon in its own right, so much so that its popularity outweighs that of the Royal Enfield brand itself! It holds the record for having the longest continuous production run ever for a motorcycle, having been made in its current form since 1948. The present-generation Bullet series comprises of three models, the Standard 350, the Electra, and the bike you see here, the top-of-the-line-500.
The Bullet still carries the same timeless design that it has been sporting since its inception. It exudes an air of grandeur, and evokes a sense of nostalgia. Little details like the hand-painted gold pinstripes on the fuel tank, the chrome headlamp shroud, and of course this amazing shade of Forest Green, just amplify that effect.
When you sit on the long saddle, such is the riding posture that you are immediately instilled with a sense of infallibility. Your arms are placed apart at a comfortable width, and your feet are placed ever-so-slightly forward. This posture offers good control while being comfortable, be it in the city or on long, winding roads.
Fire up the carburetted 499cc single and you are in for a treat. The engine starts with a mechanical grunt, which quickly settles into a meaty thump. At the merest hint of throttle, the Bullet 500 surges forward with an alacrity that belies its massive 193kg kerb weight. Such is the sheer torque of the engine that it thrusts you forward with ease, regardless of which gear you are in. The addictive rush of torque makes the 500 fun to ride in the city, and on the highway it allows you to cruise comfortably all day long. The only major drawback of this engine is the vibrations. Take it beyond 120 kmph, and you will only be rattled to the bone. When it comes to the dynamic characteristics, the Bullet 500 isn’t really agile, but it is well poised and extremely stable when cornering at speed. It is also fairly easy to ride in traffic too.
"The only major drawback of this engine is the vibrations.
Take it beyond 120 kmph, and you will only be rattled to the bone."
The Royal Enfield Bullet 500 is best suited for hardcore Royal Enfield fans, those who want to experience what owning a classic motorcycle feels like, and those who want to build a custom motorcycle, as the no-frills nature of the Bullet 500 makes it a good base to start with.
The Classic is Royal Enfield’s attempt to reinvent the Bullet. Its USP is its design, which incorporates cues that date back to the Royal Enfields of the 50s. Details like the single speedometer, the ‘Tiger’ lamps on either side of the large round headlight, and the spring-loaded solo rider saddle give the bike a retro feel.
The Classic 350 employs the same unit-construction 346cc engine that does duty in the Thunderbird and Bullet 350. While the engine provides sufficient power to trundle along in city traffic, out on the open road, the Classic 350 quickly runs out of breath. The bike is best suited as an urban cruiser, and on the highway, it is most relaxed at 75 kmph. Although the bike weighs just a smidge under 190kg, it is masked well by the low-centre of gravity. This makes the Classic 350 easy to manoeuver in city traffic, and offers good stability at highway speeds.
"The Classic 350's USP is its design, which incorporates cues
that date back to the Royal Enfields of the 50s"
The Classic bikes are for those who want a modern Royal Enfield, one that can be used both as a daily commute or a weekend cruiser. You can choose between two options, the carburetted Classic 350 If you’re more of a commuter, or if you ride long distances frequently, the fuel-injected Classic 500.
First introduced in 2004, the Thunderbird marked a clear departure for Royal Enfield. The company had been making bikes that carried the same basic design for over 50 years, and had to introduce something new-age, to shed its old-world image and entice younger consumers into the brand.
The Thunderbird is a true-blue cruiser. It sports a high mini-ape hanger handlebar, a low seat and forward-set foot pegs for that relaxed riding posture, which allows riders to cruise on the highways for hours on the end. The bike you see here is the all-new Thunderbird 350 that was launched in 2012. Royal Enfield cashed in on the growing trend of long distance leisure rides in India, and equipped the new Thunderbird with a bevy of features that would make it easy to ride far and beyond civilization. The bike comes with a 20-litre fuel tank to improve range, a large seat for better rider comfort, projector headlamps to help see further in low light, and disc brakes at the front and rear wheels to help the bike stop faster in panic situations. All these features have made the Thunderbird a machine that will allow those who seek freedom from the clutches of urban life to conquer mile after mile, effortlessly.
Dynamically, the Thunderbird is a very lively bike. While it may not have the reflexes of a sport tourer, it is quite agile, and extremely stable at high speed. The 350cc engine that the Thunderbird uses is the same as the one used on the Classic and the Bullet. While the power and torque the engine delivers maybe sufficient for city use, out on the open roads, it feels strained and restricted. For those who go on long rides very often, there is a fuel-injected 500cc version, which offers more torque that would make for relaxed highway cruising.
"The Thunderbird is a machine that will allow those who seek freedom
to conquer mile after mile, effortlessly."
The Thunderbird is not only a bike that you can tour the country on, but also one that can manage your city commutes with equal enthusiasm. It is the new-age Royal Enfield, one that’s meant for young enthusiasts, as well as the young-at-heart.
“A sporty Royal Enfield?!” you may wonder, but the Continental GT has been an integral part of the company’s history like the Bullet. The Continental GT is a café racer, an ode to a time when young bikers in the 60’s and 70’s modified street bikes and raced them from café to café. Unlike the other bikes in the Royal Enfield stable, the Continental GT isn’t a long-distance cruiser, with its design and dynamics inclined towards sporty riding.
Minimalism is the mantra that the Continental GT swears by. This is clearly evident in its design, which harks back to Royal Enfield’s 250cc café racer of the same name, launched in the 60’s. The air-cooled 535cc engine that powers the bike is a bored-out version of the Classic 500’s engine, fitted with a lighter crankshaft to help it rev faster. As a result, the fuel-injected single cylinder unit produces 29.1 bhp making it the most powerful production Royal Enfield. With 44Nm of torque coming in at a low 4000 rpm, the Continental GT thunders towards 100kmph with a ferocity unlike any other bike the company has ever built.
"The Continental GT is an ode to a time when young bikers in the 60’s & 70’s
modified street bikes and raced them from café to café."
In line with its sporty nature, the Continental GT is quite adept at taking corners. The all-new chassis designed by Harris Performance in the UK incorporates top-quality components, such as the front and rear Brembo disc brakes, Paioli gas-charged rear shock absorbers, aluminium spoke wheels, and Pirelli Sport Demon tires. Although you can’t throw it into turns like a sports bike, all these parts help the bike defy its 184 kg kerb weight, and handle all types of corners with ease.
Made for the discerning bike enthusiast, the Continental GT is one bike that you’d use for a leisurely cruise in the city, a ride on twisty hill roads, or for a trip to your local café. Make sure you can handle all the extra attention that you’ll get when you’re riding!
While most bikes in the country fit the basic criteria of moving from point A to point B, a Royal Enfield goes many miles beyond transporting you. You get an emotional fulfilment, unique to the legendary brand that is unmistakeable and hard for anyone to miss. This is characterized by its stance, its distinctive styling, and that leisurely, rhythmic thump.
"With a Royal Enfield, you get an emotional fulfilment,
unique to the brand that is unmistakeable, and hard to miss"
Now that we have seen all the distinct products that Royal Enfield has on offer, which one should you choose?
If you want to own a bike of minimalistic design and enjoy the old world charm, a Bullet is the answer. If you are a city rider and like retro-chic with a dash of modernity, then the Classic is your best bet. If you like cruising and want to enjoy your days-off by riding long distances, the Thunderbird provides you all the comfort with the DNA of Royal Enfield still intact. And finally, if you are someone who enjoys the high adrenaline associated with the hustle and bustle of modern day city life, and want to leave behind the trail of a person with a distinctive lifestyle, the Continental GT certainly helps you to recreate that aura of an authentic vintage sport.
Also watch 'The Legacy Of Royal Enfield' video below: