The thump gets classier

The new Thunderbird 500—one of the most anticipated models from the Royal Enfield stable—gives new definition to highway cruising

Perhaps because India was not a land of good roads, perhaps because to most Indians a two-wheeler simply meant a machine for intra-city commuting or perhaps because most two-wheeler companies never gave Indians a decent highway cruiser, the culture of touring couldn't really take off in the country. Although in the last decade Bajaj launched the Kawasaki Eliminator (now Bajaj Avenger), Yamaha came up with the Enticer (discontinued) and Kinetic brought in the Aquila, we never really had what you could call a highway cruiser. Royal Enfield did have one, though—the Thunderbird—but the bike was unrefined and, well, just 350cc.

Now, we are getting better roads, an increasing number of Indians are taking their bikes out for highway trips and iconic bikes from Harley-Davidson are only furthering the culture of touring in the country. But then not all can afford a Fat Boy! There was a huge price gap between the Thunderbird and a Harley, which had to be filled. Something had to be done. The Thunderbird had to be upgraded.

Welcome to the Thunderbird 500, which has been one of the most anticipated models from the Royal Enfield stable. Showcased at the Auto Expo earlier this year in Delhi, the bike is finally on Indian roads. Some of the major upgrades include a relatively powerful 500cc engine, a 20-litre fuel tank, digital meter console, LED tail lamps and three striking shades of black—all of which combine to give a new definition to highway cruising.

The heart

The Thunderbird 500 comes with the same Classic 500 single-cylinder, four-stroke, twinspark, air-cooled 499cc engine that pumps out a healthy peak power of 27.2bhp@5250rpm and a healthier torque of 41.3Nm@4000rpm. It comes with digital electronic ignition and Keihin electronic fuel injection. A tried and tested engine, the guys at Royal Enfield have made no mistake in the engine department.

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