Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500: Cruise Missile

The engine is a straight lift from the Classic 500, so don’t expect drastic changes in performance – there’s 27.2bhp and 41.3Nm of torque. This is impressive on paper and out on the highway, the engine will hum along at 80-90kph all day long. If you want your highway cruiser to swallow kilometres faster, just downshift to fourth and twist the throttle. The T500 will oblige without wasting time. On the Bangalore-Mysore highway, the bike cruised at 120-130kph easily.

The gearbox is a 5-speed manual, not as smooth as the ones on those Japanese bikes, but it does have a mechanical feel to it, which I loved. Over time, motorbikes have had so much refinement drilled into them, I didn’t realise how much I love – and miss – the feel and sound of metal on metal.

The downside is the limited amount of usable power that you get to play with in the rev range. Before 3500rpm, there’s not much low-end torque available, so if you want to overtake on a highway, you need to downshift to build revs. The engine redlines at 5500rpm. And with the tall fifth gear, you need to keep clicking through the gears to stay in the power-band. The front suspension has been reworked and now gets wider 41mm forks compared to the 350’s 35mm; the rear swingarm uses a new oval section design. All these changes plus the bike’s 195kg weight add to stability.