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Review: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350
Driven September 2013
Cruisers never go out of style, and that’s true not just for those long-stroke V-twin Harleys. Ask Enfield, which came up with the Thunderbird 350 at the start of the century. Enfield purists didn’t like it very much, but it did bring in new buyers who had not considered the Royal Enfield brand until then.
The second-gen Thunderbird was launched with two engine options – a fuel injected 500cc and a carburetted 350cc. We tested the 500 when it was launched; now we got our hands on the 350, Enfield’s bread-and-butter model.
It looks exactly like the 500, and the design is an evolutionary change over the previous-gen TB. It’s well proportioned and the fuel tank gels well with the rest of the bodywork, unlike the first-gen bike. The projector headlamp and five-bar LED tail lamp give this TB some character. For colour options, there are three kinds of black to chose from: matt, gloss and twilight (black with a blue hue).
Very much like the 500 so far, but when you set off from a red light, the distinction starts becoming clear. The 350 doesn’t leave traffic behind as easily as the 500. Which is not to say the 350cc motor lacks power. On paper, it makes 19.8bhp and 28Nm, which is more than enough for city as well as highway riding. At cruising speeds, the 350 comfortably hums along at 80kph. Vibrations are minimal and the engine sounds stress-free. Wring the throttle further and you’ll come close to 120kph.
The five-speed gearbox is smooth and trouble-free, but it did hit false neutral on two or three occasions on our 250km-long test ride. The higher ratios have been designed with touring in mind. This also ensures the engine sips rather than gulps fuel from the 20ltr tank. In combined city and highway riding, the 350 returned an impressive 32.3kpl – which means the 350 can do close to 650km on one top-up.
Ride has been one of the strengths of the 500, and the 350 is no different. The suspension soaks up most of the bumps and the well padded seat lets you ride for long hours. The redesigned rear swingarm keeps the bike good in a straight line and agile around corners. This is the best handler in the Enfield stable, whether rounding a corner or gunning straight ahead. And thanks to those front and rear disc brakes that come standard, the 350 can scrub off speed as soon as it can gather it. In emergency braking, the bike kept its composure, aided by those grippy MRF Zapper tyres.
After a day of riding the Thunderbird 350 in varied conditions, it was clear the bike can’t compete with the 500 on sheer torque, but whatever power it has, it uses well. It didn’t feel lacking on any other count compared to the more expensive 500, and first-gen TB350 owners will be more than impressed with the new 350.
At Rs 1.45 lakh (on-road Mumbai), it’s Rs 40,000 cheaper than the TB500 while offering the same refinement as its bigger sibling.
1cyl, 350cc, 19.8bhp, 28Nm, 5M, 32.3kpl, 120kph, seat height: 775mm, 192kg, Rs 1.45 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Need a budget cruiser that doubles up as a fuel-efficient, urban commuter? The TB350 it is, then.