For a motorcycle manufacturer that has been producing and selling one and only model for almost six decades, the introduction of two new engine platforms during the last two years – the 2016 LS410 with the Himalayan, and the 650 twins in 2017 – has been nothing short of a roller coaster.
Since 1955, the Royal Enfield Bullet 350 and 500 built its own market niche and attracted a loyal global following, mainly due to the fact that it had remained practically unchanged until 1995. Then the Indian company started introducing updates in order to keep up with legal requirements and growing competition, in a gradual process that included moving the gear shifter to the left side, adding electronic ignition and disc brakes, and culminating in the 2007 Unit Construction Engine (UCE) that was still rooted on the original 1955 design but incorporated more modern amenities like electric starter, integrated five-speed gearbox and fuel injection.
The first new model from Royal Enfield would only arrive in 2002, and it was a cruiser version of the Bullet. In typical style, the Thunderbird didn't get any major updates for another 10 years, until 2012 when it received the UCE engine. By now it was essentially a Bullet with a larger fuel tank, longer front suspension and a styling shift from a 1950s British roadster to an American 1970s cruiser.
Today Royal Enfield supports the standard Bullet with a long list of spinoffs that include eight Classic variants, the Continental GT café racer and, of course, the Thunderbird. The latest addition to this model family is the Thunderbird X, which features no mechanical changes compared to the existing model.
The UCE single four-stroke produces 19.8 hp (14.8 kW) and 27.2 hp (20.3 kW) in the 350 and 500 cc versions respectively, tasked with moving a mass of 197 kg (434.3 lb). Frame, suspensions and brakes are the same as the ones used in the standard Thunderbird models.
The transition to the Thunderbird X involves a blacked-out paint scheme, a new saddle, and new handlebars that place the rider's hands a bit lower for a sportier posture. The biggest news is the application of cast alloy wheels and tubeless tires for the first time ever in a Royal Enfield motorcycle.
As for the colorful 20-l (5.3-gal) fuel tanks, these will come in four vibrant, youthful colors; orange and blue for the 500, red and white for the 350.
Royal Enfield is already accepting orders, although there's no word on actual delivery dates. In India the Thunderbird 500X will retail for US$3,050, while the 350X will go for $2,400.
Source: Royal Enfield
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