Royal Enfield Debuts 500cc Thunderbird

January 6, 2012
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

Royal Enfield chose the India Auto Expo 2012 in New Delhi to unveil its new 500cc Thunderbird. A 350cc version of its popular Thunderbird has been a staple in the Royal Enfield lineup for ten years now and is touted by the company to be popular with touring enthusiasts. With that in mind, Royal Enfield switched up the ergonomics on the 500cc version by
Royal Enfield 500cc Thunderbird
Royal Enfield introduced a 500cc version of its Thunderbird motorcycle which has revised ergos and updated suspension to go along with its larger displacement engine at the India Auto Expo.

placing the foot pegs forward, redesigning its seat and tweaking its handlebars. They also redid its pillion so it can now be popped off to accommodate luggage and bungee hooks are provided as tie-down points. The new 500cc Thunderbird has increased range, too, courtesy of its 20 liter (5.28 US gallons) tank, up from the 350’s 13.5 liters (3.5 US gallons).

Royal Enfield also revamped the 500cc Thunderbird’s suspension package, boosting its fork size to 41mm (the 350cc Thunderbird uses a 35mm fork) while equipping the rear with an oval section swingarm. They also ditched the drum brake on the rear of the smaller Thunderbird for a disc, the braking system supplied by Bybre, a subsidiary of Brembo.

The larger 500cc powerplant is a single cylinder, unit construction engine like the one Royal Enfield first introduced on the 350cc Thunderbird. The beefier mill is electronically fed and is good for a claimed 27.2 bhp. One noticeable difference is the blacked-out treatment adorning the cylinder head and covers of the 500cc version.

Other new wrinkles include a revised headlight which now features a 55w projector lamp for its low beam and a 55W halogen bulb for high beam. Royal Enfield put hazard lamps in the switchgear, a move the company claims is a first for a motorcycle manufactured in India. Instrumentation includes two redesigned analog gauges which display speed, rpm, and trip meters. The main ignition lock does double time as a steering lock as well. Minute nuances in the styling department include the Royal Enfield logo being embossed on the new foot pegs, mirrors and the LED taillight.

The 500cc Thunderbird will expand the Royal Enfield range instead of replacing the 350cc unit, which will still be produced. The 2012 Thunderbird 500 is slated to hit Indian dealerships later this year, but whether it will be available beyond India remains to speculation at this point. 

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