Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 road test by Dilip Bam



eh? What’s that?

That’s the definition of Bullet ! The prime reason for buying Bullet is the soLLidd ThummpPp!

But this one is not THUMPiNG like the old one! What’s a Bullet without the soLLidd thummpPp?

Ya Troo=true. But why thumpPp is weak in this one?

Bkoz of the bluuddy L-o-0-O-0-o-N-G silencer. Imposed by Bharat Sir Caar ! Nissan Sunny is a CaaR, but Bullet is not a CaaR, so please don’t squeeze us SirCaaR (govt)! Plz XQZ=excuse us!

One highly UNeducated cop (can cops be highly educated?) told me the max allowed noise on roads is just 18 db (db=decibels). But 18 db is not enuff for me. I have only 0ne Ear! But Kya Karen? Kaannoon is Kaannoon! If Dilip Bam does not have Kaan, then it is noon (=none?) of the govt’s problem!

Kya Karen? Turant (=immediately) silencer change Karen. Fit a 40 cm long FF silencer=best thummpPp! Anything longer than this is going to reduce the thump to reducti0-el-absurd0 !

Gentlemen, this is the Thunderbird500, or TB500, the latest BULLET from Royal Enfield !

So how is it? At a price of 1.65 Lakh, is it worth it?

It definitely is! And how! See what it has got!


The new Bullets – all models, are UCE==Unit Construction Engine. Eh? What is that? If you look at the old Bullets engine from the right hand side, you will see a separate, bolted-0n, gearbox behind the engine. UCE means: the gears have now been moved inside the crankcase and there is no separate gearbox. Gearbox is no longer visible as a separate unit. So the engine block of these new UCE Bullets looks like the mono-block=Unit Construction engines of the Ind0-Japp0 bikes!

Further, in keeping with new research findings for greater rider safety, the Heel-Toe gear shift Lever is now on the Rider’s Left Side (=LHS) as in Japanese bikes, and the rear brake pedal is on the Right Side (RHS) also as in Japanese bikes. I must compliment Enfield for providing the “0h-so-convenient Heel-Toe gear shift Lever, while many udder bike makers (brands) provide a Toe-0nly shifter, which is very bad for c0rporates (it spoils the polished c0rporate shoes) and needs much greater effort & precision to shift. Frankly, I think Toe-0nly shifters are pure shit, not shiFt. I dunn0 who gave Ind0-Japp0 bike makers the idea that Toe-0nly shifters are considered “sporty”! They are NOT ! Period ! They are not sporty, they are shitty! And painful!

Further, the number of gears is now FiVE, in a “0ne-down-four-up” pattern as against the earlier FoUR gears in a “0ne-up-three-down” pattern operated by the Toe-0nly gear shift Lever at RHS. This is a very fundamental design change which is in keeping with modern research in rider safety.

Also, having FiVE gears instead of four gives a better torque spread, probably higher top speed, as well as improves mileage.

This single change has inKreezed the market size for Bullets by more than 100% and causing the one-year waiting period! How? 0n what basis am I saying this?

On the basis of thirteen years of answering lakhs of bike related questions and clearing doubts as bikeguru on and and and other websites. I had often got questions from bikers expressing doubts about their ability to handle “Left-brake-right-gear” Bullet as compared to “Right-brake-Left-gear” of Her0 and all udder Japp0 bikes which they had been used to riding for some time. The transition would definitely be difficult….and DANGEROUS! So a lot of people avoided Bullet bkoz they were afraid of the opposite placement of the Gear-Shift-Lever (=GSL) and Brake Pedal.

By changing this single hundred year old feature (anomaly?), Enfield has been able to fall in line with the majority and thus inkreeze its market size. No wonder there is a ONE YEAR waiting period for Bullets!

So apart from the number of gears and the gear shift pattern and shifter design, what else is different?

HELLUVA LOTT ! The rear Swing-Arms, for instance! The older Bullets had 32 mm round-section swing-arm with 5.5 mm thick steel plates welded on the rear end, and an ancient design drive-chain-tensi0ner. This new Thunderbird 500 has rounded rectangular section swing arms which are 60 mm vertically and 30 mm horizontally, as calculated for flex-free chassis characteristics. This is another great improvement!

Also, in this TB500, the positioning of the footrests for both driver and pillion has been changed considerably. Correspondingly, positioning of the side-stand is also changed – for the better. I think the side stand on this TB500 is the best side stand among all side stands in this hole cunt ree! Also, driver footrests which earlier were rigid are now foldable, yet more solid. Same with pillion footrests. The design and solidity of the footrests has also been much improved.

The front forks are beefed up. Earlier (Electra 350) forks were 35 mm dia. while on this TB500 the forks are of 41 mm dia. Front suspension travel is 130 mm, while the 5-step, so-called: adjustable, rear suspension claimed travel is 80 mm.

I could NOT understand how to adjust the rear shoX. I did not get any hard copy 0wners Manual with the bike. The website does not show how. My conclusion: THE REAR SHOX ARE NOT ADJUSTABLE. Either I am wrong or Enfield is wrong or both are wrong.

The shape, design and location of the Kick-starter has also changed tremendously. You can see in the photo.

While earlier Bullets (Electra 350) had front disc brake and rear drum brake, this TB500 has disc brakes both front and rear: The front being a 280 mm disc with 2-piston calipers and the rear being a 240 mm disc with single piston caliper.

Come to think of it, by Gawd ! This is a totally different bike – and much better as well!

re thunderbird 500


While the carburetor fed 84 mm bore X 90 mm stroke old Enfield 500 made 22 bhp at 5400 / 5500 rpm at a Compression Ratio [CR] of 6.5, this same 84X90 boreXstroke TB500 claims 27.2 bhp at 5250 rpm at a CR of 8.5. This is even more than the earlier Supreme Bullet – the 535 cc Bullet, which was 25 bhp at 5500 rpm. So this TB500 Bullet takes the KeK (=cake) as far as all existing=current models – 0ld and new – of Bullets go. If you want a powerful Bullet, the TB500 is it! Max Torque figures are pretty powerful too: 41.3 Nm at 4000 rpm. The Engine Life Factor (ELF) of the TB500 with a max rpm of 5250 and CR of 8.5==2.24. If the max rpm of the old 500 is taken as 5500 at a CR of 6.5, then the ELF of the old 500 is 2.8, which is almost the highest ELF among all the bikes in this hole cunt ree! Or maybe in even in this hole world! No wonder Bullets have such long life!

Much of what has been achieved in this bike in terms of power appears mainly due to two mentioned (and many unmentioned and un-obvious) factors. Mentioned are: Electronic Fuel injection instead of carburetor, and two spark plugs instead of one. But just these two factors cannot inkreeze power of 500 from 21 bhp to 27.2 bhp! Also, I wonder why Enfield does not like to name it as DTSi: After all, the ignition system is Electronic Digital, and there are TWO spark plugs. So whether Enfield calls it DTSi or not, this TB500 is definitely DTSi! Maybe Bajaj has patented the name DTSi and others can’t use the same name due to copyright laws. Hu Noze==Who knows?

Now if there are TWO plugs, do they fire at the same moment or is there a time gap between the two plugs sparking? I am not aware of this. I do not know if the two plugs in Bajaj DTSi bikes fire at the same moment or at some time gap. I wanted to know. So I called up my old friend Sachin Chavan at Enfield, and he told me that BOTH PLUGs FiRE AT EXACTLY THE SAME MOMENT.

Dimension-wise there seems to be some difference. While all 0LD Bullets (350 / 500 / 535) claimed a wheelbase of 1370 mm, this TB500 claims a wheelbase of 1350 mm, which is 20 mm shorter. The basic chassis size appears to be the same (in spite of the different swing-arm), and the 20 mm shorter wheelbase mentioned is probably wrong. I tried to measure the wheelbase of this TB500 and an old borrowed Electra350, but all I have is a tape, and the complicated routing of the tape does not allow any degree of accuracy is measuring the wheelbase. So either I am wrong or Enfield is wrong or both are wrong. But why bother? After all, having ridden both: the old Electra 350 and this TB500, it makes no difference in feel or ride quality of either. So forget it!

With an 84 mm bore and 90 mm stroke, the Stroke/Bore ratio of TB500 is 1.07, while that of the 350 is 1.286. Therefore the 350 will have better LET==Low End Torque.

Another big difference is in the tyres – especially the rear tyre. Earlier Bullets had 19-inch diameter tyres both front and rear. The front tyre used to be 3.25 X 19, while the rear used to be 3.50 X 19. In the TB500, the front tyre is now 90/90 X 19, while the rear tyre is now 120/80 X 18. The fatter (120) rear tyre not only considerably improves road holding (which was already very good) & braking, it also improves LET (by 7.5%) due to its low profile (80) and 18-inch diameter instead of 19-inch. So whatever LET is lost in the higher (1.07) stroke/bore ratio of the 500 (as compared to the 350) is made up by a 0ne-inch reduced tyre diameter and its lower (80) profile. So, if you are planning to go in for a 350 [due to its better LET bkoz of the Lower (1.286) stroke/bore ratio] – forget it. Go for the TB500 – On Road LET of 500 is as good as the 350.

The TB500 comes with 55 watt PROJEKTOR headlight. Most (99%) other bikes come with 35 watt ordinary halogen bulbs. The 20 watt brighter light of the TB500 is very effective and the Projekt0R creates a thick widening pencil of light quality of beam which pierces the darkness of the night like ordinary headlights just cannot! This is another boon and a gr8 safety feature! If you are going from Pune to Goa via NH17 (or even via bluddy boring NH4), you need not stop for the night. Like Late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw said in the Bangladesh war of December 1971: You can Bash 0n Regardless!

Agar tumhari gaand me dum hai, toh chalte rah0! Bike ki gaand me tumse zya dum hai, aur Roshni bhi!

So if finance is NOT a constraint – it never is for Bulleteers – you might as well go for the 500 rather than the 350: Why go for Mallika Sherawat when Pamela Anderson is available? Or like Pamela Anderson said, “Why go for Hrithik when Dilip is available?”

Bullet – any model – is a HEAVY bike. For generations, Royal Enfield NEVER bothered to improve/update/correct/rectify the contents of the OWNER’s MANUAL (which since time immemorial showed weight of Bullet as 163 kg. Ha ! Did they ever measure (weigh) it? I think NEVER! NOW, the website shows weight of TB500 as 195 kg, which I think is more realistic than 163 kg. I say, “I think”, bkoz I DON’T KNOW, bkoz I do not have any instrument or device to actually weigh the Bullet TB500, or any other bike. No magazine ever does it,

None of the print magazines ever actually weighs any bike – it is too much work. Don’t I know? I have spent 25 years testing bikes for almost all the magazines then & now in print – from 1987 onwards. All magazines just reprint the company supplied specifications. Everybody does – me inklooded! Why not ARAi figures? They can’t be secret – ARAi is a pubic funded body. Maybe there is a “PROCEDURE” to get these figures, plus maybe, a cost and time factor with much grease involved. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles!

So how does the TB500 perform?

I did the zero-to-sixty (acceleration==pickup) test and the sixty-to zero (braking) test on a service road parallel for @ 1.3 km to the Bangalore-Bombay bypass Hi-way. 0ne way sloping slightly up and the 0ther way sloping exactly equally down! Obviously dumb0! It is the same fukkin’ road!


Do both sides and average out! That’s what I did.

In both tests, the rider was Rishi Mandke, India’s top stunter / Wheelie-ist / stoppie-ist – who is the first man in the world having done wheelie & stoppie in the seashore in water ON YOUTUBE! The Hero-giri that these Bollywood chocolate boyz are shown doing is actually done by Rishi Mandke wearing full-face helmet. Then Rishi take out helmet – and you see face of Bollywood chocolate boy! This is the age of ‘cut-copy-paste’ tekn0Logy! Don-Chooo-Kno?

For the Zer0-to-sixty acceleration test, I timed Rishi on 3-runs upward and 3-runs downward – to balance out the slope factor. The 3-upward runs timed an average of 4.74 sec, and downwards timed an average of 4.36 sec. So the “as measured” Zer0-to-sixty figure would be 4.74+4.36 divided by 2, that is 9.1 divided by 2, that is 4.55 seconds.

Allowing a ONE-SECOND error in my simple procedure and affordable instruments – just a stop watch is all I use – and time gaps in reactions, I would say Zero-to-Sixty done by Rishi Mandke on TB500 is 3.5 seconds.


I did the braking test also at the same place. Three runs upwards and three runs downwards. I must say the road surface here was the best for braking I have seen anywhere in a long time. It is very rough new Tarmacadam – which makes for much better braking and stopping than highway Tarmacadam (which is smoother due to regular use) or concrete – which by its very nature cannot be as rough as Tarmacadam.

In this test also, the TB500 was ridden by Rishi Mandke. I took three readings each in both directions and the average of the six readings came to 14.5 meters. This is pretty good.


I rode the TB500 dubble seat from my home at Chandni Chowk (Pune) to my kolej in Wakad – 14 km away, on highway. The max I did was 105 kmpH dubble seat (120 kg). The bike could do more – maybe 115 or 120, but the traffic did not allow it.

My compatriot Devjeet Saha who is supposed to be a racer is supposed to race out and measure the top speed single seat==Speed0-indicated. . He did race the bike single seat. He did a speed0-indicated 130 kmpH. He said he felt the bike could go faster, but traffic did not allow it.

I would say, the top speed of the TB500 would be 135 or 140, which is EXCELLENT!


The ride quality of this TB500 is superb. Great suspension, very Komfortable seat – even dubble seat, for both: Driver & Pillion. On my 15 km highway ride to BIMM (earlier IIMM) where I teach, and 15 km back home, same highway I had a 67 kg, and taller than me pillion – and the buggar was quite happy and comfortable – he said so. Ask him. His name is ShriWardhan Sharma, who was my student in BITS Pilani 25 years ago.

Road holding is as good as the best, and ability to take on potholes is about the best in this hole cunt ree! Gear shifting was clanky==heavy – not slick like IndoJap lightweights, which is fine by me! In fact, I quite like the Clanky shifting. This gives each Bullet its UNiQUE personality! This bike has a personality. After all, this bike is 195 kg, which is way heavier than anything except maybe superbikes.

Braking is very effective and both front and rear discs have excellent bite. The FAT & Low profile tyres help very much & so do the beefed up front forks and the new rear swing-arm.

Keeping up with traffic is easy – be it high speed traffic on the highway 0r slow in crowded city streets.

Most other bikes try to live up to expectations somehow. The TB500 actually lives up to every expectation ANYHOW! My problem is: I had it for very short time!


I could not do Bottle test on this one bkoz I dunn0 where to insert-in the bottle? I am usually inserting bottle into karburetor. But there is no karburetor on this one. So where to insert? I am so stoopid that I dunn0 where to insert bkoz there is no karburetor? So I have to do Tankfull-to-Tankfull measurement. I NEVER do Reserve-to-Reserve test – which most bike users to (which gives up to 30% error). Tankfull-to-Tankfull gives 98.6% accuracy, which is GuudDd Enuff for me!

This Tankfull-to-Tankfull test inklooded my high speed dubble seat highway ride to Sri Balaji Society and back (31 km) where I touched 105 kmpH ; Devjeet’s single seat fast ride at 130 kmpH ; My zero to sixty and sixty to zero tests by Rishi Mandke, and his wheelies and stoppies ; Devjeet’s rides as well as evalu-rides by Baljeet Singh, Rohit Mule, Rahul Bam and udder udderless riders but no riders with udders. Too bad there were no udders. Though I am sure there must be udders who can handle this bike.

Ah, Eureka ! I found a pair of udders to Thunder on the Thunderbird. Her name is Nishigandha Sarolkar. She found it superbly comfortable and the power and torque delivery fantastic ! She is going ga-ga about it. Competition to Lady Ga-Ga? I suppose so. After all it is THE THUNDERBiRD 500 which even made bikeguru go gaa-gaa !

Problem is: If TB500 is Driven by riders with udders, then the udderless drivers turn their Rudders in the wrong direXun and suffer ACCiDENTiTiTs! And need hospitality from specialty hospital!

The overall mileage that this TB500 gave under conditions described above was 25.74 kmpL which is better than GOOD.

Ridden normally in normal conditions this bike will easily give 30 kmpL, which is excellent==XLNT!

Kon Kloo Zion=conclusion: Value for Munny + value for Style + Personality Statement + ThumpPp + Comfort + whatever! This is it!

Verdict:For 67 year 0ld bikeguru, There are only TWO bikes in the world: TB500 or TVS XL70 cc, 2-stroke moped!

Team bikeguru:

bikeguru Dilip Bam:

Devjeet Saha:

Hrishikesh Mandke:

Photo Credits: