When my BSIV Thunderbird 350 got delivered last week, without wasting much time I took the motorcycle to a hilly terrain along with my colleague to test the abilities of this machine. Interestingly, he is also a proud owner of Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 with BSIII engine.
The place was a plantation road sharing a major part with the state forest division. We started from Aluva by 7 am and reached the checkpoint by 8. Started with a clear sky, later followed by overcast and some drizzle here and there.
The Design and Styling of 2017 TB 350
Afterall we both are riding Thunderbird 350 from two different generations and this had helped us to identify even the slightest difference between the two. Honestly, there is nothing new about the BSIV variant apart from the switch light, which is missing from the switchgear due to Auto Headlamp On feature. Therefore, the headlight is always 'ON' from the very moment ignition is 'ON'. The same twin-pod cluster found in the earlier version is also found here with all the required information. However, the quality of switches on the instrument panel has been improved a bit. It is smoother and works efficiently as compared to my friend's Thunderbird.
Another standout feature of Thunderbird is the matte coloured engine compartment which gels very well with the Matte Stone paint job of the bike. Moreover, paint quality of Enfield motorcycles is far better than any other Indian motorcycle brand. Projector headlamp upfront and LED tail light with guidelines, split pillion seat with backrest, handle grips and footpegs enhance the aesthetic beauty of this particular motorcycle.
The Engine and Performance
The 2017 Thunderbird 350 is equipped with the BSIV compliant engine as a part of the latest emission norms of the country. It continues to draw the power from 346cc, single cylinder, 4-stroke, UCE engine found in the 2012 variant. There is no healthy change in the power or torque delivery of the bike with a maximum power output of 19.8 bhp @ 5250 rpm and peak torque of 28 Nm @ 4000 rpm.
The engine is mated to the exact same 5-speed gearbox found in the entire Royal Enfield motorcycles. Moreover, the TB 350 continues to use carburetor while the mighty Thunderbird 500 gets fuel injection technology. The absence of this technology can be called as an advantage as well as a let off from the makers. For me, one with the carburettor seems to be economic over the 'Fi' system. As we all know Royal Enfield is lacking modern engineering and technology in their machines, it is better to go with the conventional carburettor system. In addition to my own words, most of the two-wheeler mechanics and workshop guys prefer carburettors over Fuel Injection system as the former is easy to maintain and service.
Lack of instant power delivery is one of the many drawbacks of Enfield machines. You cannot expect a flurry of power in every twist of the throttle. However, the weight to power ratio of the TB 500 is far better than the 350. This 200 kg motorcycle should at least have power delivery of 25 bhp or more. Any how in my personal opinion, riding the Enfields like a Duke, Pulsar or Yamaha FZ won't help the machine or yourself to create a perfect bond between the man and machine. Furthermore, this would ruin your motorcycle within 1000s kilometers of a run.
Vibrations are of course one of the inevitable things in the Royal Enfield motorcycles. Luckily, the TBs are far better than Classic and Bullets in terms of making heavy buzzes. The engine is pretty comfortable in 75 to 85 kmph and anything you throw beyond that is a complete mess and the vehicle started to show some disturbances from the point you crosses 90kmph mark.
When we talk about the engine, we also have to discuss about the gearbox. The 5-speed gearbox found in the Thunderbird 350 is also found in the whole Enfield family. It is occasionally smooth and hard as a nut at the same time, especially the second gear. Downshifting from 2nd to 1st gear and upshifting from 1st to 2nd be sometimes disgusting. However, in long run, one will master the perfect timing by practicing and paying some hardships with this machine.
The Dynamics and Riding Comfort
The riding comfort of TB 350 is outstanding. It is clearly the best Enfield in terms of its riding dynamics and serenity it offers. The single downtube frame with more beefier rear swingarm is used in the both the TBs. Moreover, the twin gas charged shock absorber with 5-step adjustable preload carries away all the road shocks and vibrations from the ground. The split saddle also offers a supreme level of comfort for both the rider and pillion on equal means. Unlike sports bikes or roadsters, this one is not meant for shaving the corners to set lap timings. Therefore, this vehicle is not tested in a wind tunnel either.
Handling is the area where Royal Enfield Thunderbird scores more over the powertrain section. The low slung seat and easily reachable street control handlebar offer laid back, more relaxed rides on the road. Even if it is a crowded street or rough terrain, maneuverability of this machine is as good as an all-terrain motorcycle. Here is the trickiest part that makes Thunderbird an ideal thumper. It is an ideal bike on the highways and bumpy village roads. The shorter wheelbase and low seat height enable the motorcycle to change lanes and direction with maximum easiness.
Honestly, the new Thunderbird 350 or any other Enfields are not worthy of its price tag. More or less, the engine, gearbox and chassis lack the refinement and benefits of advanced technology. Therefore, the cult feeling and absence of a direct alternative are currently favouring this machines to become much popular these days. In fact, the Bajaj Dominar 400 and UM Commando models can be called as rivals of Royal Enfield Thunderbird. However, there is absolutely no other motorcycle which can replace the TB 350. The core gene of TBs has been specifically coded with the functions of a cruiser and styling of a modern classic. It is also true that Dominar 400 is a power cruiser and of course it is a modern machine with all the attributes of this advanced era. According to me, Dominar has to be tried and tested in the upcoming days to prove itself to be a better and more reliable motorcycle. Till then, I would choose the Thunderbird over so-called 'Dominators' and UMs.
Full Details, Specification and Pricing of Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350
Photos By: Jithin Johnson