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Old 21st November 2014, 14:53   #31
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Default Re: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Review - Back to the Future

One week of back to back 80 km rides on the Thunderbird 500 and the HD750 - Comparison Report

The Route: Shenoy Nagar (Chennai) to Thodukaadu (between Sriperumbudur and Thiruvallur)

Distance: Almost exactly 40 km one way

Road Nature: Around 5 km of city roads from Shenoy Nagar to the Koyambedu clover leaf, then a (so-called) highway section of about 10 km with constant medium to heavy traffic up to the Poonnamallee bypass, then around 20 km of real highway up to Sriperumbudur town, and a final 5 km of state highway (with a really bad initial section) up to the factory in Thodukaadu.

Times: Onward journey starts around 8:30 AM. Return journey starts around 5:30 PM.

Disclaimer: I am well aware that the TB500 and the HD750 are in different classes and are normally not seen as competitors. However, as a person with both bikes at home, and who has the opportunity to use both of them over the exact same roads, at the same times, in the same conditions, on a daily basis, I am in a position to evaluate both bikes on the same criteria, and for the same purposes. This comparison report should be taken as just that - a comparison, NOT A COMPETITION. This isn't about winners or losers in a test. I'm simply trying to use my daily commute to highlight the respective highs and lows of the two bikes for anybody who is interested. With that said, on with the comparison.

The Bikes: Lobo (my TB500) and La Bestia Negra (my uncle's HD750).

ENGINE COMPARISON

Right off the bat, a huge difference between the two bikes. Lobo's 500 cc EFI motor will be familiar to many readers, and there are no real surprises here. Much as you can cane it to higher speeds and revs, this is still, at heart, a reasonably lazy long stroker, and the engine lets you know quite clearly that it is most comfortable if you keep it within the 90-100 kmph envelope. In that range, Lobo happily thrums along pretty much endlessly. Push him further than that, and a serene, regal ride can start becoming unrefined, shaky and unpleasant.

There's definitely some mechanical chatter that you can hear (Tamil music fans will understand when I say that the typical jhagana-jhagana-jham-jham-thaka-jhagana-jhagana-jham-jham RE sound is present ). All told, this engine is neither poor nor spectacular. It does a good job in any kind of traffic, and as long as you know its limitations and don't push beyond them, it works like a charm.

The heart of the black beast is an entirely different matter. 750cc V-twin, over head cams instead of push rods, liquid cooled, higher and freer revving... not only is it completely different from the TB500 engine, it is very different from almost anything that even HD have produced so far barring the V-Rod family.

She always sounds angry - whether that anger is a muted, simmering, menacing truculence, or a growling, howling, reverberating fury, depends on three things: (a) your throttle hand and shifting habits, (b) your exhaust, and (c) the traffic. But nobody will ever describe this engine as calm, or settled, or easy riding - from the get-go, it asks... no, it demands to be pushed. It sounds most in its element when the combined rage of 55 odd horses (my best guess) is allowed to spill freely out through its wheels and onto the road, and it is given free rein to howl out its disdain for anything that is polite or discreet. It heats up pretty toasty in slow B2B traffic, and even in stock trim is not the most comfy in those conditions. But give her freedom to throw her head back and howl at the sky, and you will bask in the sudden, overwhelming presence of a dark goddess.

GEARING COMPARISON

RE have done a great job with the gearing of the TB500. Lobo is equally comfy in slow, stop-go traffic and in fast moving highway conditions. No strain, no undue clutch burning required in 1st or 2nd, he is almost always a superbly behaved animal. The one thing that he is not, and will never be, is a sprinter, even compared to his own cousins. The gearing on the TB500 is slanted much more towards the mid range, so you're not going to be setting any drag records. But at speed, in 4th and 5th, the torque availability makes sustaining speed a breeze, and cruising and overtaking at around 90 odd feels wonderfully relaxed, almost zen like.

The 750's gearbox is 6-speed, with the emphasis on speed. Everything about this bike seems calculated to showcase and highlight its fantastic engine, and the gearing is no different. Huge torque spread doesn't even begin to describe it well - any RE owners need to ride this beast to understand just what "torque in any gear, at any rev" really means. You'll typically find yourself in traffic, rolling along in 2nd, with the beast muttering ominously under her breath at being reined in as you wait for your chance. Then a gap opens up, and you point and shoot, and she clears her lungs in a joyous roar as the torque floods through the gates. You'll feel her urge you to click on through, and before you know it, you're in 5th, blazing past cars and trucks and bikes like they are standing still, astride a force of nature that still has another gear to give you, with even more power.

The HD has the edge in terms of smoothness of the gear shifts, but the TB slips gears less often, and plays hide and seek with neutral less often. While I believe that the HD gearbox has gotten as smooth as it ever will, I'm wondering if the TB gearbox will smoothen out more. Will have to wait and see.

SUSPENSION & RIDE COMFORT COMPARISON

If you want to see what exactly 2.5 lakh extra gets you on a bike apart frm a bigger engine, look no further. The difference in ride quality between the two bikes is chalk and cheese.

I've always said that Lobo is nice and comfortable - I need to qualify that by saying that for a bike in his class, I find him very comfortable indeed. But the HD is in a different league altogether. Riding them back to back on the same roads, over a variety of conditions, shows you just how vast the gap is. It's got to be a combination of the extra weight, the far fatter rear, higher quality shocks and springs, the whole deal, really. Those long grooved channels on half finished roads that make the TB wobbly and rumbly? Almost completely ignorable on the HD. The seat cushioning is way better as well, and the bike allows you ride sudden potholes and speedies at speeds that would be unthinkable on Lobo.

The old phrase "you get what you pay for" has never been more applicable than it is here. My only complaint is that the footpegs are too far back on the HD, making it uncomfortable for taller men on longer rides. In every other way, it is way out of Lobo's class.

BRAKING COMPARISON

Lobo has better brakes, period. Given his performance envelope, the brakes give you enough bite and stopping force for anything from normal to emergency braking situations. No ABS, but I don't miss them except when riding on extremely slick roads or at night. For what they are, the brakes do their job just fine.

The only way the brakes on the HD can be explained, on the other hand, is if the designers at HD came together and had the following conversation:

Designer 1: "Hmm, so the engine roars like a demon, and we've geared her to fly as well. Think she's scary enough?"
Designer 2: "No, man! No way! We need her to make riders crap themselves when they least expect it - how else are we going to sell more HD stuff to them?!"
Designer 3: "Huh? What HD stuff? We're already fleecing them on peripherals, aren't we?"
Designer 2: "HD branded adult diapers, chief! 9999/- per pack of 5, for those moments when the bike makes you lose control of your sphincter and void your bowels into your designer HD riding pants!"
Designer 4: "Hm, not bad, not bad... but we need customers to keep buying them regularly. What can we possibly do that would induce this kind of terror on a regular basis..."
Designer 2: "Simple, broseph. Screw the brakes."
Designer 1: "Genius! Pure genius! Somebody give the man a raise!"

You may think I'm joking, but if there is a different reason for which HD put cheap-ass brakes on this machine, I'd like to know what it is. As things stand, the HD750 (in novice hands) is beyond the shadow of a doubt the single most dangerous bike in the country. It is positioned as an entry level HD, which many novices will conveniently read as an entry level bike, period. Then, it is styled and looks like a cruiser, so these novices will convince themselves that the bike will ride nicely and sedately, like a RE bike, for example. Then when they actually ride it and feel the drug that that engine mainlines into their bloodstream, they will forget that they are novices on a 220 kg bike doing 140 kmph and still accelerating, right until the moment they need to slam on the brakes.

Then, for a split second, they will wish they had bought and worn those HD branded adult size diapers, right before impact.

ELECTRICALS AND SWITCHGEAR COMPARISON

Lobo is the most modern of the RE bikes, and it shows in this category. I love the stuff that is available on the console, and the switchgear is nice and functional. Not a fan of the rubber button quality, but whatever - not a big deal. The lights and horn are great, but I'd personally like high beam to throw more on the road and less into the signboards. Maybe a focus issue that needs to be corrected.

The HD has pretty sparse switchgear, and not far above RE's quality either. No rpm indicator, which is not a big deal, and no pass switch, which is an incredibly dumb choice. The high-low beam switch is so unintuitively placed that you can't even use it as a replacement effectively. Lights are not as bright as Lobo's, but adequate.

CLOSING COMMENTS

I enjoy Lobo as a great all rounder, which is really why I got him in the first place. He is comfortable in slow traffic, doesn't need me to heat-proof my legs, allows my wife to not die of fear when she is on the pillion seat, eats miles comfortable and reliably, and does it all at a price point that still puts him (just) within the classification of "commuter bike". If you are a novice biker who wants to feel some manageable oomph, he is a great choice. Similarly, if you want something that is reasonably premium, but not quite in the enthusiast bike bracket, he is a great choice.

La Bestia Negra, on the other hand, is the cheapest possible luxury bike that you can buy, and for my money, the chassis-engine-gearbox-suspension combination alone is worth every paisa of that 4.7 lakh. In spirit, in soul, the bike from yesteryear that she most reminds me of is the Yezdi Roadking. Not in terms of tech specs, but in terms of feel - that joyous glee that she inculcates in you as you roar through light traffic is similar, and it feels great to be on a bike that sounds so distinct. Put a Screamin' Eagle pipe on her and every single ride is borderline orgasmic - you'll find yourself roaring inside your helmet in cadence with her own howl, and when that sound makes traffic ahead of you dart fearful glances back like the hound of hell itself is on their heels, you will know why I named our HD750 "La Bestia Negra", or The Black Beast.
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Old 21st November 2014, 17:09   #32
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Default Re: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Review - Back to the Future

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Originally Posted by Silverflash View Post
However, as a person with both bikes at home, and who has the opportunity to use both of them over the exact same roads, at the same times, in the same conditions, on a daily basis, I am in a position to evaluate both bikes on the same criteria, and for the same purposes


Wonderful! You've certainly got skills mate. Excellent write up. Loved reading it thoroughly

I had the opportunity to recently ride an Iron 883 and Street 750 back to back. Without an iota of doubt, the Street is the more superior animal of the two. Hardly any vibes, faster and the screaming eagle exhaust sounded glorious. I could not understand what the ho-halla was around dangling / exposed wires and what not. To me, she looked plenty big and worth the 5 lac the owner had spent on it. The only disconnect I had from whatever I have been reading on various forums is how quick the 750 is. It is supposably quicker to the ton (4.5 ish seconds) as opposed to the Duke 390 (5.6 ish seconds). Seat of the pants observation - did not feel so. Or maybe I was not pushing it much as she was the brand new aquisition of a friend's brother

On the 883 - The first thing that hits you when you try to wheel her out, is the weight. Good god she's a hefty girl!!! This 883 had the screaming eagle exhaust also. The street's however sounded much better. Its a no contest in the looks department though. The 883 is one of the prettiest bikes I have ever seen. All the kids in my neighborhood were so excited to hear the 2 beasts rumble. Chhutkus no more than 5 years old could identify the bikes & screamed - Oye Harley, YAAYYYYYY. Thats the charm of HD I guess. It was the Denim black 883 that was getting more attention

But if I were ever in the market for an HD, it would be the Street for me. My one gripe though is the foot peg position. I would love for it to be pulled back (sportier, like a "standard" bike as opposed to feet forward like a cruiser. Think Triumph's Bonnie) for better rideability

I will be taking a more detailed ride and update my observations on this thread if thats Ok with you

Ride safe bud!

Last edited by Urban_Nomad : 21st November 2014 at 17:24.
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Old 21st November 2014, 17:34   #33
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Default Re: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Review - Back to the Future

Silverfish...can you PM me your details please? I have just got my TB 500 Marine to the showroom and would love to meet up with you...
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Old 21st November 2014, 17:45   #34
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Default Re: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Review - Back to the Future

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Silverfish...


Nice to see a bookworm in our petrolhead midst.
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Old 21st November 2014, 17:55   #35
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Default Re: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Review - Back to the Future

Silverflash that's a nice comparative analysis I must say. RE Tbird500 will start feeling the heat when Harley Davidson releases it Street 500 V-twin Liquid Cooled motorcycle. It is good to see HD releasing it models all across different budgets and needs. My personal favorite Harley Davidson is the Electra Glide Ultra Classic.

There is another thread on RE hiring Pierre Terblanche. It looks like RE has already started feeling the heat and are going back to the drawing board. However I didn't understand why liquid cooled bikes heat up in traffic compared to air cooled ones. I know that Bonneville heats up despite being air cooled but still. KTM Duke 390 and now as observed by you the HD Street 750 heats up fast despite being liquid cooled. Is it the high revving engine, short stroke, less heat dissipation compared to air cooled engines, etc.
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Old 21st November 2014, 18:16   #36
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Default Re: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Review - Back to the Future

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Silverflash that's a nice comparative analysis I must say. RE Tbird500 will start feeling the heat when Harley Davidson releases it Street 500 V-twin Liquid Cooled motorcycle. It is good to see HD releasing it models all across different budgets and needs. My personal favorite Harley Davidson is the Electra Glide Ultra Classic.
.

There is a reason HD has not released 500 so far and won't do so either anytime soon - they can't price it for the displacement of 500cc. Abroad (USA) the price difference for a difference of 250 cubic capacity is 500 or 700 $ but not more than that , that translates into at best a 50 k price reduction ex showroom . That is almost the price of the aftermarket exhaust everyone is slapping on the bike , as such no one will really go for the 500 here . It has a market in the states as a beginner bike because their licensing is based on BHP figures of the bike , also the market there is not as sensitive as us to capacity - for example many in street forum are looking at these bikes as a 2nd or 3rd bike to attend to chores or for family members .
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Old 24th November 2014, 09:26   #37
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Default Re: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Review - Back to the Future

Silverflash........excellent comparo . The 750 is truly a bike for people like us with a shoestring budget . I might book one by next year (had booked an RE classic but will be cancelling it). Can you please tell me how comfortable would a pillion be on a street?
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Old 25th November 2014, 21:12   #38
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Default Re: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Review - Back to the Future

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Originally Posted by Silverflash View Post
[b]
You may think I'm joking, but if there is a different reason for which HD put cheap-ass brakes on this machine, I'd like to know what it is. As things stand, the HD750 (in novice hands) is beyond the shadow of a doubt the single most dangerous bike in the country. It is positioned as an entry level HD, which many novices will conveniently read as an entry level bike, period. Then, it is styled and looks like a cruiser, so these novices will convince themselves that the bike will ride nicely and sedately, like a RE bike, for example. Then when they actually ride it and feel the drug that that engine mainlines into their bloodstream, they will forget that they are novices on a 220 kg bike doing 140 kmph and still accelerating, right until the moment they need to slam on the brakes.
Thanks for the comparison Silverflash. After reading your review I searched in Youtube and found the following video. Look at the way the beast is pulling and that growl of the exhaust..awesome

regards adrian

Last edited by adrian : 25th November 2014 at 21:14.
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