Enfield comes of age with the Thunderbird encompassing half a century
of motorcycling experience. Please fasten your seat-belts, the T'Bird
is ready for lift-off.
I, scene 1 takes place on the Pune-Mahabaleshwar highway as Sirish puts
the cruiser-styled Lightning 350 through her paces. This was the first
bike from Royal Enfield to feature a five-speed gearbox with the shifter
on the conventional, left side of the bike. It's a radical change for
the decades-old, conservative manufacturer of the Bullet. The gearbox
on the Lightning impresses and forms the high point of the road test.
Shifting is smooth, eliminating the constant struggle to shift cogs on
the Bullet. Another positive facet is the absence of false neutrals, a
bane of the old gearbox.
Yet another boon is the Performance as the
Lightning 350 recorded the highest top speed achieved on a bike built
in the country, having crossed the 110kmph mark, after the RD 350 which
to date remains the fastest bike manufactured in India. The ultra macho
Lightning with its thunderous exhaust roar, deafening engine clatter and
five-speed shifter under left foot evoked rave reviews but alas! never
made it to an assembly line.
Scene 2 is set in Delhi and Auto Expo 2002 where CEO Siddharth Lal unveils
the Thunderbird, Royal Enfield's latest entrant into the cruiser segment.
His aim is to roll out a new bike every six months, and he has abided
by his word in the last year. The Lightning 350 was followed by the Bullet
Electra and now here comes the Thunderbird. Prominent among the cosmetic
refurbishments on the Thunderbird are the five-speed gearbox with shifter
on the left side, new dials, disc brake on the front wheel, bazooka-like
silencer and lo and behold, a self-starter. As promised by Lal, five months
down the line the Thunderbird wings it to the OVERDRIVE garages, sans
electric start but with the disc on.
Scene 3 plays out on the Pune- Mahabaleshwar highway with yours truly
cruising with the 'Bird, wide grin splitting my face. Even as I revel
in the cruise, the revamped styling, mechanicals and Performance register their impact. To list them all, there's the AVL block, followed
by the shifter for the five-speed gearbox on the left, CV carb, CDI ignition
and disc brakes on the front wheel. As I coast into town I revel in thoughts
of the Performance test next morning and
my grin only gets wider.
Whatever the model churned out by Enfield every one of them has a unified
personality and character. And what character, conjuring up visions of
long roads seldom travelled slipshod with worn leather, sunlight bouncing
off your shades, scruffy beard grissled with road dust, the idle beat
of the exhaust filtering down your brain as the miles get pounded underneath,
the short halts to light up your brand of smokes as you ride mile after
mile and roadside cafes that serve gut wrenching liquid to set fire in
your belly. But this necessarily need not mean that only hard men ride
hard machines and every effort has been taken to soften the image. So
it is little wonder under the keen eye of Siddarth Lal, avid biker and
far-sighted economist that this company is seeing an about face.