The funky Thunderbird 500X is the latest Royal Enfield to hop onto the ABS brigade. And unlike many other motorcycle makers in India, Royal Enfield has gone the whole hog, and has equipped the Thunderbird 500X with dual channel ABS. Regulations mandate single channel ABS as minimum but considering the heavy weight of Royal Enfield motorcycles, it’s always good to have dual channel ABS.
The Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X with dual channel ABS is priced at Rs. 2.13 lakhs, ex-showroom Delhi. Apart from the additional of dual channel ABS, nothing else has changed on the motorcycle. The cruiser retains the 499cc unit construction engine that puts out 27.2 Bhp of peak power and 41.3 Nm of peak torque. Known for torque delivery, this engine is one of the last surviving motors with an old school overhead valve design.
The long stroke motor does have a few modern bits – for a Royal Enfield – though. The valves are now actuated hydraulically while the engine also gets fuel injection. A five speed manual gearbox is standard. The Thunderbird 500X is aimed at buyers who want something youthful for long highway trips. Ergonomics are relaxed and the motorcycle even gets a dual trip meter to log longer rides.
While dual channel ABS improves safety significantly, there’s another small but extremely significant change that most people don’t notice on this motorcycle. The Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X, like its 350X sibling, rides on alloy wheels. While alloy wheels aren’t special by themselves, the key factor to note here is that Royal Enfield has fitted tubeless tyres on this motorcycle.
It goes without saying that tubeless tyres greatly enhances safety at highway speeds where a sudden tyre blowout can be fatal. Tubeless tyres deflate much slower than tube-type tyres, making them a lot safer. So, dual channel ABS and tubeless tyres make the Thunderbird 500X one of the safest motorcycles that Royal Enfield sells in India. Even more expensive Royal Enfields such as the recently launched 650 twins don’t offer tubeless tyres, even as an option.
Coming back to ABS, the dual channel unit means that it acts on both the front and rear brakes of the motorcycles. This allows braking to distributed more evenly, allowing better control. ABS, which is an acronym for anti-lock braking system, works by modulating braking pressure in such a way that the brakes don’t lock up even under very hard, emergency braking. This prevents skids, both in dry and wet conditions, making motorcycling a lot safer.
By early 2019, every Royal Enfield motorcycle sold in the Indian market will be equipped with dual channel ABS as standard. However, tubeless tyres won’t be available on most Royal Enfields considering that the bikes still use spoked rims. Fitting tubeless tyres to spoked rims is costly, and the motorcycle maker is yet to come up with a solution for this.
In developed countries, dual channel ABS is mandatory on motorcycles. By making at least single channel ABS mandatory on all two wheelers that have engine capacity of 125cc and above, the Indian government has made a serious attempt to make roads safer here. In the coming years, expect more safety technology to filter down to even budget two wheelers.