Royal Enfield has begun testing an upgraded version of its cruiser motorcycle – the Thunderbird. Currently, the Thunderbird is available in two variants – Regular & X. The motorcycle also gets two engine options – 350cc and 500cc. While Royal Enfield is likely to continue offering multiple engine options on the Thunderbird, and also multiple variants, the motorcycle will get major mechanical changes ahead of the Bharat Stage 6 (BS6) emission norms, which come into force from April 2020.
Spyshots courtesy PowerDrift
The tightening emission norms seems to have prompted Royal Enfield to go for a full engine redesign. The engine redesign is evident from the fact that the chain is now situated on the left side of the engine seen on the test bike. The spyshots also show that the rear brake disc has been relocated from the left hand side (on the current Thunderbird) to the right hand side (on the upgraded version). The swing arm also seems different. Apart from these changes, expect features to be added, alloy wheels to be made as standard across the Thunderbird range, along with tubeless tyres.
Another massive change seen on the test bike is the absence of a kickstart. If Royal Enfield dumps the kick starter for good, it’ll have to rely completely on an electric starter, and this is something that needs very good reliability from the electric starter unit.
The seats on the spied Royal Enfield Thunderbird seem to have a redesign while the exhaust and rear shock absorbers are also new items. Come 2020, we could see a new range of entry-level Royal Enfield motorcycles with the 350cc and 500cc unit construction engines. We’re saying this as the Royal Enfield Classic was also recently spied with similar changes.
The 350cc unit construction engine (UCE) that powers most Royal Enfield motorcycles sold in India is expected to receive fuel injection in order to cope with the BS6 emission norms, which will be much tighter than the existing Bs4 norms. More details on the upgraded Royal Enfields will surface in the coming months.
For now, there’s no clarity on the launch timeline of the upgraded Classic and Thunderbird range. Considering that Royal Enfield has already started road testing these bikes – which look nearly production ready – and that the BS6 emission norms deadline is fast approaching, we expect the new bikes to be in dealerships before April 2020.
Meanwhile, another retro motorcycle brand – Jawa – will start delivering its motorcycle before the end of March 2019. The arrival of Jawa into the market means that competition for Royal Enfield – until recently a solitary brand in the affordable retro motorcycle space – has just increased in a big way. The new range of Royal Enfields will be aimed at keeping Jawa at bay.