Today a friend asked me if I still enjoyed riding my 2012 Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350. Yes, I enjoy riding it very much. There are many things I dislike about this motorcycle. I dislike the manufacturer even more. Specifically its policies and attitude towards its customers. And you don’t want to get me started on its arrogant dealers and their incompetent service stations.
But having said that, I believe every motorcycle has a sweet spot. Good motorcycles have more than one. The sweet spot of my Thunderbird is cruising between 40 to 60 kmph along village roads. If I try to cruise at 80 kmph on a highway all hell breaks loose. Parts seem like they want to fall off the motorcycle in the hope of ending their ordeal. The motorcycle and the ride feels horrible. I should know. I rode my Thunderbird from Chandigarh to Leh crossing a few mountain passes along the way. There were times when I wanted to push the motorcycle off a cliff. At one point as I was approaching Marsimik La (18,953 feet) I seriously considered using the petrol in the tank to set the motorcycle on fire and hitch a lift back down. It’s a miracle that the motorcycle made it up and down without going into coma.
If you put a gun to my head and tell me to repeat my ride to Ladakh on my Thunderbird, I will squeeze the trigger for you. No matter what Royal Enfield marketing says the Thunderbird isn’t a highway cruiser and works like shit high up in the Himalayas. In fact this holds true for all Enfields. Whoever thinks otherwise probably hasn’t ridden a proper adventure motorcycle. The only probable exception maybe the Himalayan, even though I think it’s carbureted engine may struggle at high altitudes.
Which begs the question. Why do Enfield owners enjoy riding their motorcycles? That’s because only a minor fraction of them actually tour long distance on highways and scale high mountain passes. The vast majority of them ride their Enfields in cities and villages and have a great time doing so.
Which is why my Thunderbird probably isn’t going to be seen very far from my home for the rest of its natural life. 🙂