Bullet 500 vs Thunderbird 500 Comparison Review

Published on: Feb 14, 2017
Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 vs Bullet 500 Comparison:

Pricing & Features Comparison: 
The Bullet 500, retails for 1.75 Lakh Rs. on road Delhi, which is 25,000 Rs. cheaper, than the Thunderbird 500, costing 2 Lakh Rs.

The Thunderbird 500 gets a lot of additional kit, over the Bullet 500. The Bullet 500 has a drum brake at the rear, which is highly inadequate, for handling the braking duties, on such a hefty vehicle. The Thunderbird 500 offers a rear disc as well as an HID Projector Headlamp and Fuel Injection, all of which is missing, in the Bullet 500.

Performance & Tractability Comparison:  

Both bikes are powered by the same 500cc engine, except for one crucial difference. The Thunderbird 500 is fed via fuel injection, while the Bullet 500 uses a carburettor. This has made the Thunderbird mildly more powerful, and torquier than the Bullet on paper. But in reality, there is absolutely no difference between the two in terms of performance. Both bikes accelerate to 100 kmph in just under 13 seconds, and go on to register a top speed, of a smidgeon over 130 kph. Thanks to a long stroke motor, there is immense grunt at lower rpm, but the engine is incredibly lazy, in picking up the revs. As for the refinement, there is none. Vibrations become grossly unbearable, right from 80 kph onwards, and the thump at low revs, that has endeared it so much to its proponents, goes out of the window, giving rise to a harsh, raucous and clattery exhaust note.

Power-to-Weight Ratio (PS/ton): Thunderbird 500 - 142, Bullet 500 – 137
Torque-to-Weight Ratio (Nm/ton): Thunderbird 500 - 212, Bullet 500– 212

Power (PS@rpm): Thunderbird 500 – 27.6@5250, Bullet 500– 26.5@5100
Torque (Nm@rpm): Thunderbird 500 – 41.3@4000, Bullet 500 – 40.9@3800
Kerb Weight (kg): Thunderbird 500 – 195, Bullet 500 – 193

Displacement (cc): Thunderbird 500 – 499, Bullet 500 – 499
Gearbox: Thunderbird 500 – 5 speed, Bullet 500 – 5 speed

Reliability & After Sales Service Comparison: 
It is no secret, that Royal Enfield makes the least reliable motorcycles in the market. Worse still, they have been making, essentially the same vehicle, for over 50 years, and still haven’t succeeded, in sorting out some of the major issues, on their bikes. Apart from the excessive vibrations, other issues like rusting, starter motor and other electrical failures, chain sprocket wear out, oil leakages, loosening of spokes, brake wear and wobbling, continue to haunt RE to this date. There is no logical linkage between these reliability issues and the charm of a 500cc long stroke thumper, and the fear of losing that charm, as an excuse for not sorting out the issues, can only be believed by people who are really low on IQ.

Fuel Efficiency Comparison:
The Thunderbird 500 was just over half a kpl more efficient than the Bullet 500 in our back-to-back tests.

Test Mileage (kmpl): Thunderbird 500 – 27, Bullet 500 - 26

Fuel Cost (for 60,000 km): Thunderbird 500 – 1.70 Lakh, Bullet 500 – 1.80 Lakh

Resale & Cost of Ownership Comparison:  
The Thunderbird being perceived as a more premium offering, its higher feature count and higher demand from buyers means that it will hold slightly better residual value than the Bullet 500. Overall, this results in a difference of just 10,000 Rs. in the Overall Ownership Cost of the two bikes.

Resale Value (after 5 to 7 years):
Thunderbird 500 – 95,000 Rs.
Bullet 500 – 85,000 Rs.  

Total Cost of Ownership: (Price + Fuel Cost - Resale Value)
Thunderbird 500 – 2.75 Lakh
Bullet 500 – 2.65 Lakh

Handling & Ride Quality Comparison:  
The Thunderbird 500 is no good, around the bends. Its floaty front end, and considerable girth, makes it quite a handful, around twisty roads. Hard cornering, is best left to the imagination. The Bullet 500 is even worse, because it lacks the beefy swingarm and rear disc brake of the Thunderbird. This makes it an even bigger risk around corners, than the T'bird. For all its so called touring credentials, both bikes are no better in terms of ride quality as well.

Wheelbase (mm): Thunderbird 500 – 1360, Bullet 500 – 1370

Ground Clearance (mm): Thunderbird 500 – 140, Bullet 500 - 135

Tyre Size:  
Front: Thunderbird 500 - 90/90R19, Bullet 500 – 90/90R19
Rear: Thunderbird 500 – 120/80R18, Bullet 500 – 120/80R18

Comfort & Ergonomics Comparison:  
The Thunderbird, is wrongly assumed to be more comfortable than the Bullet by most people. But in reality the Bullet, has better ergonomics and seating comfort than the T'bird. Firstly, Bullet 500's handlebar - seat - footpeg triangle, configured by Englishmen, half a century ago, lends it a natural upright riding position, while the Thunderbird's riding position, with its cruiser style, semi-forward set footpegs, coupled to the raised handlebar, makes the rider crouch forward, unnaturally, giving it an awkward riding position. Thunderbird's rider's seat curves upward at the back, and leads to lower back pain on long rides, Bullet on the other hand has the most comfortable seat, of all RE bikes.

Without getting into whether you should even be thinking, of buying a bullet in the first place, let's just look at which is a better option, amongst these two. The Thunderbird 500 has more features and equals the Bullet 500 in terms of Total Cost of Ownership. It also has a tad bit better performance, dynamics and efficiency, than the Bullet, making it technically more advanced, than the Bullet, although when we say technically advanced, we mean strictly in relative terms. Let's not forget that we are talking about bikes with push rod engines here! Where the T'bird falters, is that it has forgotten about the basics, along the way. It has messed up the very ergonomics of riding position, which cannot be compensated by however much technology or features, are otherwise crammed into the bike. And that is why it loses out to the Bullet 500 in this comparison.