Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Royal Enfield Thunderbird Twin Spark Initial Review

I know, the thunderbird twin spark has been out since ages. But until recently, I hadn't had the pleasure to check it out. So a couple of weeks ago, I managed to trade my bike for a t-bird twin spark for a few kilometres, so that I could see how it performed. Though I couldn't quite check out it's performance, because my reputation preceded me, and the only condition the bike came with was that I would ride slow, so lets just call it my first impression. The very first thing you notice when you ride a TB is that it's awfully quick off the line. Unlike it's predecessor, it is no longer as sluggish as it used to be, owing mostly to the new unit construction engine, with it's in built gear box, which not only helps in providing power to the wheels more efficiently, it also reduces the weight a lot. In fact the bike was so jumpy, that even in the third and fourth gear, popping the clutch would cause you to lurch back. I don't think this TB is gonna have any problems popping it's front wheel up, especially because of the way the clutch feels. If I am not mistaken, they have managed to squeeze out an extra BHP from the engine too, which only adds to the fun. Apart from this, the engine too was rather smooth, and it's silent purr, did have a slight thump to it, if you cared to listen for it. Enfields have always been a little slow off the mark, but this machine is here to vitiate such beliefs, and from what I hear, even the 500 Lean Burn Bullet Machismo struggles to keep up with it's initial acceleration. The ride itself is quite comfortable too, if you set the shock absorbers to be a little softer than the default company setting. Though I didn't lean much at corners, later on when I was scraping my own bikes foot pegs, the TB riding just behind me too, I hear, was scraping it's... main stand. The bike is also quite fuel economical, giving a fuel economy of nearly 40 km to a liter. It's unit construction engine (UCE) which combines the gearbox and the engine into one single unit, does look cute too. A wonderful bike indeed. If you own a TB, or have already ordered one, I suggest you stop reading this post right here. As for the others, do please keep reading. The drivetrain on this thing is no doubt awesome, but it does have it's faults too. The mechanical clatter due to the tappets is surprisingly loud, and is may be even amplified due to the absence of a sonorous exhaust note. Next comes the low range power. At extremely low revs, the bike is rather jerky, and it does not seem to have the power to pull through. Oh! and I am comparing it to the older TB. If I compare it to my bike, when the two of us were riding along, I was in my 4th gear (the final gear of my bike, an electra) while the TB had to be in it's 3rd (out of 5 gears) and was still struggling with the low speed. Now I could have been in any of my 4 gears at that speed, the TB though had just 2 gears for that speed, 2nd n 3rd. Remember the jumpy clutch I was talking about? Well if u were riding fast, the jumpy clutch would have been nice, but riding slowly, who wants a jerky ride? One problem I have always had with thunderbirds is the handle. Now I don't mind the sissy handlebar, but there is something wrong about it, at least for me. When you are seated comfortably in it's seat, and you put your hand on the handle, I have to get my elbows together and then turn my wrists outwards, in order to hold the handle bar properly. Even without the bike if you try to position your hands in that manner, you would know how uncomfortable it is. After barely 5kms, my wrists were hurting, and I swapped the bike for my own at a red light. Now I would like to clarify, that my arms are in proportion to my body, and nor am I excessively tall. But the only condition under which I can hold the handle properly is when I am seated in the pillion's seat. Coming to the gearbox, firstly it's on the wrong side, or rather the right side for you non-bulleteers, not a major problem here. But I seriously wonder what the hype was all about. I'd heard that the shifts were silky smooth, but I wonder what they were comparing it to. My six year old electra has a softer, smoother gearbox and with far less false neutrals. I wonder why they have put in a tachometer in the T-Bird. It's not like one of those hairdryer on wheels that you can get excited by the revs it attains. It's an enfield man, the best you can get is probably is a 6K on the tacho, how exciting is that? One thing that cannot possibly miss your eye is the length of the silencer. I mean it ends about 3-4 inches behind the rest of the bike. I hear that if you get rear-ended, the bend pipe (the pipe connecting the silencer to the engine) tends to come out of he exhaust manifold. The overall build quality is also quite... well enfield-like. The alignment of the front mud-guard of the bike I saw for example didn't quite match up with the front wheel. The paint quality isn't the same that it used to be till five years ago, when the paint seemed to have depth. There were even some clearance issues somewhere in the rear of the bike, where there was the sound of metal hitting metal each time the bike went into a pothole. Remember I called the new UCE cute? Well if I wanted a cute ride, I'd rather buy a kinetic blaze. Bullets are supposed to look mean. Now the big question, would I recommend the bike? Well if you have never ridden an enfield and would like to get a flavour of what it is like to almost be a bulleteer, this is a bike for you. I know this bike isn't perfect, but then neither is any other bike in the market. You are gonna enjoy riding this bike. As for the others, you'd have to be a fool to buy this bike. I mean it's as expensive as a 500cc (plus or minus a grand) and only half as fun. Isn't it obvious as to which bike you should go in for? As for me, I am happy with my slow ride, taking it easy.

EDIT : Apparently the T-Bird also has a little problem with the rear brakes. The bike tends to get pulled towards one of the sides under severe braking. The bike I rode had really loose rear brakes, and on being asked, my friend replied that he couldn't handle the bike when it skidded, so he had loosened it's rear brake. Another thing is that Enfield has continued to use the ribbed front tyres (the tyre with round threads, and no lateral grooves), which to tell you the truth are pathetic and tend to loose grip even with drum brakes, so one really has to be careful while braking, with this bike.

EDIT 2: Okay, I have figured out why the bike can't pull when the revs are low. In fact it was a glance at the bike's specifications that explains it. My bike, an electra, produces 18 bhp of power @ 5000 rpm with 32.6 Nm of torque @ 3000rpm, while the old t-bird produced 18 bhp of power @ 5000 rpm with 28 Nm of torque @ 3500rpm. That is why the old t-bird wasn't that great at low revs. The new t-bird though has more power like I had mentioned ie, 19.8 bhp @ 5250 rpm with 28Nm of torque @ 4000 rpm. Like you can see here, the torque is the same as the previous t-bird, but it is now available at a higher rpm. It's like having everything to bake a cake, but all of it placed at the highest shelf in your kitchen. Now since I couldn't rev the engine that much, I couldn't quite find any of the power. Another thing is that the bike I was riding had a lot of racket from the tappets, despite not being ridden hard. I wonder what happens to the tappets when you start revving the bike like crazy. (Note for those who do not get this point: The clatter by the tappets is caused by the loose tappets and tappets have a tendency of loosening themselves if you rev a lot.)

EDIT 3: The other day I was the pillion on the same bike, the bike crossed a 100 with about 200Kgs of rider n pillion, with ease, though the one thing I realized was the exhaust note wasn't the most pleasant ones. I've heard 100 cc bikes with better exhaust notes. Even when we entered a tunnel, where I expected to hear a nice beat, there was none. I'd also like to add that the tappet sound was cured. BTW I do like the T-bird n would probably prefer one over my bike.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The butterfly killer

Hmmm... it has been a pretty long time since I put up a post, it is not that I had lost my ability to blether, but just because for some reason I simply because I couldn't complete any of the posts I started off with. So what's new? Well nothing much, life as a whole sucks, not because of some incident that happened, but well it simply does. One thing I have realized is that when the good times decide to leave me, they really go for good. So, a couple of months ago, I had a serious crash. Man I spent more than half of what my bike is worth, getting it repaired. Hell, I even got a new engine for Tres (that's Tres Cinquante, my bike). I wish my dad had bought me that 500cc I had almost convinced him to. Then one day he walks up to me and told me that because I wasn't such a decent rider, I wouldn't be getting the bike. He said he'd stand on a busy street with me, and if I could point out one rider who rode like me, he'd buy me the bike. And this was after I always slow down before I reach home. Moral of the story, I was (apparently) fast even after I slowed down. Any way, now that I have a new engine, I am forced to ride slow. Kinda breaking a horse, I would have to run in my bike. I did a maximum of 45km/hr for the first 500km, n now I am up to 80. Where was I? Oh yeah, the crash. I was doing around 75km/hr, riding in the center of the road, wondering whether I should overtake the small truck, driving more towards the right of the lane. Then all of a sudden, the truck swerved to the right into the lane for the on coming traffic. A split second later I knew why, when I noticed a pink blur in front of me. The truck was trying to avoid the lady on a pink scooterette. I registered 5 frames, and then time started back again. Frame 1: the pink blur. Frame 2: the terrible sound of the impact in my ears, my stomach on the speedo console. Frame 3: head on the ground (I went over, god bless the helmet), the sound of a screeching tyre (who the hell applied the brakes). Frame 4: I am on my back, sliding on my back-pack , looking at the friend who was in front of me speed away, with me hoping that he'd heard me crash and would stop to help me up, the familiar sound of metal on asphalt (after all, I am a frequent crasher). Frame 5: I am still on my back but facing the opposite side, the bike still sliding behind me, bleeding oil, all over the road (I am sorry Tres). No offence, but lady riders (and drivers to for that matter) truly scare me. For one, they have absolutly no control over their vehicles, and change lanes with no regards to other people. No one but lady drivers/riders and heavy vehicles can bully me around on the road. I am one of the most stubborn riders on the roads, and I take my bike to within an inch of the car next to me and keep it there till the other driver doesn't back off, but when it comes to lady drivers, ypu don't mess with them. Secondly they have no perception of speed and are reaaaally bad at anticipation. I have seen women on scooties doing 60km/hr with their legs dangling off the sides. Coming back to the lady I crashed into, she obviously made an error judging the speed of the truck that was in front of me. I went into her full throttle, which broke my front wheel and had caused the front tyre to lock (stopping the wheel from spinning) amazingly, my bike still maintained it's course, but unfortunately the impact coupled with the extreme breaking because of the locked wheel caused me to go over the handle bar. I landed on my head and rolled over to my back where I skidded on my bag, knowing exactly how a turtle, sliding around on it's shell, would feel like. Luckly no serious injuries for me n after about a month of rest, I was back on my feet. Running in an old bike is an experience in itself, but the one thing I realized was that 45km/hr is a really bad speed if you like butterflies. For some strange reason, whenever I rode at that speed, I clipped atleast a butterfly every 8-10 km. Day or night didn't matter, neither the area where I rode. The buterflies, simply kept coming at me. Even now, when I sometimes ride at 45, I do hit a butterfly or two, but only at that particular speed. Before I say goodbye, I'd like to add, that if you ride, always wear a helmet, because of it wasn't for my helmet, I would definitly have lost a major portion of my scalp in the numerous accidents I have had. Oh n if you happen to be riding at 45 km/hr, don't forget to pull your visor down unless you want butterflies in your face :)