20120122

Driven #10: Royal Enfield Classic 500 Desert Storm


Royal Enfield needs no introduction in India. After all, this is a brand that beat the mighty Harley-Davidson and emerged on top in a recent brand image study amongst automotive manufacturers. Almost all the models in the company's lineup are sold out for months together in advance with the Classic twins, launched in 350 and 500 variants, being a phenomenal success with customers waiting for 6 months and more to own one. Not content with that, Royal Enfield recently launched two new variants of the Classic 500 - Classic Chrome and Desert Storm. As the names suggest, these are just cosmetic tweaks with the former sporting an overdose of 'chrome' and the latter wearing a stunning pre-war era 'sand' paint job. 

As only Royal Enfield can fathom, launch of merely two variants of an already well-established product has created quite a stir in the industry and amongst the public. We can't afford to miss out on driving one when the chance came by and find out what is different from the regular Classic.

TO LOOK & FEEL:
 


We have driven the Classic 500 before and it was open to the world that we were smitten hard by its styling. That has not changed a bit ever since. In fact, its only growing bigger and bigger. The industry might be moving forward with modern and aerodynamic designs, but the Classic is a truly one-of-a-kind motorcycle retaining its typical old-world charm and unashamedly 'classic' elements. This retro motorcycle stuns the onlookers with round lights all around, twin tiny pilot lamps, a mighty fuel tank, magnificent wheel arches, a meaty exhaust pipe and the classy chrome mirrors and indicators. The pre-war era sand paint job with a matte-like finish of the Desert Storm version only adds to the overall visual appeal.

The kind of attention that the Classic Desert Storm attracted during our test drive was incredible. The answer lies in the magnificent design and the awesome paint job that immediately brings in a sense of nostalgia to our minds sends us into a tizzy. Having said that, the build quality is still not up to the mark in quite a few places which is quite disappointing given the price that you pay to own one. The blisters in the surface, the irregular joints and the rusty metal and chrome parts in a fairly new motorcycle that has hardly covered 2000 km isn't something that can be easily excused.


Another thing which is not particularly commendable is the age old design of the instrument cluster. There is nothing snazzy and digital here with a large circular speedometer dominating the proceedings. The speedo also houses bare minimal tell tale lights and is flanked on either sides by the key slot and a fuel cum engine warning indicator. The low fuel warning light is the only indicator for fuel and the absence of a fuel gauge is a glaring omission by Royal Enfield. The switchgear, in contrast, matches up to the present day standards and also looks and feels better to operate as it is made of better quality materials that feels built to last.

ON THE ROAD: 


The Desert Storm is powered by the same single-cylinder, 499cc engine that thumps out 27.2 bhp of maximum power. With features such as Twin Spark ignition, Electronic Fuel Injection system and a Unit Construction Engine in which the engine and gearbox are enclosed in a single casing thereby reducing the transmission losses, this fairly modern power-train is soon becoming the staple for many Royal Enfield models including the recently unveiled Thunderbird 500. Crank the engine up and you are sure to get lost in the royal thumps that fill the surroundings. 

The Classic is pretty quick off the line and accelerates briskly but the most interesting thing is that you just don't realize the speeds that you are doing until you look at the speedo. The 5 speed constant mesh gearbox is smooth shifting and the gear ratios are nicely placed with the bike not feeling out of breath in any gear. The abundant torque available at lower end of the rev range makes it pretty comfortable to drive the Classic inside the city, unabated by its sheer bulk. The vibration levels leaves a lot to be desired and is so bad that things are hardly visible in the rear-view mirrors as speeds build up.


The high and comfortable seating position and the massive bulk at your disposal invariably gives you the feeling that you are king of the road once you hop on. And the superb ride just reinstates this point as the Classic continues unfazed by bumps, potholes and other road undulations with telescopic dampers up front and gas-charged shocks at the rear gobbling them away. The high-speed handling and superb straight-line stability instills confidence in you making it a perfect highway cruiser. On the contrary, the Classic isn't as nimble as you would like in the city traffic. Braking is average and is not on par with ABS-equipped bikes like TVS Apache RTR180 and Honda CBR 250R. It is high time Royal Enfield brings in ABS technology to their models, given that they are all pricey and rich in power and torque.

SPECIFICATIONS: 


* Engine Type: 4-stroke, Liquid Cooled
* No of Cylinders: 1
* Displacement: 499 cc
* Maximum Power: 27.2 bhp @ 5250 RPM
* Maximum Torque: 41.3 Nm @ 4000 RPM
* Transmission Type: 5-speed, 1Down 4Up
* Tires: 90/90 R19 (Front), 120/80 R18 (Rear)
* Brakes: 280mm Hydraulic Disc (Front), 153mm Single Lead Internal Expanding (Rear)

WHAT'S COOL:

* Classic retro looks
* Superb high-speed stability
* Excellent Ride quality
* Powerful and torquey engine
* Stunning matte-finish 'sand' paint job

WHAT'S NOT SO COOL:

* Basic Instrument Cluster
* Lack of advanced features
* Inconsistent Fit and Finish

TO SUM UP:


Royal Enfield motorcycles are still not the best when it comes to long-term reliability. The build quality is still not on par with the competition. Barring a few modern technological bits, they are basically old-school and are not feature-rich. The engine vibrates so much giving your palms and shoulders a shudder. Still, those who own one love their machines and swear by them anyday anytime and anywhere. And those who don't own one aspire to do so very soon. Despite its many flaws, the Classic 500 is still a great motorcycle with unbeatable highway characteristics and we will not hesitate for a moment to put our money on one. As most of you would agree, learning to live with its flaws is a part of the pleasure of owning a Royal Enfield. The world may come to an end in 2012 but we are sure that the sun will never really set on a Royal Enfield.

43 comments:

  1. Nice review.. You also write for Motorbeam

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    1. Thanks Gautam, glad that you liked it. Yes, I write for MotorBeam too.

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    2. Good Review... Please help me as i am confused between a RE Classic Desert Storm and Honda CBR 250.. I have a CBZ but for last 3 Years i hardly rode any Bike as using MY Car.
      Now i am desperately looking for a dashing looking bike which should be different from the crowd.I will ride my bike only on weekends.The bike should have easy maintenance and Fueleconomy is not an issue for me.I am 5'11' and little bit on the thinner side (Wt 66 kg).

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    3. Hi. You have zeroed in on two bikes that are as different as chalk and cheese but interesting options nevertheless. The Classic Desert Storm makes sense if you are planning for long drives on the highway over the weekends. If you are planning to stick to city limits and outskirts, Honda CBR 250R is the better choice. The Honda will also suit your light weight and thin frame while the Classic Desert Storm would be pretty bulky.

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    4. Hi The important thing for you to understand is, what type of a motorcyclist you are. Are you the first off the traffic lights kind or the more mature, composed biker who loves a sedentary long ride? The CBR is good for a race around a circuit but ask yourself if you'd like a poor copy of a great original, with the CBR badge being the only semblance. The Classic DS, on the other hand, is a piece of history. a true classic and a great responsibility. Yes, you can shoot off the traffic signals on one of these but i'm sure the ones who own one would agree with me that we, Classic DS owners love to treat ourselves and the envious onlookers to the delicious thump of the exhaust note. Buying a RE is easy but maintaining one is a whole different ballgame. I'm not saying it is maintenance heavy but you should be ready to treat this machine with respect and give it the TLC it demands. most times, all you need is to clean it well and clean off the battery spillage, adjust the rear brakes and check the lights. mine's done 10K kms in the past 6 months - a mix of short, in city rides and long trips (2 to 3 weeks, 1400+ Kms) and NEVER has the DS let me down.

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    5. Hi Nick, thanks for your delightful narration. We totally agree with you, especially on the point that RE owners deliberately treat themselves and others with those deliciously soothing thumps.

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  2. REDS awesome bike..i m waiting for my bike.

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    1. As you said, the RE Classic Desert Storm is a brilliant motorcycle most suited for cruising in the highway. Keep us posted about your ownership experience.

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  3. Hi, Cheers to all RE fans.

    I have been following the blogs on RE Desert Storm - The Killing Machine. I have already made up my mind for this stunning bike, but still confuse on one part, i have not got the great height like 5'10 or more, i am 5'6, 70-75 kg wt and confuse that should i go for RE Desert Storm. I had always wanted to have one but when i saw this bike, it has taken my heart and fall in love on the first look. I loved the raw and vintage look of Desert Storm, and now when i have made up my mind for this real classy iron bike, I am more concern about how would i look like while riding this bike. Can i have some honest reply.Thanks!

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    1. To be brutally honest, RE lovers don't care about how they look in the bike. What keeps them going is the true love and admiration for the brand and their attitude. My close pal, who is just 5'6 owns a Classic 500 and he doesn't look out of the place in that gorgeous motorcycle. So, if you have loved the Desert Storm and made up your mind to get one, nothing should stop you. Go ahead, get the bike and spread the royal thumps in the air behind.

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    2. Hi, thanks for the reply.
      Well, you are right that it doesn't matter how anyone look at the bike. Riding RE has its own experience, when the heads turn to see who is coming, that's what make you stand apart from other bikes. And the stare we get is something you wont get easily with any other bikes.

      And that's what made me fall to choose this bike. Well i was almost sure about it, but still was trying to get the second opinion.
      Thanks!

      Ok, what about modifying this bike, especially when we are talking about the Desert Storm which has already got a deadly raw look, but any advise or inputs, how can we modify this iron machine to make it absolutely special and different from other bikes, say for eg: change in Handle bar, alloy-wheels, Front or Rear tyres, "Seat height"......

      Cheerss again to RE fans !

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    3. Hi mate, good to be a part of your decision-making process. The RE Desert Storm in stock condition looks so raw and rustic that it will obviously turn heads wherever you take it. Even during our test drive, people thought it was a special edition and not something that was on sale. In our opinion, it's best not to touch motorcycles from companies like RE and HD which look best in stock form. The single saddle is vintage stuff and the spoke wheels perfectly compliments it. Probably, you can try scouting for wider tires at the rear that could give you better grip in the highways.

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  4. I am very confused i have booked a desert storm.... and the wating period is merciless 6 months + So i looked at my options its still enfield So I came up with Classic 500 Black... There is not much to differentiate in both the bikes minor things. But I can get the classic 500 in 3 months or so... The question is at 4k more than classic 500 and 3 month additional wait is desert storm worth it ... i think thats the question huanting me ... Please reply...

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    1. Hi Swapnil, you are very right. The only alternative to a Royal Enfield is still a Royal Enfield and trust me, the waiting period would kill you especially as you near the delivery timeline. As you said, there is nothing much to differentiate between the Classic 500 Black and Classic 500 Desert Storm. But for just INR 4000 more, the Desert Storm will turn a lot more heads than you can imagine. Just for its brilliant matte-finish 'sand' paint job alone, we feel it's worth it to wait for 3 more months.

      Keep us posted on your decision.

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  5. Hi, I have booked a Desert Storm and am in waiting period.
    My only concern about the Matt finish is about the maintenance of the color.
    Can the Desert Storm be washed with water like a normal bike?
    Suppose while filling up at a petrol pump, the attendant spills some petrol on the petrol tank, can it be cleaned without any marks on the tank?
    In the long run will this new color sustain like the normal black color?
    --- please reply as it will help me decide better ---------
    Thanks for your assistance.

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    1. Hi, as you have said, maintenance of matte-paint is tough, especially in a country like ours as dust that are settled is tough to remove. You shouldn't wax, polish or wipe hard with an ordinary cloth. It's preferable to use a microfiber cloth with special matte-paint cleaning solutions.

      We recently came across a good matte-finish maintenance tips, courtesy Hyundai USA (for their Veloster Turbo model). Click on the link below to get a better idea.

      https://www.hyundaiusa.com/pdf/Matte_Paint_Care.pdf

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  6. Hi friends, I am planning to buy a BULLET as it is my passion or a childhood dream as I want to ride a Bullet. But I never ride till now. I want to ask which Model of Royal Enfied will suitable for me as my height is 5'7" weight 65kg. I have a plan to go to LEH LADHAK in my RE... please suggest.. which model I ll go for..

    MAHESH BARIK

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    1. Hi Mahesh, thanks for writing in. The Thunderbird should suit you well. But, if you are inclined only towards the Bullet, then go for it.

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  7. hello bro........just planning to buy a classic 500. Whether confused between C5 teal green color or desert storm???.

    And can u clarify it its desert storm is showing in different shades or can say different color........somewhere it is light brown, yellowish, some like greenish. In actual what is exact color??........i saw three persons having different color. And even different websites showing its different colors. Thnks in advance bro.......

    One more thing.....bullet electra twinspark 350 and desert storm??......in electra is their no rust problem because it have mudguards chorme finish and classic 500 have painted.......so does it make any difference?......large number of people are opting for electra rather thn classic 500 or 350.

    One thing more...........mileage?....350 have milegae like 40+ or its fake?...my friend owns classic 500 saying his bullet gives 22-25 in city.....and 28 on offroads............so what is difference between these 350 and 500cc bikes........osme websites are showing somebdy are getting mileage 40+ with classic 500.......????

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    1. Both the colours that you have shortlisted will turn heads wherever you go. The 'Desert Storm' shade is very similar to what you see in this post - a mix of sand, beige and brown.

      Coming to the maintenance part, there is just one rule. All Royal Enfields need an extra bit of care and caution. Ensure that the dirt/muck doesn't stay and the surfaces are wiped and polished regularly to avoid rusting. If you had read our post, you would have noticed that this '2000-km run' motorcycle had rusted in more than one place.

      The Classic 500 will give you 25-30 km/l, depending on the driving style.

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  8. Royal Enfield is not bought by its lovers for daily commuting purpose but to ride on the road with a pride.Its a bike which gives you a feel of king on the road.Its brawny,dusky and rowdy looks with a thunder sound just set ablaze the surroundings.And if we talk about the selection out of its brigade I would always prefer Royal Enfield Classic 500.

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    1. We agree, Royal Enfields are for the tough blokes who wants to rule the road.

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  9. Hello sir, I just wanted to enquire you about black powder coating! I've a royal enfield classic desert storm, and I wanted to coat the crome parts (wheel, crash bar, silencer, seat springs, tank grill, shock absorber grill) to black colour! Can it be done? How much price it'll cost me and where can I get it done in India? And How long will it stay without getting spoilt? Thanks in advance! Desperately waiting for your answer! Thanks again! -Regards

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    1. Amit, you can paint the chrome parts to black, but we aren't sure if it would look good on the Classic Desert Storm. We wouldn't do it. If you wish to go, make sure you get it done through a leading customization outlet.

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    2. The blacked out chrome on a desert storm will definitely look very authentic to it's character. It will add on to the War Machine appeal of the bike. Moreover, painting the chrome parts black should help with the chrome parts getting rusted issue.
      Interesting part is...it is a royal enfield that we're talking about and if I were to get such a job done on a brand new Enfield, my main concern would not be the painter's job..but the how well close can the mechanic get the fit and finish of the bike as compared to the factory quality fitting.
      Even I can do the painting part myself, just need to buy a Rs.90/- worth of black spray paint. It's pretty uncomplicated. BUT, I need an all original hardcore experienced Royal Enfield technician to open and re fit the parts accurately enough so that there is no compromise with the quality of fit and finish of the Big Bad Bull..
      It really matters in the long run...only if you plan to keep it for around a decade or more.

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    3. Well said, that's another reason we don't advice tweaking brand-new cars and bikes. Factory fit is factory fit, period.

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  10. At what point does the low fuel indicator goes on?! I mean how much fuel is in the tank when it is lit up?

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  11. hello sir,

    I really liked you blog..
    I am planning to buy an RE,
    However i am confused between Desert storm or new Thunderbird 500 ??
    Could you please help me in choosing between both the two..??

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    1. Hello SV, Thanks for writing to us.

      In terms of mechanicals and powertrain, there is nothing much to differentiate between the Classic 500 Desert Storm and the Thunderbird 500. It all boils down to what you are looking for. If you are into extensive highway-riding, go for the Thunderbird 500 as it is more comfortable for long cruises. It is also loaded with many little nifty features that the Desert Storm doesn't have.

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  12. I am confused on byuing a Desert Storm or Battle Green? I prefer buying a BG over DS. Please discuss on this topic.

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  13. Hi, thanks for the write up. I had TB350 few months back, till i bought a DS500, and i am loving it to the core, U cant satisfy yourself, with any RE, u want to OWN all of them and probably NONE, so u kind of have a BF or GF relationship, OKiii.. I have a thing bugging me, does DS500 good enough for LEH ride, heard this mean m/c creates some problem in longer runs, and u cant find good mechanics/parts in remote areas..I have been planning to go to LEH since i hv bought this machine, but something is pulling me back.. please enlighten!!!

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  14. hey,i just got my RE desert storm and quite happy with my bike but most of my friends have been saying that you wont be able to maintain it coz its quite difficult to maintain in long run .this has raised some concerns in my mind. please help

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    1. We know folks who have maintained their Royal Enfields beautifully for decades. All it needs is a bit of care and polishing (chrome bits). Be happy and enjoy riding your Classic DS!

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  15. Can u pls tell me which s the best colour fr c500?

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    1. We would say Black and Desert Storm in that order!

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  16. Hi guys, I am 6'1 and I am planning to buy a Royal enfield. Can you guys suggest which bike (500 cc only) would suit me and will be comfortable for me on the long run?
    # I have no interest in thunderbird as it lacks the appeal of a classic/vintage styling.

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    1. Hi Varun, the Classic 500 would be perfect for your requirements. Why don't you try it out?

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    2. Hi , I did try the classic 500 and the Desert storm 500,both look amazing but they all seem a bit short on me, did not give me a feeling that I want to own one. On the other hand Bullet 500 cc was comfortable in riding but have no idea about it's performance plus it's carburetted.
      Should I go for classic only and forget it's short for me? or the bullet 500?

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    3. Hi Varun, we would still suggest the Classic 500 or the Desert Storm considering the fact that these are much improved over the Bullet. That said, the Bullet 500 is mighty in its own right and should be a good choice too if you're comfortable with it. These Bullet 500s are popular over the fuel injected Royal Enfields in the Himalayan circuits for a reason!

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  17. Hi i wanted to ask without abs breaking can effect RE classic thunder storm riding on long rides or dont need abs in RE Clasic DS.
    on need to take another bike with abs breaking system.

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    1. Bikes with ABS are safer any day. We would even say its a must if you plan to go on long rides regularly.

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