Bike Tested:2012 Royal Enfield Classic 500 Desert Storm
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 1,58,000/-
If you are an automotive enthusiast, which most probably you are considering the fact that you are reading this review on our website, a brand called ‘Royal Enfield’ needs no introduction. So, without trying to weave tasteful phrases about the history of a brand which almost everybody seems to be knowing, we dvelve straight into the subject. Royal Enfield right now is in an enviable situation in which almost all its models are sold out for months together in advance. The Classic twins, launched in 350 and 500 variants, has been a phenomenal success and the waiting list to own one is still around 5 to 6 months.
Recently, the company 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, the launch of merely two variants of an already well-established product has created quite a flutter in the industry and amongst the public. We drive one of them and find out what has actually changed.
Enough has been said already about the styling of the Classic many a time. But, given a chance, words don’t stop coming out to describe this truly one-of-a-kind motorcycle. The industry might be moving forward with modern and aerodynamic designs taking over, but the Classic retains its typical old-world charm and is unashamedly ‘classic’. The round lights all around including the twin tiny pilot lamps, the mighty fuel tank with the perfectly placed knee rests, the magnificent wheel arches, the long exhaust pipe and the chrome embellishments in the mirrors and indicators combine well together to create a stunning retro motorcycle. The pre-war era sand paint job sans the glossy finish of modern motorcycles only adds to the overall visual appeal of the bike.
The amount of eyeballs the Classic 500 Desert Storm attracted during our test drive was incredible and you don’t have to dig deep for an answer. Just look at the magnificent design and the awesome ‘sand’ paint job that the bike possesses. It immediately brings in a sense of nostalgia to your mind that sends you into a tizzy. Having said that, the build quality is still not upto the mark in 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 hardly 2000 km old bike isn’t something that can be easily excused.
Instrument Cluster and Switch Gear:
While we appreciate the retro effect that the Clasic brings upon in most aspects, one thing which is not particularly commendable is the age old design of the cluster. As we have said before, 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 glowing on is the only indicator and unavailability 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.
Performance and Gearbox:
Just like the regular Classic 500, the Desert Storm is powered by a single-cylinder, twin-spark 499cc engine with Electronic Fuel Injection system that pumps out, or rather, thumps out 27.2 bhp of raw power. This Unit Construction Engine in which the engine and gearbox are enclosed in a single casing thereby reducing the transmission losses is soon becoming a staple powertrain for many Royal Enfield models with the recently unveiled Thunderbird 500 also sporting the same. Crank the engine up and the royal thumps fill the surroundings isolating you from other disturbing noises around. The bike is pretty quick and accelerates briskly to reach a top speed of around 130 kph. 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 with the universal 1-down 4-up shift pattern. The gear ratios are nicely placed and the Classic doesn’t feel out of breath in any gear. Particularly impressive is the abundant torque available at lower end of the rev range. As a result, the Classic 500 Desert Storm is pretty comfortable to drive inside the city limits too, unabated by the sheer bulk it carries. Probably, one of the most irritating negative aspects of the Classic is that the vibration levels coming out of the engine leaves a lot to be desired. By that, we mean so much vibrations that you can hardly see anything in the rear-view mirrors as speeds build up. Royal Enfield needs to seriously look into this issue.
Ride Handling and Braking:
Get astride the Classic Desert Storm and 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. And the ride just reinstates this point as the Classic continues unfazed by bumps, potholes and other road undulations that would make other motorcycles unsettled. The ride is absorbent enough and you just don’t feel the irregularities in the road as the telescopic dampers up front and the gas-charged shocks at the rear gobbles and spits them out. Be it smooth tarmac, muddy patches, gravel stretches or literally no roads, you can trust the Classic to take you across. High speed stability is superb and the feeling that you get while cruising at 100 kph in an open highway on this bike is surreal and needs to be experienced.
As much as the Desert Storm scores in open highways with its amazing composure and ride, it isn’t as nimble as you would like in the city traffic. Given that the bike is incredibly heavy, we kind of expected the city handling characteristics to be compromised and we were proved right. But, the torquey nature of the engine more than makes up for this and ensures that you don’t end up disappointed. Braking is average and is not on par with bikes like TVS Apache RTR180 ABS and Honda CBR 250R. Just for the sake of thousands of loyalists, Royal Enfield should go to the next step and introduce the much-needed ABS technology in their motorcycles, given that they come with abundance of power and torque and compete in the premium segment of the market.
Royal Enfields are still not the most reliable motorcycles around and you might end up stranded somewhere just when you don’t want to. The build quality is still not on par with the competition and special care and attention needs to be given to ensure that the chrome and metal parts do not rust. The engine vibrations gives your palms and shoulders a jerky feeling sometimes. Despite all these inherent flaws, the Classic 500 is a great motorcycle with unbeatable highway characteristics and the Sand Storm variant is no different. If you are in the market with a fat budget, you can close your eyes and go for it and rest assured that you will not be disappointed. We at MotorBeam are not the only ones here. All the owners out there are no different. They love their machines and swear by a Royal Enfield anyday anytime and anywhere. As most of you would agree, the sun never really sets on a Royal Enfield.
* Timeless Retro Looks
* Excellent high-speed Stability
* Composed Ride Quality
* Torquey and Powerful Engine
* Stunning matt-finish ‘Sand’ Paint Job
Whats Not So Cool:
* Basic Instrument Cluster
* Inconsistent Fit and Finish
Royal Enfield Classic 500 Desert Storm Specifications:
* Engine – 499cc, Single Cylinder, 4 Stroke, OHV, SI Engine, Air cooled
* Fuel Delivery – Fuel Injected
* Maximum Power – 27.2 bhp @ 5250 rpm
* Maximum Torque – 41.3 Nm @ 4000 rpm
* Transmission – 5-speed Manual
* Top Speed – 130 kmph
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension – Telescopic Hydraulic Dampers (Front), Swing Arm With Gas Shock Absorbers (Rear)
* Tyres – 90/90/19 (Front), 120/80/18 (Rear)
* Brakes – 280mm Hydraulic Disc Brake (Front), 153 mm Single Lead Internal Expanding (Rear)
Royal Enfield Classic 500 Desert Storm Dimensions:
* Overall Length x Width x Height: 2130 mm X 800 mm X 1050 mm
* Wheelbase: 1370 mm
* Ground Clearance: 140 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.5 liters
* Kerb Weight: 187 kg
Text: Aravind Ramesh
Photography: Arun Varadarajan & Aravind Ramesh