There was a chill ax moment when I got an email from the Royal Enfield buzzing me of the launch of the new Royal Enfield Thunderbird500. Praveen Ji had sent me an email which started with “cruising down the Indian Highways shall never be the same again.”
The news was the much expected Launch of the ultimate highway cruiser from the staples of the legend. What added to my exhilaration was an invitation to do experience a special preview of the 500 CC THUNDERBIRD. Doing a road test myself has ever been in my mind, but thinking of realizing it is an ever distant dream. Now a moment has come!
From then on, days and nights became longer awaiting for the D-day to arrive. After filling up and sending the requisite forms for the ride, I had been waiting for the launch date to be publicized.
The next mail over the couple of days gave the goose bumps to me with the invitation for the launch on 15th Oct at the Taj Connemara hotel in Chennai.
The helmet with me has become little older. So made it a point to buy a new one before going for the launch event. Wearing the helmet a requisite for doing the ride.
Meanwhile my wife had applied for the SBI bank exam. That too got to take place on 14th Oct. So, its a time saver for me, I shall accompany my wife for the exam on Sunday and send her back to Cuddalore and also attend the ThunderBird launch on Monday, the 15th Oct 2012.
On the Saturday, after office hours, I went to Pondicherry and wife came from Cuddalore and joined me there at Pondicherry. We two reached Chennai by Saturday night and stayed at brother’s house at Nanganallur. On Sunday, we went to the SBOA school in Anna Nagar west and I was waiting for 3 long hours for her to finish the exam and come back. After the exam, we had a shopping itinerary and were at the Spencer’s Mall. In the midst of the many things that my wife wanted most of the things were not available. So, after buying some other toys for kids we set our foot out from the Spencer’s. Trying to buy the much needed helmet at the mall too was shelved since no helmet shops were there in the mall. The time then has crossed 9.00p.m and being a Sunday, its no use of exploring further any shops on the Anna Salai.
After loitering with little success of finishing our shopping spree, we returned back to brother’s home at night.
Monday morning started with an early morning wake up, finish breakfast, catch auto, catch Chennai local train, Go to Tambaram Rail Station, send off my wife back to Cuddalore through the Cholan Express train. Then I started off on a MTC bus to the helmet shops lined on the Anna Salai opposite to Thousand Lights mosque.
I am particular to buy a Studds brand with white colour. I went to the ‘Shop A’ and told my specification; 1. Colour should be White, 2.Brand should be Studds and the 3.type be Full Face. The shop owner gave me two helmets with one having foldable front face and the other being a fixed one. I liked the fixed one priced at Rs.1,600. The model is what I really wanted and the price is what I really thought of. But an itch in my mind pushed me out of the shop to try more different models / different pricing at the neighboring shops. There were more than 5 shops around selling helmets and other biker accessories.
The launch event of the Thunderbird 500 at Hotel Taj Connemara starts at 12.00 noon and its now 10.30 a.m. Since its very nearby, the itch to try for a more bargain and more variety pushed me to walk around neighboring shops.
On entering into the ‘Shop B’, once I opened my mouth with Studds, White,.. The sales man told that white is rarity in their stock. The guy went upstairs and after a hectic search came back with two helmets but of different brands. I told him that I do not want this. He became little angry at me since he had endured hard to go upstairs in the shop, search and bring those two helmets. But, what I specified to him is different from what he brought to me. After my negative answer, he went off. After some time I browsed through the riding gloves and then left the ‘Shop B’.
Then went to ‘Shop C’. Two girls were manning this store. Of the numerous helmets on the shelves, picked the only white colour helmet and tried wearing it. Though its White in colour, brand being Studds and model being full face, the piece is cheaper at below Rs.900. I did not want to buy this piece since its comparatively not better in the features (inside clothing) than that I zeroed in at ‘Shop A’.
So, I left to the next neighboring shop. This ‘Shop D’ is a small one and I could see the helmets by standing on the road. Having been there to three different helmet shops, now I am confident to conclude if this shop has the model I need by browsing through the show case and the replies that come back from the guy manning the shop. The shop keeper came out and asked me to come in. I am particular not to disgust him as that had happened in ‘Shop B’. So, I told him my specs. He welcomed me inside and I had to clarify with his sales men of my specs. He tried to have me stay back for some time at his shop so that he can push off with what is available. He then went on suggesting on trying for a tinted colours and some other brands of helmets. After realizing on my particular specs, he gave thru and I left this ‘Shop D’.
Opposite to this shop was another small helmet wallah ‘Shop E’ who invited me to his shop. As I started asking for Studds brand he asked me to come in. After I went in, he asked me to go walk into the shop and then turn left. Hurray, its way going out! When I pointed out that to him. (This shop is situated at a corner and two entrance) He advised me to walk further and go to the shop on the left side . On coming out I realized it’s the ‘Shop B’ that I have reached now.
Now I am with a 100% clarity of the helmets available in this part of Chennai. Now it’s the turn to finish buying it. As you know, I now have to go to ‘Shop A’ and pick the Rs.1,600 model. So went back ‘Shop A’ and bought the Rs,1600 one. Then bought an extra visor costing Rs.200 and a couple of helmet caps which would prevent the inner of the helmet from getting soaked of oil from my head.
Though a couple of hours back, I was anew to buying helmet at this place, I now know of them. Had I not gone to all these five shops, I might have not known of the existence of these many helmet wallahs. I got to know of all these helmet shops after asking several of my friends and relatives living in Chennai.
Now, the important requisite of doing Thunderbird 500 experiential ride is over with getting in possession of a wonderful full face helmet. The time now is 11.15 a.m. and the event is nearly an hour and its 2 kms from this place. Being on a travelling spree from 7.30 a.m, in the morning, I wanted not to walk the distance to the hotel and get tired of the hot climate and the smoky road. Caught an auto for Rs.40 and reached the venue a good half hour before the event. This is the first time I am coming to the oldest 5 start hotel of Chennai. The previous day, my grand dad who is now aged 92 years recalled that one of our relatives worked in this hotel during 1925. This Taj Connemara has a connection with my gand pa’s younger days!
Arrived at the hotel and asked them for the ball room for the Royal Enfield event.
The first click for the day.
The registration desk had a wonderful and commanding logo “Royal Enfield”
The door to the ball room was half open and I got to see the stage in a hue of red colored lighting. It was so catchy.
Adding to the ambience of the stage is the two Thunderbird Chics placed on either side of the stage. Ofcourse the two are wrapped and I could not see them. Of course I need to wait the next one hour to relinquish the wonderful cruisers.
After some time I got to push myself out to the other side of the ball room. Got to see Praveen Ji among the bunch of people. After so long time got to bump on to him. A nice man who I see doing so many things that are rightly needed in the Social Media aspect for a legendary brand “Royal Enfield”.
After some time I got settled in a seat. This is 5 rows away from the stage. As you might have guessed, I have; 1. A back pack which carries a driving jacket & 2. A large bag which carries the helmet. It was somewhat cumbersome to carry these two at such a place. But, managed to go with a bulleteer mindset. I am not sure of whether its ok to leave this bag somewhere. Where to place them then?
Idea stroke! Every chair in this hall had a linen covered on to it. There is ample hidden space below in all these chairs. So placing below them would be a better way. So, pulled up the linen, pushed the bag inside and pulled it down. Finished! The same is done on the adjacent unoccupied chair and the helmet was pushed in.
Now I had a relaxed feeling. But, sitting in this seat on the fifth row and looking at the stage felt in me that I am too far away and it will never do enough justice to catch the glimpses in my basic point and shoot camera. So I later pushed to the second row aisle seat and got to settle with the back pack and the helmet in a similar fashion.
As few minutes went by, more folks from the Press arrived and seats got filled up faster. The issuing of Press Release kit had then started. Went to the registration desk, registered my name and received the PR kit. This is a first time experience in my life.
Went in and settled in the chair. Sitting in the second row, that too on the aisle gave me an easy access. A first mover advantage indeed. The time was ticking past 12.20 and the long awaited announcement came, telling us that its gonna start in another 5 minutes.
The PR kit had a sheet which gave the specifications of the new Thunderbird 500.
Some of the interesting specs of this new vehicle are
Disc brakes on both the wheels.
A 55W projector Head lamp with unique position light guide.
Hazard light (all 4 turn indicators lamps would blink, to use it while you park it on the highway)
Kerb weight of 195 Kgs
20L Fuel tank capacity with offset fuel filler cap for maximum storage.
After few minutes the gala time came in with the Eicher personnel coming up on stage and giving us the appetizing moments of the launch of the New Thunderbird 500.
At 12.30: The backdrop of the stage slid away; In the midst of the foggy smoke the CEO Dr.Venki Padmanabhan and Sr.VP, Sales & Marketing Mr.Shaji Koshy, of RE came into stage .
Dr.Venki started off the session with bit more interesting tid bits.
The backdrop once again slid away to welcome the new ThunderBird500.
It took quite some time for the flashing camera lights to settle.
Then came with the CEO quipping about “WHATZ SPECIAL in this NEW THUNDERBIRD?”
Here comes the interesting things of the new chick of the Indian Highway.
20 Lts tanks – Ride for the next 500 kms. Fill it, Shut it and Cruise your way for the next latitude on Earth
Thunderbird is in existence for 10 years
Its an ultimate Highway Cruiser poised to enhance the pleasure of leisure motorcyclists.
Designed for the great Indian highway, this chic has a powerful 500cc Unit Construction Engine revving a 27.2 bhp power fed through an electronic fuel injection system and producing 41.3 Nm torque.
Has the most powerful head lamps in the country
LED light guide
Longer Shox on the front
One integrated key locks everything (I do not know what it means, shall come back once I finish my ride)
When its inclined to the side stand, the petrol tank cap is at the top most position of the tank. So, you can fill the tank to the fullest.
Foot pegs moved forward for more ease to the rider.
Pull off the pillion seat and make way for the luggage carrier.
Back light – LED has been implemented. More bright light and lesser drain to the batteries.
Hazard light – a first kinda in Royal Enfield – all the turn indicators would blink
Then came the slew of biker accessories introduced on stage by Dr.Venki the CEO of RE.
Riding jacket in leather had ventilators suited for hot climates of our country. If needed to ride on the Himalayas, just close the zip and you remain warmer.
Elbow is safeguarded with additional pads on the inside.
Shoes had reflectors on the behind. This is a safety feature which would caution the motorists following you on the road.
A slew of accessories like Helmet, Gloves, Cooler glasses came up
Hey, stop! Stop!
I hear you hearing.
Yes, here comes the answer for your much needed Q
The on road cost of the 500CC Thunderbird is Rs.1,78,307 and the 350CC variant costs Rs,1,40,394 in Chennai.
The 500 CC is being delivered immediately for the buyers though the 350CC has a waiting period.
Q&A from the press then followed. This session revealed that the upcoming Oragadam facility has 5 times the capacity of the current Tiruvottiur factory and though there is a lack in the quality of service, training centers for the mechanics have been started to improve the qualitative jobs at their service centres
Then what followed is a tasty lunch. After getting the stomach filled of the tasty food, now I approached our Praveen Ji for the preview experience program to take possession of the vehicle for another few day and ride the ThunderBird500. Ofcourse came to know that he has not been in town for past some days and the vehicles have not got ready. So, the program is getting postponed.
Then I went to the hall to see the people still glued up to the bike and interestingly conversing with Dr.Venki. I was waiting for the atmosphere to settle down. As he got free, I introduced myself as a bulleteer and asked for a snap with him. He obliged to my request and thus ended for me with a picture with him. A life time memorable shot for me!
After that I left to the Egmore Rail Station and caught the Chendur Express Train and travelled back to Cuddalore. Reached home at 8.30 p.m. relishing of the sweet memories. Stay back for the updates of myself of the new RoyalEnfield ThunderBird500.