Comparison of entry level cruisers – Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 vs UM Renegade Sport S
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The well known Thunderbird goes head to head against the new entrant

In India, we have always been fascinated by the aspect of speed and thrill when it comes to the word ‘motorcycle’. Especially in our teenage days, when we see one riding a motorcycle, our dreams of owning one and opening up the throttle to the fullest on an open stretch are fueled up. The hands start to itch, to own a fast moving sportbike as soon as possible. This very trait of the Indian enthusiasts has led to the rising popularity of the sales of entry level 150-250cc sportbikes, as these are those motorcycles which form a stepping stone towards the world of motorcycling.

However, to the contrast, there is one more category of riders who believe to ride slow and enjoy each and every second of the moment of their motorcycling, by keeping a smooth and calm pace. These riders don’t want to rip off their throttles, but ride their motorcycle sedately. For such riders, the segment of cruisers prove out to be a big boon, for these motorcycles give you torque enough to climb a mountain, but the power delivery is something which is not as adrenaline rushing as a roadster of supersport, but has a relaxed nature in the way it shoots to higher rpms.

Previously, the Indian market hadn’t been that friendly with the cruiser motorcycles, with a very limited option of cruisers in India. However, in the past decade, the sales of cruisers has seen an instant surge and thanks to the rising popularity of brands like Royal Enfield and Harley Davidson which are traditional players in making cruisers, the cruisers too have started to have their own fan following. Talking about the former, Royal Enfield, from the day one, is making some of the most famous retro styled motorcycles, and only in the late nineties, it came up with its first ever cruiser, the Thunderbird 350, which since its launch, has remained an unchallenged cruiser in the lower end of the market. In its current generation model, it has only become better and evolved, with the facelift having a number of contemporary features.

Seeing the success of Royal Enfield in making cruisers and retro roadsters, the renowned American brand United Motorcycles, popularly known as UM globally, has made its way in India with two motorcycles for the time being, with the Renegade Sport S being one of them. Targeted specially at the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350, the Renegade Sport S has a slightly different and more contemporary approach towards the cruiser segment, with new styling cues and features introduced to this segment of entry level cruisers.

In this features story, we are going to compare the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 and UM Renegade Sport S, which happen to be the only two motorcycles in the entry level segment of cruisers (300-400cc), and find out which one emerges out to be better choice for the cruiser lovers in India. Here we go:-

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STYLING

The most interesting aspect of the comparison of both these motorcycles happen in the way they look in flesh. Both the Thunderbird 350 as well as Renegade Sport S has entirely different approaches and design philosophies – while the Thunderbird 350 has an air of old school feel in its design, the Renegade Sport S comes with a modern design which seems to be inspired from the current age roadsters.

Starting off with the older of the two, the current generation Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 is much more evolved than the previous generation motorcycle which it replaced. Thanks to a better understanding of the gradually maturing Indian market, the Thunderbird 350 received a comprehensive facelift in 2012, which made the motorcycle much more appealing, and while it has been four years since its launch, it still doesn’t feel as if it is a dated motorcycle, particularly due to the fact that the design of the Thunderbird 350 looks classy.

At the front, the Thunderbird 350 comes with a projector headlamp with LED ring incorporated within chrome finished round headlamp, which along with the chrome bathed twin pods of instrument console above the headlamp, makes the front face look modern yet timeless. The tear-drop shaped fuel tank and proportionally designed side body cowls look the motorcycle with chrome elliptical covers beside them give the Thunderbird 350 a typical old-school cruiser body. However, to infuse some amount of modernity, the rear section of the Thunderbird 350 comes with alloy pillion single piece grab rail with foamed backrest attached to it, with an LED lamp with chrome surround attached to the body colored rear fender. Unlike the chrome bathed engine of the previous model, the new Thunderbird 350 comes with blackened engine, while the spoke wheels continue to be there as they were before, giving the Thunderbird 350 a perfect balance between an old world charm and a touch of modernity. The instrument console too has become much more advanced, with the part digital unit packing in analog speedometer and tachometer, and an LCD screen displaying fuel gauge, odometer, trip meters and clock. The high raised ape-hanger like handlebar with modern switchgear give the Thunderbird a quintessential cruiser stance.

In contrast to the retro styled Thunderbird 350, the Renegade Sport S looks modern from every angle. The theme of retro styling is kept on the backseat, and many of the design cues of a roadster have been fused with those of a typical cruiser to make the Renegade Sport S look like a cruiser of today from every standard.

At the front, there is a sense of inspiration from the Suzuki Intruder lineup, with the round headlamp engulfed in a sloping and triangular-from-sideways bikini fairing, making the front face of the Renegade Sport S look larger and more modern than that of the Thunderbird 350 visually, though the UM offering misses out on the projector headlamp with LED which is there on the Thunderbird 350. Moving sideways, it too gets a tear-drop shaped fuel tank, which looks slimmer than that of the Thunderbird 350, but has a very interesting dual tone paint job and comes with sharply styled tank extensions, which are usually unseen on a cruiser. These tank extensions come with daytime running sideways LED strips which somewhat give the Renegade Sport S an indigenous identity. Compared to the classier looking side body panels of the Thunderbird 350, the side body panels of the Renegade Sport S look boxy, though, they go well the overall design of the motorcycle. Also, the Renegade Sport S misses out on the proper pillion backrest, alloy pillion grab rail and LED tail lamp of the Thunderbird 350, though it manages to look equally good with the presence of split pillion grab rails and dual tone painted rear fender with the rearward sloping pillion seat beautifully mounted on it. Compared to the blackened engine and spoke wheels on the Thunderbird 350, the Renegade Sport S comes with alloy wheels and golden colored engine which make it look much more modern and roadster like in comparison. The Renegade Sport S too gets a part digital instrument console, however, it is not as comprehensive as that of the Thunderbird 350 as it misses out on a couple of traits like tachometer and clock, and has a boring design to it in comparison. Also, unlike the ape-hanger handlebar of the Thunderbird 350, the Renegade Sport S comes with a dragster like straight and high mounted handlebar, with the same kind of switchgear which the Thunderbird 350 comes with.

So, in a whole, both the motorcycles will appeal to different set of minds – while the Thunderbird 350 has an old school feel to it with a darker and more sober appeal with a dash of chrome to it, making it look elegant, the Renegade Sport S has a sportier stance in comparison with touches of modernity. However, in terms of features, the Thunderbird 350 simply beats the Renegade Sport S, as the former offers projector headlamp with LED ring, LED tail light, pillion backrest, gas charged rear shockers and a more comprehensive instrument console.

Feature Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 UM Renegade Sport S
Projector headlamp Yes No
Front LED Corona ring Yes No
LED tail lamp Yes No
Split seats Yes No
Side daytime running LEDs No Yes
Rear disc brake Yes No
Pillion backrest Yes No
Gas charged rear shock absorbers Yes No
Engine kill switch Yes Yes
Part digital instrument console Yes Yes
Alloy wheels No Yes

ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE

The Thunderbird 350 and Renegade Sport S not only differ in the way they look, but also in the way they perform as well. Both the cruisers are not meant to be ridden hard, however, the engines of both these motorcycles are tuned in different ways, which result in a stark different in the rideability of these two machines.

The Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 comes with the tried and tested four stroke, single cylinder, air cooled, 346cc engine, which has been shared with the traditional models of Royal Enfield like the Bullet 350 and Classic 350. With the maximum power rated at 20 PS and peak torque output rated at 28 Nm, the Thunderbird 350 may not appear to be a past moving motorcycle by any standards, for the power to weight ratio is very low. However, where the Thunderbird 350 really shines is the amount of torque present in the low end as well as midrange of the entire rev range, with the motorcycle pulling off nicely from the rest. The motorcycle struggles to ride comfortably in triple digit speeds and it takes a lot of strain to reach such speeds as well, especially post 90 kmph.

Compared to it, the UM Renegade Sport S has been blessed with a four stroke, single cylinder, liquid cooled, 279.5cc engine, the maximum power output of which stands at 25 PS and the maximum torque output at 21.8 Nm. As evident from the figures, the engine has an altogether different character as that of the Thunderbird 350, with the engine having a sudden surge of power post 3000 rpm, thanks to its majority of power lying the mid range as well as top end of the rev range. The engine pulls off like a naked roadster, unlike the Thunderbird 350, however, it too struggles to remain relaxed at triple digits, though, it doesn’t feel as stressful to reach them as it feels to be on the Thunderbird 350. However, it doesn’t feel as torquey as the Thunderbird 350, especially on long distances.

So, while the engine of the Thunderbird 350 feels more relaxed and composed in comparison which is helpful on long routes, the mill of the Renegade Sport S gives you more thrills with a comparatively faster power delivery and better acceleration figures, making it a more enjoyable motorcycle to ride within city peripherals.

Feature Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 UM Renegade Sport S
Engine Four stroke, single cylinder, air cooled, 346cc engine Four stroke, single cylinder, liquid cooled, 279.5cc engine
Power output 20 PS 25 PS
Torque output 28 Nm 21.8 Nm
Gearbox 6-speed 5-speed

RIDE AND HANDLING

The cruisers are meant to impart the most fatigue free experience a motorcycle can give to his rider, and both the Thunderbird 350 and Renegade Sport S do not disappoint on this front, with both of them imparting a comfortable ride quality, despite having a different set of mechanicals and ergonomic setup.

Both the Thunderbird 350 as well as Renegade Sport S come with 41mm hydraulic telescopic forks at the front and a set of hydraulic coil springs at the rear, with the rear suspension of the Thunderbird 350 being gas charged, which gives it an additional advantage while riding for long distances. However, the tyres of the Renegade Sport S are wider than that of the Thunderbird 350, which gives it a better stability in all kinds of riding conditions. Also, thanks to the lighter kerb weight (almost 20 kgs lesser than the Thunderbird 350), the Renegade Sport S feels more agile to ride, despite being a fairly sized motorcycle. However, in terms of braking, the Thunderbird 350 feels a bit better with disc brakes at both the ends, unlike the Renegade Sport S, which comes with disc brake only at front.

Feature Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 UM Renegade Sport S
Front suspension 41mm hydraulic telescopic forks 41mm hydraulic telescopic forks
Rear suspension Gas charged hydraulic coil springs Hydraulic coil springs
Front brake 280mm disc 280mm disc
Rear brake 220mm disc 130mm drum
Kerb weight 192 kg 172 kg

CONCLUSION

The Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 and UM Renegade Sport S might be the only two offerings in the entry level cruiser category, but then, thankfully, both of them are offering a much varying riding experience which differ entirely from each other.

Starting off from the styling, while the Thunderbird 350 looks classier and retro styled, the Renegade Sport S looks like a modern age cruiser, thus it depends only on the rider that which fanbase it belongs to, either of these two. However, in terms of features, the Thunderbird 350 instantly feels like a more value for money motorcycle. When it comes to performance, the Thunderbird 350 has a much relaxed power delivery which makes it a more composed to ride motorcycle over the energetic Renegade Sport S, the power delivery of which is closer to that of a 250cc naked roadster, which is not a trait to be talked about when cruisers are a part of conversation. And then, while the ride quality of both these motorcycles is equally good, the Thunderbird 350 comes with a better new age hardware with gas charged rear shock absorbers, larger wheels and rear disc brake, though the Renegade Sport S feels more agile due to lesser kerb weight and more street friendly ergonomics against the bulky and difficult to maneuver Thunderbird 350.

This contrasting difference between both these motorcycles draw different approaches which though are pretty clear – if you are one who loves his motorcycle to look classier, go in a calmer fashion and rides supple and stable on long highways, the Thunderbird 350 is the one to go. But if you love cruisers but have a soft corner for streetfighters as well, the Renegade Sport S should be your pick, for the motorcycle comes with a slightly sportier design, sportier and faster-in-comparison performance and more agile riding dynamics, without compromising on the cruiser stance and ride quality. Though, the Renegade Sport S is costlier than the Thunderbird 350 by almost Rs 20,000, and with more features and better service network across the country, the Thunderbird 350 appears to be a more value for money offering, making it our pick, if you ask us.

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