Stormy New Classic

Royal Enfield’s new Desert Storm claims to be a tornado. Does it have enough force to sweep you off your feet? Let’s find out

Story: Ravi Chandnani
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

Royal Enfield launched the Classic 500 at the end of 2009. Since then it has been one of the best selling models in the company’s line-up. The bike has the right aesthetics with a nostalgic appeal that attracts customers without much effort even in these times when performance bikes seem to rule the roost. However, since evolution is inevitable, Royal Enfield have launched two new variants of the Classic with a few tweaks, claiming it to be better than ever.

This new bike, called the Desert Storm, incorporates changes to the front end and the ECU along with a new cool paint job to lend the bike a new character. Firstly, the new paint job, which I am sure every Bullet fan will appreciate. The Desert Storm comes clad in a matte-finish shade of khaki, which lends the bike a raw, rugged and minimalistic character. The Royal Enfield lettering in plain white gels well with the whole retro character.

Let’s now move on to the next big change – the ECU. Now, there was nothing wrong with the ECU of the older bike. However, Royal Enfield have re-mapped the ECU of the new Desert Storm for a smoother power delivery, though we were hardly able to notice the difference between the Classic and the Desert Storm.

Another thing that has changed is the front-end, which now has conventional forks instead of the offset forks seen on older models. But in appearance they look very much like the old forks. The front wheel has also been replaced with a 19-inch one, though the tyre profile (90/90) remains the same.  

Royal Enfield claim that the handling of the bike has improved considerably. That is not what we found. Looking back in history we can see that the older bike had a neutral handling compared to the Desert Storm/Classic range because of factors like the placement of the engine and the offset front forks. The original bike had a lower centre of gravity as compared to today’s Classic. However, when Royal Enfield decided to replace the old engine with a modern ‘unit construction engine’ (UCE), the handling of the bike suffered seriously. Today’s Royal Enfield bikes have engines mounted higher in the frame to bridge the gap between the cylinder head and the petrol tank.

Another easily evident problem is the heavy front end. Because the new bikes use the compact UCE motor, the weight becomes concentrated in the front. Besides, the front wheel has moved a little inwards because of the conventional forks, thus adding to the already heavy front. The Royal Enfield engineers have also increased the length of the swing-arm in order to fill up the gap created by the compact engine. This has resulted into a slightly increased wheelbase and also the centre of gravity and has made the front of the bike heavy. We reckon that if Royal Enfield address the aforementioned problems, the handling of these new bikes will certainly improve considerably.

Overall, the new Desert Storm, priced at Rs 1.55 lakh (OTR, Pune), is basically the same old Classic with just a new paint job and new front forks.

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