Tushar BurmanNov 19, 2020 11:50:53 IST
Lengthy story brief, I’ve by no means been the largest fan of Royal Enfield bikes, despite the fact that I realized to journey on one. Certain, it was huge, burly and fully completely different from the remainder of the econo-commuters accessible in India once I was coming of age, however that wasn’t saying a lot. When it got here time to purchasing my first bike – a essential time of flux for me personally – it was a toss-up between a Machismo and the quick, harmful, economically suicidal RD350. With all that was happening in my life on the time, I didn’t wish to compromise. I needed what I needed. I purchased the Yamaha, met a woman, married her, met many bank cards, spent all of them on the bike and twenty years later, the story continues. Properly, largely.
The Meteor 350 that I’ve been driving is the successor to the Thunderbird, which was by all accounts, an incredible success for Royal Enfield. To me, nevertheless, it was a bit awkward, pretending to be one thing it was not – a correct cruiser. From the spy pictures which were floating across the Web, the Meteor seemed a lot the identical, however I’m pleased to say that it isn’t. Not by an extended shot. Not like earlier fashions from the legendary producer, the Meteor solely borrows an previous marque; every little thing else is sort of new.
Royal Enfield is cool (once more?)
The parable, aura and credit score as a result of Royal Enfield bikes, frankly, are a product of fortuity. The Bullet tugs on the heartstrings as a result of it has all the time been there. It has endured almost unchanged for half a century, and even essentially the most Vulcan of rational thinkers would succumb to nostalgia when speaking about that previous 350 or 500 their uncle/buddy/lover had in some unspecified time in the future. However within the final decade or so, there’s been a sea-change in the best way the corporate appears to be like at, and initiatives itself. Stroll right into a Royal Enfield showroom and it looks like a life-style model. The attire and equipment are rigorously curated, and go along with the ethos of their retro/traditional bikes. As does the dapper CEO, who made the pitch for the brand new bike in a cinematic video shot whereas he rode the bike in vibrant crimson gloves and boots. The movie too had the suitable tone, look and messaging. It feels aspirational, not agrarian.
That’s to not say that RE has gone thus far upmarket as to lose contact with the machismo that they so incite. On my manner house with the bike, I used to be accosted by two lorry and one rickshaw driver, all of whom knew that this was the Meteor and it was to be launched on the sixth of November. Enfield comms division: take a bow.
The Meteor 350 is an all-new bike
Understanding Royal Enfield’s historical past, it’s arduous to emphasize this sufficient. The corporate is steeped in custom, and that may maintain issues again in opposition to the march of progress. However time carries on, and with it have come many sweeping variations within the new bike. The Meteor makes use of a brand new body, a wholly new engine, new switchgear, lighting, ergonomics and tech. India’s strict BS6 emissions norms have meant tectonic shifts within the Indian automotive area, and 2-wheelers are not any exception. The brand new 349cc motor kinds a powerful base for what’s more likely to be a raft of future bikes. Gone are pushrods, changed with a single overhead camshaft. Major drive is now geared, there’s a balancer shaft to maintain issues easy and the gearbox is slick and conventional (with a shifter on the left facet).
The body has two down-tubes now, cradling the motor, however not fairly. The engine just isn’t a careworn member of the chassis. Suspension is conventional, however beefy. 41mm forks up entrance, with twin shocks on the again. The rider triangle is laid again, with forward-set footpegs that put your weight roundly in your bum, and the torso in a tall, commanding place.
If you happen to don’t know what all this implies, consider it this fashion: the previous Enfields felt like a coalition authorities, whereas the Meteor 350 feels extra like a benevolent dictatorship. Issues are tight and run collectively as a unit. It looks like some other bike, with no excuses wanted about ‘character’.
A phrase about tech
As a (largely) tech journalist, this was the largest shock to me. Royal Enfield has provided a secondary show unit referred to as the ‘Tripper’ on all variants of the Meteor 350. The display serves as a turn-by-turn navigation unit when paired along with your smartphone. It’s glorious. Historically, I count on little or no by way of tech from an automotive producer. They only appear tone-deaf more often than not. Not so with the Tripper. It’s glorious in execution, and as RE is at pains to clarify, supplies solely the data you want and nothing extra.
When you plot a route within the Royal Enfield smartphone app – which makes use of Google Maps as a base – you merely punch ‘Navigate’ and turn-by-turn instructions are displayed within the little pod to the left of the primary console. Arrows point out the path of your route, and supplementary, minimal information informs you of lane recommendations. The routing is wise sufficient to let you already know particularly when to take the highway under the flyover and never climb it. I can’t let you know what number of occasions I’ve needed to combine laxative within the KTM watercooler for his or her rubbish navigation.
That is very, very new for the Royal Enfield we all know. Contemplating that this can be a first try, and it will get a lot proper, I’m excited to see what they do subsequent!
The Meteor 350 appears to be like like an previous bike
The design of the Meteor is way too just like that of the outgoing Thunderbird collection. In reality, all of the spy pictures over the previous few months made it appear like a sticker job greater than a brand new bike. Whereas the strains are extra refined, I feel Royal Enfield maybe missed a possibility to make this in any other case recent bike stand out.
A cursory look hides a lot that’s new. The double down-tube body, for example, is definitely missed. The facet profile may be very acquainted, as is the attribute form of the body. It’s clearly intentional, and on this case, very conservative. The rake is a level tighter and the rear mudguard fairly thick, giving the impression of a stubby, squashed bike, not the laid-back cruiser vibe they’re promoting.
One should give it to them for consideration to element, nevertheless. Every part does circulation fairly properly. I used to be significantly impressed with the rider’s view. The handlebar grips are retro, as are the clutch and brake levers. Even the console, whereas a hybrid analogue/digital unit, doesn’t look misplaced. Royal Enfield is sort of happy with their rotary toggle switches as you’d have had on previous British bikes. It simply doesn’t work as properly on the left facet for the passing change. Extra on that latter. All in all, spectacular when you listen, as the corporate hopes their trustworthy will.
The Meteor 350 goes like a contemporary bike
… or a detailed approximation of 1, contemplating what it’s. Sticking to its heritage of constructing a tried-and-tested 350cc motor, Royal Enfield has taken very calculated steps into 2020 with this venerable warhorse. To go BS6 laws, the motor now makes use of a contemporary, conventional valvetrain and a catcon to maintain the smoke clear. They’ve even managed to retain some (however not all) of the long-lasting thump that one expects of a Bullet variant.
On the go, issues really feel tight, cohesive. The entrance and rear aren’t telling your thoughts various things on the similar time. Twist and go, actually. I discovered the Meteor 350 to be distinctive within the metropolis, betraying none of its 191kg moist weight. The gasoline injection feels correct, not lean and edgy, so your proper wrist is in concord with the progress of the bike. It feels mild, nearly nimble in site visitors, and the suspension makes brief work of tough roads. The final consensus appears to be that the Meteor feels stiff to help dealing with, however this was not my expertise. The 19” entrance wheel provides to it’s tough highway readiness.
The 20-odd horsepower propelling this mass received’t ship relaxed triple-digit cruising, however the 27Nm of torque ensures that you simply by no means really need for additional poke within the metropolis. Overtakes and launches from site visitors lights are actually doable, not simply noisy. The engine does begin operating out of steam previous 100kmph so whereas it’s going to be higher than its older 350cc brethren, it’s nonetheless not a quick mile-muncher. And most will let you know that it isn’t presupposed to be. As a relaxed freeway cruiser, it can work high-quality, I feel, particularly two-up.
The brand new motor will shock you with its refinement greater than its efficiency. The first balancer shaft ensures a surprisingly vibe-free expertise, even because the revs rise and also you go sooner. This could make for a extra snug long-hauler, since your fingers and ft will tingle lower than on earlier Royal Enfield bikes. It’s nowhere as easy as their twins, nevertheless. Brakes are okay. The discs are a beneficiant measurement and get the job performed, however really feel is missing from the entrance. It does its factor however conveys little. The ABS is dual-channel, so no pinching paisas right here.
There are some compromises for kind in opposition to perform on the Meteor. The switchgear is splendidly retro, however you want your thumb to flash your excessive beam. This implies you possibly can’t honk and flash on the similar time, one thing many do for additional security. The levers too have this era look to them, however they’re not form on skinny fingers like mine. And whereas the plush seat feels snug at first strive, with forward-set footpegs, there isn’t a probability of taking any weight onto your legs. Noticed a nasty pothole too late? Get off the brakes and brace for spinal compression. Your again will take the brunt of impression proper by means of your tailbone. I heard this suggestions on multiple event, nevertheless it’s a part of the entire foot-forward cruising design. It’s a factor. It’s simply not the perfect factor.
The Meteor 350 might be particularly yours
Out there in three variants: Fireball, Stellar and Supernova, the bikes are an identical save for paint schemes and equipment. Ah, the equipment. So. Many. Equipment. Royal Enfield presents the highest variant with a windshield and pillion backrest, and you may choose from a minimum of six accent mufflers, every with a unique sound and look. No extra raiding the aftermarket for loud (unlawful) exhaust items, which generally is a legal responsibility in some states with aggressive policing. Fortunately, the superb ‘Tripper’ navigation system is customary throughout variants.
Other than the Interceptor 650, there isn’t one other Royal Enfield bike I’d fairly journey than the Meteor 350. It’s a pleasant, rewarding journey with few compromises. I’d simply as shortly soar onto it for a brief journey round city as my KTM. For longer journeys, the one factor holding me again can be its lack of velocity.
The Meteor 350 is predicated on an all-new platform, one which would be the base of many future fashions. Beginning at Rs 1.76 lac, consumers can now comfortably indulge their Royal Enfield fantasies, with out making too many excuses to their pals who journey bikes that begin each single time. The grins and appreciation from lorry drivers are free.