Tushar BurmanNov 19, 2020 11:50:53 IST
Lengthy story quick, I’ve by no means been the largest fan of Royal Enfield bikes, despite the fact that I realized to experience on one. Positive, it was huge, burly and fully totally different from the remainder of the econo-commuters out there in India after I was coming of age, however that wasn’t saying a lot. When it got here time to purchasing my first bike – a important 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 occurring in my life on the time, I didn’t wish to compromise. I wished what I wished. 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 using is the successor to the Thunderbird, which was by all accounts, an important 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 photographs which were floating across the Web, the Meteor appeared a lot the identical, however I’m joyful to say that it isn’t. Not by a protracted shot. In contrast to earlier fashions from the legendary producer, the Meteor solely borrows an outdated marque; every little thing else is kind of new.
Royal Enfield is cool (once more?)
The parable, aura and credit score because 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 practically unchanged for half a century, and even essentially the most Vulcan of rational thinkers would succumb to nostalgia when speaking about that outdated 350 or 500 their uncle/buddy/lover had in some unspecified time in the future.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 at, and initiatives itself. Stroll right into a Royal Enfield showroom and it looks like a way of life model. The attire and equipment are fastidiously curated, and go together with the ethos of their retro/basic 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 vivid pink gloves and boots. The movie too had the precise tone, look and messaging. It feels aspirational, not agrarian.
That’s to not say that RE has gone to date upmarket as to lose contact with the machismo that they so incite. On my means dwelling 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
Figuring out Royal Enfield’s historical past, it’s laborious to emphasize this sufficient. The corporate is steeped in custom, and that may maintain issues again towards 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 aren’t any exception. The brand new 349cc motor types a robust base for what’s prone to be a raft of future bikes. Gone are pushrods, changed with a single overhead camshaft. Main 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 aspect).
The body has two down-tubes now, cradling the motor, however not fairly. The engine shouldn’t be 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.
In the event you don’t know what all this implies, consider it this manner: the outdated 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 every 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 equipped 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 together with your smartphone. It’s glorious. Historically, I count on little or no when it comes to tech from an automotive producer. They simply 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, gives solely the knowledge 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 principle console. Arrows point out the course of your route, and supplementary, minimal information informs you of lane options. The routing is wise sufficient to let 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 wished 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 like an outdated bike
The design of the Meteor is much too just like that of the outgoing Thunderbird collection. In truth, all of the spy photographs over the previous few months made it appear to be 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 contemporary bike stand out.
A cursory look hides a lot that’s new. The double down-tube body, as an example, is definitely missed. The aspect 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. The whole lot 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 kind of happy with their rotary toggle switches as you’d have had on outdated British bikes. It simply doesn’t work as effectively on the left aspect for the passing change. Extra on that latter. All in all, spectacular when you listen, as the corporate hopes their devoted 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 cross 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 enduring 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 identical time. Twist and go, actually. I discovered the Meteor 350 to be distinctive within the metropolis, betraying none of its 191kg moist weight. The gas injection feels correct, not lean and edgy, so your proper wrist is in concord with the progress of the bike. It feels mild, virtually nimble in visitors, and the suspension makes quick work of tough roads. The overall 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 actually need for further poke within the metropolis. Overtakes and launches from visitors lights are actually potential, 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 speculated to be. As a relaxed freeway cruiser, it’ll work effective, 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 quicker. This could make for a extra comfy long-hauler, since your palms 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 completed, 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 towards operate on the Meteor. The switchgear is splendidly retro, however you want your thumb to flash your excessive beam. This implies you may’t honk and flash on the identical time, one thing many do for further security. The levers too have this era look to them, however they’re not type on skinny fingers like mine. And whereas the plush seat feels comfy at first strive, with forward-set footpegs, there isn’t any likelihood 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 via 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 best factor.
The Meteor 350 could be particularly yours
Out there in three variants: Fireball, Stellar and Supernova, the bikes are equivalent save for paint schemes and equipment. Ah, the equipment. So. Many. Equipment. Royal Enfield affords the highest variant with a windshield and pillion backrest, and you’ll decide 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 is usually a legal responsibility in some states with aggressive policing. Fortunately, the superb ‘Tripper’ navigation system is customary throughout variants.
Aside from the Interceptor 650, there isn’t one other Royal Enfield bike I’d reasonably experience than the Meteor 350. It’s a pleasant, rewarding experience 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 could be its lack of pace.
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, patrons can now comfortably indulge their Royal Enfield fantasies, with out making too many excuses to their associates who experience bikes that begin each single time. The grins and appreciation from lorry drivers are free.