With BRM getting the only NZ invite to the world launch of the highly anticipated Royal Enfield Super Meteor, Paul headed to India to sample the latest model to incorporate the 650cc parallel-twin – while dodging cows, trucks and even camels!
Royal Enfield’s first Super Meteor was a 700cc twin that hit the streets in 1952. It was their first true 100mph machine and was developed into the Trail Blazer version for the American market. But that was when Enfield was English. Now, with Royal Enfield owned by the Indian company Eicher Motors and utilising the design and development skills of their UK Technology Centre, there’s a new Super Meteor about to hit NZ’s roads, and there’s a high likelihood it will become the most popular Enfield yet.
Cruising or touring isn’t really a thing in Royal Enfield’s homeland, meaning this model is designed more for the international market than possibly any new Enfield we’ve seen so far. The brief was to keep the styling and sweet handling of the smaller Meteor 350 launched late in 2020, just with a bigger powerplant which will be much more suitable for conditions in most western countries.
Riding in India is an eye-opener, with no-one stopping for roundabouts or intersections, animals laying in the middle of roads and scooters seemingly able to ignore every road rule, even performing such death-defying stunts as going the wrong way around roundabouts. It’s no wonder that the speeds are generally lower and that a 350cc single-cylinder fits perfectly into the environment. But on Kiwi motorways and highways? Not so much.
Cruiser culture is massive in many countries and the new Super Meteor fits into a mid-capacity segment that is, surprisingly, relatively sparse with competition. The Harley-Davidson Street 500 was massively popular but is no longer produced, with the Kawasaki Vulcan 650 probably the only other contender. And that’s quite bizarre considering how popular a light, sweet-looking, easy-riding machine with a low seat height is likely to be.
The Super Meteor features the excellent parallel-twin currently found in the popular Interceptor and Continental GT, and they’ve not done much to it other than slot it into a new chassis. And that’s okay, as this LAMs powerplant is a sweet one, with perfect characteristics for a cruiser which likes to have a little more fun than simply cruising. Max power is 47hp @ 7250rpm with 52Nm of torque at 5650rpm, with the easy delivery the perfect partner for this style of bike, especially when matched to the slick 6-speed gearbox and heel/toe gearshifter.
A Few Firsts
A first for Royal Enfield sees a set of 43mm Showa upside-down forks on a model for the first time, with the set-up handling India’s changeable road surfaces with composure. Twin rear shocks also from Showa offer preload adjustment but that’s it. Another first is LED lighting all round, with a brief stint back to the hotel undertaken at night showing the beam is a vast improvement from the Interceptor unit.
The frame is entirely new for the Super Meteor although the curved line of the tubular steel unit near the back wheel keeps the same silhouette as the Meteor 350. The sweptback handlebars, low 740mm saddle and foot-forward controls make a surprisingly comfortable riding position, and the Super Meteor is much more capable at touring than many other cruisers. With two days of riding and over 400km clocked off, I can testify that the position works. And with the Touring version offering more padding in the saddle and a screen, fitting a set of the genuine accessory saddlebags will make it an accomplished tourer, especially with the 15.7-litre tank.
With a 19-inch front wheel and 16-inch rear, the UK Technology Centre have made sure the Super Meteor can handle the twists and turns. A single twin-piston ByBre (short for By Brembo) does a decent job of scrubbing speed, but with a 241kilo wet weight, getting carried away requires the rear to be brought into the equation. The cockpit isn’t modern tourer techy, but then you’re not paying the same price. The analogue/digital round instrument cluster works well with a small LCD panel in the middle giving you trips etc, while Enfield’s Tripper navigation system is standard. The new ‘aluminium switch cubes’ look a bit tacky, but the switchgear works well. And with both the clutch and brake lever span-adjustable, smaller riders are going to be happy.
The fact there has been so much excitement around this new model has been surprising for some. But with the current economic climate and the fact motorcycle prices seem to have moved into the region of small cars, I think many underestimated the appeal of a good looking, fun, motorcycle that is being offered at an affordable price. For those who don’t require massive horsepower figures or rock-hopping adventure ability, the Super Meteor 650 seems to have hit the sweet spot for many.
Pricing is yet to be announced for New Zealand, with Friday 27th January seeing pricing and pre-orders going live at www.royalenfieldmotorcycles.co.nz. And, with the first 5 lucky customers getting an exclusive invitation to the official Australian launch, there’s a bit of an incentive to get in quick.
For a full review, make sure to check out Bike Rider Magazine issue #220