The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 has been launched in India and is available in three different variants. Replacing the Thunderbird range, prices for the new bike start at INR 1.75 lakh (ex-showroom), going up to INR 1.90 lakh for the Supernova version. The motorcycle is powered by a new engine, is based upon a new chassis, and most of its components are new, which begs the question, is this truly a new-generation Royal Enfield? The answer to that is a resounding, Yes!
Because it does not vibrate, has been built well, its mirrors don’t turn inwards on their own, it has a fuel gauge, a modern instrument console and you can now stop rubbing your eyes. If all of this has your attention, the video review embedded below will answer all your questions. Should you choose to read instead, read on…
The Meteor 350 is an important motorcycle for the brand and its fans, because it’s a big step forward in terms of engineering and is the first instalment of an evolution which will cover all of RE’s bread-n-butter models. In terms of styling, the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is an evolution of the Thunderbird’s design and carries nearly the same visual traits as the outgoing motorcycle. However, the pegs are now placed forward, the rear fender is bigger, the seat wider, and underneath, there’s a new dual-cradle frame which supports the engine. The teardrop 15-litre tank and matching side panels remain. What impresses though is the build quality and levels of fit-n-finish, which is a big leap for the bikemaker in terms of engineering. They’ve worked hard to improve in vital areas and it shows.
Compared to the Thunderbird, at 765mm, the seat height has been lowered for the Meteor, in order to make the motorcycle more accessible to folks who aren’t too tall. The wheelbase (1400mm) and overall length are extended too and the Meteor tips the scales at 191 kilos (with 91% fuel and oil), which makes it six kilos lighter than the Thunderbird. Since we’re talking about numbers, the 349cc SOHC, FI engine cranks out 20.2 Bhp at 6,100 rpm and 27 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. All that goes to the rear wheel via a 5-speed gearbox. Ground clearance stands at 170mm, and there’s dual-channel ABS governing (300mm front disc, 270mm rear disc) braking force.
The front tyre measures 100/90 -19, while the one at the back is a 140/70 – 17. Both are tubeless on 10-spoke alloys. The 41mm front forks offer 130mm of travel and the twin rear springs are adjustable for pre-load in six steps. The new headlamp up front is still thankfully lit by halogen and gets an LED ring. It’s performance in the dark is sufficient, however, for a cruiser, could have been better in terms of intensity. The windscreen you see on our test bike is an accessory and does its job well to deflect the wind which is directed towards the rider’s chest. We’re happy to report that the retro-styled mirrors are finished really well and held their position even after multiple high-speed rides. What we’re also happy about is the overall quality of components throughout, including chrome-finished components like the exhaust pipe and the footpegs where the front units are spring-loaded and retract into position when folded.
Coming to the biggest change – the engine! The new 350cc motor with its counter balancer is the smoothest single-cylinder engine we’ve experienced on a Royal Enfield and throughout its operating range, we never experienced any sort of vibrations whatsoever, at the footpegs or in the tank area! They’ve tested it globally and exhaustively and they’ve tested it well. The SOHC motor still retains a long-stroke architecture and heavy internal components to retain the characteristics which make REs unique. The new engine though can now rev higher, and even near the redline, does not resist or relay signs to the rider to back off. The new 5-speed gearbox offers really smooth gearshifts via its heel-n-toe shifter and is a giant leap compared to the clunky boxes on REs. It’s a joy to shift through this new box.
The exhaust note from this new engine at idle is bassy enough but has lost some of its heaviness in the aural department as the revs climb. The motor for being more free-revving, does sound like that. It sounds eager though, which is a good thing. The performance output from this new motor is linear and there’s plenty of grunt in the mid and low range. There’s no tachometer but if we have to take a guess, the already healthy low range witnesses a surge from about 2,000 rpm onwards and there’s a pronounce spike in performance at about 4,000 rpm, which is also where peak torque kicks in.
In terms of numbers, the first gear can register a maximum speed of 50 kmph on the speedometer, 2nd gear is good for 75 kmph, 3rd runs out of steam just a shade under 100 kmph and the 4th gear registers a speedometer-indicated top speed of 122 kmph. The 5th cog here is tall and acts as an overdrive which allows for relaxed high-speed cruising. The maximum speed we managed to attain was a speedometer-indicated 125 kmph with a little tail wind. Lighter riders can take that number higher, but hey, that’s not what this machine is built for. The Meteor can cruise comfortably at 95-100 kmph and feels stress-free and relaxed in that zone.
The Chassis has been set up beautifully and while riding on twisties, we were grinning inside our helmet to know that this is an RE! The new architecture makes the Meteor capable around bends and the bike maintains rock-solid composure around sweeping bends. But since it’s a long motorcycle, it’s natural for the Meteor to be a little slow to react when you try to pick and dip it through corners like a teenager.
Our only gripe is with the ergonomics where the feet stretched position also makes you arms to stretch out and your entire weight is concentrated on your buttocks and your spine. In such a situation, if the suspension isn’t absorbent enough, the comfort quotient takes a hit. The suspension is great in terms of handling but for someone seeking comfort and for such a motorcycle, it should’ve been a little softer. The biggest improvement is in the braking department and there’s always a reassuring force available at the lever even when you’ve crossed the 100 kmph mark. So much so, it’s the tyres which aren’t sometimes able to keep up with the improved hardware.
The all-new instrument cluster is now a split unit, where dial on the left incorporates an analogue speedometer and a digital display for fuel, two tripmeters and an odometer. The all-digital Tripper pod on the right shows time and pairs with the RE app on your phone to display turn-by-turn navigation in a manner which is never intrusive and all you see is just information which really matters. The mirrors might seem tiny in size but they do a commendable job of mirroring the view behind. The all-new control switches on the handlebar are designed well and relay a tactile feel to the rider’s digits. There’s a USB socket under the left-hand-side switchgear, which can be used to charge a device.
The fuel-filler cap on the tank is finished in chrome and gets a locking mechanism which shares its key with the ignition slot. RE claims that the Meteor can go for about 38 kmpl in real-world conditions and our bike registered a pretty close 35 kmpl after we rode it quite exhaustively within the city and on highways. The new front and rear suspension is set up on the firmer side and we would’ve liked it to be a little more compliant and absorb bumps better, the rear springs to be precise. The good news is that the oil change interval is now every 10k kilometres and a service is required every six months.
With RE’s “Make It Yours” program, like the 650s, you can customise the Meteor to your liking and that only adds to the buying experience. To sum it up, the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is a giant leap for the brand and it’s a leap which has been taken in the right direction. At the price for which the bike is being offered, for how it’s built, for all the improvements they’ve made, and for keeping that RE soul intact, the Meteor 350 is a thoroughly impressive first spark which will fire a shower of new-generation REs which are headed our way.