The launch of any new model from Royal Enfield sets the tongues wagging quite early. Since the first leaked images, the Meteor 350 has been gathering a fair amount of attention, and finally, it is out now. Based on the Thunderbird, it features a new engine, gearbox, reworked suspension and design too. It is instantly recognisable as a cruiser and is proud of that.
Design is one of the biggest draws when it comes to a Royal Enfield, and the Meteor has that box ticked. You can’t miss it what with its massive windshield, the foot-forward design and a healthy dose of chrome for the mirrors, handlebars and exhaust. The circular headlamp with LED DRL also adds a dash of modernity with that old-school charm and the blacked-out alloys give it a hint of sporty character. However, chrome spokes would have complimented its cruising credentials a lot better. The seat too is nice and wide, and in true Royal Enfield fashion, comfort has been given top priority. The quality of the upholstery and fit is very good, and you can easily spend long hours on the saddle. The fuel tank has been shrunken down a bit, and that has helped it shed some weight, but it still requires some muscle to move around.
The other cool bit is the instrument cluster which features the speed and trip menu, but the highlight is a second small dial with a colour TFT screen for the ‘Tripper’ navigation system. It is an app-based system that works in tandem with your smartphone and once you set the destination, displays turn-by-turn navigation on the TFT display. It is quite user-friendly and is quite helpful. Moving on to the switchgear, you have revised switches and buttons, and while the quality is a big jump over the previous RE models, there are slight ergonomic issues. The pass switch, for example, is placed in a way that you need to operate it with your thumb, and that means you cannot use the horn and the pass at the same time. The starter switch too is unique, and even though you will get used to it pretty soon, it could have been a bit more conventional. The rear of the Meteor is all-new too with a high-set stop light and chrome indicators. The seat backrest for the pillion is also a handy addition, and overall, it isn’t shy of its cruising characteristics. So what’s it like to ride?
Well, you can’t get on a RE that has no thump, so the new 350cc motor had to have that. Good news, it does. However, what you probably wouldn’t have said about older REs was that they were refined, but with the Meteor, it is not the case. The new engine is smooth, and vibrations, especially at low revs, are very well contained. There has been a lot of effort put in with the addition of a primary balancer shaft and a lot more geeky stuff that the average rider wouldn’t understand. But rest assured you won’t feel like you’ve been holding a jackhammer. Performance though is like you would expect of an RE. It is in its element when you’re relaxed and riding that 20.2bhp at a steady pace. Twist the throttle, and you won’t be hurled ahead but would rather be wafted thanks to its linear torque spread. The power delivery is consistent, and it is unapologetically a cruiser that is comfortable between 80-90kph. Push more, and you will have nothing but the engine shouting for its life while you just creep ahead of the 120kph mark. The 5-speed gearbox too is slick and thanks to a light and progressive clutch, makes riding a breeze. Even in the city, you need not keep shuffling between cogs as the engine is very tractable. The comfortable riding posture means you can make small gaps and be a bit of a hooligan on it, but don’t expect KTM levels of dynamics. The ride, however, is a tad on the firmer side. If you ride solo, you will notice the rear is a bit firm, and that is done primarily so that when you mount it with some load and luggage, the suspension doesn’t bottom out. A wise decision, but on our city roads which are no less than an off-road trail, we would have preferred a softer setup.
The Meteor 350 then is a very good motorcycle. It does what its meant to do very well, and the new engine comes with a lot of promise for future RE models.
There are three variants on offer namely- Fireball, Stellar and Supernova with prices starting from Rs 1.76 lakh and going up to Rs 1.90 lakh. It rivals the likes of the newly launched Honda H’ness CB350.