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When we hear the word Royal Enfield, we often think of heritage old-school motorcycles that are made for long journeys. Recently, Royal Enfield has received many competitors to rival its cruiser line-up in India. The segment-leading brand in the country has responded to its growing rivals by launching the all-new Royal Enfield Meteor 350 in the market.
The cruiser motorcycle line-up from Royal Enfield was held by the legendary Thunderbird brand in India ever since its first launch in the year 2002. The Thunderbird line-up even received several facelift models over the years in the market.
However, after the new BS6 emission norms came into effect, the Thunderbird line-up was discontinued. The company decided to retire the Thunderbird name and its 18-year long production run. The decision was made because the ‘Thunderbird' name restricted Royal Enfield to sell cruiser motorcycles in international markets.
Royal Enfield wanted to introduce an all-new cruiser motorcycle under a new name with modern technologies and design. As a result, the Meteor 350 was born to carry forward the brand's cruiser motorcycle line-up in the country and overseas as well.
We got to ride the all-new Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Supernova variant over a 1,000-kilometre-long journey. We rode the cruiser high up the hills tackling corners, along straight highway roads, and also in bustling city traffic. Does the Meteor have enough Thunder to replace the Thunderbird, let's find out!
Design & Style
The design of the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 reminds you of a typical cruiser. Looking at the motorcycle makes you think of all the long journeys you have gone in the past or the ones you are about to embark on.
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 has all the essential elements that make it look like a cruiser motorcycle. This includes retro looks with sculpted fuel tank, contoured body panels, round-shaped headlamp, tail lamp and turn-signal indicators, and subtle use of chrome around the motorcycle.
Starting with the front profile of the motorcycle, the Supernova variant features a round-shaped halogen headlamp with an integrated LED DRL ring. Although the LED headlamps would have been nice to have, the throw from the halogen unit is really good for both high and low beams. However, we wish the LED DRLs were a tad bit brighter.
The motorcycle also features a large windscreen which measures 13.5-inches, which Royal Enfield calls the ‘Touring Visor'. The windshield can be slightly adjusted for height, however, the process would require an additional Allen Key tool. Other design elements at the front include a contoured front fender that is hugging the front wheels as seen on other cruiser motorcycles.
Moving to the side profile of the Meteor 350, there are a couple of distinctive features that one notices looking at the motorcycle from the side. Starting with the large sculpted 15-litre fuel tank with a dual-tone finish, in this case, the Supernova Brown paint scheme.
Other features include the brushed aluminium finish on the engine cylinder head, Meteor 350 badging on side covers, and contoured seats for rider and pillion along with a backrest. Speaking about badging, the Meteor 350 features an all-new ‘Royal Enfield' tank emblem, that is finished in a dual-tone scheme with a combination of black and chrome. However, the most distinctive feature of them all has to be the Meteor 350's chrome exhaust, which enhances the look and feel of the motorcycle.
Due to the India two-wheeler regulations the motorcycle also features a saree guard. The Meteor 350 also features a couple of grab handles placed behind the rider seat on either side, this particular feature came in handy for mounting luggage during our 1,000 odd kilometres long journey.
From the rear, design elements such as round-shaped tail lamps with lower-set turn-signal indicators add to the cruiser motorcycle looks of the Meteor 350. The rear number plate also receives a small lamp for proper illumination.
As mentioned earlier, the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is an all-new motorcycle from the brand. As a result, most of the bits on the motorcycle are brand new. This includes the instrument cluster, and the switchgear as well.
Starting with the switchgear, the Meteor 350 now features two round-shaped dials that are mounted on either side of the handlebar. The dial on the right side is used for engine operation with an integrated starter switch. While the dial on the left is used for headlamp operation, with an integrated pass switch.
The motorcycle also features a hazard function, which can be toggled using a switch on the right side of the handlebar. Switch to operate turn signal indicators are present on the left side of the handlebar along with the button for the horn. At the left side of the motorcycle is also a USB slot to charge the smartphone, only when the engine is running.
While the switchgear operation is easy, we feel that the placement and the quality of the plastics could have been better. The dials mounted at the top of the handlebar do not feel completely sturdy.
Moving to one among the biggest changes and features of the motorcycle, the instrument cluster. It remains to be a double-pod cluster, however, the secondary display now houses the brand's Tripper navigation function.
Starting with the main-cluster, it houses an analogue speedometer with a small digital display that provides a host of information. This includes a gear indicator, ODO and three trip readings, clock, fuel indicator, service reminder, and an eco Indicator. The main instrument cluster also has all the tell-tale lights such as high-beam, turn-signal, ABS malfunction, engine check light, low fuel and low battery indicators.
However, being a cruiser motorcycle it does miss out on some of the reading that should have been provided by the brand. This includes a mileage indicator and a (DTE) Distance-To-Empty reading. Having these two data would have made long journeys completely hassle-free.
The secondary-pod of the instrument cluster features a tiny TFT colour display, which is a standalone unit for the brand's Tripper navigation function. Royal Enfield has partnered with Google to introduce this particular feature.
The Tripper navigation can be activated by pairing a smartphone, which can be done using an application provided by Royal Enfield for both Android or iOS. After launching the application on the smartphone, click on the Navigate feature and follow the on-screen instruction to pair the smartphone. Once paired, enter the destination and voila, the display starts to show turn-by-turn navigation.
Engine & Performance
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is powered by an all-new air-cooled, single-cylinder, 349cc (SOHC) Single Over-Head Camshaft engine. It produces a maximum of 20.2bhp at 6100rpm and a peak torque of 27Nm at 4000rpm. The engine comes mated to a five-speed constant mesh gearbox.
Now that we have the specs out of our way, let us discuss the performance of the new engine on the Meteor 350. The all-new engine is extremely smooth as compared to the UCE engines, that are powering other motorcycles such as the Classic 350.
There are a couple of advantages of the SOHC set up over the old UCE unit. The new engine has lesser parts for operation of valves. This makes opening and closing of valves, precise as cams are now placed in the engine head.
This also results in lesser (NVH) Noise, Vibration Harshness levels as compared to the UCE engine. With precise valve movement, the overall efficiency and performance of the engine are increased over the old UCE unit. Additionally, the new SOHC unit now also features counter balancers, which has further helped in reducing vibrations from the engine.
While the engine has become extremely smooth, the SOHC unit is also down on torque by 1Nm as compared to the old UCE engine. However, there is an increase of 0.4bhp in power against the 350cc UCE unit.
Chassis & Rider Ergonomics
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is a breakthrough motorcycle for the brand's 350cc segment. It is the brand's first motorcycle in the 350cc segment to feature a double-cradle frame. The new chassis on the cruiser motorcycle replaces the single-cradle frame, which is still featured on other models in brand's 350cc line-up.
The double-cradle chassis has breathed a new life into the handling characteristic of the motorcycle. The Meteor 350 feel more sturdy and balanced due to the new setup. Another advantage of the double-cradle frame has to be the new engine mounting points, which is now being held by both sides of the frame. This also helps in reducing vibrations coming from the engine or from the surface of the road.
The suspension setup on the motorcycle is handled by a 41mm telescopic unit with 130mm travel at the front and a twin-shock setup with 6-step adjustability for preload at the rear. The rake angle of the motorcycle is sharp aiding for straight-line stability.
Anchoring department on the motorcycle is handled by 300mm disc brake with a two-piston floating calliper at the front and 260mm disc brake with a single-piston floating calliper at the rear. The motorcycle is offered with dual-channel ABS as standard.
The Meteor 350 features 19-inch alloy wheels with 100/90 section tyre at the front and 17-inch alloy wheels with 140/70 section tyre at the rear. Both tyres are tubeless, which adds to the hassle-free experience during long journeys.
The new frame has also improved the rider ergonomics of the cruiser motorcycle. Starting with the most important aspect for a rider, the seat height. The Meteor 350 features a rider seat height of 765mm, which can be further reduced by 20mm with an official accessory seat from the brand.
Despite a low seat height, the cruiser motorcycle features a ground clearance of 170mm. This is more than adequate to tackle any rough terrain and can tackle speed bumps with ease. The rider sits upright holding the raised and wide handlebar, with forward-set footpegs. The footpegs and the rear brake pedal are flat in shape and offer adequate grip to rest and operate.
Moving to the pillion rider seating positing, we feel that the rear seat could have been a tad bit longer. Also, the pillion backrest could have been moved a couple of inches back. As is, the pillion backrest is eating up space from the rear seat on the Meteor 350. The footpegs for the pillion rider is set at a comfortable position and will have no troubles going on long journeys.
Ride & Handling
Riding the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 could be one among the most pleasurable things to do. The laid-back riding with well-cushioned seats will offer you to chug along long distances without having to take a break. The power from the engine is delivered in a linear and smooth fashion.
The forward-set footpegs and wide handlebar add to the relaxed riding of the Meteor 350. The all-new engine is smooth but has that distinctive thump from the exhaust to remind you that you are riding a Royal Enfield motorcycle. The engine does not stress and can hold its own doing 100kmph all day long.
The gearing on the motorcycle is spot on offering a decent mid-range power, with the torque kicking at lower rpm. As a result, the rider does not have to shift down through the gearbox and can pull the motorcycles from taller gears. Also, the gearbox itself is very smooth and riders will have no trouble in slotting gears.
As mentioned before, the new frame has improved the handling of the motorcycle substantially. The Meteor 350 no longer fears sharp bends or fast corners. We chucked the motorcycle in fast sweeping bends and came out mighty impressed with the way Meteor handled the corners.
The new chassis not only improves the straight-line stability of the motorcycle but also makes it a capable cruiser to take on corners at good speeds. The rider will not be aware of the lean that they are doing, however, they will be reminded by the footpeg scraping the surface.
Suspension set up on the motorcycle is a tad bit firm, especially at the rear. However, this can be solved by adjusting the preload for the rear suspension. We were travelling on rough surfaces at decent speeds and hardly felt any bumps reaching the handlebar. On the other hand, at lower speeds, the rider will feel the firmness of the suspension setup going over potholes.
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 features large brakes and the performance feel on par to handle the motorcycle which weighs 191 Kgs (kerb). The brakes have a decent amount of initial bite along with good progression. The performance from the disc rotors are good and will not fade away easily. The dual-channel ABS is not intrusive and is laid back just like the motorcycle.
Another factor that influences the good handling characteristics of the Meteor 350 is its large section rear tyre. It improves the contact area on the surface, which will help while taking lean in corners.
The new hardware setup not only supports long-distance cruising but navigating through busy city traffic is extremely easy as well. The wide handlebar offers greater turning angles making for easier and narrow u-turns.
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is among the most affordable entry-level cruiser motorcycle sold in the Indian market. The Meteor 350 rivals the recently launched Honda H'Ness CB350, Benelli Imperiale 400 and the Jawa 300 twins in the Indian market.
|Model / Specification||Royal Enfield Meteor 350||Honda H'ness CB350||Jawa 42||Benelli Imperiale 400|
|Engine||349cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled||348cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled||293cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled||374cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled|
|Gearbox||5-speed||5-speed + slipper clutch||6-speed||5-speed|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||15-litres||15-litres||14-litres||12-litres|
|Price||₹1.75 Lakh||₹1.85 Lakh||₹1.74 Lakh||₹1.99 Lakh|
The Royal Enfield is known for making some of the best looking retro classic motorcycles and the Meteor 350 is no different. The cruiser motorcycle carries the brand's heritage design and signature exhaust note that fans look for.
The Meteor 350 is also an evolutionary motorcycle for the brand's 350cc segment with an all-new design, features and performance. The new design elements and hardware not only makes the Meteor 350 an ideal cruiser motorcycle for chugging miles but is easy to manoeuvre in busy city traffic as well.
However, there is room for improvement in terms of build quality and features on the Meteor 350. We wish that Royal Enfield could introduce some of the features such as LED lighting, milage indicator and better plastics in the years to come. These are some of the nitpicking we have with the motorcycle.
The Royal Enfield offers the Meteor 350 in three variants: Fireball, Stellar and Supernova. Prices for the Meteor 350 start at Rs 1.75 lakh. While the mid and top-spec variants are priced at Rs 1.81 lakh and Rs 1.90 lakh. All prices mentioned are ex-showroom (Delhi).
Royal Enfield is also offering a Make-it-Yours customisation option, to personalize your Meteor 350 motorcycle. According to the company, Meteor 350 customers can choose from over 500,000 different configurations to personalize their cruiser.
This includes eight different exhausts, all of which are legally approved. There are some more options like touring footpegs and seats, that are offered by the brand. All genuine accessories are offered a standard 3-year warranty by Royal Enfield.
Punith Bharadwaj Thinks!
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is a giant leap forward for the brand's cruiser motorcycle segment. The Meteor 350 will hopefully pave the way for the development of other 350cc motorcycles in the brand's line-up. If you are a fan of cruiser motorcycles and looking to chug miles, then the Meteor 350 almost meets you all the way.