Friday, April 9, 2021

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 cruiser invites you to go outlaw

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Fireball
Royal Enfield Meteor 350. Blacked out muffler identifies the Fireball model.

Royal Enfield's brand new Meteor 350 cruiser comes to America in mid-May. And it will start at the very attractive price of $4,399 for the dashing Fireball model.

We already know that the Meteor 350 is hugely popular in India (there's a waiting list) and writer Bill Roberson was enthusiastic, testing it in Oregon for an article in Forbes.

"The $4,399 Meteor 350 is all new from the wheels up, and it's a clever mix of high tech, retro style, and comfort," he wrote.

"...Capable urban transport with enough poke for short freeway hops, allowing passage to destinations a bit farther away on the map. Speed demon? Definitely not. Comfy cruiser? You could make that argument, but the seating position is sit-up and neutral and handling isn't cruiser-squishy by any means, adding to the sense of control. The seat is low (and wide), the bars rise a bit to meet your hands, and on my very hip matte Stellar Black version (with just the right mount of chrome bits), there's a likewise comfy passenger seat and small backrest."

Royal Enfield says the Meteor 350's engine retains the classic "thump" of its big, air-cooled singles, but has a balancer shaft to give a "smooth and well-mannered riding experience." It delivers 20 bhp through a five-speed transmission. The twin-downtube frame is all new, and sized to make the Meteor 350 "an approachable and fun motorcycle for nearly any rider."

You can be choosy about the Meteor 350 you favor. There are three marketing trims (Fireball, Stellar and Supernova) and seven color variations. Windscreens, premium seats and that passenger backrest are available. Royal Enfield's new Genuine Motorcycle Accessories division will sell you any of eight different styles of engine guard. Once you own it, you can adjust the rear shocks to any of six preload settings (five more than I personally need).

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 specifications.
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 represents "the spirit of the cruise."

You're already getting as standard equipment the clever Tripper turn-by-turn navigation system, anti-lock disc brakes, tubeless tires, a heel-and-toe foot shifter, analog-and-digital dashboard with gear indicator, fuel gauge, trip odometer and clock, a USB charging port for your phone, three-year warranty and roadside assistance.

A bonus feature rarely found on new motorcycles aside from Royal Enfields: a center stand. How do other people live without this safe and secure way to park a bike?

Royal Enfield North America announced the Meteor 350's arrival just in time for riding season in a launch event on Zoom Tuesday. You can watch the informative and entertaining launch event on YouTube.

It's worth taking the time. You hear from Royal Enfield rock stars Sidhartha Lal, managing director; and Mark Wells, head of product strategy and development. They are the two most convincing Royal Enfield advocates anywhere. Listen to these two describe the Meteor 350 and I guarantee you will want one.

But there's also television personality Carrie Keagan, swinging her long locks to don a helmet and then pretending to stall her Meteor 350 to demonstrate she's a (target audience) new rider. Of course, with the Meteor 350's "high inertia" long-stroke motor, that could never happen in real life.

To my eyes, the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 looks ready to rumble. You could hang fringe from the handlebars, if you want, but the naked Fireball model is already "Wild One" enough for me.

On the other hand, that comfy backrest isn't very outlaw, and that second dial on the handlebars is the Tripper navigation system, not a tachometer. Leaders of the pack presumably need to know where they're going more than how many rpm they're pulling.

It's more important how this motorcycle sounds (and YouTube videos reveal it sounds great) than the performance numbers it posts. When the question of top speed came up at the launch, Bree Poland, Royal Enfield Americas lead marketing and communications director, just smiled and replied "it cruises comfortably."

Tester Kyle Hyatt of Road/Show worries "that the Meteor may struggle to find an audience in the U.S. where cruiser buyers dream of cross-country freeway rides, something less than ideal for a 20 hp single."

Well, on the subject of more power, Royal Enfield's press release notes that the Meteor 350 "revives the iconic name given to its predecessor, which was released in the 1950s." That British-built Meteor of olde was a twin-cylinder motorcycle, and it was shortly followed, back in the day, by a "Super Meteor" packing an even bigger motor.

So, someone is going to ask, will there be a Super Meteor 650 twin some day? The answer is not in the launch event video, but never mind. Royal Enfield knows its own history. 

During his presentation Royal Enfield Americas president Krishnan Ramaswamy showed off great Royal Enfields of the 1960s and '70s, including the Interceptors of those days. (He reminded us that 2021 is the 120th anniversary of Royal Enfield motorcycles.)

And Bree Poland revealed that Royal Enfield's Milwaukee showroom is being revamped into "the Royal Enfield Experience," to display those great old motorcycles.

Mark Wells noted that even the badges on the new Meteor 350 reflect the Meteor type faces used by the British factory in the 1950s and '60s.

Screen shot shows historic Meteor ads.
Mark Wells explains how historic Royal Enfield Meteor logo was modified.


8 comments:

  1. Whattaya think, twenty horsepower? How much did a 250 Rebel, everybody's beginner bike, have? If freeway traffic goes 75mph-plus, can a 20-hp motorcycle cut it? Will it frighten the rider even in the right-hand lane?

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    1. I had the Honda CB250 Nighthawk, the sit-up-tall version of the Rebel; same motor as the Rebel. Exactly 20 hp! I did use it on the freeway, although I could not tell you how fast it went because much above 60 mph I found the Nighthawk's sewing-machine little twin a bit buzzy. It wasn't ideal, but it wasn't frightening either.

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  2. This is a nice-looking commuter bike that should easily win over the "grocery-getter" crowd. It's modern, stylish, reliable, priced right and ergonomically set up for shorter riders. RENA 's marketing needs to aggressively move on this. For someone requiring more power on the same platform, drop in the 650cc twin and you have a "Super Meteor."......another legacy moniker.

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  3. I think this is a great bike that will appeal to a lot of people in Europe and the US, especially once people get over the idea that "bigger is better". As I recently read somewhere, Robert Pirsig drove across the US on a 305cc Honda Dream in his classic book. Sure, this bike isn't made for the highway, but it's possible when necessary. I think Royal Enfield are really on to something here. Even Honda has taken notice and brought out their new CB350, which is a real beauty.

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  4. Pirsig's bike made 28 horsepower and was 75 pounds lighter than the new Meteor. The new CB350, despite all the click-bait internet hype, isn't coming here-perhaps ever. Comparing the Meteor to Pirsig's Honda, a Super Hawk, is comparing it to a bike that ceased production in 1967. Is the Meteor 50 years better?

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  5. If you look really close, you can actually see me in the announcement video.

    Okay, you won't recognize me because I'm in full gear, but at about 22:04 I'm the third rider who keeps getting blocked by the column. Stupid column.

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    Replies
    1. You look good. You're staying with the curve, which must have been tricky.

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  6. You have no idea. They wanted us to ride as close together as possible, both uphill and downhill in the spiral. Fortunately, you pretty much just focused on the wheels in front of you and keep the curve.

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