Royal Enfield is on a roll lately. The brand has been cranking out attractive vintage-style motorcycles with enticing pricing. But, some of the company’s eye candy is barely fast enough to get you down an American interstate. That’s changing quickly, and Enfield’s newest offering, the Meteor 650, seems to give you that perfect blend of highway-capable speed, stunning style, and a still-affordable price of $6,999. Let’s check it out.
In a time when everything seems just too expensive, Royal Enfield still offers “pure” motorcycling experiences for prices that won’t make you cry. My 2023 Royal Enfield Classic 350 reminds me why I got into riding motorcycles in the first place. It helps that Royal Enfield has also been on a renaissance, capturing engineering talent from other brands and making strides in improving quality. The brand has pinched that talent from Harley-Davidson, Triumph, and Ducati while borrowing technology from Bosch along the way. This is all to say that the Royal Enfield of today is not the same Royal Enfield that once showed its Himalayan breaking in its own promo video.
The catch to all of this is that a number of models in Royal Enfield’s rockstar lineup come equipped with thumpers making 20 horsepower. Sure, my Classic 350 will do highway speed, but the engine is happier on slower backroads, where it can be a motorcycle at its own pace. If you want a bit more oomph out of your steeds, Enfield is willing to sell you the Interceptor 650 roadster or the Continental GT 650 café racer. Now, you have a third choice with the Super Meteor 650 cruiser.
Steeped In History
Royal Enfield says the Super Meteor 650 and its Meteor 350 sibling have origins dating all the way back to the 1950s.
During that era, as Royal Enfield writes, the British motorcycle industry was in a boom and manufacturers competed with one another to build the biggest, fastest, and baddest motorcycles. At the top of the list back then were motorcycles powered by parallel twin engines of increasing size. As the arms race continued, big 500s evolved into even larger 650s. Enfield, which was still operating in Britain at that time, decided to put the biggest parallel twin yet onto the market. In 1952, Royal Enfield launched the Meteor 700, a motorcycle that boasted 36 HP and a 94 mph top speed. Reviewers liked the Meteor 700 and since the engine wasn’t an all-new design, but a development of the Bullet 350, changes to the Bullet also meant changes to the bigger Meteor.
In 1956, the Meteor was superseded by the Super Meteor. These redesigned motorcycles featured a number of upgrades, but most importantly, power kicked up to 40 HP. This allowed the Super Meteor to be Royal Enfield’s first motorcycle capable of hitting 100 mph right from the factory.
As Royal Enfield was making its motorcycles bigger, better, and faster, motorcycles that we would call cruisers today were gaining popularity in America. Royal Enfield sent over Super Meteors as its own flavor of big cruising machine. Production on the original Meteors lasted just 10 years, coming to a close in 1962.
The Meteor story picks back up again in 1996 in India when Eicher Motors decided to give India its own cruisers, but ones the people could actually afford. From Royal Enfield:
In India, where expensive, heavyweight American and Japanese cruisers were neither available nor suitable for the road conditions, Royal Enfield had concentrated on supplying the top-of-the-range Bullet plus a variety of smaller offerings aimed at the commuter. Once the business was acquired by Eicher Motors in 1994, it refocused on its core values of producing desirable, accessible mid-size motorcycles and took its first steps into the cruiser scene. In 1996, India’s first home-grown cruiser was launched – the Royal Enfield Citybike.
Starting with the standard Bullet platform, the frame neck was modified to alter the rake of the forks and a more pear-shaped, high-mounted petrol tank specified. The traditional Bullet casquette, with its distinctive Tiger Eyes, was set aside in favour of an exposed chrome headlight. The front fork’s main tubes were partly exposed and at the rear, a redesigned chrome mudguard carrier fit. The low-cut rider’s seat was separate from the pillion seat and the passenger also gained the added comfort of a padded backrest.
The Citybike would later be renamed to Lightning, which featured a 535cc engine. In 2002, the Thunderbird replaced the Lightning, bringing along even more cruiser styling while saddling up with a newer 350cc engine design. In 2012, the Thunderbird would get an upgrade in the form of a 500cc fuel-injected engine.
The Meteor 350 replaced the Thunderbird in 2020. Royal Enfield said it spent four years developing the new Meteor 350. Of course, this motorcycle came during this aforementioned renaissance era with new engineering, new style, better reliability, and still great prices.
As the folks of RevZilla have shown, the Meteor 350 is a fantastic beginner bike. It’s cheap to buy, cheap to run, cheap to repair, and looks stunning. However, with just 20.2 HP and 19.9 lb-ft torque on tap, the Meteor 350 isn’t a fast motorcycle.
The Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650
Back in 2022, Royal Enfield rolled into the Milan Motorcycle Show with its solution for folks wanting more speed out of their Meteors. The new Super Meteor 650 borrows its charming looks from the original Meteors while expanding Enfield’s line of 650 parallel twin motorcycles.
The Super Meteor 650 is more than just the engine from the Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 in a cruiser body. This motorcycle rocks a new tubular steel frame developed by the UK’s Harris Performance. The frame is said to have been developed with a low center of gravity and maneuverability in mind, a common trait among Enfield’s current lineup. What this means is the Super Meteor 650 should be a motorcycle that’s easy to turn, which is great for beginners and commuters alike. If the weight is low enough, the motorcycle should also be pretty easy to lift back up after a drop as well.
At the heart of the Super Meteor 650 is a 648cc parallel twin. It’s making 47 HP and 38 lb-ft of torque, or the same output you get with the INT650 and the Continental GT 650. Royal Enfield apparently didn’t change the engine’s performance, but it does now come with a new case. This engine is fed from a fuel injection system that draws from a 4.15-gallon fuel tank.
As with other current Royal Enfield products, you get just enough sophistication without turning the motorcycle into a rolling laptop. You get a hybrid digital and analog instrument cluster, a tiny turn-by-turn navigator, dual-channel ABS, and LED lighting. That’s it. You don’t have tablet-sized screens cluttering your dash, ride modes, or anything fancy like that.
All of this rides on a 43mm inverted fork with 4.7 inches of travel as well as dual outboard shocks with 4 inches of travel. A 320mm disc up front with a two-piston caliper stops the party up front while the rear is halted with a 300mm disc with a two-piston caliper. The Super Meteor 650 is also short rider friendly with its 29.1-inch seat height. As with the rest of Royal Enfield’s products, the Super Meteor 650 is a heavy metal beast and it comes in at 531.3 pounds with a mostly full gas tank.
The new Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650 comes in at a base price of $6,999. That price gets you a solid color. Dark or monochrome two-tone colors will cost you $7,299 while brighter two-tone colors are $7,499. Royal Enfield’s accessory catalog will be pretty vast and will include wheels, crash bars, sliders, different lights, handlebars, mirrors, seats, saddlebags, and more.
To give you an idea of this motorcycle’s pricing, its best competition from Honda is the Rebel 500, a lighter $6,449 motorcycle that makes about the same power from a smaller 471cc engine, but has a smaller fuel tank and a shorter seat. There’s also the $6,649 Kawasaki Eliminator. That bike offers less torque and a smaller tank than the Royal Enfield, but a lot more tech and substantially less weight.
So, you really won’t be buying the Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650 because of its price. Instead, what you’ll be getting is a competent middleweight with vintage style its Japanese rivals can’t match. If you want a Royal Enfield cruiser with more spice, the Super Meteor 650 goes on sale in a few weeks. Sadly, it looks like we missed out on press rides, but I’ll swing a leg over one as soon as I can.
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