Because of the lockdown we get a chance to ‘live with’ the Meteor for three months. How good is it?
The Meteor is a refined motorcycle; launched last year, it replaced the Thunderbird X 350. On the Meteor, the rider sits comfortably—feet forward, low upright seating, holding handlebars without much stress on shoulders, and forming perfect ergonomic angles. However, is it the best motorcycle made by Royal Enfield? While its build quality, paint job and fit-and-finish are immaculate, how good is the Meteor to live with? I spend three months with it.
Its 349cc air-oil cooled engine (20.2bhp power; 27Nm torque) is refined—and it’s just right for a motorcycle this size and weight. The initial acceleration (0-60 km/h) is effortless, but gradual. However, it’s the 40-80 km/h acceleration in fourth gear where the Meteor gets in its element (the maximum torque of 27Nm is achieved at an early 4000rpm, and so even in a high gear at a speed of about 50 km/h it doesn’t feel underpowered).
The riding position
The gearshift pedal has both a heel-shifter and a toe-shifter—so you can use either foot or heel to shift gears with equal ease. Engine vibrations—via the handlebars, foot pegs and the seat—are fairly controlled, and you can ride for a long distance, at a speed of about 80 km/h, without getting tired. However, at speeds above 100 km/h, handlebars vibrate a lot, even though foot pegs and the seat remain rock solid. Also, while cornering is a breeze on well-paved roads, it’s not as sure-footed as the Himalayan on wet roads and gravel.
Securing luggage on the rear seating area (in case one is using bungee ropes) isn’t as easy as it is on the Himalayan (the gold standard for any bike).
I did one 600-km road trip on a highway (where the Meteor returned 46 km/litre) and another 400 km riding on Delhi roads (where it returned 41 km/litre).
The Meteor gets a turn-by-turn navigation pod called the Tripper. It connects to the rider’s smartphone via Bluetooth, and real-time directions—using Google Maps’ two-wheeler navigation—are displayed on a small screen next to the tripmeter. The Tripper definitely makes road trips easy.
The best part
During the second-wave lockdown, the Meteor was parked in my apartment’s basement for eight weeks straight, and when I started the engine after this long a time, it started at the flick of a switch. Unlike age-old RE bikes, there was no oil leakage, no low battery, no tyre flat spots, no rusting anywhere. That shows the Meteor is a new-age RE.
Is it the finest RE?
Priced from Rs 1.75 lakh to Rs 1.9 lakh (ex-showroom, Chennai), the Meteor may be good value for money (similar motorcycles at more or less similar prices include Honda H’ness and CB350R), but in terms of overall ownership and riding experience it perhaps doesn’t match up to the all-new Himalayan (which is marginally more expensive). While both these bikes cater to different kinds of riders, the advantage the Himalayan has over the Meteor is that the former can do all things the latter can, and then a lot more.