A Super Meteor is hitting America

 

After being available overseas for a year, Royal Enfield is bringing its Super Meteor 650 cruiser to the States.  Orbiting alongside Royal Enfield’s flagship models, the standard styled Interceptor or INT 650 and cafe racer Continental GT, the Super Meteor channels Royal Enfield’s design heritage and wraps it around it’s venerable 650cc parallel twin engine.  I had the opportunity to test the bike at the Super Meteor’s touchdown in Dallas, Texas and came away impressed with Royal Enfield’s mid-sized cruiser.

Cruisers and cows, Texas backroads on Royal Enfield’s Super Meteor 650. All Photos by Royal Enfield.

Start first by deleting your current cruiser mindset.  When you picture a cruiser, you likely imagine a hulking, shaking V-twin with a heavy chassis, slow handling and an exhaust note that could punch a hole in a brick wall.  You don’t ride the bike, the bike rides you.

It doesn’t have to be that way. 

Royal Enfield’s Super Meteor 650 makes you question why you need all of that displacement, bulk and cost.  At the Super Meteor’s heart beats a smooth 648cc air cooled parallel twin engine rated at around 47 hp and 38 lb ft of torque.  While that might sound anemic, it is hung from a bike weighing only 531 lbs fully fueled and ready to ride.  While it won’t compete in MotoAmerica’s King Of The Baggers series, watch MotoAmerica’s “Build Train Race” series and see what this parallel twin can do in the hands of some seriously skilled female racers.

Even those of us with a tall inseam like throwing a leg over a small seat height.

The parallel twin is mated with a slipper clutch to a 6 speed transmission and fueling is well calibrated for a simple and joyful ride experience.  As I rode, the whole drivetrain felt refined and smooth right up to the rev-limiter.  I would much rather ride this engine than a shaking V-twin that wants to eject parts and rider off the bike.

Suspension up front features Royal Enfield’s first ever use of an upside down fork, and while the Showa Big Piston 43 mm fork has no adjustability, it is well damped through its 4.7 in. of travel, striking a good balance of bump absorption and cornering stability.  Twin rear shocks are pre-load adjustable only and on the firm side through their 4 in. of stroke.

Upside down fork looks trick and provides a smooth ride while the rear shocks could use more bump compliance.

Pulling out from a stop, this combination of smooth engine, easy shifting transmission, light weight and compliant front end make a great first impression.  Clutch feel is excellent and navigating through city streets is fun with such a small, light and comfortable cruiser.  Stops and starts take little effort, the 29.1” seat height makes reaching ground easy for any inseam height and the short 59” wheelbase makes for quick lane changes.  Such a light and nimble bike makes for a surprisingly good city navigator.

Pulling out onto freeways, the parallel twin shows that it likes to rev.  Freeway speeds are drama and mostly vibration free and the overall feel of the bike is smooth.  Cast aluminum switch gear and adjustable levers all have a solid touch at the fingertips, while the seat has a good contour and is comfortable even for a rider of my size.  Foot control locations are forward mounted, but not so far enough to be a stretch.  Overall, every rider point of contact with the Super Meteor from the controls to the seat give off a feel of quality.

Solid aluminum levers are adjustable and the cast aluminum switchgear had good feel.  Every piece is quality and proudly displays the Royal Enfield logo.

Cockpit view is a delight as the speedometer is analog (as it should be) with a sweeping red baton as a speedo and LCD displays for fuel and gear indicator.  A small pod to the right houses Royal Enfield’s Tripper Navigation screen for turn by turn navigation.  It is a view that is easy on the eyes.

Instrumentation is simple and beautiful.  Full LED lighting is retro styled with modern illumination.

Royal Enfield’s 650 cruiser is also easy on the eyes everywhere else.  Cables are routed neatly and tucked out of sight.  The oil cooler is blacked out, hidden in plain sight in between the chromed exhausts so it is almost invisible and subtle chrome covers hide the fuel injection system.  Big gaps surround the engine allowing the sun to shine through and put the air cooled twin on display in cruiser fashion.  The twin loop frame is iconic in Royal Enfield design history, dating back to the 1948 500 twin.  Interstellar Green was the model I tested and the black accents with gold stripes passed every eye test I could muster.  As I walked away from it, I found myself looking over my shoulder and admiring it in the sunlight.

Airy, exposed engine and hidden cables let the Super Meteor shine.

Typical cruiser add-ons from Royal Enfield like a touring windscreen and saddlebags would make the Super Meteor a willing touring mount. Prices start at $6,999 for the Astral to $7,499 for the Celestial variant with two tone paint, touring windscreen and two-up seat.  However, I like the bike as is.  Stripped down, light and sleek, it is one of those bikes that the more you ride it, the more it grows on you.

A cruiser in British Racing Green?  With black and gold accents?  Yes please.

By comparison, Royal Enfield’s Super Meteor 650 easily wins the beauty contest compared to Honda’s Rebel 500 offered at $6,499.  I would pay the extra $500 to not have to look at the Rebel.  More competitive might be Kawasaki’s Vulcan S 650 coming in at $7,349, but here again, the effects of water cooling add the unsightly radiator, hoses, and bulk that hide the engine.  Cruising requires a connection with the motorcycle, engine and mechanical working below.  As old school as it may seem, air cooling still seems to pull this off perfectly.  For a rider getting into the sport, the simplicity and vibe of air cooling makes riding simple and enjoyable.

Smaller size and weight of the Super Meteor 650 make a perfect back road explorer.

Royal Enfield’s Super Metro 650 makes you question the roaming herds of bulky cruisers pounding around in packs with their massive weight, shaking parts and intimidating size.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Sometimes, less is more: less weight, less height, less wheelbase, less complexity and much, much less cost.  Bigger cruiser manufacturers should be warned that a Super Meteor has landed in America, and it is set to make a significant impact.

The Brits would call it “plucky”.

After a lunch stop I was walking and talking with Royal Enfield historian Gordon May, the Brit who in 2008, rode his 1953 Bullet 500cc from his UK home to India and he was the thrust behind “Project Origin“, the re-creation of Royal Enfield’s first 1901 motorized bicycle.

“What do you think of the bike?” He asked me in his thick Manchester accent.  Without hesitation, I had the answer.

“It is a perfect companion,” I said.

“Well said,” he replied.  “Well said indeed.”

Ted

*All photos by Royal Enfield.

For more on the Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650, click here:

Super Meteor 650

Here’s Ted’s video review:

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7 Comments

  1. Joey D

    Although the Bike weighs in at over 530 lbs you describe it as being light which in fact for a 650 with an animic 47 HP motor is quite heavy the bike looks good the attention to cosmetic detail is well noted in the article you seem to be bias towards V TWINS stating a lot of misinformation and singing praise for the Enfield Granted the price is reasonable lets waite and see if the reliability is hopefully way better than other Royal Enfield Offerings

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Joey, I’m guessing you are not familiar with the Royal Enfields of the past decade or so. They are quality motorcycles, built to high standards, with premium components. See any of our previous reviews of them to get a feel for the new RE. Ted gave no “misinformation” in his review, is not normally a V-Twin rider, and was genuinely pleasantly surprised by the Super Meteor.

      Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      Hi Joey. I had a conversation with Mark Wells, chief designer at Royal Enfield that was too lengthy to include in the article. One of the things we discussed along with durability testing was weight. The listed 531 pound wet weight is fully fueled and ready to ride. Other manufacturers (he and I talked about a few) will drain fuel, oil and even liquid out of the battery for a lower weight rating. I suggest you try riding one.

      Reply
  2. Mahinder

    Thanks Ted. Very well articulated.
    I was in 2 minds between Super Meteor and the newly launched (2 days ago) RE Himalayan 452. But now, reading an outside-in perspective, am inclined more towards RE Super Meteor. Will probably wait for an updated version in which they add the latest instrument cluster (from Himalayan 452) to Super Meteor.

    I reside in India, but I often travel between the USA and India, have tried those big Gas guzzlers, Godzillas on wheels, Bank breaking machines and so on. The Adrenaline and thrill is real, well at-least for few days/weeks 😉

    Love your title ‘It doesn’t have to be that way’. Not many people with passion have the $$s for these earth moving machines. when they do have saved some for the purchase, their love the for purchase blinds them from the $$s they have to shell out for Kitting, Upgrades, Maintenance, Parts and labour.. a.k.a TCO Total Cost of Ownership. Thus, another regret in the making. But wait..Does it have to be that Way ?? (comes in Ted :D)

    These big V twins are great and have come a long way meeting their manufacturer’s needs. They are probably double the cost in India (thanks to logistics and customs). Just to add perspective, i may not be accurate but i could get 9-10 Super Meteors for the cost of one Pan-Am, or Fat Bob, or Dark Horse. Let alone the after sale costs.

    I mentioned your review as an ‘Outside-in’ perspective because so far, the reviews I’ve read or heard are from Indian media and riders. While the Pros are similar, the Cons were all about Weight, Bulk, Power to weight ratio, Low miles/gallon, Low ground clearance etc.. Now i read about Super Meteor being Light, Nimble, easy in the streets and freeways, less cost, etc I like that and its true for its segment and alternatives. The Cons I’ve heard are not really Cons but its a relative term.

    Thanks again Ted, and thanks to internet, not sure how but am glad i bumped into this page. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Hi Mahinder, thanks for the great comments and observations! An “outside-in” perspective- good choice of wording.

      Reply
  3. Willam

    I had a great time riding the Super Meteor 650 in India AND in the U.S. in Texas. It’s clear that India’s riding environment strongly influences the SM650, while American aesthetics influence the styling. I’m not a feet-forward kind of rider for the most part, but have to say the bike is very comfortable – and very tough. I’m an INT650 owner so I have some baseline expectations, and was happy with the steady improvements shown with the SM650. A bit different to ride than the INT650, but same great flexible engine and seemingly reliable design. And fun to ride!

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      We’re hoping to get a SM650 as a long-termer this summer, test it over several months.
      Good to hear from you, Will!

      Reply

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