We Ride The All-New Royal Enfield Compact Cruiser
An admission up front- as much as I’ve been looking forward to sampling this brand new offering from Royal Enfield, I didn’t have high expectations. Heck, it’s a single thumper, 349cc for Pete’s sake, making all of 20 horses to the rear wheel, and would be the smallest street bike I’ve ever ridden. I planned to ride it mildly, and report on it as the small displacement stepping-stone bike to their 650cc Twins that I perceived it would be.
Talk about mistaken first impressions!
Blame it on my age and inseam, but I’ve found the Meteor 350 to be incredibly fun to ride. From the moment I turned the key and thumbed the bike to life, let out the butter smooth clutch, rolled on the throttle and launched off, I knew Royal Enfield had a winner in the Meteor. With a surprisingly rev-happy powerplant, solid brakes, good cornering clearance, and very comfortable riding position, the bike has loads of personality, if not substantial beef under the tank. My mom always told me as a kid, “Dynamite comes in small packages.” I’m still rather diminutive admittedly, all of 5’8” and 155 lbs wet weight, but that statement certainly applies to the Meteor as well.
The Meteor moniker is derived from a popular model the brand produced back in the early 1950s, when Royals were still being built both in England and Commonwealth partner India. It was a capable touring bike in its day, so RE has chosen well in resurrecting the heritage of the predecessor. Slated as their replacement for the Thunderbird of the earlier 2000s, the Meteor fills a nice niche in Royal Enfield’s changing lineup of the past several years.
Spring in the South- awash in color. Some snaps from around historic and scenic Monroe, Georgia.
Before we get into our seat time with this little big bike, let’s have a look at some of the bike’s digits and details:
The all-new, from-the-ground-up Meteor 350 houses a fresh mill, their “J Series” motor, an air-oil cooled 349cc SOHC, long stroke, fuel injected and counterbalanced engine. Sporting a 5-cog constant mesh gear box with a wet clutch, the Meteor makes just over 20 ponies at 6100 rpm, with max torque right at 20 ft/lbs at 4000 rpm. If you’re used to larger displacement bikes, you’ll likely not be impressed by these. But when you throw a leg over and ride away, the bike rides and feels much more substantial than these numbers bely.
The chassis is brand new too, with a twin downtube spine frame cradling the motor and tranny. The Meteor rolls on tubeless alloys fore and aft, a 19” 110/90 front and a 17” 140/70 rear. The brakes pinch on a pair of ByBre units, a 300mm twin piston floater up front and 270mm single floater in the rear. ByBre, as we’ve written before, is an Indian division of Brembo, so these are quality binders. Oh, and dual channel ABS comes standard. On a 350 single. Seriously.
The front suspension elements are non-adjustable, 41mm forks with 130mm of travel, while the rear shocks are twin tube emulsions with 6-step adjustable preload. The Meteor fuel tank holds 3.96 gallons worth of go juice, or 15 liters in metric, so you’re talking a good 300+ miles between fill-ups, depending on how you ride/thrash the mini monster. That’s some long legs for a short girl. The curb weight (fuel and oil factored in) sets right at 421 lbs., and with a decent seat height of 30.1 in., the weight feels even lighter. Oh, and there’s a full tool kit, key-accessed behind the right side cover. Dang, my Triumph didn’t even come with a tool kit. Very nice, like the “good old days”.
Quality components, quality construction- and a freaking tool kit!
Firing the Meteor up and warming, the bike soon settles into what was at first a disquieting low idle to me. Besides the Himalayan we had for a month last Fall, this is the only other street single I’ve ridden in way too many years. So the low, lumping idle took me a moment to realize how perfectly tuned it actually was. Rolling on the throttle, the single pipe emits an actually nice low thump, not obscenely loud, but not overly silenced either. For my size, the rider triangle is quite relaxed and upright, very comfortable. The way the Meteor is tuned and geared, the motor growls along at road speeds better than the taller geared, 411cc motor in their Himi. Smooth cruising for a small air/oil cooled single.
Out riding the Meteor, I found a nice wide powerband spread in each gear, while cruising along at 60-65 was absolutely no problem for the diminutive cruiser. And indeed, RE classifies the Meteor as a cruiser, given its pull-back handlebars, mildly forward set pegs, decent passenger pillion, deep fenders front and rear, and a smooth cruising ride. No discernible vibration at speed. They offer the bike in three trims: Fireball, the base model in red and yellow schemes in blacked out engine and pipe; the upspec Stellar (which we’ve had) with a passenger backrest/grab rails in matte black, blue or red color choices and more chrome, and the Supernova in two-tone blue or two-tone metallic brown, and a windshield to boot. Their online catalogue already lists a litany of add-ons and accessories to further personalize your ride.
The rider triangle is quite relaxed and upright
The handlebar controls and instruments are laid out nicely, although I’m not real keen on the high/low beam switch on the left bar. Its a left/right toggle, rather than a traditional up/down, and set at a level that’s an awkward stretch for my thumb. Easy to use, just takes a sec to get used to. I also don’t favor the heel-toe shift lever, as the toe portion is angled down and forward a bit much, making it difficult to push my boot toe under to upshift. I’ve acclimated to the heel shifter for upshifts instead, then tapping the toe forward to downshift. Easy enough, no more complaints.
The instrument cluster is comprised of two pots, the larger one housing an analog speedo and digi displays of fuel consumption, odo and 2 tripmeters, service intervals, clock, and gear position. A thumb toggle on the front of the left handlebar control enables the ability to switch between several trips, and adjust time as well. The smaller pot houses a unique and standard feature, the Google-powered RE Tripper Navigation, which can link their Royal Enfield app on a smart phone to the full color TFT screen for turn-by-turn nav. Took me a few attempts to pair my iPhone 11 Pro to it, but turns out I’d been missing a step in the app, so once I found that, it Bluetooth paired perfectly. Hey, I’m not the most tech-savvy sap. Just ask Phil and the guys. Scratch that, don’t ask.
Much thanks to Bill Scott of Skydive Monroe for the great photos and footage we were allowed to shoot at the airport.
We’ve had the RE Meteor 350 for a few weeks now, a sneak peek and pre-launch ride we were honored to have been included in. Over the past three weeks, we’ve logged over 400 miles on the Meteor, riding it as Royal Enfield designed and built it for- long country roads, occasional dirt, through city streets, and work commutes. The metallic tank holds a magnetic tank bag easily, a pair of throw-over saddlebags bungee nicely to the passenger grab rails, and the bike proves to be a capable mini-cruiser on American roads as it is already across India’s city and countryscapes. I enjoyed just loping along on open country stretches south of our home, found it a light touch to maneuver through congested streets of our nearby town of Monroe, Georgia, and even throttled the Meteor through some tight twisties on several “secret” roads the fellas and I negotiate for getting our “hooligan” on with bikes. The minuscule Meteor does it all.
Here’s the real kicker- The Meteor 350 Fireball models MSRP at $4400, the Stellars MSRP for $4500, and the top-shelf Supernovas can be had for $4600 MSRP (taxes, fees, etc. apply of course). The cycles also come with a 3-year Royal Enfield unlimited mile warranty and roadside assistance. These motorbikes are killer deals. RE is clearly targeting several American demographics with the Meteor over here- riders under about 5’9” are best suited to it (6’2” Phil looked like a gorilla on a minibike straddling it), women riders, new, young, and even older riders weary of large heavies will (and should) give this bike a look. The value packed into this half-pint cruiser is hard to beat for the price.
This half-pint cruiser is hard to beat for the price
One personal observation to address the attractiveness of the Royal Enfield Meteor 350- the first full day we had it, my wife (who absolutely never rides with me) was out in the driveway admiring it (“Its so cute” was her comment), when I walked up and flippantly asked, “You want to take a short ride on it with me?” Rather than her typical “No thanks” response, she immediately answered, “Okay, sure!” Wait, what?? So she donned a jacket, grabbed one of our daughter’s helmets (they both grew up riding with me), and off we rode for about 10-12 miles. The Meteor chugged along with aplomb, hardly straining under the weight of two humans. Well suspended, well geared, and well tuned. And the wifey loved it. “So Honey, you think we might be able to make some room in the garage for….?”
Small bikes with small motors do not equal small fun. I’ve been riding motorcycles most of my 57 years, and I absolutely enjoyed every ride I took on the Meteor. Geez, I kept looking for more reasons and roads to go “test” it on, every time I had opportunity. Isn’t that the best compliment one can pay about a motorcycle, that you don’t want to stop riding it? So my advice is, go look up the location of the Royal Enfield dealership nearest you (their network is rapidly expanding across North America), check out their new Meteors (as well as their Himalayan and 650 Twins, for that matter), and schedule one for a test spin. Bikes will hit dealerships about mid-May. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised as we were. Royal Enfield has a winner in the new Meteor 350.
To view the full line of Royal Enfield motorcycles, accessories and gear/clothing offerings, as well as find a dealership near you, click here:
Rob- wrist and writer
Phil- photos and video footage
*Check out our video review of the bike, with onboard, around town and country ride footage, without even leaving this page: