Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650 Review: Of Childhood Dreams & Grown-up Realities
On a short 150km ride, Royal Enfield’s new flagship offering, the Super Meteor 650 made us feel like Arnie from Terminator, but with some caveats.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? One of the Hell’s Angels on Harleys, I would’ve said as a toddler, still sheltered from reality. Partly because they were on big, badass motorcycles and partly, because they helped me envision the idea of two-wheeled freedom on an open road. Eight years ago, I did get to live the latter part of the dream, when high on adrenaline and low on IQ, I set out with a friend on a scooter to “catch the sunrise” at Alibaug. The plan was simple. Ride all night with minimum breaks, get some eggs in our system and ride back home.
Today, with the keys to the Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650 in my hands, it was time to finish the remaining part of the fantasy. This time though, low on time and high on back pain, I hatched a similar plan with the same friend, but with a shorter weekend ride to Lonavla. Here’s what followed.
That Arnie Feeling
Forgive the pun, but I am convinced the Super Meteor has the superpower of transforming you into Arnie from The Terminator, once you swing your leg over it. The cruiser commands your presence and how, with its low-slung design, swept-back handlebars, tear-drop fuel tank and an overall imposing stance. It turns more than a couple of heads, both when mobile and stationery. I don’t remember the last time people started conversations with me in parking lots and at traffic signals, with a child-like curiosity about the motorcycle. It makes you feel like you’re astride the 1991 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy from The Terminator. This is the bike the 21-year-old me would’ve shamelessly gawked at with his jaw wide open. I am happy to report that the 28-year-old me feels the same way.
But get on top of it and the feeling of being a badass is replaced by a state of constant anxiety. The Super Meteor 650 weighs a mammoth 241kg. Add in the cruiser’s unfamiliar forward-set footpeg position in the mix, and the worry of tipping over skyrockets. Both my pillion and I think to ourselves: there is no way we can pick it up on our own without breaking the local deadlift record.
An Awkward City Slicker
But get going and things start to change. On our commute from Hadapsar to Central Pune through peak evening traffic, the Super Meteor doesn’t feel as intimidating as it looks. Unlike the top-heavy Interceptor 650, the bike’s weight is focused down-low, thanks to its all-new chassis. It does feel heavy and awkward while pulling it out of a tight parking space or taking a U-turn, but nothing a little bit of pre-planning can’t solve. You also get used to the position of the cruiser’s heel-and-toe shifter fairly quickly.
On the go, the smooth pull of the slipper clutch and drama-free gearbox helps in curbing your anxiety, making you more focused on the road. And boy, do you really need to focus. The only way we are able to navigate the cruiser through traffic is by treating it like a compact SUV. It is not an easily flickable bike, which can filter through tight spaces. Plan your overtaking manoeuvres well in advance here, folks.
A B+ That Should’ve Been An A
As we stray into the Old Mumbai-Pune highway, the Cruiser feels at home. Folks at Royal Enfield have done an impressive job in developing the 650cc parallel-twin motor. The 47PS of power delivery here is linear and smooth like butter. The 52Nm gives you enough grunt when needed. Triple digits come at you with so much ease and stability (thanks to its 1500 mm wheelbase) that the younger me would’ve tried something stupid. The older me won’t, without the safety net of dual-channel ABS and the bite the 320mm and 300mm front and rear disc brakes offer.
What also doesn’t help is the slightly uncomfortable placement of the handlebars — during the four-hour ride, I find my 5’11 frame constantly hunched over, while trying to get a hold of them. I can’t help but think that adjusting the handlebars a couple of inches towards the rider would’ve made a big difference, though entirely fixable with a quick stop at the service station.
A thing to note here, is the suspension setup, which is slightly confusing. While its front Showa 43mm USD forks and conventional rear twin-shock impress you with its cornering ability, the suspension feels oddly stiff for a cruiser. Even an awkwardly placed patch can leave my pillion with uncomfortable air time off his seat. And I have a feeling that it can all be attributed to the rake angle and the low ground clearance of 135mm.
At the end of our ride to Lonavala and back, I couldn’t help but think, the Super Meteor 650 is exactly the motorcycle a younger me would’ve envisioned owning at my current age. But after riding it for 154km, and using it occasionally for 100km, I can’t help but think that its perhaps not meant for Indian roads or traffic conditions — at least not as a primary mode of transportation. Don’t get me wrong, the Super Meteor 650 excels in most things it does, but you’d be more comfortable using it as a second motorcycle, with a focus mainly on long-distance touring, or for a weekend ride with an old friend.