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Royal Enfield Meteor 350: Heralding a brand-new engine, double-downtube chassis

The Meteor 350 heralds a brand-new engine and chassis platform, one that is likely to underpin all of RE’s future 350cc motorcycles. It serves as a replacement to the Thunderbird and Thunderbird X (TBX) lines of motorcycles.

Royal Enfield wanted to keep the design familiar and identifiable; this bike does that, however, the curved silhouette at the fuel tank is no longer there. In its place is a wide looking fuel tank that holds 15 litres against the 20-litre unit in the TBX. The side quarter panels have been simplified with just one triangular unit. The seat is now split into two; the halogen headlamp performs well but the small LED ring around it is rather dull. We ride the top-of-the-line Supernova variant with its dual-tone paint, large windscreen, tan seats and pillion backrest. There are plenty of nice touches including the new rotary switchgear that looks cool. The quality of the backrest and windscreen is also very good.

Overall, this motorcycle has a simple yet premium feel to it, amplified by its new instrument console. With an analogue speedometer on the outer circumference and a digital display below, the unit tells you how much fuel is left, what time it is and what gear you are in. On the right, is a small colour display for the new Tripper navigation system.

The brand-new motor still feels like it belongs in a Royal Enfield. The bore/stroke dimensions have been changed and the old pushrod-valve system has been replaced by a SOHC two-valve head. A new balancer shaft has been added to increase the usable range of torque while simultaneously stamping out the off-putting vibrations.

Specifications
  • Engine 349cc, single-cylinder, fuel-injected
  • Max Power 20.2hp at 6,100rpm
  • Max Torque 27Nm at 4,000rpm
  • Gearbox 5-speed
  • Front Brake 300mm disc
  • Rear Brake 270mm disc
  • Front Suspension Telescopic fork
  • Rear Suspension Twin shock absorbers

Start it up and there is a clear thump to be heard. You can also feel the big piston make its lazy oscillation through the foot pegs. The Meteor is never free of sensation in the handlebar and foot pegs but at no point do the vibrations get harsh either. The new 5-speed gearbox is smooth and slick, and it also has shorter throws than the old one. The clutch is slightly on the heavy side in traffic, but it has good feedback and is easy to modulate. As for heat, there was not much to be felt in the city, but the engine casing on the right side sticks out quite a bit.

At 20.2hp and 27Nm, the specs are not impressive for a brand-new motor but with a 0-100kph time of 17.8secs, it is 7.2secs quicker than the BS6 Classic 350 because the spread of torque is now much more usable. More importantly, 80kph is a calm and enjoyable cruise on the Meteor and 100kph actually has even fewer vibes to be felt. At this point, the engine is revving quite high. While you can sustain this pace, it does not feel as relaxing. The fuel efficiency is very similar to the BS6 Classic 350.

The other big change on this bike is the new double-downtube chassis. The seat height is now down by 10mm to a welcoming 765mm, while the wheelbase has gone up by 50mm. It is also slightly longer and wider than t he TBX with ground clearance now increased to 170mm. The bike gets wider tyres at both ends and the brakes are bigger at both ends too. While the performance is good, you need to give the front brake lever a hard squeeze.

Comfort is a priority on the Meteor with an excellent seat and a comfy, upright riding position that places the feet forward, but not excessively so. The bike is spacious enough to carry two 6 feet-tall individuals in comfort. The new suspension balances comfort and control much better than the TBX. Handling is now far more confident, stable and predictable as well.

Make It Yours programme

Clearly, the engine and chassis represent massive improvement, but RE is trying to stand out from the crowd via the Make It Yours programme. Essentially, customers can choose from a list of colours and accessories; RE says up to five lakh custom configurations are possible. Prices start at ₹1.75 lakh for the Fireball variant and goes up to ₹1.81 lakh for the Stellar and ₹1.9 lakh for the Supernova.

Overall, Royal Enfield has produced an authentic feeling, refined and well-rounded product. While the pricing is not sensational, it certainly is competitive, and the future looks bright for RE’s 350 range.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 1:30:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/royal-enfield-meteor-350-heralding-a-brand-new-engine-double-downtube-chassis/article33093193.ece

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