For those unfamiliar with the world of motorcycles, motorcyclists are a boring bunch. They will defend their own motorcycle to the death. And among motorcyclists, road fans are the most annoying. I speak properly because I am one of them. Our biggest complaint? There are no options in this category.
And the complaint is correct. The market is lacking in models. The few that exist are either very small, measuring 150 cm³ and priced at around R$ 13 thousand, such as Dafra Horizon and Haojue Chopper Road, or the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 for R$ 44,350. Before anyone asks, the cheapest Harley-Davidson today reaches R$90,000.
Here comes the owner Royal Enfield with Meteor 350, presented in early July with prices ranging between R$ 17,990 and R$ 18,990, without shipping, of course. With more performance than the 150 and (much) cheaper than the Vulcan, it is an encouragement for those who became widowed with a Suzuki Intruder 250 and Yamaha Virago 250 in the early 2000s. And if you need more encouragement, follow my impressions.
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 first appeared in India in late 2020 and arrived in Brazil last July. It is the brand’s third “unprecedented” model, after Himalayan and the duo Interceptor 650/Continental GT 650. Its platform, called only “J” by the Indians, brought a series of innovations to the classic line of the brand.
One of them is the new 349 cm³ single-cylinder thruster. He left behind the camshaft on the rod-operated block and took up the delay by adopting a chain-actuated camshaft. Air-cooled and powered by electronic injection, it doesn’t impress with the numbers. There are only 20.2 hp of power.
But as usual at Royal Enfield, the torque of 2.7 kgfm is good for the engine size. The characteristic rumbling rumble of the brand’s large single cylinders is also there. The transmission has five gears and the final transmission is made by chain.
For the R$ 17,990 charged in the Fireball entry version, the bike features an electric starter, fuel gauge, alloy wheels with disc brakes on both, ABS, USB socket and the interesting GPS Tripper, which projects navigation information step-by-step -step through a screen on the dashboard. It works with a mobile app, which uses the Google Maps base and connects via Bluetooth.
Meteor Stellar, for R$ 18,490, adds metallic paint and backrest to the croup. The Supernova version, like the one evaluated, costs R$ 18,990. All values do not include shipping. The more complete configuration also has two-tone paint and windshield, as well as a different colored fabric for the separate seats.
In August, the first full month of sales of Royal Enfield Meteor 350 in Brazil, the motorcycle surpassed the 700 licensed units, more than the entire monthly average of the brand until then, which was around 500 sales including the other models. So the market saw something interesting in her, but what is this?
One of the dilemmas of roadside markets is the lack of options. Many start with entry-level models, like the Haojue Chopper Road 150, or myself with a Suzuki Intruder 125 that I bought 0km in 2007. The problem starts when you want to advance along that path.
The 125 or 150 options have difficulties to maintain more than 100 km/h on the highways and a motorcycle that handles the 120 km/h regulation already triples or quadruples the investment. The Meteor 350, I say happily, is an intermediate road that fulfills this function without weighing it down. On the contrary, its price is much closer to a Chopper Road than a Vulcan.
The main complaint with Meteor since its launch is that the engine power is low for displacement. In simple terms, it rides a little more than a 250. And, given the 200 km of uninterrupted road at 120 km/h that I completed with it, I can’t say that it’s a bike that lacks power. At this rate, the bike did around 32 km/l and one of the determining factors for not getting tired was the windshield, which prevented my torso from turning into a parachute.
What can’t be expected is the performance of a large V-engine in a single-cylinder with the proposal to be affordable. So yes, eventually Meteor calls for gear and you’ll have to give a lot of throttle when overtaking. But I’m of the opinion that a bike that allows you to use 100% capacity all the time is better than one where you lose your license at 10% throttle.
Meteor is a relatively heavy bike for its size. But this is a consequence of the construction quality of the bike and the materials used. In it, there are few plastics and the main parts are still made of metal. As the stool is low, allowing someone of my height (1.72 m) to nail both feet to the ground calmly, it does not generate insecurity, but a feeling of solidity.
Upon understanding this, I believed that Meteor would then be slow to turn. A mistake. I looked for a mountain road to the stub. The suspension assembly is firm, which sacrifices a bit of comfort in holes, but allows for a nimble touch in the back and forth of corners and the feeling of weight is gone. When I had a Suzuki Boulevard M800, my impression was that I was in one time zone and the front wheel was in another. At Royal, it’s the opposite. The front responds quickly and communicates a lot with the driver, which reinforces the feeling of safety and brings a pleasure to drive.
Use in the city is very quiet. As I said, it rides like 250. The handlebars are high enough to go over the mirrors of cars in the hallway and the bike doesn’t get tired. On the contrary, the riding position is extremely comfortable. Walk with your arms closer to your chest and your legs a little forward, in a forward position.
After a long day of work here in the newsroom at Motor1.com, I even felt the blood running in my legs when I started to drive. It took me a while to get used to the pendular gearshift lever, where you shift gears with your heel and lower with your toes. It is a solution seen in large roadways that use platforms instead of pedals, which is not the case with Meteor. On the third day I was already using the lever naturally.
Brake, clutch and accelerator controls are well balanced. Not too light, not too heavy. The front brake bite could come faster, but it will stop the bike without a hitch. The controls on the handles are even rotary for the ignition, something I haven’t seen since the Honda XLX 250R.
At first glance they are strange, but in use they do not interfere. One clever solution is that since the high beam’s flasher is next to the headlamp switch, the trigger at the front, where it would normally be found, has become the on-board computer controller. Much more practical than reaching out to the dashboard to access information.
With GPS Tripper, I was on the fence. His screen is small and he just points an arrow and the distance to the next conversion. If you need to enter a street that is very close to another, it’s hard to tell which one is right. But for those who are lost, it’s better than nothing and certainly more comfortable than stopping all the time to consult the map on your cell phone. The big advantage is that it’s free; the downside is that it doesn’t replace a conventional GPS.
Do you have something to complain about? Of course, there always is. The rear suspension has very little travel and, because of that, it is very firm. So it’s good to get used to doing that little lift from the bench in the deepest holes. I said that the bike holds 120 km/h, the point is that it doesn’t pass. At “121 km/h” the injection cuts out and the bike just keeps going. It’s a solution that I still don’t understand the usefulness of.
Visual is also an important part of what defines a road or not. In this regard, the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 passes with ease. There are a low, elongated silhouette, chrome turn signals, a round headlamp and lantern, and advanced foot pedals. Everything as ordered by the costumes of this category and more accurate than the Kawasaki Vulcan itself, which has a more modern proposal.
If back in 2007, when I bought my Intruder, you told me that, one day, I could buy a real roadster that goes right on the road for not much more than a 150 bike, I would call you crazy. Finally, we have on the market a custom option that manages to be a quality road, with a fair price and performance that encourages hitting the road. Now, the message to all of you who complained about the lack of a motorcycle like this is: the excuses are over.
Photos: Mario Villaescusa (for Motor1.com)
Datasheet: Royal Enfield Meteor 350
single cylinder, gasoline, 349 cm³, air cooling
20.2 hp @ 6,100 rpm; 2.7 kgfm @ 4,000 rpm
Mechanical, 5 speeds, final chain drive
Telescopic fork, 130 mm stroke; double shock absorber, preload adjustment, 89 mm stroke
alloy, 19″ front and 17″ rear
Disc, 300 mm in diameter; Disc, 270 mm in diameter
WEIGHT IN GEAR ORDER
seat height, 765 mm; length, 2.14 m; wheelbase, 1.40 m; height, 1.14 m; width, 0.85 m
15 liter tank
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