I had to ride the new Royal Enfield Meteor 350 twice to double check what I thought of it. The Saturday I got it, I rode from the middle of Mumbai to well beyond its outskirts, and degenerated into a dehydrated mess thoroughly mugged by heavy traffic and terrible heat. The next day, a 0400 start saw me ride into chilly darkness; revenge, as they say, is best served cold. A few hours later, I stood at a traffic light among a bunch of old British bikes; a few Triumph and Norton twins, and a BSA single, all out for a Sunday morning ride. The Meteor’s name comes from their time, I thought; it evokes the Redditch-made Meteor Minor 500cc twin and Super Meteor 700cc twin of the 1950s and 1960s.
This Thunderbird replacement is Royal Enfield’s first all-new single-cylinder motorcycle in more than a decade (I always forget the Himalayan). And, for me, the story is all about that new motor, making what is undoubtedly only its first appearance in RE’s all-important staple 350 lineup. It makes 20.2 bhp and 2.75 kgm, numbers that are in the same ballpark as the outgoing UCE (19.8 bhp, 2.85 kgm). Pushrods and the twin-spark-plug layout have been kicked out, and in walks an SOHC setup with a single spark plug. It’s almost as if they’ve thought this through (someone at Bajaj, please note).
On Saturday, when I first thumbed the new dial-switch starter, I almost leaped back with happy surprise — a silent motor! And a proper thumping exhaust, too! After riding hard all day, there was a little more noise from the engine, but nowhere near the cymbals-and-tambourines routine of hot pushrods. And on Sunday, it started back up in near silence again, with only that lovely beat from the now-proportionate exhaust. For anyone who even looks at a Royal Enfield, this is an important thing, even if the more modern valvetrain doesn’t equate to more modern power from the 349cc motor. However, though it is the same spec-sheet ballpark, RE has now done a beautiful job of landscaping it.
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