REVIEWED: 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350

REVIEWED: 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350

Whilst the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is the first cruiser from the Indian manufacturer in most markets around the world, back home they’ve been making them for years.

The ‘Lightning’ was the first, originally released in 1995, it was adapted from the classic ‘Bullet’. It wasn’t until the release of the ‘Thunderbird’ however that Royal Enfield decided to produce a dedicated and all new cruiser. A highly successful motorcycle in the Indian market, the ‘Thunderbird’ was discontinued in 2020 to make way for the all new Meteor 350.

After nearly 4 years of collaborative development between the company’s Chennai and UK Technical Centres, the Meteor 350 was born.

Overview

The 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is a small-capacity cruiser. Simple, inexpensive and an incredibly easy bike to ride, Royal Enfield sum the Meteor up perfectly with their tagline, ‘Cruise Easy’.

All day comfort, decent fuel economy, and a super-smooth-character-packed single, mean the Meteor is just perfect for easy urban cruising. With this review, we’re doing something a little different as we follow Royal Enfield’s advice and cruise easy through the streets of Sydney’s northern beaches.

Performance

Powered by a 349cc single cylinder engine, the Meteor 350 pushes out 20 BHP – or 15 kW – at 6100 RPM and 27 Nm of peak torque at 4000 RPM. Now with those sorts of performance figures, you can’t call the Meteor 350 quick, but if that’s all you’re worried about, you’re probably missing the point of the little Meteor.

Powered by a 349cc single cylinder engine, the Meteor 350 pushes out 20 BHP – or 15 kW – at 6100 RPM and 27 Nm of peak torque at 4000 RPM. Now with those sorts of performance figures, you can’t call the Meteor 350 quick, but if that’s all you’re worried about, you’re probably missing the point of the little Meteor.

The 349cc single cylinder is such a little peach of an engine. Super smooth – thanks largely to the primary balancer shaft – it just keeps on keeping on, effortlessly punching up the 5-speed gearbox to get you where you need to go. The single best feature of the Meteor is its ability to help you rediscover the joy of riding. Forget the fact that you can’t ride the Meteor fast or hard, you don’t want to – instead you’ll prefer to slow down, relax, and just enjoy the ride.

And after all, isn’t that what riding is all about?

As is the case with most of Royal Enfield’s lineup, the Meteor is firmly aimed at the new rider, or those looking for an inexpensive yet quality motorcycle to suit their needs. After a few weeks with the Meteor, I can confirm that it absolutely meets this brief. An effortlessly simple motorcycle to ride, new riders will benefit from the feather-light clutch, progressive throttle response, and low speed stability of the Meteor. More experienced riders are also rewarded with great handling and a niftiness that makes navigating heavy city traffic and filtering a piece of cake.

Ride

The Meteor 350 is all about the ride.

Royal Enfield have designed The Meteor’s twin downtube spline frame to “inspire confidence in the twisties, be rock-solid on the highway and easily manoeuvrable on busy city streets.” Usual press release hyperbole aside, they’re actually not far off.

Despite the forward-mounted controls and cruiser-esque riding position, the Meteor corners exceptionally. It’s balanced, super easy to turn in, and holds a line perfectly well – traits that are certainly confidence inspiring. It’s also easy to move around, with an awesome turning circle that makes u-turns an absolute breeze; perfect for congested urban streets.

The overall suspension package is perfectly adequate for what it is. With non-adjustable 41mm telescopic forks upfront, and twin tube emulsion shock absorbers with adjustable preload in the rear, the ride has a bias towards firmness.

Of course every rider is going to have a different experience depending on how they’re built. As someone who clocks in at around 85 – 90 kg (a gentleman never tells), I found the ride firm without being uncomfortable. Smaller riders than me may disagree.

The Meteor’s single 300mm disc with ByBre 2-piston caliper up front and 270mm disc with single-piston caliper in the rear are probably one of the bike’s negatives. With only 20 BHP, it’s not like you need M50’s, however the front in particular is very spongy, with poor feel and is prone to fade a little under heavy braking.

Of course, 99 riders out of 100 are never going to need to lean so heavily on the Meteor’s anchors, so it’s somewhat of a moot point. However it was a big enough of an issue that I thought it was at least worth mentioning.

Styling

The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is available in 3 editions − the Fireball, Stellar, and Supernova.

The Meteor 350 Fireball – available in vibrant red or yellow single-colour fuel tanks and matching wheel rim lining – features a blacked-out exhaust, frame and engine components with machined fins.

The Stellar – which we had on test – with red, blue or matte black tanks and matching body components, comes with chrome handlebars and exhaust plus a comfy backrest for your pillion.

Then there’s the top-of-the-line Supernova finished in dual-tone blue or brown colour schemes with matching body parts, and comes with more detailed machined wheels, a choice of premium seat options and a windscreen.

Making its debut on the Meteor 350 is the new Royal Enfield Tripper. A turn-by-turn navigation module – not too dissimilar to the Beeline – that displays real-time directions after pairing with a smart phone. It’s a great idea, but it needs some work. You need to set up an account with Royal Enfield, download the app and then sync the bike to your phone. This process can be a little fiddly, and other users have had some majors issues with this last step – with some needing to delete and then reinstall the app every time they wanted to use Tripper. Obviously less than ideal.

Whilst I did find it to be a little fiddly, I was able to sync my phone, select my destination and use the device fairly easily. Once in use, navigation was okay, although directions were a little unclear at times, especially at roundabouts. It’s a novel idea, but as I said, needs some work.

The competition

Pros
  • All day comfort
  • Super smooth single offers plenty of charm
  • The price
  • Another entry-level cruiser added to the market
Cons
  • Spongy brakes with poor feel
  • Wiring is a little messy
In summary

So what did I think of the little guy?

I think Royal Enfield sum up the 2021 Meteor 350 perfectly when they say ‘Cruise Easy’.

You can ride around town all day on this bike, and it doesn’t miss a beat. Practical, comfortable and highly affordable, it really is an excellent option for those either looking for their first bike, or just something that’s cheap, reliable and perfect for the weekday commute.

With its bulletproof 350 single, it will also handle longer adventures, however not with the same nous that it does around town. The practical limitations of a small displacement single mean longer runs at higher speeds just aren’t as enjoyable as the slower stuff around town.

But that suits me fine. For a bike that starts at just $7,690 ride away, the Meteor 350 is a great little motorcycle, and I have no doubt that Royal Enfield will sell a bunch of them!  

2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Specs/Features:
  • Engine displacement: 349cc
  • Power: 20 bhp (15 kW) at 6100 RPM
  • Torque: 27 Nm at 4000 RPM
  • Engine type: air-oil cooled, single cylinder
  • Clutch: wet, multi-plate
  • Gearbox: 5-speed, constant mesh
  • Final drive: chain
  • Chassis: twin downtube spine frame
  • Fork: telescopic, 41mm forks with 130mm travel
  • Suspension: twin tube Emulsion shock absorbers with 6-step adjustable preload
  • Front brake: ByBre two-piston floating caliper on a single 300 mm disc
  • Rear brake: ByBre single-piston floating caliper on a single 270 mm disc
  • Wheels: 19 inch front and 17 inch rear with Ceat ‘Zoom Plus’ tyres as standard
  • Weight: 191 kg (wet – 90% of fuel and oils)
  • Fuel tank: 15 litres
  • Seat height: 765 mm
  • ABS as standard
  • Royal Enfield ‘Tripper’ navigation module, facilitating turn-by-turn navigation with smart phone pairing
  • Price as tested: $7,990 AUD (ride away – based on postcode 2000, Stellar Edition)
    • Fireball, available in Yellow and Red, starting at $7,690
    • Stellar, available in Red, Blue and Matte Black, starting at $7,990
    • Supernova, available in two-tone Blue and Brown, starting at $8,390

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