Vintage-style bikes might be all the rage, but some can be quite expensive. Royal Enfield, though, has made a name for itself by offering more affordable options. The Continental GT 650, for example, combines café racer styling with modern reliability for less than, say, the Triumph Thruxton. And now, the Indian brand has a new model arriving in the US: the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350.
The 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 gives you “cruiser style for moped money,” Roadshow says
Although its layout resembles that of a standard bike, Royal Enfield calls the 2021 Meteor 350 a cruiser, RevZilla reports. And, to be fair, it has several ‘traditional’ cruiser hallmarks. Namely, somewhat-forward-set foot controls, swept-back handlebars, and a heel-and-toe shifter, RideApart reports. Plus, the range-topping Supernova trim comes with a windscreen, a pillion pad, and a backrest, RideApart reports.
Speaking of trims, the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 offers three of them. The base trim is the $4399 Fireball trim, followed by the $4499 Stellar, which comes with different colors, a pillion pad, and extra chrome, Roadshow reports. As for the Meteor 350 Supernova, it too has its own trim-specific colors and starts at $4599.
Each 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 has the same powertrain. The retro-style cruiser has a 349cc air/oil-cooled fuel-injected single-cylinder engine rated at 20 hp and 20 lb-ft with a five-speed transmission. That doesn’t seem like a lot of power, but the bike only weighs 421 pounds. And to slow things down, each trim comes standard with ABS-equipped ByBre disc brakes.
ABS isn’t the only piece of technology the Meteor 350 has, though. In addition to the analog speedometer with an LCD screen, each bike comes standard with Royal Enfield’s built-in navigation system. It connects via an app on your smartphone to deliver turn-by-turn directions and has a built-in USB port, MCN reports.
What’s the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 like to ride?
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 has a “middle-of-the-road” 30.1”-tall seat, Rider reports. Combined with its relatively light curb weight and modes output, it’s an extremely approachable bike, Cycle World reports. Plus, the riding position is excellent, especially for shorter riders, RideApart reports.
Admittedly, there are a few places where the 2021 Meteor 350 shows its budget-price status. The brakes, though effective, have a mushy feel, and the bike dives a bit under braking, CW reports. The clutch’s engagement point can also be a bit tough to find, and the toe shifter’s design makes upshifts tricky, RideApart reports. Plus, while the Royal Enfield navigation system is built around Google Maps, it’s limited to turn-by-turn directions only. And RideApart experienced some connectivity issues in its test, though Roadshow and Cycle World didn’t.
That being said, as with the similarly bargain-priced Himalayan, at least some of these drawbacks are forgiven at this price point. And overall, the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is an enjoyable motorcycle to ride. The suspension, while somewhat basic, soaks up bumps and imperfections well, Roadshow reports. Together with the chassis, it gives the Meteor 350 “admirable handling” and good straight-line stability, Cycle World reports. And the seat is all-day comfortable.
With only 20 hp, the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 isn’t particularly fast. Which, to be fair, is part of its appeal. And at around-town speeds, it’s torquey and “ready to play,” without any coarse noises or excess vibrations, RideApart reports. However, while it can reach 70-75 mph, it doesn’t have much highway passing power, Rider reports. It can handle short freeway rides, but it’s not really a touring bike.
Will it worry the likes of Harley-Davidson, Janus, and Honda?
The 2021 Meteor 350 should hit Royal Enfield dealers in May 2021. And considering its specs and price, more than a few beginner riders will likely take it for a test ride. But how do its rivals compare?
With its 349cc engine, the Meteor can’t really stand up to something like the Harley-Davidson Iron 883. However, the cheapest Sportster is more than twice as expensive as the Meteor 350 Supernova. And while it has an 883cc V-twin, the Iron 883 lacks standard ABS and navigation and weighs about 140 pounds more.
Arguably the Meteor 350’s biggest rival is the Honda Rebel 300. At $4899 with ABS, it’s more expensive than Royal Enfield’s little cruiser. And its single-cylinder engine is even smaller at 286cc. But it has a six-speed transmission, a slipper/assist clutch, and LED lighting. Plus, the Rebel 300 is about 60 pounds lighter than the Meteor.
The 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 does have one more American-market rival, though. That would be the Janus Halcyon 250. Like the Rebel 300 and Meteor, it has a single-cylinder engine. However, it’s a carbureted air-cooled 229cc single-cylinder engine that ‘only’ makes 14 hp and 12 lb-ft. Plus, at $7495, the 2021 Halcyon 250 is noticeably more expensive—and it doesn’t even have ABS.
But, unlike the Meteor 350, the Halcyon 250 is a hand-assembled bike, which for 2021 gets a new digital speedometer and optional LED headlight. A leather seat is standard, too. And even with fluids, it weighs less than 300 pounds. Plus, while it lacks ABS, its front suspension is designed to prevent brake dive; I can confirm that it does.
That being said, it’s unlikely that Meteor 350 buyers are cross-shopping Halcyons. So, while it’s not perfect, Royal Enfield’s new classic-style cruiser has a lot going for it.
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