"The best cruiser I’ve ridden... bar none".
17 November 2023
WORDS: Jock McLauchlan PHOTOS: Geoff Osborne
I know that’s a big statement, but it’s true. Royal Enfield’s Super Meteor 650 is the best cruiser motorcycle I have ever ridden. It is genuinely top fun to ride; a bike that puts a smile on your face for the least obvious reasons… and none of the things one would normally rave about like huge power, sharp turn-in, brick wall-like stopping.
No, it is not particularly fast, yet the engine is a charming gem. Handling is somewhat lazy and yet perfectly pleasant and capable. Likewise, stopping performance is not astonishing either and yet the braking is nicely in keeping with the design of the Super Meteor.
The new boy from Royal Enfield is honest cruiser that owns what it is, does not pretend to be something it is not and delivers a ride of pure joy. A mid-sized cruiser it is, but it is never boring and performs with panache, competence, and character. This is the best example of a bike defying the spec sheet ever I’ve seen. Let’s dive in...
At the heart of the Super Meteor is an air/oil-cooled, fuel-injected, 648cc parallel twin with a single overhead camshaft. The clutch is manually operated and the gearbox has six speeds. A small discreet oil cooler rests under the steering stem on the frame down tubes.
The motor produces 35kW (46.8hp) at 7250rpm and 52.3Nm of torque at 5650rpm. It has a modest compression ratio of 9.5:1 and what feels like fairly substantial flywheel/crank mass. And it is one of the nicest motors I’ve used and I’d personally love to see it in the Himalayan (c’mon Royal Enfield, everyone’s been bugging you to do this for years - Ed).
The Super Meteor requires zero special skill to ride it well. It doesn’t really ever care what gear you are in, there is a smooth, low revving pulsing torquey delivery that still manages to be fun and quick enough. Near where I live is a tight, uphill 30km/h corner, so I thought why not try and cruise uphill around it in top gear? By the way, sixth gear is very much an overdrive ratio. Well, the Super Meteor chugged around it with aplomb, sure it was never going to loft the front wheel, but all the while it was emitting a lovely, civilised, pulsing exhaust note and oodles of character.
The effortlessness, flexibility, and general ease of use for a comparatively small-capacity engine is fantastic. What is more, the engine feels cool and engaging all the time, which is a bit of a mind-bending result in our bigger is better and faster world. It is difficult to accurately describe, but the engine gets you right in the feels, lightening your soul. Happy days.
Full disclosure, cruisers are not generally my thing because I find the feet forward position bloody uncomfortable after about 45 minutes - because I can’t take any weight off my arse or stand up stretch my legs. Also, the cruiser design inherently compromises dynamic capabilities.
So, considering that wee rant… the Super Meteor is amazing. Yes, your feet are out in front of you, but not too far. The seat is a low 740mm from the deck and extremely comfortable too. In general, the riding position is very nice.
And the chassis gets a big tick too. While longish with a 1.5 metre wheelbase and a relaxed 27.6-degree steering head angle, turning the 650 is easy, predictable, and accurate. I did a 40km section of very twisty roads effortlessly and never so much as touched a footpeg down. That’s not something I can say about any previous cruiser I have tested. That’s not to say it could not be done, but it’s not a limiting factor for normal riding.
There’s a steel tube frame holding it all together, Showa suspension and single discs front and rear with dual channel ABS. The wheels are a 16-inch at the back and 19-inch up front wearing 150/80 and 100/90 rubber respectively. The tyre sizes are a good choice, they compliment and contribute to the easy handling.
At over 241kg wet, the single discs at each end have their work cut out, but do a solid job. However, the large rear 300mm disc and twin-piston caliper work very well, better than most bikes in fact, and actually deliver decent stopping power. Probably because of the long wheelbase, rearward weight distribution and not overly intrusive ABS. The front 320mm disc and two-piston caliper works well enough, although I’d still prefer there were two of them for a bit more bite.
Suspension action is quite good offering a comfortable and mostly controlled ride. The rear only gets unsettled when the road surface is very bumpy. The twin rear shocks offer 101mm of axle travel and have five steps of preload adjustment.
USD forks with 43mm stanchions provide 120mm of travel. Their action is good, riding nicely over bumps, delivering good feedback and feel.
FIT AND FINISH
The Super Meteor has great-looking build quality, the fit and finish seem excellent. Our test machine came in an understated dark green and black with lots of chrome, polished alloy, and nice detailing. The look is clearly retro, but with plenty of modern touches, like alloy wheels, disc brakes, LED lighting with daytime running lights and an analogue dash with digital info… and a USB port. I particularly liked the polished alloy switch blocks the took me back to my SL100 days.
More things I liked were the old school analogue speedo with digital insert for odometer, fuel, temperature, gear, time, and clock. Separate warning lights are mounted above the lower edge. And yes, it does have a pillion seat, but you would want a tiny pillion and not going far; it’s more of a styling exercise than a practical seat.
As you might have figured out by now, the Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650 came as a total surprise to me. It’s completely likeable, extremely characterful, and highly competent. One of the few bikes that’s greater than its spec sheet and sum of its parts. It is one very rare machine that is much better in all regards than you might imagine. Royal Enfield has built a gem.
Article kindly provided by kiwirider.co.nz
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