Wait! No, Royal Enfield has not rebadged its now-defunct Thunderbird X to call it Meteor 350!
Yes, the overall scheme of things between the two motorcycles from the stables of RE might look similar from a distance, but trust us, that is just about it!
We rode the all new Meteor 350 and contrary to some beliefs it is completely different from its predecessor, the Thunderbird X. Different – good, yes.
After getting our hands on the motorcycle and having ridden it extensively, we have to admit Royal Enfield has done a great job in acknowledging minor negatives to come up with such a fine cruiser much to the liking of its newer riders while keeping its legacy intact.
Chassis, engine & dynamics
With time come sweeping changes, well… to almost everything. Royal Enfield is no different. In a welcome change, the company has come up with an all-new chassis for the Meteor 350 which replaces the aged single cradle with a double downtube frame.
The Meteor comes packed with a 349cc air-oil cooled single-cylinder engine mated to a 5-speed gearbox which churns out 20.2 bhp and 27 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. Turns out, the refinement on this single overhead camshaft (SOHC) engine is nothing like ever before from the legendary motorcycle brand. With minimal vibrations, the smoothness of the engine can be felt right from the word go, as you crank up the engine. The company has done a great job in balancing the much loved, ever-so-popular RE ‘feel’ and refinement by curbing the crudeness of the vibrations by a large extent.
The sharp and smooth gear shifts also contribute a great deal to the overall smoothness. While the first gear might feel a tad bit short, 2,3 and 4 are relatively tall with the 5th being an overdrive, helping an effective city drive and a comfortable highway cruise. However, little jerks that are felt in the handlebar and the side mirrors makes us feel that an absence of a 6th gear is felt beyond speeds of 120kmph
That apart, we are happy to say RE has listened to the new-age riders who wished for smooth and refined riding experiences, after fancying owning the Bullets and the Thunderbird 535s which some uncle in the family or someone in the neighbourhood owned.
Ride quality & Tech
The conventional suspension set up of 41mm telescopic front and a pre-load adjustable rear on the bike is so well equipped for the Indian roads that your lower back will thank you for choosing the Meteor 350. Bumps, potholes… no problem, the bike can take it all. Though off-roading is clearly not its forte, the cruiser can soak in quite a lot and keep the rider comfortable as the ground clearance on the bike has been increased by 35mm to a much comfortable 170 mm in comparison to the Thunderbird X.
The seat height is now down by 10mm from the Thunderbird X to 765mm much to the cheer of shorter riders. The rider triangle is now much more relaxed with forward-set footpegs which helps in the right distribution of weight while the rider gets to sit in a more upright and commanding stance which feels more comfortable.
The 19 inch front and the 17 inch rear Ceat Zoom plus tyres give a planted feeling even on corners while the 300 mm front disk and 240 mm rear disk give a confident braking experience with dual-channel ABS coming as standard on all variants.
On the tech front, the semi-digital speedometer pod now comes along with Royal Enfield’s first TFT LCD unit as a bluetooth navigation screen which replaces the tachometer that was seen on the Thunderbird X. The display of fuel, time gear indicator and odometer is crisp and is clearly visible even on the sunniest of days. The control switch for the meters is placed on the switchgear which feels plush with the introduction of the funkily-styled ignition cum engine kill switch which is also accompanied by a switch for hazards lights. The bike also features a sturdy USB charging port which is placed in a perfect spot behind the switchgear.
With all the modern elements, tech and the quintessential RE thump, the bike makes for an amazing cruiser and equally good ride in the city with great maneuverability. A long list of firsts for a Royal Enfield’s cruiser makes us feel that the Meteor 350 is from the manufacturer’s new universe.