Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Review (2021)

 

The Meteor 350 is an all-new model from Royal Enfield that was unveiled to the world at the end of 2020 and is set to replace the Thunderbird, and seemingly on first glance was designed purely for the Asian markets – a small displacement cruiser with plenty of charm but not necessarily power. For a 191kg, single-cylinder machine, that is.

Not true, they said. It’s a European model developed in unison between the firm’s two technical centres in Chennai, India, and Bruntingthorpe in the UK. In fact, Arun Gopal, Royal Enfield’s Head of International Business, told us, “We want to be the leading mid-size motorcycle manufacturer globally – we believe this category is grossly underserved.”

This 349cc SOHC air-oil cooled machine is the first Euro 5 emission regulation compliant motorcycle from the Eicher Motors-owned company, and it replaces the outgoing and non-conforming, long-lived, air-cooled 499ccc singles. Stepping into an A2-friendly arena, a sector that’s about as popular as a fly in your soup, the Meteor 350 is sooooo wallet-friendly, it might just be the base model that young or inexperienced bike builders will be looking for that comes brand new out of the box. In theory it’ll be easy to customise and get you firmly welcomed into the Bike Shed fraternity.

But before anyone gets stripping it, what’s it like on the road? We thumped our way around deepest Warwickshire for a few hours to find out.

 

For and against
  • Easy to ride and unintimidating
  • Spectacularly well put together
  • Chassis and tyre combo
  • Heavy considering its size, power and target demographic
  • Occasionally slips out of 5th gear
  • Front brake lacks power
Come for a ride on the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350
BikeSocial’s Michael Mann offers an in-depth look around the new Royal Enfield Meteor 350
Royal Enfield Meteor 350 2021 Review Price Spec_124

Above: Take your pick of colour and spec

 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 (2021) Price

How much is the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350? The three-model range starts at £3749 for the Fireball. £3829 for the Stellar, and £3909 for the top-spec Supernova. Stellar comes with an additional pillion backrest whereas the Supernova has the backrest plus a windscreen, chrome badge and tan seat. All of which would be more than the £160 price difference between it and the Fireball.

Colour options are dependent on which model you select, though it’s only the fuel tank and wheel rim tape that are affected by your colour choice on the Fireball while it’s the tank, side panel and mudguards on the Stellar but just tank and side panel on the Supernova. Clear as mud. 

Fireball: Yellow or Red

Stellar: Red, Blue or Black

Supernova: Blue or Brown 

The bikes will be in dealerships in the coming weeks and that’s also when details of a PCP deal will be unveiled.

 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 2021 Review Price Spec_040

 

Power and Torque

The new 349cc 4-stroke motor produces a peak power of 20.2bhp @ 6100rpm while peak torque is 19.9lb.ft (27Nm) @ 4000rpm, which point towards city riding and short hops as opposed to longer distance cruising or speeds of more than 70mph.

Twinned with a 5-speed gearbox, the gear change on acceleration from zero matches every 10mph increment though going for an overtake, particularly uphill, needs planning and a big run up. That said, pootling around during the town section of our 60-mile press ride and the power is ample with low-down torque to scythe through any traffic. The throttle connection is neatly balanced and reacts well, though even when accelerating away from a crawl, sometimes 2nd gear won’t offer enough. In amongst the hedgerows of The Cotswolds' country lanes, if you need a punch of acceleration then snick down and gear and don’t be afraid to wrap that throttle all the way to the stop.

 

Above: your full colour suite

 

Engine, Gearbox and Exhaust

The single-cylinder, SOHC, air/oil-cooled, 4-stroke engine is hooked-up to a 5-speed gearbox as well as a balancer shaft so you can have your share of solo-cylinder thumpiness but thankfully with limited vibes. The gear-shift lever is a heel and toe rocker-style layout, introduced in the olden days for those not wishing to scuff the toe of their shoes. The novelty is entertaining and to change up or down simply requires a semi-forceful tap on either end of the lever, you’ll never scratch your footwear again. Through the first four gears, that tap is gentle enough to flick up or down and with little, if any, lurching. While there’s no quickshifter, the change is smooth enough to not warrant use of the clutch if you’re mildly rebellious or mechanically unsympathetic. A quick roll and change for the sportier acceleration.

You’ll need to have eaten an extra Weetabix for breakfast if 5th gear is required. The change needs to be emphasised otherwise there’s a chance the engine will surge a couple of times and drop you back to 4th. It happened twice to me, and others experienced it too.

Young, old, experienced, short, tall – it doesn’t matter because the Meteor 350 caters for all. It’s just as entertaining riding a slow bike fast, than a fast bike slow, and the new Royal Enfield demonstrates this perfectly. The engine has enough torque at low revs and an easy enough clutch lever operation to make town riding a doddle, the single cylinder motor dub-dub-dubs its way through the traffic with consummate ease and the single-sided, low-slung, pea-shooter style exhaust barely makes a sound. So much so that I deliberately didn’t wear earplugs for part one of the ride. The wind noise got a bit annoying but listening to the polite and pleasant 350cc single at low speed was charming.

 

 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 (2021) Comfort and Economy

As frugal as Scrooge himself with a claimed economy figure of 100mpg from its (rather excessive) 15 litre tear-drop style tank. That’s good enough for a range exceeding 300-miles! While we only covered 60-miles of mainly B-roads on our trip, I can’t judge on how precis that claim is though the digital fuel gauge had barely shifted by the time we got back to base.

A sturdy frame is the essence of the riding comfort, making the bike feel taught and direct in the turns while the lock-to-lock steering angles are vast allowing for tight turns. Sitting on a wide and neatly cupped seat at just 765mm high, my rear hasn’t historically enjoyed Bobber-style riding positions. Thankfully, the Meteor 350 isn’t as accentuated as a Bobber despite the foot pegs being positioned in front of fuel tank/seat meeting point. For most that’ll mean a 90-degree knee and hip bend and not too much of a stretch to the back-swept handlebars. The bike feels compact, yet the wheelbase suggests otherwise. The tank is low which offers a wide, open, and unobstructed feel to the cockpit and overall view of the road ahead. The press trip was split into shorter riding sections between photo stops so the longest I was in the saddle was 30-minutes and even then, I was eager for a stand ‘n stretch, so even though the very unintimidating riding position is really well suited to darting around towns, for me it’d only be useful for the shorter journeys.

Traditionally thumpy singles will offer more vibes than your favourite Instagrammers during a weekend/the summer yet the balancer shaft smooths many of those away, and a tell-tale sign is with the very convenient mirrors – easy to adjust, offering a wide view of what’s behind plus they useful at speed and not too shaky. All three models are fitted with pillion pegs though only the Stellar and Supernova come equipped with a backrest for your potential passenger. It is available as an optional extra, and while I wasn’t able to test the bike’s comfort capabilities for both rider and pillion when two-up, I suspect the 20.2bhp would be quickly used up if the Meteor 350 had an extra body on board.

 

 

Handling, Suspension and Weight

The seemingly oversized 19” alloy front wheel is actually a good move. In my opinion, the wheel size adds to the attraction of the overall cruiser look but it’s not just about the aesthetics. They’re fitted as standard with a set of ‘Zoom Plus’ tyres from Indian firm, CEAT, who worked with Royal Enfield on the development of this tyre for this bike. OK, so I didn’t test them in the wet, but they handled exceptionally well in the dry, even when pushing on a bit and seeing if the ground clearance is enough to prevent peg-scraping. It is, and it left me impressed over the turn-in and grip levels for the Meteor 350. Again, considering the cost and the customer-base, the CEAT rubber seems a really good match.

A rigid frame with twin downpipes and a solid backbone gives good stability. The long wheelbase helps too, with an agility level belying what a 350 single is conventionally supposed to achieve. It made wafting through the open B-roads very entertaining. There’s not enough power to make the front feel light under hard acceleration but because the weight, all 191kg of it, sits low and central I was almost compelled to keep pushing to feel any flex in the chassis or give in the tyres.

Yes, it’s heavier than I expected but while that makes it trickier to move around (particularly on gravel) for the less experienced, shorter, or weaker rider, on the flip side that weight helps keep the bike stable in the corners. On the suspension side, the telescopic 41mm front forks have plenty of travel and they do a fine and firm enough job over the manhole covers and assorted tarmac imperfections, much better than the twin rear shocks. They’re adjustable for preload but in the standard setting it was soft and just accentuated each bump, so much so that I was trying to lift myself off the seat if I foresaw a lump ahead. Adding a click or two might have softened the impact(s).

 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 (2021) Brakes

When building a bike to a budget and to develop it for all markets globally there has to be the odd cost-saving, and other than the rear shock, the front brake is a basic single 300mm disc set up that copes well enough considering the power the bike makes. That said, it’ll still do 70mph and weighs 190+ kg so add those together plus the rider’s weight and when you need to be stopping suddenly, the front tyre locks momentarily while the ABS sorts itself out and eventually you come to a standstill. It’s not the most advanced system and the feel of the brake lever is fairly vanilla. The travel in the lever and squeeze pressure required for a 70-0mph brake test won’t have clenching too hard.

 

Above: Sat nav just requires the Tripper app and a phone to connect via Bluetooth

 

Rider aids/Accessories

Up front you have two circular screens in front of the handlebars – centrally there’s a retro style, rather sparkly looking and very easy-to-read in an old-fashioned way analogue dash that in turn houses a basic digital display in the middle showing a gear indicator plus odometer/Trip A/Trip B. They can be toggled using an ‘I’ button on the left-hand ‘bar.

Then, offset to the right is a smaller, LCD screen showing turn-by-turn Google-driven sat nav called ‘Tripper’, though you’ll need to app first. If not using the app, then the screen shows the time.

And that’s it. There’s no modern day IMU’s, launch control or wheelie control. Not even heated grips or cruise control. That’s part of the charm of the Meteor 350; it’s basic and even nostalgic but with modern engineering holding it together.

With over 30 official, homologated accessories include engine guards, screens, and seats that all come with the same 3-year warranty as the bike itself, there’s plenty of time to be spent on the online configurator. Service intervals are at 10,000 km or 12 months after the first service at 500km.

 

Rivals

Stepping away from the more traditional and more mainstream smaller capacity motorcycles from the likes of Honda, Suzuki, KTM and Yamaha, I’ve gone with four that tend to compete more on power and price… and yes, I know the Sinnis is more of an adventure-style bike but it’s such a worthy competitor:

 

 

Mash Five Hundred

Sinnis Terrain 380

Herald Classic 400

Lexmoto Vendetta 250

Engine

397cc, single

378cc, twin

397cc, single

249cc twin

Power

26bhp (19.7kW) @ 7000rpm

36bhp (27kW) @ 9000rpm

27bhp (19.7kW) @ rpm

16.8bhp (12.5kW) @ 8500rpm

Torque

22.1ft-lb (30Nm) @ 5500rpm

26lb-ft (35Nm) @ 6500rpm

tbc

12.5lb-ft (17Nm) @ 5500rpm

Weight

151kg (dry)

200kg (wet)

165kg (dry)

151kg

Seat height

780mm

820mm

790mm

800mm

Fuel tank

13 litres

18 litres

12 litres

13 litres

PRICE

£3999

£4495

£4299

£2900

 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 (2021) Verdict

Low-cost easy cruising is the name of the game with the Royal Enfield Meteor 350. An attractive, charismatic, and alluring motorcycle customisable to a degree with the official accessories but it’s just waiting for both existing bike customisers and those with potential to gets their hands on.

There’s enough get-up-and-go for town use, while country lanes and dual carriageways will be entertaining from a new perspective if you’re not used to 20.2bhp. The bike is so well pieced together and has a range of excellent modern-day engineering touches like the impeccable switchgear layout, superb chassis, surprisingly good tyres, and overall build quality. Only time will tell if it stands up to the rigours of a UK winter and 8,000 miles per year but for now, I can say the new Royal Enfield appears to offer excellent value.

 

Above: In town, can you spot the heel and toe gear shifter?

 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 (2021) Technical Specification

New price

£3749

Capacity

349cc

Bore x Stroke

72 x 85.8mm

Engine layout

Single cylinder, air-oil cooled

Engine details

2 valves per cylinder

Power

20.2bhp / 14.87kW @ 6100rpm

Torque

19.9ft-lbs / 27Nm @ 4000rpm

Top speed

70.8mph (in 4th gear)

Transmission

5-speed constant mesh

Average fuel consumption

Claimed: 101.25mpg

Tank size

15 litres

Max range to empty

THEORETICAL: +300miles

Rider aids

Tripper navigation

Frame

Twin Downtube Spine

Front suspension

Telescopic 41mm forks, 130mm travel

Front suspension adjustment

n/a

Rear suspension

Twin Tube Emulsion shock absorber

Rear suspension adjustment

6-step adjustable preload

Front brake

300mm disc with twin piston floating calliper

Rear brake

270mm disc, single piston floating calliper

Front tyre

100/90-19 M/C57P CEAT Zoom Plus

Rear tyre

140/70-17 M/C 66P CEAT Zoom Plus

Dimensions (LxWxH)

2140mm x 845mm x 1140mm

Wheelbase

1400mm

Ground Clearance

170mm

Seat height

765mm

Weight

191kg (wet)

MCIA Secured rating

Not yet listed

Warranty

3-year (bike and official accessories)

Servicing

First service: 500km (310miles).

Then 10,000km (6200miles) or 12 months thereafter

Website

www.royalenfield.com

To learn more about what the spec sheet means, click here for our glossary.

Photos by Jason Critchell

 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 2021 Review Price Spec_100

 

What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription 

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.

 

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