I WAS looking through some motorcycle road tests from the 1960s. Sixty years ago magazine articles referred to 650 cc, twin cylinder motorcycles as “road-burners” and being “only suitable for expert riders”. Time has definitely moved on. Now 650 cc twins have become middleweights and learner legal motorcycles. Back in the 1960’s, Royal Enfield was manufacturing motorcycles in both the UK and India. In June 1970 Royal Enfield stopped building motorcycles in the UK. Production continued in India and by 1977 Enfield India was exporting motorcycles back to the UK and Europe. Just over 10 years ago production began at Royal Enfield’s new state-of-the-art factory in Tamil Nadu. In 2015 Enfield acquired the renowned British chassis design and engineering company Harris Performance. The new 650 cc twin Interceptor and Continental GT were unveiled at the EICMA show in Milan. Both have gone on to be huge sellers for Enfield alongside the Himalayan and the other 350 single cylinder models. It seems only logical that as Royal Enfield expanded its range they would put the 650 cc parallel twin into a cruiser.
I had to catch a train to the Shire to collect Royal Enfield’s Super Meteor 650 demo bike. Let’s just say that the journey back to Sydney was a lot more enjoyable than the train trip out. The Super Meteor is such an easy bike to ride. Turn the key. Push the starter. Adjust the mirrors. Pull in the light clutch. Pop it into first and away you go. Everything about it is friendly and un-intimidating from the 740 mm seat height to the remarkably flexible nature of the engine. It is one of those bikes that you feel you have been riding for years in the first 10 km. At low speeds in traffic the low down fuelling is lovely and smooth. I have ridden many much more expensive bikes with worse off-idle throttle response than the Super Meteor.
Over the next week riding the Super Meteor around Sydney I found myself enjoying its company more and more. Everything seemed a little easier on the Super Meteor. For a start, you don’t need to worry where you park it. It’s unlikely to be stolen and broken up for parts.
Finding your way around town is easy thanks to the Tripper Navigation system fitted as standard. Mounted in a small round LED display mounted next to the speedo it connects with your smartphone and gives basic navigational directions. Left, right, straight ahead, etc. Simple but surprisingly effective, not unlike the bike itself.
For me, it is the handling that really makes the Super Meteor fun around town. The thing just loves going around corners. Tight corners, open sweepers, roundabouts, you name it — it goes around them with minimum fuss, and with a surprising amount of ground clearance. No doubt those clever people from Harris Performance have weaved a little magic into the chassis for Enfield’s 650 cruiser. Achieving the holy grail of being both stable and flickable at the same time. Obviously the Super Meteor does not handle like a sports bike but for a mid-capacity cruiser the handling is a revelation. There are a lot of larger cruisers that would be struggling to keep up with a Super Meteor on a twisty road.
Despite its light footedness in the bends, the Super Meteor is more than 30 kg heavier than the Interceptor. Enfield quotes a kerb weight of 241 kg. I was surprised to find this out as the bike never feels that heavy. Another thing I was surprised by is that the Super Meteor is fitted with inverted forks and has more suspension travel than the Interceptor. Roughly another 10 mm at either end.
I managed to find some time mid-week for a ride to Stanwell Park just south of Sydney on the edge of the Royal National Park (RNP). I would be back in Sydney for work before midday. The sky was grey and the BOM app said there was a 70 percent chance of 15 mm of rain. Not a good start. The rain held off as the Super Meteor and I left Sydney and entered the RNP. As I have already mentioned, the Meteor was fun to toss around in the city; on the twisting roads of the RNP it was proper fun. If I was being picky, the rear shocks are a bit under-damped and some of the larger bumps make themselves felt.
The front brake is also a little light-on by itself; however, used in conjunction with the rear you can stop the Super Meteor pretty quickly. The rear brake is actually one of the most powerful I have used on any production road bike and has a lovely progress feel to it. The 300 mm diameter rear disc is only 20 mm smaller than the front and it appears to use the same ByBre twin-piston caliper unit. Probably a good time to mention that the Super Meteor runs alloy wheels, a 19-inch front and a 16-inch rear.
I had intended to turn around at Stanwell Park and head back into Sydney but the sun came out and I was enjoying the ride. I figured I would ride to Thirroul, get some coffee then take the Appin Road back to Campbelltown and on to Sydney and be at work for just after lunch. Instead, what happened was I got to Thirroul and the cafe looked busy so I kept on going. By the time I had stopped for a coffee in the Gong I was thinking Macquarie Pass is so close, I wondered how the Super Meteor would cope. There was only one way to find out. After Macquarie Pass I had to decide whether to turn right for Bowral and back to Sydney on the Hume or turn left for Kangaroo Valley, Berry, and back up the Princess Highway to Sydney. I stopped for petrol at the Mobil in Kangaroo Valley. The Super Meteor’s tank holds 15.7 litres giving a useful approximately 300 km-ish range. The sun shone all the way back to Sydney. I even made it to work in time for a knock-off beer. One of my work-mates asked how riding a LAMs bike was. I just smiled and told him it beats working.
The engine is unchanged from the Interceptor and Continental models putting out 47 bhp at 7250 rpm and 52.3 Nm at 5650 rpm. The demo bike was painted in Astral Blue. The Super Meteor comes in two other solid metallic colours and four two-colour versions.
As always, you don’t have to listen to a word I say. Go test ride one yourself. Royal Enfield will sell you one for $11,990 on the road. It will come with a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. That is a lot of motorcycle for the money, LAMs or not.
tech article by Paul Angus