Feature: 4,000km aboard a Royal Enfield Super Meteor

    A long road trip shines a light on the Super Meteor's many strong points and few yet foundational flaws.

    Published On Dec 31, 2023 07:00:00 AM

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    Feature: 4,000km aboard a Royal Enfield Super Meteor

    Humans are very visual creatures, and when we find things attractive we are prone to forgive their shortcomings. Take the case of any cruiser worth its salt - by the rules that govern its design, it can't really have lots of suspension travel but those macho, low-slung looks are something that so many of us Indians are tempted by. I’m part of that crowd too, although my riding journey hasn't ever allowed me to spend any extended seat time aboard a cruiser. So when my departure for a long road trip with my friends neared, I was prompt to snag the keys to our long term Super Meteor 650

    To make sure I went into this fully prepared, a quick phone call to the generous folks at Royal Enfield for some protective and comfort enhancing accessories allowed our bike to be equipped with a sump guard, small (and rather sleek looking) engine guard and the backrest alongside a comprehensive service. Let me put a disclaimer here and say that over this long journey, I seldom encountered bad roads, which is the Super Meteor’s achilles heel so if you intend to tour far and wide without a guarantee of good roads awaiting you, this is something you really need to consider. 

    Calling this ride a bucket list ride would be fitting as we would be visiting Kanyakumari (the southernmost point of India), Rameshwaram (and therefore Dhanushkodi) and the pretty city of Pondicherry, all in about 10 days time. All excellent locations and highly recommended, if for nothing else, then the spectacular roads that lead to them!

     

    The first day would see our group stop just after crossing into the Karnataka border, in the town of Chitradurga - some 820km from Mumbai. Baptism by fire indeed considering this would be my first time riding the Super Meteor out on the highway fully loaded with luggage. At 430am our convoy set off from a languid Mumbai and an eclectic mix of bikes accompanied the Super Meteor 650 including a Bajaj Doiminar 400, KTM 390 Duke and three different Triumph Tigers - the venerable 800, the new 900 GT and 1200 GT Explorer

    By the time we crossed the Pune bypass, I was starting to feel a little out of sorts. It goes without saying that I'm not the most skilled rider around and having never ridden the Super Meteor outside urban limits I was a little tense. However, as the kilometres clicked by, I began to find my rhythm with the bike and leaned into its unique strengths. For example, unlike on a conventional street naked, I found it helped to move the bike via twisting your hips the opposite way. And this sweet charmer of an engine doesn't really reward you when you wring its neck. Keep it in the mid range and that's where it feels like it's your most willing companion. 

    Up until Karad the road is a mixed bag with diversions due to the highway widening process ensuring you can’t sustain a constant speed and the surface was also less than ideal. Small speed breakers, road undulations and the odd big pothole really started to take a toll on my back thanks to the firm rear suspension and cruiser ergonomics. Thankfully, the first and last days were the only times we encountered less-than-perfect roads because as you cross Karad, the road truly turns magnificent with a sprawling six lane highway greeting you with minimal traffic. This is exactly where the Super Meteor shines and really comes into its own. It feels unflappable at triple digit cruising speeds but if you need to make a sudden manoeuvre, the bike is a willing companion. 

    On such epic roads, that cruiser stance really makes you feel very special. You feel like the king of the road and the cockpit is a rather handsome (if a little simple and familiar) view to stare at for hours on end. Everything feels top notch at all touch points and even the hand grips are perfectly sized for my XL-sized hands (a common complaint of mine is bikes with thin grips making it hard to hold the throttle constantly on a long day). 

    Sitting comfortably on the stock seat nearly 8 hours into the journey, I realise I didn't really miss having the accessory touring seat, although those without well padded posteriors like mine should definitely opt for it. 

    The first two days are a mix of excellent highways and a LOT of riding - nearly 1300km have been added to the odometer already! And our first multi-night halt comes at the scenic little town of Kolli Hills in Tamil Nadu. The climb up those steep 70 hairpin bends was a proper challenge for me due to the low ground clearance, a lot of reckless bikers and a cavalcade of monkeys around every corner. Due to all those factors, our pace was very gentle on the climb up and I was looking forward to the run down the mountain. 

    Two days of merriment and sightseeing later, we were ready to make our way to the next stop on the trip - Kanyakumari. Luckily on the run down the mountain, traffic was quite sparse. Which meant I could finally up the pace a little. What that resulted in was the Super Meteor scraping its footpegs at nearly every corner and giving the larger Tiger 900 a run for its money on some occasions. This changed my mindset about cruisers being lumbering two-wheeled yachts, provided your inputs are correctly and measuredly given. Sorry for the multitude of scratches on the footpeg feelers, Royal Enfield! 

    As we neared Kanyakumari, the scenery turned from gorgeous to utterly spectacular and the photogenic Super Meteor was a treat to click pictures of. That day we must've stopped at no fewer than a dozen locations and at every one of them, almost as if on cue, a small crowd would materialise and enquire about just the usual things us bikers get asked. Among them, a great many questions were about the Super Meteor and it always had a crowd around it despite being parked next to larger, more expensive bikes. No mean feat and it proves that Indians seem to prefer cruisers over other body styles.

    At this point, I've gone on and on about how the Super Meteor is well finished, handles admirably and has achingly good looks. So what about the downsides? Painful as it is to point them out, I dutifully must. 

    If you encounter a less than ideal stretch of road, you'll find two problems that go hand-in-glove to make you miserable. The feet forward riding position means you can't really put your weight on your feet to escape the undulations, which merrily filter through the stiff twin rear shocks. 

    Another aspect that can stand to improve are the tyres. The CEAT Zoom Cruz’s are great in the dry but in cold or wet conditions, there's little to no feedback and they feel a little untrustworthy.

    Once below the halfway point, the fuel gauge has a mind of its own and even if you park the bike on the side stand the level rises and then drops suddenly once you resume riding. The finish on the metal parts on the bike needs to be better too, as our bike’s engine and top triple clamp have already started to develop some oxidation and rusting, respectively. 

    For those of you who are considering getting a Super Meteor as a tourer, if you're okay with the few (but fundamental) sacrifices it asks you to make, I'd suggest heading  directly to your nearest Royal Enfield dealer. It looks great, sounds quite neat (if a little quiet), has proven to be extremely reliable in our 10 months with it and has all the charisma and machismo of Clint Eastwood in his prime. Now if only one could bolt on the Shotgun 650’s mid set footpegs onto the Super Meteor…

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