After months and months of teasing, the Royal Enfield Meteor is finally here. And boy, does it look familiar.
The Meteor 350 is Royal Enfield’s way of getting with the times, and building a bike to meet up-to-date emissions standards. With regulators cracking down, the old Bullet 350 model was on the chopping block. Surprisingly, the Meteor 350 isn’t a huge departure from the Royal Enfield norm. It’s still an air-cooled single-cylinder motorcycle with retro styling, making moderate power (20 hp and 20 lb-ft of torque, according to India’s moto-press). Of course, the Meteor badge is a resurrection from the 1950s, Royal Enfield’s glory days of UK production. It has modern touches like EFI and some LED lights, though, and will have to have ABS to be sold in Europe. The engine has a counterbalancer, which will greatly cut down on vibration and make this bike much easier to ride than Royal Enfield’s vibey singles of old.
From an ADV standpoint, this machine looks like it carries on Royal Enfield’s tradition of rugged utility, with a simple-to-fix steel tube frame and dual rear shocks. Those are cast rims, though, which might cause some trouble while bashing through the Himalayas, and the machine doesn’t seem like it suffers from excess ground clearance.
Royal Enfield says the Meteor’s design was a collaboration between its Indian and UK design centres. Taking a step back, though, it’s pretty easy to see a similarity to something else: The Honda Rebel. And no wonder—Honda’s 300 and 500 cruisers have been grabbing huge market share in the small-capacity segment, because everyone else has basically given up on it. If Royal Enfield comes out with its own equivalent, not only does it head off potential Honda intrusion into its Indian home market, it also gives the company something to counter Honda overseas in the export market.
Speaking of which: Royal Enfield says it’s bringing the Meteor 350 to Europe in 2022. What about North America? Who knows—despite its on-again, off-again marketeering efforts, Royal Enfield’s efforts in North America seem to be half-hearted at best.