The Royal Enfield 350 cc motorbike is the stuff of legends. From the Nineteen Fifties and nicely into the second decade of the twenty first century, the 350 cc Royal Enfield has been the mainstay of the Royal Enfield model’s mannequin portfolio. And over greater than 4 a long time, it has been constructed on only one forged iron, pushrod engine, which noticed its first full replace solely across the flip of the milennium. First got here the 350 cc aluminium AVL engine, in 1999, with the basic proper hand aspect four-speed gearshifter within the Royal Enfield Machismo 350 AVL. The identical engine was then used with a five-speed gearbox with left-hand-side gearshifter within the first-generation Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 AVL, a motorbike that spawned a complete new era of followers.
Additionally Learn: Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Launched At ₹ 1.75 Lakh
Going forward in expertise, and in an effort to modernise its engines, Royal Enfield launched the unit building engine, or UCE, in 2009, with an built-in gearbox, in each 350 cc and 500 cc variants. The brand new era Thunderbird 350 additionally received an UCE 350 engine, which was additionally prolonged to different fashions within the household, together with the Bullet 350 and the Basic 350, which by the way turned out to be Royal Enfield’s bestselling mannequin, and continues to stay so.
Additionally Learn: Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Launch Highlights
And now, in 2020, Royal Enfield has launched the all-new Meteor 350, the alternative for the Thunderbird, which has been positioned as a worldwide product, with international aspirations, and constructed round an all-new engine, chassis and design. So, is the brand new Meteor 350 truly essentially the most modern and future-proof Royal Enfield 350, which can seemingly sail to abroad markets to assist Royal Enfield’s international ambitions? We spend a number of days with the latest Royal Enfield 350 to get a way of what it presents and if it has the products to ship. The Meteor 350 is obtainable in three variants, with the bottom Meteor 350 Fireball priced at ₹ 1,75, 825 (Ex-showroom), the mid-spec Meteor 350 Stellar priced at ₹ 1,81,342 (Ex-showroom), and the top-spec Meteor 350 Supernova variant priced at ₹ 1,90,536 (Ex-showroom).
All-New 350 cc Platform
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is constructed on an all-new 350 cc platform. So, it will get an all-new engine, constructed round an all-new chassis, and it is a product of Royal Enfield’s international workforce, with inputs from the UK Expertise Centre workforce, and the engineering workforce at Royal Enfield’s R&D centre right here in Chennai, India. The Meteor 350 is alleged to have taken over 3 years of growth, however constructed with one ambition – to retain the character and really feel of Royal Enfield’s 350 cc single, but in addition to provide the brand new Meteor 350 the refinement to scale back vibrations, make the gearbox extra exact and easy, and introduce the next-generation Royal Enfield cruiser as a product match to be offered all over the world.
By way of engine structure, the brand new 349 cc, single-cylinder, air and oil-cooled engine has some important and noteworthy modifications. Displacement has gone up from 346 cc to 349 cc, with a rise in bore from 70 mm to 72 mm, however stroke has been lowered from 90 mm to 85.8 mm. Extra importantly although, for the primary time for a Royal Enfield 350 cc single, the pushrod structure has been executed away with, and the brand new engine makes use of a single overhead camshaft, and employs a gear major drive as an alternative of chain. In numbers, the brand new engine makes nearly 1 bhp greater than the older engine, however most energy of 20.2 bhp is achieved at 6,100 rpm, in comparison with 19.1 bhp of the older UCE 350 at 5,250 rpm, successfully widening the usable rev vary. Peak torque has gone down from 28 Nm at 4,000 rpm to 27 Nm at 4,000 rpm, however Royal Enfield says the brand new engine presents a wider torque unfold, throughout the rev vary, beginning at round 2,400 rpm, all the best way to over 4,500 rpm. The engine additionally makes use of a major balancer shaft to scale back vibrations, a identified ‘attribute’ even within the UCE 350 engine.
The gearbox remains to be a five-speed unit, however the shifts are smoother, and the gearbox employs an overdrive fifth gear for easy freeway cruising. The clutch is mild, and the gas calibration, ignition and lightweight clutch actuation all come collectively to make the brand new Meteor 350 an instantly likeable motorbike, even at metropolis speeds. There aren’t any false neutrals, no notchy shifts, and the engine refinement comes throughout even from the marginally muted ‘thump’ the second you hearth up the bike with the brand new interval right, rotary starter change. The chassis is all-new too, and now employs a twin downtube body, which is alleged to be examined over hundreds of kilometres, over a number of geographies and totally different terrain.
Straight off the mark, the brand new Royal Enfield Meteor 350 feels all-new. The very first thing that strikes you, and impresses instantly, is the refinement. There isn’t any clatter from the engine, and the engine revs smoother and freer, even when cruising steadily at metropolis speeds. Refinement ranges have improved tremendously, even with the two-valve engine, and appreciable thought and engineering effort appears to have gone to scale back vibrations, one thing which had been the Royal Enfield single’s Achilles Heel. Throttle response is crisp, fuelling is spot on, and the engine’s response, even at speeds underneath 60 kmph, feels extra keen, extra sprightly than the UCE 350 it would substitute.
The gearshifts on the Meteor 350’s five-speed gearbox are slick and exact, and really feel marginally smoother and surer even than the slick-shifting 6-speed gearbox of the flagship 650 Twins; and that is saying one thing! Out on the freeway, what is kind of noticeable is that the brand new 350 cc engine feels livelier at speeds over 80 kmph. Most velocity nonetheless tops out at 120 kmph, however the lack of vibrations, and the refined engine means that you can cruise effortlessly, for hours, even at 100-110 kmph, and that is a major enchancment over the UCE engine. The truth is, you’ll be able to hold the throttle pinned open, and never really feel the brand new engine feeling stressed. The one wishlist on the efficiency to us, is probably barely higher prime finish, to could also be 130 kmph which might have made it simply that rather more entertaining.
The using place is typical cruiser, and though the 765 mm seat peak has been lowered, in comparison with the older Thunderbird 350, the forward-set footpegs, coupled with the low seat peak make for a ‘totally different’ using place. Ergonomically, the one difficulty I felt was that the brand new using place did not really feel as snug as the sooner Thunderbirds, notably the first-generation mannequin. That, to me, is a miss, as a result of the typical buyer would need to discover the Meteor 350’s long-distance rideability. And the truth that it is solely the using place which can make the rider need to take breaks, lengthy earlier than the engine feels stressed, or the gas tank would require a refill, is one thing of a dampener.
The stiff rear suspension with the brand new double cradle chassis make the Meteor 350 sure-footed and planted, even when leaned over round a nook, or sweeping curve, however the tyres don’t give the rider confidence to push more durable. The arduous compound rubber could provide extra life to house owners, however softer rubber actually would have supplied much better ranges of grip. Each time I attempted to push the Meteor 350 round a nook, the bike felt twitchy, with the wheels feeling like they may lose traction, and I needed to again off. The brand new chassis does provide higher dynamics, however the tyres certain are undoubtedly a letdown. However, the 19-inch entrance and 17-inch rear wheel mixture now include commonplace alloys and are shod with tubeless tyres. And dual-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is commonplace. The 300 mm entrance disc and 270 mm rear disc mixture presents satisfactory stopping energy, which conjures up confidence to shave off velocity in a rush.
The New Look
There isn’t any mistaking the truth that the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is the brand new Royal Enfield cruiser. The truth is, in practically per week of using the Meteor 350 across the metropolis and out on the freeway, there have been only a few riders on different bikes who gave it a second look. The silhouette remains to be unmistakably Thunderbird, and at first look, the one variations, to the individual on the road, appears to be the brand new colors, and the marginally totally different tail part; each maybe coming throughout as the results of an aftermarket customized job, relatively than being components of an all-new motorbike.
Look nearer although, and the match and end has turn into lots higher, together with higher parts. The brand new, period-correct, rotary switches and the tapered hand grips exude old-school cool, however the go change takes a while getting used to. The instrument console is all-new with an uneven twin-pod, with the bigger dial housing the analogue speedometer, and a small LCD console giving read-outs for journey meters, odometer, clock, gas gauge and even a gear place indicator. The smaller pod on the precise additionally shows a much bigger read-out for the clock, nevertheless it additionally doubles up because the show for the turn-by-turn navigation, accessed by way of the Royal Enfield Tripper app with Bluetooth connectivity.
The turn-by-turn navigation works brilliantly, though the beta model geared up on our check bikes is not production-ready but. Different options on the app, like creating journey occasions, and the Make It Yours customisation characteristic have but to be operational, one thing the manufacturing bikes will include. We hope to get a working instance of the Royal Enfield Tripper app quickly, and a separate in-depth evaluation of that, together with the totally different options can be up to date as quickly as we pay money for that. The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Supernova variant we’re using is the top-spec variant, and comes with a regular windscreen, and pillion back-rest. The design kind of, appears good, but when there’s one factor, which did not fairly get our approval, is the design of the tail part, together with the rear fender and the taillight. By some means, the tail part design felt misplaced with the general design of the bike, at the least, to our eyes.
The Remaining Phrase
The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 won’t simply be a alternative for the Thunderbird 350 in India, however has been developed as a worldwide product. In accordance with Royal Enfield, it is going to be offered not simply in India, but in addition in markets like Thailand, Europe and North America. The Meteor 350 has been developed with learnings and information from the flagship 650 Twins, and that’s obvious within the refinement ranges and engineering. With smoother and livelier efficiency from the brand new engine, the brand new RE Meteor 350 is probably the most effective 350 cc engine that really heralds Royal Enfield’s journey into the twenty first century, with ambitions to turn into the worldwide chief in mid-size bikes.
With the identical platform anticipated to be prolonged to the Royal Enfield Bullet 350, and the Royal Enfield Basic 350, the brand new Royal Enfield 350 cc platform will get a much-needed improve, not simply in expertise, however in options as nicely, to mark the start of a product which feels and performs like a real blue trendy basic in the true sense. It nonetheless retains the easygoing, laid again character and really feel of a quintessential Royal Enfield, but has the refinement of a contemporary engine. If the brand new 350 cc platform is any indication, Royal Enfield may very nicely have taken the primary certain steps to take its 350 cc single-cylinder engine nicely into the long run, and to the world, to probably even make straightforward, relaxed using the ‘cool’ and ‘in’ factor to do.
(Pictures: Kingshuk Dutta)
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