There are many definitions for the word “cruise,” but one of them is to travel “without a precise destination, especially for pleasure.” Another is to “travel smoothly at a moderate or economical speed.” Those definitions apply well to riding a cruiser like the 2023 Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650.
In America, “cruiser” brings to mind motorcycles that are long, low, and heavy, typically with a big air-cooled V-Twin and a logo from a heritage brand like Harley-Davidson or Indian on the tank. Royal Enfields have been in continuous production since 1901 – beating Harley-Davidson by two years and matching Indian’s year of birth – so it’s got the heritage part covered. But Royal Enfield takes a different approach to building a cruiser.
Inspired by the 1956-62 Royal Enfield Super Meteor 700 – U.K.’s largest-displacement Twin at the time and available with factory-fitted touring panniers – the new Super Meteor 650 is powered by an air/oil-cooled 648cc parallel-Twin and has styling that leans more British classic than American traditional. Chrome is found only on the dual exhausts and mirrors, while most other finishes are black or satin silver. It’s available in standard trim as well as with Solo Tourer and Grand Tourer accessory packages.
The Super Meteor’s wheels are cast aluminum, with a 19-incher up front carried by an inverted fork and a 16-incher out back flanked by exposed dual shocks. With reasonably generous rear suspension travel, a 29.1-inch seat height, and a 59.1-inch wheelbase, it is both taller and shorter than most cruisers. (The Indian Scout Sixty, for example, has a 25.6-inch seat height and a 62-inch wheelbase.)
Riding Through Rajasthan
Based in Chennai, India, Royal Enfield invited motojournalists from around the world to its home country for a first ride on the Super Meteor 650. Over the course of two days, we logged nearly 300 miles on rough-and-tumble roads in the western state of Rajasthan, a mostly desert region that borders Pakistan. Curves were few, but road hazards were many, including crumbling (or missing) pavement, teeth-rattling cobblestones, unexpected dips and drops, ubiquitous speed bumps of all shapes and sizes, and even a long, deep patch of sand.
The real-world handling course was made spicier by chaotic swarms of pint-sized motorcycles, smoke-belching tuk-tuks, trailer-towing farm tractors, clapped-out busses, and overloaded trucks. Since India is a former British colony, everyone drove on the left side of the road, but otherwise traffic laws were all but ignored. Oh, and let’s not forget the wandering (and sacred) cows, herds of goats and sheep, unpredictable dogs, even more unpredictable pedestrians, and a few camels.
“In India, horns are wear items,” said Mark Hoyer, Cycle World’s editor-in-chief, and using them is its own artful language. Trucks in India are often colorfully painted, and many have “BLOW HORN” written in large letters on the back.
So we didn’t exactly ride the Super Meteor 650 for pleasure, nor did we ride it smoothly or at a moderate speed. But the ride certainly was memorable.
Soul of a Royal Enfield Super Meteor
The Super Meteor 650 is the third model built on Royal Enfield’s 650 Twin platform. The first two were the Continental GT and INT650, both of which debuted for 2019. All three share an air/oil-cooled 648cc parallel-Twin with large cooling fins, SOHC with four valves per cylinder, and a single-piece forged, counterbalanced crankshaft with a 270-degree firing interval. The engine has a 9.5:1 compression ratio and runs on regular fuel, with injection and engine management supplied by Bosch. For the Super Meteor, the Twin gets new engine covers and darker finishes.
All modern Royal Enfields are jointly designed by teams at the company’s design centers in the U.K. and India. The Super Meteor 650 was extensively tested and validated with state-of-the-art rigs and lab equipment as well as a purported 1 million kilometers on a variety of roads. The engine endured 1,500 hours on the dyno under various duty cycles, and bikes were subjected to rain, deep water, mud, altitude, and harsh environmental conditions.
Although a 650 is considered a big bike in India – most motorcycles are 100-125cc – it’s considered a middleweight by American standards. The 650 Twins are global models designed to be accessible for as many riders as possible. The engine fires up eagerly, idles quietly, and chugs along at a relaxed cadence with smooth throttle response, minimal vibration (just a touch of that Twin tingle), and easy-to-manage power. Like the Continental GT and INT650, claimed output is 46.4 hp at 7,250 rpm and 38.6 lb-ft of torque at 5,250 rpm. Modest figures, yes, but the Super Meteor 650 felt peppy pulling away from a stop and ran at 80 mph without complaint for long stretches of our test ride.
- Helmet: Arai Contour-X
- Jacket: Scorpion Stealthpack
- Gloves: Scorpion SGS MK II
- Pants: Scorpion Covert Ultra Jeans
- Boots: Sidi Gavia Gore-Tex
Royal Enfield endeavored to create what it considers a “proper” cruiser – one with a relaxed riding position where the rider’s body line is slightly reclined. Unlike the stretched-out, arched-back rider triangle of long and low cruisers, riders sit more upright on the Super Meteor, and the ergonomics are compatible with spending long hours in the saddle. I’m 6 feet tall with long arms and a 34-inch inseam, and I found the seat to be supportive (it’s wide at the back for comfort and narrow in front for easy stand-over), the angle and position of the pullback handlebar to be natural, and the forward foot controls to be sensibly placed.
Royal Road Warrior
Like the other 650 Twins, the Super Meteor 650 is solidly built. Its tubular-steel spine frame was jointly designed with Harris Performance (now owned by parent company Eicher Motors Ltd.), and it’s made from a combination of investment casting, pressing, extrusion, and forging. Below the seat is a V-shaped rear frame loop that mimics those found on other Royal Enfields like the Bullet and the Meteor 350.
Up front, a nonadjustable 43mm Showa Separate Function Big Piston fork – the first inverted fork offered on a Royal Enfield – has 4.7 inches of travel. Out back, dual shocks have five-position preload adjustment and 4 inches of travel. Damping was compliant with minimal harshness even under the adverse road conditions we encountered – especially those infernal speed bumps – and the rear springs were robust enough to support my husky bodyweight. Single discs – 320mm in front, 300mm at rear – are pinched by 2-piston floating calipers that provide decent stopping power, with standard anti-skid insurance (ABS).
With a wide handlebar, a tidy wheelbase, and narrow tires (100/90-19 and 150/80-16), the 531-lb Super Meteor wound around curves and dodged obstacles with ease. The agility test we perform repeatedly at press launches and photoshoots is U-turns, and during those tight maneuvers the bike’s steering felt neutral and its weight balanced.
Ensconced within a satin-finished bezel, the Super Meteor 650’s LED headlight is another first for Royal Enfield. The bright-white light is eye-catching during the day, and as we found out while riding back to our hotel after late-light photography, it projects a wide, distant beam at night. Mounted on the rear fender is an LED tail/brake light. The Super Meteor comes standard with a centerstand, which simplifies chain maintenance.
Fit and Finish
Building on the impressive foundation of the Continental GT and INT650, the Super Meteor 650 is Royal Enfield’s most premium motorcycle to date. There are thoughtful, attractive details from stem to stern, such as a crossbar bearing an embossed Royal Enfield logo inside the headlight. The headlight holder, upper and lower yoke, and handlebar risers and clamps are all made of forged aluminum with an anodized finish. Both hand levers are adjustable for reach, and the switch cubes are made of aluminum with a satin finish. The dual round gauges include a large meter with analog speedometer and an inset multifunction digital display. A smaller meter houses the Tripper navigation system, which provides turn-by-turn routing.
On the 4.1-gal teardrop tank is a beautiful meteor-shaped Royal Enfield badge that follows the shape of the tank and echoes winged Royal Enfield logos of the past. The brushed aluminum fuel filler cap is lovely to behold. Several colorways include gold pinstriping on the tank that’s done by hand – by the same two brothers who have worked at the Chennai factory for years.
The Celestial Red Tourer version I rode at the launch had a two-tone tank as well as several accessories – a windshield, a deluxe two-up seat, and a passenger backrest. The windshield provided good protection from oncoming airflow, and its center vent equalizes pressure to reduce buffeting. Others rode a solo version of the standard model with the small pillion pad replaced by a fender-hugging rear rack. Grouped under Grand Tourer and Solo Tourer themes, there are 50 Genuine Motorcycle Accessories for the Super Meteor 650, including hard-shell saddlebags, a top box, machined alloy wheels, and a long list of bolt-on bits for both style and function.
At the global launch in January, Royal Enfield announced pricing and availability for Europe and India, but that information has not yet been released for the U.S. By way of comparison, the U.K. price for the Super Meteor 650 is £6,799, and the Continental GT with a chrome tank is priced at £6,899. In the U.S., the same Continental GT model starts at $7,149, so if pricing is roughly equivalent, then expect to pay about $7,269 for the Super Meteor 650 here.
Its nearest competitor in the U.S. is the Kawasaki Vulcan S, which also has a 650cc parallel-Twin and is priced at $7,899. But it lacks passenger accommodations and isn’t nearly as attractive as the Royal Enfield.
Keep On Cruisin’
On several occasions during my first year as a Rider staffer, my enthusiasm exceeded my skills, resulting in me dumping a few bikes. While crying the blues to my friend Maeve about putting my dream job at risk, she reassured me and said, “You’ve got to find your inner cruiser.”
As much as I like to live the old CityBike motto – ride fast and take chances – I’ve also learned to slow down and enjoy a more relaxed riding style. Cruisers are meant to cruise and to look good doing it. The Super Meteor 650 does both – impressively so for such a reasonable price.
2023 Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650 Specs
- Base Price: $7,269 (estimated)
- Website: RoyalEnfield.com
- Warranty: 3 yrs., unltd. miles w/ roadside assistance
- Engine Type: Air/oil-cooled, transverse parallel-Twin, SOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
- Displacement: 648cc
- Bore x Stroke: 78.0 x 67.8mm
- Horsepower: 46.4 @ 7,250 rpm (factory claim)
- Torque: 38.6 lb-ft @ 5,650 rpm (factory claim)
- Transmission: 6-speed, cable actuated slip/assist wet clutch
- Final Drive: Chain
- Wheelbase: 59.1 in.
- Rake/Trail: 27.6 degrees/4.7 in.
- Seat Height: 29.1 in.
- Wet Weight: 531.3 lb (90% fuel, factory claim)
- Fuel Capacity: 4.1 gal.