Royal Enfield's first entry into the 650cc LAMS cruiser segment isn't just good, it could be the best in the class.
The low-capacity cruiser market took a major hit when mandatory ABS was introduced into the New Zealand market hot on the heels of Harley-Davidson discontinuing its only LAMS offering - the Street 500.
This meant riders wanting an authentic learner-approved cruiser were reduced to a selection of modern bikes that somewhat lacked the classic cool factor that often attracts riders to a cruiser in the first place.
Thankfully, Royal Enfield has filled that gap with its Super Meteor 650, a bike that brings classic cool back to the LAMS cruiser segment along with the necessary modern amenities.
Royal Enfield itself has undergone a vast transformation over the last decade. Moving from ancient motorcycles designed in the 1950s to modern bikes with some of the latest technology in the segment, Royal Enfield has surged its development into a true juggernaut on the global market. The Super Meteor 650, along with the new Himalayan 450, cements this view as fact.
While Royal Enfield already held a spot in the segment with its $8,190 Meteor 350, its 19.8hp of fury on offer left many underwhelmed and wanting more. As such, the Super Meteor 650, which comes at a $3300 premium over the Meteor 350, builds upon Royal Enfield’s much-loved 47hp 650cc twin-cylinder engine platform and raises the bar in numerous respects.
Build quality feels like a step up on the Continental GT we rode last year, while componentry has also been given a big boost with the inclusion of larger 43mm Showa forks residing in alloy triple clamps.
This is all made very clear as soon as you sit down in the 740mm high saddle. The bike exudes quality with the gleaming metal switchgear and just a smidge of chrome on the mirrors and exhaust offset by the gleaming Interstellar Green paint of our test bike.
Interestingly the riding position feels somewhat of a hybrid of traditional cruiser and roadster, which while comfortable lacks some of the low and raked-out cool factor of some competitors. With that said, I know which I'd rather take a long journey on at the end of the day, and the mid-forward footpeg position of the Enfield makes it a great choice compared to its most direct competition for daily commuters wanting to be able to stand on the pegs to get a glimpse over surrounding traffic.
Sitting proudly atop the 15.7-litre fuel tank is a lockable Monza-style fuel cap, which easily flips open for filling. I point this out as other certain giants in the modern classic motorcycle game are still placing a separate lock cap under theirs that you then have to find a place for while you brim your tank. Seriously, for a "cheap bike" you get some great features on the Royal Enfield Super Meteor.
A nice touch for ease of ownership is the engine gets a lick of paint with the Super Meteor, which sees the side cases drop road grime-attracting polished metal surface of its 650cc siblings. There was a little wear on the side cases of the press bike, but it still looked vastly superior to the cases on the Continental GT I rode a couple of years ago and that paint should be pretty easy to bring back to its prime with minimal effort.
The clocks are shared with the Scram 411 and Hunter 350, and our test bike included the optional Tripper navigation pod which links Google Maps instructions from your phone to the dash via the Royal Enfield app.
There’s a feeling of authenticity with the Super Meteor that is somewhat lacking with its competitors in the segment. Its engine is air and oil-cooled with cooling fins proudly on display on the cylinders, while its feet forward riding position and 740mm seat height put the rider in a comfortable position that won’t destroy tailbones on longer trips.
Like the Continental GT and Interceptor, the Super Meteor has a smooth power delivery that feels perfect for enjoying the ride, rather than revving hard-to-please performance junkies. It’s a predictable engine that will work well for both the entry-level rider and the more experienced rider looking to ride at a reduced pace.
Overall the bike feels like an authentic cruiser rather than a sports bike engine crammed into a low-slung frame. Each time I headed out on it I kept finding myself saying “Well this is lovely” and I think that sums up the Super Meteor quite well.
It’s got that missing authenticity that the other cruisers in its segment are missing and it looks fantastic, but it is also an utter pleasure to ride. For your $12,490 you are getting quite the cruiser experience.
Now Royal Enfield is broadening things even further with the soon-to-arrive Shotgun 650. If the Shotgun is anything like the Super Meteor, other brands with an eye on entry-level cruiser dominance will certainly have their work cut out for them.
2023 Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650
PRICE: from $12,490 +ORC
ENGINE: 648cc parallel-twin
POWER: 47hp @ 7250rpm / 52.3 Nm @ 5650 rpm
PROS: Affordable and stylish, feels authentic unlike other LAMS cruiser offerings, a big step up in quality from Royal Enfield
CONS: Lacks low and raked-out cool-factor of other LAMS cruisers,