Growing up in the 1980s meant that the lasting image of a motorcycle for me was a cruiser of some sort. It’s not that I was a ‘cruiser guy’, it’s just that when you see lots of something, that becomes the main frame of reference, and desire in this case! Evolving from a diet of bicycles into my late teens, I was quite mesmerised by the idea of a quintessential American style cruiser - and the first one that I actually saw in the flesh and instantly fell in love with was the Royal Enfield Citybike.
For the Royal Enfield purists, that was a sin. When we did consumer research, many people who hadn’t previously owned an Enfield, liked the Thunderbird, but our die-hard loyalists said ‘that’s not a Bullet!’. That was just perfect! It gave us encouragement as we wanted to attract a different crowd - chaps who had been riding 100cc bikes but wanted more from their ride; they wanted to travel long distances and enjoy the highways but they weren’t committed enough to Royal Enfield to change which foot they used to activate the rear brake!
As we moved our portfolio to comply with the BS-VI emission norms in early 2020, we bid adieu to the Thunderbird and the Thunderbird X, and decided to leave it untouched and pristine in its design and form, and also in the experience that it promised. It was a tough and heart wrenching decision to let go of the Thunderbird brand for all of us at Royal Enfield. The Thunderbird has achieved a cult status among its riders and the community at large. However, in order to once again redefine the cruiser market in India, and to take our unique Royal Enfield style of cruising to the world, we are rekindling a brand that is instantly recognisable as an ‘RE’, as well as a single brand that we can use around the world for a motorcycle that we believe will hit the market like a meteor, so to speak!
Learning from those lakhs of kilometres and from the pains and joys of riding, we have put every ounce of our learning into our all-new highway cruiser, the Meteor 350, which is first and foremost, a thoroughly refined motorcycle for all the senses. The chassis, suspension, engine character, ergonomics, and every other aspect of the Meteor combine together to give much more than a sum of their parts - to give an effortless, enjoyable, engaging journey for hours and days and weeks on end, where you emerge energised after the ride. The refinement and response is reminiscent of motorcycles in a much higher capacity and price class, and opens up doors for Royal Enfield in markets around the world where commuters are evolving into leisure riders. The Meteor gives a supreme level of confidence and the right amount of feedback to riders of all abilities and is built to be your ally for travels and adventures for years and even decades.
Even though I am obviously biased towards the Meteor, I know that I objectively love the way it looks. Back in November 2019, my dad and I went on a long overdue father-son riding trip. We were going to be in Europe and it was already November, so we decided to go to Andalusia in southern Spain where the weather was still apparently lovely; that it was unseasonably cold (sub zero degrees one day in Cordoba, up in the mountains) and raining is another story altogether! Jack, from our Royal Enfield testing team drove the van from our UK technology centre with our Interceptor 650s in it, and he was going to be testing a motorcycle for the week or so that my Dad and I were riding. On the first day, Jack had parked our motorcycles in the hotel lot, and we went to inspect them before riding off. While kicking the tyres of my Interceptor, I was very intrigued by this stunning cruiser at the end of the parking lot. Always up for a bit of competitor research, I started walking towards it and was admiring its proportions and easy stance. As I got closer to it, I got goosebumps and my heart started racing - it couldn’t be! The engine looked familiar, but I was still very confused. I’m not the quickest to join the dots (as my wife will readily tell you), and I was thinking ‘What? How? Huh? Is it a custom build on our platform? Why can’t we do motorcycles like these custom chaps? Etc’. And then the penny dropped! Jack had brought an alpha build Meteor (without tank logo etc) to Spain to test ride while Dad and I were out riding our Interceptors! I felt really good about my objective love for the Meteor’s looks, and a bit stupid about how long it took me to recognise a motorcycle that I had been deeply involved with for 3 years now!
Well, it’s here now - the gorgeous and refined great Indian highway cruiser for the global market. Welcome to a new era in cruising with the all new Meteor 350. It’s been some time in the making, but it is absolutely worth the wait.