Why do you ride?
For every rider, the answer is probably something a little bit different. Some people have done it all their lives, and it’s just second nature to them. Others came to it later in life, fell in love hard and fast, and haven’t looked back ever since.
Still others fall somewhere in between—and it’s in those interstitial spaces where the best stories tend to live.
No matter how you started, if you ride because you love it, the truth of the matter is that it’s never about the destination. It’s about the journey. That journey could be a short trip to the store to pick up a few groceries, or it could be a cross-country flight as fast and as far as you can travel before collapsing into an exhausted heap, only to wake up and do it over again tomorrow.
If what you love is gobbling up miles and miles of paved roads (perhaps with a little mild gravel or dirt along the way), then Royal Enfield submits its new Super Meteor 650 as its primary contender for that journey.
By cruiser standards, the 2023 Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650 is a middleweight or even a ‘small’ bike. (Remember, everything is relative.) However, by Royal Enfield standards, it’s big. Its heart is the vaunted 650cc parallel twin engine first introduced in the Continental GT 650 and INT650, only with more appropriate tuning for cruiser purposes.
The engine makes a claimed 47 horsepower at 7,250 rpm, alongside 52.3 newton-meters (or 38.5 pound-feet) of torque at 5,650 rpm. It has a six-speed gearbox.
A shiny, new Showa Big Piston upside down front fork graces the Super Meteor 650—a first for Royal Enfield. This bike is also the first place that the brand introduced a new LED headlight, which offers modern brightness and nighttime visibility wrapped in a cloak of timeless style.
Single-caliper, single-disc ByBre brakes stop you front and rear, and ABS is standard. The alloy wheels measure 19 inches in the front and 16 in the rear and come wrapped in Ceat Zoom Cruz rubber.
Royal Enfield’s Tripper navigation comes standard on the Super Meteor 650 and requires connection to your smartphone to allow navigation capability to display on the pod. There’s a USB port up front so you can keep your phone charged while you use it. However, you’ll need to install some kind of phone mount on the bars—there’s no built-in cubby for stashing your phone while you ride.
I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I ride is to clear my head. I could be running errands, or I could just be riding miles and miles for fun. No matter how long the ride is, though, I usually end it in a better mental state than when I started. That’s especially true lately, because I’ve had a bit of a rough year with injuries that have intermittently kept me out of the saddle for longer than I would have liked.
This time, as I threw a leg over, I was a little bit nervous. While I’ve been riding other bikes prior to saddling up on the Super Meteor 650, I’ve been wearing a knee brace to keep my left knee from further injury. Every time you ride a new bike, there’s that first-ride flutter where you have to get to know it and find out how you and the bike mesh together. How does it like to be shifted? Does it give you a bunch of false neutrals? Does it really hate being in first gear? There’s no telling until you start riding and finding out.
While my personal bikes don’t typically feature forward controls, like the Super Meteor 650 has—I have to say, they’re very kind and forgiving when you’re recovering from a knee injury. As I relaxed into the rhythm of riding that bike, it wasn’t long before I forgot all about it and just enjoyed the ride.
The sun shone brightly, and the bike I rode was one of the Super Meteor Celestial models with the cushy touring saddle and windscreen. We’d been told that there would be some freeway riding involved in our day-long test ride, and I thought that windscreen would likely come in handy. (I tend to gravitate toward naked bikes as a personal preference, but they’re not the most fun things to ride for long stretches on the freeway.)
That windscreen may not look particularly large, and it isn’t. But for a rider my size (approximately 5’3” to 5’4”, give or take), it’s perfect. The vent, shape, and size channeled fresh air into the lovely vents on my helmet and jacket, so I had all the cool airflow I wanted. At the same time, the windscreen prevented any nasty buffeting, so I didn’t feel like the wind was beating me up at high speeds. It’s the best of both worlds, and I’m here for it.
Shifting was precise, and the gear ratios were forgiving. You could hang out in fourth for ages, or you could shift into fifth or sixth and give the engine a break on those long, leg-stretching highway stints. Either way, the Super Meteor 650 seemed perfectly happy to ride how you wanted with no complaint.
If you needed to pass the big trucks that litter the freeways in Texas, the Super Meteor was always ready. On the other hand, if you just wanted to chill and amble along, taking in the scenery, it was just as happy to do that.
The main gauge was clear and easy to read, and the analog sweep of the speedometer felt as comforting and classic as the overall styling of this bike. The LCD screen was small, but clear and easy to read in daylight. I’m not sure how easy it would be to read at night, since we didn’t ride it then—but during the day, it’s perfectly fine even in bright sunlight.
Handling was nimbler than you might expect. With a curb weight just over 531 pounds and a wheelbase of 59 inches, it’s more ballerina than you bargained for—but you’ll be glad about it when you’re whipping through fun, curvy roads. The tires did a decent, confidence-inspiring job in dry, sunny conditions—and overall, the package was an incredibly agreeable experience. Where do you want to go today? That’s funny, the Super Meteor 650 wants to go there, too. What a coincidence!
What I Liked
- The aluminum switchgear cubes, which Enfield developed just for the Super Meteor 650, are very nice to look at. Even more than that, though, they’re a quite solid and rather pleasant tactile experience. The controls mounted in these cubes feel absolutely planted, and not at all fragile. The overall impression is of both quality and attention to detail.
- The fit and finish is solid, and the paint colors and application are on point. The words “modern classic” mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but it’s clear that Enfield took this assignment seriously, and was aiming to get an A+ in the styling department. Whether it succeeds will of course be up to customers, but it certainly looks promising in person.
- The windscreen was also absolutely planted and did not budge, rattle, or in any way indicate that it wasn’t up to the task of going high-double or even low-triple digits if necessary. The way it channeled air right into all the vents in my gear was just perfect.
- The side stand and foot pegs were solid and satisfying to use. The shifter was also incredibly reassuring and left no uncertainty about whether you’d successfully changed gear or not. I also had zero false neutrals.
- The exhaust note sounded quite nice and suited the character of the bike well. This exhaust was created just for the Super Meteor 650, and it fits the bike in more ways than one.
Burbling along at low revs was fine, but pouring on the throttle to squeeze past slower traffic was also fine. Whatever you want, the Super Meteor 650 seems pretty eager to please.
What I Didn’t Like
- Plenty of people probably feel differently, especially in the cruiser niche, but a tachometer is always nice to have. The Super Meteor 650 doesn’t have one.
- This is probably a me problem, but I found it entirely too easy to accidentally kick the passenger backrest on the Celestial model I was riding whenever I dismounted. Given time, I'd probably get used to the specific way that I’d need to bend to avoid kicking it, but I feel like other short riders might also have this problem.
- Cruise control would be a nice option to have on a bike like this. Sure, it’s not ride-by-wire, but it’s still possible.
Overall, it’s hard to find fault with a simple, honest bike that does what it set out to do. The 2023 Royal Enfield Super Meteor has a starting MSRP of just $6,999 in the US, which is hard to beat for all the smiles it will offer. The power isn’t going to set your hair on fire, but it’s plenty to do what you need it to do and keep a smile on your face while you’re doing it. At the end of the day, isn’t that what most people want?