Royal Enfield; mention the name to a mixed field of motorcyclists and you’ll get even more diverse responses. The older crowd will remember the glory days of British-built bikes, while others will allude to the questionable quality of the early noughties’ revivals.
But a third camp will bypass both, and champion the latest machines for their charming nature and above all, remarkable price. After all, in most cases, you’re paying less than you would for a similar-spec Chinese machine, and for a bike designed in the UK at that.
While progress has been coming over the past decade, the tides really turned for the British-Indian manufacturer back in 2017, when it opened the doors to a new £3.5 million UK technology centre in Leicester. Spread across 3,000sq metres, the comprehensive facility would allow Enfield to design, develop, engineer and test the next generation of models before they are built in equally state-of-the-art sites over in India.
The proof is in the production. Today, Royal Enfield builds in excess of one million motorcycles a year (more than one every two seconds), selling them to great acclaim around the world. There’s the rugged Himalayan, the celebrated Twins, the iconic Bullet and the Classic 500. And now, there’s a new kid on the block – the adorable little Meteor, an entry level, A2-compliant cruiser and exactly the kind of bike you’d take home to meet your parents. It’s powered by an air-oil cooled 349cc single cylinder, making 20.5PS (15kWkW) and 27Nm (20lb ft) of torque, and boasts an incredibly accessible seat height of 765mm and a low-set wet weight of 191kg.
It’s named after another Enfield – a 692cc touring model, produced between 1952 and 1962 – and shares many of the same values. Namely the ‘cruise easy’ approach, representative of those long, slow summer rides, where the journey is as important as the destination. Picture yourself cruising along the NC500, with the sun on your back and a canvas tent rolled up on the pillion seat - that’s the Meteor’s jam.
Royal Enfield has stuck with the galactic theme with the modern model variants, with the Fireball, Stellar and Supernova editions. The entry-level Fireball, costing from just £3,749, is my personal favourite, with minimal chrome, no windscreen or sissy bar and simple black lettering on the tank.
It’s affordable and accessible, and targeted squarely at learners, returners and (it was whispered on event), women. Having rocked up on my own 250kg-plus, 1,000cc adventure bike, the latter made me chuckle, for I could think of plenty of vertically-challenged males to whom this bike would equally apply.