You might think that modernisation has robbed new Royal Enfields of character, but you would be completely wrong. The ever-widening range of motorcycles has guaranteed that the company can still hold a claim to the domain of nonchalantly pottering around town and beyond, without letting rival motorcycle companies come anywhere close. Okay, some of the characteristic features — and idiosyncrasies — might have made way for modern ones, but these motorcycles are full of character. Despite that, given the deep love many riders have for the brand, it’s only natural to approach each and every new launch with a tiny bit of scepticism.

The questions that follow are usually along the lines of ‘What if it’s not good enough to be a Royal Enfield, what if it’s not as good as the rivals, what if it’s not good at all?’ It’s safe to say we haven’t got to deal with the latter, because even with their shortcomings, as far as characterful but affordable motorcycles go, RE has almost always got it right. So, what about the all-new Shotgun 650, you’d ask? Is it just a re-skinned Super Meteor, or is it kitted up to be taken more seriously than that? We answer that following a brief first ride.

Even when tasked with handling a mix of long corners and some sudden sharp ones, the bike felt lighter and more agile than its spec sheet or appearance would suggest

Even when tasked with handling a mix of long corners and some sudden sharp ones, the bike felt lighter and more agile than its spec sheet or appearance would suggest

Like the Interceptor, Continental GT, and Super Meteor, the Shotgun is powered by a 648cc parallel-twin engine, which makes 46.4 bhp and 5.3 kgm. The underpinnings are shared with the Super Meteor, but the dimensions are far from identical. The Shotgun’s seat is taller (at 795 mm), it has marginally better ground clearance, and the wheelbase is shorter by 35 mm. The fuel tank looks much neater, but it’s a tiny bit smaller, and the tyre size isn’t the same as the cruiser, either. The changes more evident to the naked eye are in the way the Shotgun 650 sits. It looks like a bobber based on the Super Meteor’s platform, and if you too thought that way, you wouldn’t be wrong. Having said that, unlike a chop-shop bobber, the Shotgun 650 is a good balance between modern and retro. It’s a motorcycle designed with customisation in mind, and to start with, Royal Enfield has made 31 official accessories available for the Shotgun already.

Riding position

Its upright riding position makes it seem slightly more comfortable to sit on than the Super Meteor. Filtering through highway traffic, it becomes apparent how instrumental the said riding position is — because the Shotgun makes it all look like a walk in the park. The 240 kg kerb weight of the bike doesn’t come in the way of everyday riding, and it’s the familiar torque-rich engine’s power delivery that makes things even more effortless. As speeds increase, the overall stability of the Shotgun gets highlighted further.

I also noticed that the ride is better than that of the Super Meteor. The suspension does a decent job, but it’s still a stiff setup, and some of the bigger bumps were definitely felt. On the bright side, the overall setup is so good that never did the Shotgun 650 let things become messy. Even when tasked with handling a mix of long corners and some sudden sharp ones, it felt lighter and more agile than its spec sheet or appearance would suggest. There was not a single moment when the bike seemed to run out of grip, and slowing down — courtesy of a 320 mm disc at the front and 300 mm at the back, with dual-channel ABS — posed no problem at all.

As a rider, the only other thing that would matter at this point has to be the engine note, and I can comfortably say the Shotgun isn’t bad in that regard, either. It could’ve been louder, and that would’ve worked well with the styling, but it’s distinctive, so you won’t mistake this one for anything else.

It can’t be all positive, can it? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was, because Royal Enfield has been impressive in the last few years. Take the fit and finish on the Shotgun 650, which is hard to fault. The feature list is short, but that’s not going to be a concern for many, considering the list of accessories is long. Plus with the optional pillion seat and luggage rack, it can drop its rebellious bobber get-up and pose as a more practical touring machine. This is when you might want to look for a better seat, because the standard one isn’t the cushiest. The rear section in its rider-only arrangement looks a bit incomplete, and the dual exhaust pipes could’ve looked better if they were extended straight and not upturned. While we didn’t suffer any drop in performance from the brakes, a little more bite from the front would be appreciated by keener riders.

At ₹3.59 lakh, ex-showroom, the Shotgun 650 finds itself positioned between the original parallel-twin-engined RE twins and the more recent Super Meteor. This is also reflected in the way it’s designed: it is neither a full-fledged cruiser, nor is it a bobber. If you understand (and accept) that, you’d be able to appreciate the Shotgun even beyond its eye-catching styling. It has a playful demeanour in the way it rides, and despite being a modern Royal Enfield, it doesn’t lack some retro character. Is it good enough to be a Royal Enfield? Undoubtedly. Is it good enough to beat its rivals? Quite possibly. Should we still be sceptical when Royal Enfield launches a new product? Maybe not, especially if every new product turns out to be as good as the Shotgun 650.

©Motoring World