1,000km — in a day! It sounds more like a quest than a ride, doesn’t it? Especially in India where challenges like bad roads and heavy traffic exist in abundance. However, being a cruiser, the Super Meteor 650 is meant to munch long miles while keeping the rider comfortable. And ‘comfort’ is the key word here. One can gobble up 1,000km on almost any given motorcycle. But only a select category of motorcycles warrant a pampering ride instead of a back-breaking one. And cruisers, like the Super Meteor 650, supposedly fall in that category.
To test the Super Meteor’s mettle in the truest sense, I headed out on a 1,000km ride from Mumbai to Bangalore which I intended to complete in a single day. At the end of it, did I want to do it again? If yes, then that was the true testament to the Super Meteor’s touring capabilities.
But before that…
The Super Meteor 650 needed its first service as it had surpassed 500km on its odometer. This also meant the motor had to be topped with fresh engine oil. Now, considering the nature of this test, synthetic oil was a wise choice.
As we know, engine oil is considered to be the lifeblood of a motorcycle. It’s one of the most crucial elements for the engine to function at its best and have a healthy life. Munching 1,000km in a day will put relentless stress on the engine of the Super Meteor 650. The engine is going to work overtime, at higher speeds. This might be accompanied by overheating since the weather is hot at this time of the year. Hence, for the engine to tackle these challenges efficiently, synthetic oil was the way to go.
Then followed a night of sleep deprivation induced by the excitement I feel before every special ride. After a few hours of forced sleep, I mounted my luggage on the Super Meteor and set off at 5 am. And so the twin-cylinder’s rumble disrupted the deep silence of dawn melodically.
A few quick manoeuvres through the city lanes and I was cruising down the highway in a riding position that was deeply relaxing. However, I kept my pace low as the bike’s headlamp didn’t light up the road far enough for me to go fast. I mainly relied on street lights and other vehicles.
After about 70km of low-pace cruising, I came across the first ghat section. The air was comfortably cold, the sun had partially risen, and the curves ahead were super smooth. I couldn’t hold myself back from gunning the Super Meteor through these twisties and enjoying the composure and stability it offered around bends. It’s not the lightest-steering bike but neither is it a slouch. The curves went by even before I realised it.
As the sun rose, I was greeted by the morning commuters on the highway. Now, with no visibility restrictions, I dialled up the pace and manoeuvred through the traffic fast yet gracefully, enjoying the bike’s tremendous mid-range torque. I and the Super Meteor literally danced our way through the traffic in perfect sync and reached the second set of twisties where, again, a cornering nirvana ensued. Except for being tossed around on the seat over patchy sections, the first 200km were done in the blink of an eye. This called for the first break to treat myself to my favourite masala chai.
The following 200km offered a six-lane highway but with more traffic. Nevertheless, the SM650 kept shining with its low-speed handling and engine tractability. For the most part, I cruised along between 60-80kmph in fifth gear without downshifting much and treating it like an automatic. Adding to the convenience was the front brake which offered tremendous bite and lever feel. Courtesy of the more than-anticipated traffic, I was running about 45 minutes behind the plan. Nevertheless, a hungry stomach and slightly sore bottom demanded a snack break which went on for about 30-40mins.
Mild nuisances creep in
Now, the traffic eased up, giving me an unblemished view of the smooth asphalt ahead. I started feeling the Super Meteor coming into its element. The laid-back ergonomics exuded a sense of relaxation, backed by the profound ease the engine showed at 100kmph. All of it felt effortless and meditative, except for the intermittent bouncing on the seat over mildly wavy undulations, thanks to the stiff rear suspension. Also, the soreness of my backside increased but not to uncomfortable levels.
After covering 550km, I approached Dharwad and a single-lane crowded highway greeted me with a lot of crosswinds caused by the closely passing, fast-moving oncoming trucks. While the Super Meteor kept swaying a bit, the bike’s heft prevented it from shaking uncontrollably. Also, despite slowly trudging along in the traffic for a long time, the engine showed no signs of stress or heat.
Before proceeding ahead, it was time for the second fuel stop of the journey. After topping up the 15.7-litre tank of the Super Meteor, I calculated the mileage it had been returning — 27kmpl! That’s impressive, considering the mileage I received on my city test run was close to 24kmpl.
Now, as my and Super Meteor’s bond nurtured, the best part of the ride started beyond a city called Hubballi. The road here is a wide and slick six-lane strip of asphalt flanked by tall palm trees and vast green fields. I seamlessly cruised at 100-110kmph, humming my favourite songs, and soaking in the landscape.
While I was engrossed in this euphoria, my backside continued to get sore. Seeking a quick relief, my legs reached out for the pillion pegs and I stood up on them. Besides the curious stares from fellow motorists and the feeling of imitating a monkey, this riding position acted as a respite for my aching bottom and lower back. For a while, I also stretched out my legs and rested the calves on the pegs. Nifty hacks, aren’t they?
But then, I spotted a huge banyan tree amidst a vast barren land overlooking numerous windmills. I instinctively took the service road, pulled over under the tree, and indulged in a much-needed breather. After clicking a few pictures and hydrating myself, I got on the road again.
The longest ever 300km
As I saw dusk ensuing after 700km, all the small problems I had been facing intensified. I started spending more time standing on the pillion footpegs seeking relief from the increasing pain in my backside and lower back. Moreover, despite the windscreen extender being in place, heady winds hitting the top of my helmet and shoulders kept adding to the fatigue. Mine and Super Meteor’s romance started fizzling out a bit.
By sundown, I surpassed the 800kms mark and the lack of throw and brightness from the headlight was just adding to the inconvenience. All of this was accompanied by increasing traffic as I got closer to Bangalore. I started finding more excuses to take breaks; at times to gulp down a cup of chai or to take off my helmet for some respite from the headache I had developed by now. I ripped the Super Meteor through the Bangalore traffic in desperation to reach the hotel. After an arduous and unforgettable 20-hour ride, I reached the sojourn and breathed out a huge sigh of relief.
Will I do it again?
I would choose not to. As is clear by now, the last 300km were tough as all the issues, which felt mild initially, escalated to discomforting levels towards the end. With a sore bottom, aching head, and stiff lower back, I was taking repeated breaks and had never been more desperate to reach my destination and crash. This was due to the stiff rear springs which kept tossing me. Plus, the seat cushioning felt inadequate after nearly 10 hours of riding. Not to forget, the wind continuously brushing my head and shoulders induced fatigue by evening, despite using a windscreen extender.
That’s not to say the Super Meteor 650 is uncomfortable. In fact, I would happily do an 800km ride on the motorcycle because munching this distance was a pleasant affair and the issues hadn’t reached overwhelming levels. The riding triangle felt profoundly relaxed, the engine response was punchy, consistent, and refined, while the brakes didn’t fade throughout. And that’s a testament to its cruising abilities. But do note that nowhere did we come across bad road surfaces and neither was this a time attack. If bad roads and time constraints were a part of the story, a different type of motorcycle would’ve been the weapon of choice.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi