|Announced in April, the 496 cc Meteor Minor de Luxe is one of a trio of
new Royal Enfield high-performance twins. It has many features in the
established Royal Enfield tradition and others which are new or nearly
so. Among those in the first group are the use of seperate iron
cylinder barrels with heavely fined light-alloy heads; a one-piece
cast-iron crankshaft; a half-gallon oil compartment formed integrally
with the crankcase; a four-speed Alboin gear box bolted to the rear
of the crankcase; and a vane-type cush drive in the rear hub. (There
is also a transmission shock absosber in the clutch centre.)
The lightweight welded tubular frame, rear-chain enclosure and 17in-diameter wheels were previously confined to the Crusader models. Fresh ground is broken with "siamesed" exhaust pipes, a novel clutch having a scissor-type control mechanism, and a 7in-diameter front brake which is housed in a full-width hub.
Handlebar width (24in) and grip angle are well chosen, and the lack of position adjustment for the clutch and front-brake levers-- the pivot blocks are welded to the bar-- was no disadvantage; the levers were found to be idally placed. The inner ends of the levers are neatly shrouded by extentions of the pivot blocks. Brake and gear pedals, too, were well sited and could be actuated without removing the foot archesfrom the rests.
Though pleasently light, steering was very positive and quickly
enhanced the feeling of confidence engendered from the start by the
low seat and comfortable posture. At both ends of the speed scale
it was easy to pick a precise path without conscious effort; and
riding the Meteor Minor to a standstill feet-up was child's play.
Stability on greasy surfaces was of a very high order. Only on fast
bends with undulating surfaces was there a tendency for the model to
weave-- a result of the rear suspension pitching. As the 15ft turning
circle proves, the steering lock is generous.
A low seat position brings difficulties for the designer. If the footrests are correspondingly low so as to ensure a comfortable knee angle (as on the Royal Enfield) then they may ground on corners as a result of the front and rear suspension compressing unless the overall width at the rests is narrow. Width across the footrests is 26.5in but they are prevented from foulingtoo readily by the rather firm action of the front and rear springing. Footrest grounding was not bothersome unless the model was canted over unnecessarily.
Braking was first class at all speeds. The controls were light to operate, yet not to light, and were progressive in action so that there was ample sensitivity for wet or slippery conditions. When the road surface permitted, the model could be pinned down really firmly, with both tyres squealing, from a traffic crawl or at top speed. Several hours of riding in teeming rain failed to impair brake efficiancy.
|Bore and stroke of the new engine (70 x 64.5mm) are identical with
those of the Crusader but there are similarity ends. In external
appearance the unit is a scaled-down version of the 692cc
Constellation engine which, in turn, is based on the Super Meteor.
Starting proved to be simple and reliable. The preliminary drill for
a cold start was quite normal: throttle set as for fast idling, air
lever closed and carburetter tickled moderately. The kick-starter
is fairly low geared so little effort was required to swing the
engine over compression and the unit usually came to life at the
second kick. A first-time start without any preliminaries was the
rule when the engine was warm. For use in the event of the battery
being run down, an emergency start position is provided for the
ignition switch. The engine could be started with the switch in that
position provided a really vigorous thrust aws given to the
Low-speed flat spot
Smooth running and unusually supple transmission combined to make the use of top gear quite happy in areas with a 30mph speed limit. Indeed the effectiveness of th etwo rubber block transmission shoch absorbers is emphasised by the minimum non-scratch speed of 13mph in top gear. For neatness all control cables are routed through holes in the fork- top casquette; in thre case of the throttle cable that involves small radius which makes the control a shade sticky in operation. Delicate of control at small throttle openings was enhanced by re-running the cable.
On the open road the engine cheerfully took on any amount of hard work without tiring. Under average conditions, use of half throttle gave an indicated speed of about 75mph. At speeds up to 60-65mph in top gear there was a pleasing absence of vibration, and that was the speed range most used on long trips. At an indicated speed of 70mph engine vibration was perceptible. From 75mph upward vibration could be felt through through the duel seat. When checked electrically, the speedo read 2mph fast at 30mph and the error increased proggressively to 5mph at maximun speed.
|mechanical noise was average and the exhaust, though flat in tone, was
unobtrusive. A peculiarity of the machine tested was oil discharge
from the crankcase breather pipe during hard riding; oil fouled the
distributor cover and the region of left pillion footrest. The new
clutch was light to operate, took up the drive smoothly and was free
from drag.There was a slight tendency for the friction plates to
stick, however, so that engagement of bottom gear at rest was
accompanied by a slight jerk. Repeated clutch slipping, as when
riding for several miles in haevy traffic or making a succession
of rapid starts for the quarter-mile acceleration figures, brought
about a slight increase in control backlash, which returned to
normal when clutch cooled. Momentary clutch slip was occasionally
experienced when the engine was pulling hard at about 60mph in third
gear or 75mph in top.
Upward gear changes could be made quickly or cleanly without special precautions, but engagement of the dogs could be felt when changing down. Neutral could be easily selected with the gear pedal; but in any event the gear box is fitted with the familiar Royal Enfield neutral finder which permits ready selection from any gear excep bottom.
Both the intesity and spread of the headlamp beam were adequate for night riding at normal speeds. Unfortunately, with the lamp unit deflected to its lowest setting, the dipped beam was parallel to the road surface. Valancing of the mudguards is unusually deep, especially at the front, and served to trap a good deal of road filth.
Operating of a wide base, the prop stand was commendably safe for parking. For maintenance purposes, the centre stand provided firm support, close to the point of balance. When the valve gear was being attended to the ready detachability of the tank (after the removal of only one bolt) was greatly appreciated. Primary chain adjustment is checked through an aperture in the chaincase. Retensioning the chain by means of the adjustable slipper necessitates removal of the outer portion of the case which is secured by a single bolt.
Finish is black for the frame and fork, with a choice of polychromatic burgundy, Wedgwood blue or black for the mudguards, rear chaincase, tool and battery boxes and petrol tank; the tank has chromium-plated side panels.
Engine: Royal Enfield 496cc (70x64.5mm) overhead-valve vertical twin
with separate light alloy cylinder heads. Camshafts driven by a
single chain. Light-alloy connecting rods with steel-back shell
big-end bearings. Crankshaft supported in ball bearing on drive side
and roller bearing on timing side. Compression ratio 8 to 1.
Dry-sump lubrication with oil compartment cast integrally with
crankcase; oil capacity 4 pints.
Ignition and Lighting:
Weight per cc: