Sometimes it takes a whole tank of fuel before you can think straight. Now, it may seem a little hyperbolic, but it’s true nonetheless if you want to buy a new motorcycle. So, for this comparison, I decided to ride each motorcycle until I was left with an empty tank. But before I go ahead, allow me to introduce the contenders. The first one is the KTM 390 Adventure. It has been the de-facto value-for-money choice in the Rs 3 – 4 lakh space for quite some time now because of its versatility and performance. And then we have the BMW G310 RR, and while some might call it a rebadged TVS Apache RR310, it brings BMW quality to the table, making it apt for the comparison. Our third and last contender is the Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650, which is not only the most recent of the lot but also the most expensive. But, then, it looks oh-so good! So, which one pulls ahead in the race to the finish line?
Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650: Cruising down memory lane
The Super Meteor 650 evokes a sense of nostalgia, given that it’s a cruiser bike that combines retro design with modern elements, such as an LED light, a 648cc parallel-twin motor, which can rumble or roar depending on your mood, and a relaxed stance, which will allow most people to ride it quite easily. The quality of the paint is excellent as well, and all the other bits and pieces, like the switchgear, feel great to touch and use – a testament to Royal Enfield’s great attention to detail. A look at it is enough to tell you that it is something special. But that’s not the end of it – once you find yourself riding it on the road, people will flag you down to simply tell you how good it looks.
The low-end grunt of the parallel-twin motor feels great in the city. A mere flick of your right wrist will have you rolling past obstacles on the road. The entire experience is so gentle that you find yourself daydreaming at times. However, just as you begin to lose yourself in the experience of riding this cruiser, a surprise pothole snaps you out of your reverie and back into reality.
The RE works well as long as you are riding on smooth roads. It doesn’t mind being a touch naughty around corners as well, but as soon as the going gets rough, the Super Meteor 650 starts to throw a hissy fit. It is, however, not its fault – the Cruiser format doesn’t allow for a lot of suspension travel at the back, and the inclined forks at the front mean that they work with some reservations. And then there is the matter of its 241kgs kerb weight, which simply means that it can’t be set up to soak up the rough stuff without compromising the stability around corners. All this can make you bounce on the seat, and you will feel it right up your spine – a feeling that’s anything but pleasant. Now, at low speeds, it’s manageable, but it becomes a real problem when you are trying to hold a triple-digit pace on the highway and you hit a bouncy patch of road.
The Super Meteor, then, is a motorcycle that likes to take it easy. It can, however, give you a rush of adrenaline every now and then with its performance as long as you remain on the smooth stuff. But if you are one of those who like to spend long hours in the saddle, we recommend that you opt for the optional windscreen, touring seat, and pillion backrest – if there is a need for it, that is – to get the most out of riding the Super Meteor.
KTM 390 ADV: Out on an adventure
Trying to swing a leg over the KTM 390 Adventure is not easy. And once you have swung your leg over, the seat digs into your thighs, so you want to get a move on quickly. The KTM doesn’t like that idea of either standing still or going slow – the engine shudders at the thought of riding under 4,000rpm. In short, it just feels unnatural riding the KTM at slow speeds. It is in total contrast to the Super Meteor 650 in this regard. But all these problems simply disappear as you twist your wrist and open that throttle.
The discomfort that you feel on the 390 Adventure while standing still disappears as soon as you get moving. Quite simply, the seat has been shaped to suit you best when your feet are on the pegs. And when you leave behind the slow-speed range, the KTM’S 373cc single-cylinder DOHC engine rewards you with a linear, yet quick, surge of acceleration, which continues to the redline, before you shift up using the buttery-smooth quick-shifter. Now, the quick-shifter here works better than that of most other bikes in this price bracket, although we recommend that you don’t use it before 7,000rpm, for it works best beyond this mark. The clutch pull is light enough for you to use it for regular shifting. Because of its low-rpm inadequacies, the KTM can be a bother to ride in slow-moving traffic, but it does quite well everywhere else.
The advantage of an ADV, like the 390 Adventure, is that it can be ridden off-road as well. But since the 390 Adventure’s lower-end feels juddery, you need to ride at higher rpms, which then increases the pace. In other words, you will need a bit of practice before you get comfortable riding it off-road, but if you do put in the hours, the 390 Adventure has the potential to be quite quick off-road as well.
BMW G 310 RR: Getting that knee down
If, like me, your lifelong dream on a motorcycle has been to get your knee down, then, chances are that the BMW G310 RR will strike your fancy. Don’t get us wrong, the 390 Adventure can hold a quick pace and will have you grinning around corners too, but the attack angle and the seriousness with which the G310 RR deals with a corner is simply stellar. When you are on this motorcycle, you are committed and focused. And unlike the KTM RC 390, there is still an ounce of comfort in the way you sit, which means that riding the G310 RR is a little easier. It also has the most balanced suspension of the lot. Now, the RE feels too stiff, and while the 390 Adventure is quite good, it’s the G310 RR that strikes the perfect balance between being comfortable and being sporty.
There are two things I absolutely love about the BMW G310 RR. The first is the quality of the paint. When you get close to the motorcycle, you can’t help but appreciate its high-quality paint job. For reference, it’s the same quality of paint that you would find on the S1000 RR, which is way more expensive than what the Apache RR310 gets. The second bit I love about the BMW is its tyres. They stick to the tarmac like a leech. In fact, during the test, unexpected rain made the road surface dirty and greasy, but the G310 RR always remained glued to the tarmac and felt extremely confident around corners. Another one of the advantages of owning the G310 RR is that you get to enjoy the BMW Motorrad service experience, which is on par with other premium motorcycles from the brand.
But then like everything else in the world, it’s not perfect. And the problem here is the amount of power its engine makes. On its own, it feels adequate and even fast when you unwind the throttle to max capacity, but when you put it next to the RE and the KTM, it feels a little inadequate and lacklustre to be honest. There will always be the possibility that you’ll quickly outgrow the power and torque that the G310 RR’s engine has to offer, and the only way around that would be to make performance upgrades.
This is one of the toughest comparisons I have undertaken till date. Picking a winner from among this lot wasn’t easy, as each motorcycle brings something genuinely exciting and unique to the table.
The Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650 has the best road presence, is easy to ride, and can get a move on as long as the tarmac stays smooth. When you hit a rough patch of road, it starts to struggle. So, if you are willing to make that sacrifice or will be riding on smooth roads 90 per cent of the time, go for it, but if not, booking a prior appointment with your chiropractor wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The BMW G310 RR, on the other hand, is easy to ride in most situations. Its ride quality is fantastic, and it loves carving corners. The only real drawback of the G310 RR is its engine’s performance. It’s a motorcycle that will make you a faster rider, but to actually go faster, you will have to move on to a faster motorcycle.
Finally, it’s the KTM 390 Adventure’s turn and it excels in everything that you ask it to do, except for one – the engine’s low-speed juddering. It can be a deal breaker for some, and if you like to ride calmly, you will find the Super Meteor 650 more to your liking. But, if you are like me and are always looking for an excuse to crack the throttle open, you won’t fall short of them if you bring home the KTM 390 Adventure. So, not only does it check most of the right boxes, but it is also priced quite reasonably for what all it offers, making it the winner of this comparison.
- Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650
- KTM 390 Adventure
- BMW G310 RR
Engine: 648cc / Parallel-twin / Air-Oil Cooled
Transmission: 6 Speed
Power: 46.3bhp @ 7,250rpm
Torque: 52.3Nm @ 5,650rpm
Price: ₹3.64 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: Road presence that can give Harley a run for its money.
Engine: 373cc / Single-cylinder / Liquid Cooled
Transmission: 6 Speed
Power: 42.9bhp @ 9,000rpm
Torque: 37Nm @ 7,500rpm
Price: ₹3.37 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: The performance-to-value ratio of the 390 ADV is simply brilliant.
Engine: 312cc / Single-cylinder / Liquid Cooled
Transmission: 6 Speed
Power: 33.5bhp @ 9,700rpm
Torque: 27.3Nm @ 7,700rpm
Price: ₹3.09 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: A great balance of ride comfort and cornering performance.
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