Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 first ride review | The muscle 650 to beat?

After seeing the custom version at IBW, we finally get to ride the production variant of the Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 in sunny Los Angeles
The Shotgun 650 is the fourth addition to Royal Enfield's 650 stable
The Shotgun 650 is the fourth addition to Royal Enfield's 650 stableRoyal Enfield

Right tool for the job. Set in the Angeles mountains on the East side of Los Angeles, USA was the first ride of the Royal Enfield Shotgun 650, the newest member of the 650 platform. It is based on the same ingredients as the Super Meteor 650, but a totally different formula. The Shotgun 650, as the name suggests, could very well be the brawniest bike of the 650cc platform and I have to say this, that Royal Enfield couldn’t have chosen a better place and setting for the ride of this machine. Does this bike live up to the name then? One way to find out.

The Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 sports a mix of modern and classic design cues
The Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 sports a mix of modern and classic design cuesRoyal Enfield

Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 design

At first glance it’s clearly a sibling of the Super Meteor from the RE family, but that’s where it ends really. For this bike RE has taken a totally different approach on the design and styling, with cues taken from all the retro café racer creators from around the world, inspired with a dash of anime and sci-fi alongside.  But at second glance, which its striking style demands, it has a very modern appearance as well. So the company has managed a first in this kind of look and have probably given birth to a new genre of motorcycling. A short front end with a soft tail appearance, taking the past into the future. The Shotgun 650 features a short front end with a soft tail appearance, a floating seat at 795mm, and a distinctive tear-drop tank. Its design includes robust 43mm upside short forks, 18-inch alloy wheels, a futuristic round LED headlight, and an artfully crafted aluminium-casted head cowl around the modern instrument cluster. It sure is going to be difficult to picture this one in your head - no pillion seat or carrier as standard fitment. Designed by and for the lone rider, but for when duty calls, a subframe is available as extra and bolts on and off very easily. 

The Shotgun 650 gets a 795mm seat height
The Shotgun 650 gets a 795mm seat heightRoyal Enfield

Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 ergonomics

Once on the saddle, all that you see is quite what you feel, which is an achievement in itself. The first feel is of comfort and convenience, and doesn't at all show its weight once off the stand. The bike feels well balanced, with low stance and centre of gravity, coupled with upright seating ergonomics that keep the head and neck in a perfectly straight alignment. The handle bar is also well positioned, making it easy to reach for someone not so tall, quite like myself and not too close for a 6-foot 3-inch 100kg European who was on a bike right beside me for most of the ride. 

What I must point out now is that the bike comes standard with handle bar end mirrors, which are not a personal favourite of mine. RE has had them on the Continental GT in the past which I didn’t really care for much, but on the Shotgun they have somehow perfected an imperfect thing. No bar end vibration on the mirrors, absolutely solid, great view of the rear, not too big to interfere with riding in traffic, and definitely not too small. 

The Shotgun 650's mechanicals get a blacked-out finish
The Shotgun 650's mechanicals get a blacked-out finishRoyal Enfield

Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 engine, chassis, ride and handling

You may be aware that the traffic in LA is not too different from any of our metros in India. We had to weave in and out of traffic jams for over 40 minutes of the ride both on the way out and the way back from the spectacular Angeles Crest mountains. Contrary to a blank canvas, the frame and engine are borrowed from the Super Meteor 650, but with a deliberate touch-up. They've retained and enhanced the excellent features while introducing others that seamlessly align with the design language. Make no mistake; it's not merely about style – form and function take centre stage in making this Shotgun truly pleasing! This bike is happy in every situation, as many may have already experienced the butter smooth 650 twin with a nice short throw six-speed transmission. This lovely combo does well in a club sport-retro look and feel, in a comfortable quickish avatar.

The Shotgun 650 felt at home in the urban setting and didn’t really feel like a big bike at all. Those 43mm Showa forks up front with a sharper rake angle really provides an almost intuitive turn-in, making the bike effortless to ride in traffic. The rear has a slightly longer travel but a shorter length on the swing arm making it more comfortable and the direction change crisp, though the comfort level on our roads here in India may be different. 

The Shotgun 650 maintains composure when the going gets twisty
The Shotgun 650 maintains composure when the going gets twistyRoyal Enfield

Then, we headed to the hills, this meant some good highway cruising at around 110-120kmph where it lived up to its name. Solid, well planted, and quite the weapon of choice. The gearing is almost the same as the Super Meteor 650 besides the small changes in the sprocketing and tyre sizes. Unlike the Super Meteor’s 19-inch front and 16-inch rear wheel, the Shotgun 650 makes use of an 18-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel. The new floating calliper brakes felt adequate for the weight and the power output, though I did take a while to get used to the rear responding quite differently when cold, to when they were at a good running temperature. 

After the traffic in the city, we started the ride on the canyon roads of Angeles crest which by the way was a really spectacular biking road, not quite what you would expect in the country that has huge caution signs for the mildest of curves. Far from the expected, the canyon road was a spectacle, adorned with fast, wide corners, dips, crests, and a fantastic lead rider encouraging us to explore the full potential of the 650 twin engine. At times I felt like I could have been a lot more aggressive with cornering speeds, allowing the bike to flow easier through the corners. The road was along a mountain side so the corners tightened and there was mud quite unexpectedly around a few turns, but the bike always felt very calm and handled the corrections well. This route offered most conditions — long fast flowing corners, long straights, tight turns closing in on themselves, and of course switchbacks along the mountain side.  The handling is exceptional for the way the bike is poised. The forward mounted (not nearly as much as the Super Meteor 650) foot pegs seemed like I would have wanted them set back quite a bit for the way the bike handles and rides, much to the contrary I was quite comfortable with this position and got used to it surprisingly quickly.  

The Shotgun 650 has a more upright roadster-like ergonomic setup than the Super Meteor 650
The Shotgun 650 has a more upright roadster-like ergonomic setup than the Super Meteor 650Royal Enfield

What really made it easily enjoyable is the availability of power in every gear in most situations, the relatively high torque output makes it easy to just roll on and off the throttle to slow down and get going, in traffic and between corners when traffic situations permit. Extensive work has gone into making the handling quite spectacular for the stance of this bike, nicely tuned Showa front dampers with re-valved damping and stroke from the Super Meteor 650 add to the overall rideability. Everything here has been thought of and this newest baby from RE even gets new shoes. Ceat has developed a tyre, keeping in mind the suspension setup and weight of the bike and I have to say they are spot on, offering confidence to the rider entering the corner at a higher speed than you feel otherwise comfortable with. The tyres also allow taking care of small corrections mid corner due to traffic and road surface conditions without hampering the rider’s confidence.

En route the return the road got windier and lot faster and there too the Shotgun 650 held up well. A group of us sped off, enjoying the road, which meant putting the bike through its paces and not being very kind to the brakes or the suspension, no complaints from the Shotgun though. It enjoyed the ride quite as much as I did.

Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 verdict

Now for the big question! For our Indian riding conditions — urban and highways, would I spend between Rs 3.8-4.2 lakh of my hard earned money on this bike? If I was looking for an easy, fun, comfortable, quickish-650cc twin (which is quite a thing), damn right, I would. I’d go further to say that I would quite like to take this bike out for a Sunday ride because it's really happy to be ridden easy or hard if you’re in the “mood”.

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