When you buy your next motorcycle, what will you buy it for? Will it be a highway hauler, a single-track slayer, or just a competent city commuter? The answer of course, is rarely just one thing — we all pick out our bikes based on a thousand little criteria, a unique mix of use cases that makes up the riding we do.
Royal Enfield’s new Shotgun 650, then, should logically be a hit. It’s a bike that sits between genres, a mix of sport and cruiser and naked that should match plenty of folks’ commutes or weekend rides. Before it can take off, though, it needs a touch of refinement.
The Shotgun takes the frame and running gear of the Super Meteor, but adapts them into a less cruising-oriented configuration. Gone are the forward controls, the swept-back bars, and tailbone-straining seat — even the Super Meteor’s chrome was left behind in the transition. Weight, though, remains the same — 530 pounds for both the Shotgun and Super Meteor.
For the Shotgun, all those touchpoints have been shifted around in order to make the new bike feel more aggressive. The reach to the bars is longer, the foot controls sit just ahead of the seat — it’s a classic naked bike rider triangle. The Shotgun’s revised suspension helps that feeling too, by dropping the bike’s front end and lifting the rear.
How Does It Ride?
The Shotgun is the third bike I’ve ridden with Enfield’s 650cc twin engine, and its 46 horsepower are as dreamy here as they were in the INT650 and the Super Meteor. The 31 lb-ft of low-end torque are great, and the gearbox neatly clicks into each gear with confidence and ease — the clutch, too, makes stop-and-go riding a breeze.
The riding position on the Shotgun sits directly between those two bikes, neither as pitched-forward as the INT nor as laid back as the Super Meteor. It strains neither your wrists nor your back, even after a full day in the saddle — a claim neither of its siblings in the lineup can match.
Where the Super Meteor felt surprisingly lightweight, nimble, and flickable, however, the Shotgun oddly doesn’t. Despite the revised geometry, where Enfield even went so far as to shorten the bike’s wheelbase relative to the Super Meteor, the suspension simply feels off-kilter when the roads get twisty. In the canyons of Angeles Crest, I never had enough confidence in the bike’s front end to carry real speed through the tight, winding corners.
That’s not to say it can’t be done, of course, and faster riders than I certainly had the skill to leave me far, far behind on those canyon roads. But, contrary to Royal Enfield’s focus on accessibility, confidence in the Shotgun’s handling only comes with preexisting skill — the stiff shocks and skittish front end won’t be training anyone to push their limits as a rider.
Who Is It For?
After taking the Shotgun over mile after mile of highway, through the twists and turns of California canyons, and back into Los Angeles proper, there’s a clear area where the bike feels most comfortable. It is, at its heart, a city bike for city riders — happiest when it can run stoplight to stoplight, filtering between lanes and darting past double-parked cars that stick into the street.
The Shotgun feels built for an LA commute. Its low-end torque and easy clutch make the Stoplight Grand Prix a breeze, easily outpacing cars that may try to lay claim to lanes that bikes can lawfully share, and the upright riding position gives you confidence to weave past potholes. Even the Shotgun’s cargo rack — which sits beneath the pillion seat — seems designed to let you carry groceries while splitting lanes.
The Shotgun is, truly, a bike that sits between established genres. It has the looks of a bobber, the power delivery of a cruiser, the ergonomics of a naked bike, and is built to carry more cargo than most ADVs will ever haul to Starbucks and back. Yet, in chasing so many use cases, each one starts to feel compromised.
The geometry and reach to the bars wants to feel sporty, but the stiff suspension doesn’t want you to drag a knee. The looks fit in with the bobber and cruiser crowd, but the relaxed long-distance comfort isn’t there. It picks and pulls little bits of these various motorcycle genres, but never grabs enough to truly fit in. It’s not a sporty naked bike and a cruiser, it ends up being neither one.
The Shotgun, then, is a bike that’s most at home in motorcycling’s own gray are: Urban environments. When maneuverability is less about cornering speeds and more about dodging road debris, the suspension feels more apt. When comfort is discussed in terms of 40-minute commutes rather than 400-mile touring days, the seat and bars feel like a better fit. The bike that aims to be a jack of all trades ends up excelling in a single form of riding — navigating cities.
As a city-dweller myself, that’s far from a bad thing. Two-wheeled transport makes sense in environments like these, and the Shotgun makes more sense than plenty of other bikes for that particular use case. And perhaps, after a few model years and a suspension revision, it’ll be a better fit for those knee-down canyon-carving dreams.
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