I’m cold. No, I’m bloody freezing. It’s a brutal, almost base feeling, and it’s relentless. The… wait a second, I remember these words, because I’ve written them before, five years ago. On that occasion, I was describing being astride the new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, on a beautiful Californian highway on a spectacular day. This time, I’m on the Royal Enfield Shotgun 650. On a beautiful Californian highway. On a spectacular day. And I’m still bloody freezing. Talk about full circles.
But enough about me; let’s focus on the Shotgun, RE’s latest blast across the bows of… well, its own motorcycles, for starters; the Interceptor/Continental GT and Super Meteor all have many things in common with it, beginning with their engines – the 648cc parallel twin, making 46.4 bhp and 5.3 kgm. For years now, Royal Enfield has absolutely killed it in the realm of affordable, characterful motorcycles – the Bullet, the Classic, the Himalayan – each a testament to the company’s legacy of building robust machines with a timeless, retro appeal. When news broke of the Shotgun 650 – a bobber based on the Super Meteor platform – we all held our breath. Could RE pull off a modern interpretation of a bobber, or would the Shotgun turn out to be a misguided departure from its core identity? That’s what I went to the City of Angels to try and find out.
At first glance, the Shotgun’s lineage is undeniable; the Super Meteor is clearly its parent. Going further back, it’s the Royal Enfield SG650 Concept, showcased at EICMA 2021; the bike was well-received, and RE decided to put it on the road in production form. The low-slung profile, chopped fenders and single seat yell “bobber” in bold font. It’s not a slavish retro copy, either. The angular fuel tank, minimalist headlight and chunky upside-down forks give it a modern edge, hinting at the heritage beneath its vintage-inspired skin. Fit and finish are impressive, with the paintwork gleaming in the early-morning California sun like obsidian, and the chrome detailing glinting deliciously.
Overall, the bike’s design successfully balances the classic with the modern, which should go down well with potential buyers. RE is offering 31 different accessories, ranging from things like bar-end mirrors to wheel rims, so you can further kit out the bike. I have only two minor points of disagreement with the design – without a pillion seat, there’s too much real estate visible on the rear fender, and I would have preferred the twin pipes to have run straighter, rather than at the upturned angle they’re currently at (but then I’m an RD 350 guy). Still, there’s no doubt the Shotgun has a distinct character, despite sharing many elements with the Super Meteor.
In terms of features, RE keeps things simple – an LED headlamp in a smooth nacelle, a digi-analogue instrument pod, a USB Type-A charging outlet, Tripper navigation and the Wingman app, with various connected features like live location, fuel and engine oil levels and service reminders. Dual-channel ABS sums up the safety section.
Once astride, the Shotgun feels comfortingly familiar, which is a RE trait. The riding position is upright and relaxed, with the foot pegs set only slightly forward and low handlebar placement; this makes it a more comfortable bike to sit on than the Super Meteor, at a stroke, at least for a 5’11” fellow like me. I thought the seat (an easy 795mm high) could have been plusher, but it’s certainly not a concrete slab either; RE offers an optional pillion seat and luggage rack, transforming the Shotgun into a more practical weekend warrior.
Firing the bike up results in a relatively subdued exhaust note, compared to the Interceptor; a more raucous noise would have gotten the biking juices flowing quicker, IMO, and would have complemented the Shotgun’s bobber character. That said, the bike has a distinctive enough sound to make it stand out in a crowd of other Enfields, so there’s that. An easy snick into first using the 6-speed ‘box, a blip off the throttle and our convoy took off from our hotel, heading for downtown Los Angeles, where we were to stop for photos and videos.
In the early commute traffic, the Shotgun felt instantly at home, and was a doddle to ride. The familiar parallel-twin had enough low-end torque for punchy city riding, and offered brisk acceleration in lower gears; traffic stops were no problem, the clutch action was light and with a low 140mm of ground clearance, it was easy to put both feet firmly on the ground, with the bike’s 240 kg kerb weight not coming in the way of some deft traffic-weaving. An admirable trait of modern Royal Enfields is that they’re all user-friendly, and I don’t see a first-time Shotgun buyer needing much time to get used to the bike.
First-timers won’t have to worry about highway riding either; the Shotgun’s easy-rider nature carries over here too (and everywhere). American freeways are a very different riding environment compared to Indian highways, with more lanes and a huge variety of vehicles (mainly massive ones) going at a fair clip. This can be rather intimidating to begin with, what with the wind-blast from huge semi-trailer rigs buffeting you around, and your having to be very careful while changing lanes, due to fast-moving traffic.
Once you get your bearings, it’s a pretty straightforward process, and in my case it was made easier because the Shotgun felt solidly planted at all times in a straight line, and power delivery was smooth and effortless; vibes were very well controlled, too. At those speeds, though, the wind crept its way through my protective gear, hence the somewhat Arctic references at the beginning of this article.
Leaving LA behind, our convoy headed towards some glorious canyons, where the roads narrowed and began to curve in a way that gladdened my heart. Any concerns I had about whether the bike’s length and weight would hinder its handling were dispelled pretty quickly. The Shotgun feels deceptively light and agile for its size, carving through corners with surprising precision, and going where you point it. Again, the friendliness of it all stands out; pretty much anybody with some riding experience will feel confident about throwing the bike around a bit. Most of the corners we encountered during this part of the ride were huge sweepers, but on the few tight ones that showed up, it was just as easy to flick the bike from side to side and scrape the pegs to kingdom come; grip from the 18-inch front and 17-inch rear tyres was impressive, other than the odd bit of skipping around at pace over some broken patches.
The suspension did a capable enough job of soaking up bumps, but the ride is on the stiff side, overall; it’s certainly better than that on the Super Meteor. The single disc brakes – 320mm up front and 300mm at the back, dual-channel ABS – were also sharp enough for the job, but I suspect that people who push the bike really hard will miss more bite from the front unit.
Ultimately, the Shotgun is mainly about style, but that doesn’t mean that performance has been given short shrift. The bike’s charm charm lies in its simplicity and friendliness, and it invites you to focus on the road and the wind in your hair, rather than mucking about with electronics and suchlike. I have to say that it succeeds on its own terms. It’s not a pure-blooded bobber, nor is it a muscle-cruiser packed with power and tech, but it’s certainly a great blend of vintage aesthetics, satisfying performance and playful handling, all delivered at an attractive price tag – Rs 3.59 lakh (ex-showroom). Naturally, if pure performance and/or long-distance touring are your priorities, there are better options out there; the Shotgun is a motorcycle for the heart, though, and for those who want an enjoyable riding experience with a dash of character, it delivers in spades. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if people picked it over the Interceptor and the Super Meteor.
MOTODATARoyal Enfield Shotgun 650
648cc, parallel twin
46.35 bhp@7250 rpm
5.33 kgm@5650 rpm
Type: Steel tubular spine frame
F/R: 320-mm disc / 300-mm disc
F/R: 100/90-18 / 150/70 R17
₹ 3.59 lakh (ex-showroom)