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2021 Royal Enfield Classic 350: First Ride Review

01 September 2021, 01:00 PM Anuj Mishra

Introduction

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I deeply admire how the Classic 350 looks. Its perfect proportions, vintage design elements, and overall visual appeal collectively make it look so clean, likeable, and timeless. And that’s one of the top reasons why it is not only Royal Enfield’s best-selling model but also the most popular product in its segment. No wonder, the company paid close attention to keep the aesthetics of the Classic 350 majorly unchanged. Obviously, there are subtle tweaks, but the company has stayed true to its heritage.

There’s another aspect about the Classic that deeply resonates with riders of all age groups - its thumping sound. And this is another quality that RE worked on keeping as close to its predecessor as possible. Although it sounds slightly muffled now, the trademark Classic thump is still majorly retained. 

Fuel Tank

However, that’s where the similarities with the previous model end, and almost everything else about the Classic 350 is either completely new or heavily revised. In this review, we tell you all about these changes in detail and how they fare out in the real world. 

The Visuals

Left Side View

It’s difficult to spot the visual differences in a glimpse. A deeper look and you’ll see that subtle alterations have been executed in its headlamp nacelle, mud guards, side panels, and exhaust system. But what’s noticeably new is the top-end Chrome colour variant which you see here. Thanks to the shiny layer of chrome accompanied by the red fuel tank with golden stripes, it attracted a lot of questions and glances everywhere I went. 

The new Classic 350 is also substantially better in terms of quality. All the metal components are held on together sturdily while there’s no inconsistent paint finish, uneven gaps, or any sign of rusting or paint chipping off. Big thumbs up to RE in this regard! 

The Package

Instrument Cluster

As you get up close to the new Classic, you start noticing the differences over the previous model. And the most attention-seeking element is the round Tripper Navigation screen. It connects with your smartphone and gives access to turn-by-turn navigation. Now, this display is very easy to view on the go and is quite legible even under the bright sun. 

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Royal Enfield Classic 350 [2020]

Royal Enfield Classic 350 [2020]

  • Displacement346 cc
  • Mileage - Owner Reported35 kmpl
  • Max Power(bhp)19.1 bhp
  • Kerb Weight195 kg
  • ;

Last known Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 1,38,644

Instrument Cluster

But the sad part here is that this is available only in the top-end Chrome variant. Other versions, lower down the portfolio, get a ‘Royal Enfield’ badge here instead of the Tripper. The company says this is due to the global semi-conductor shortage. Once that starts to resolve, the Tripper Navigation will be made available in a few other variants as well. 

Instrument Cluster

While the circular speedometer retains its retro charm, there’s a rectangular LCD underneath that shows parameters like an odometer, two trip meters, a clock, and an Eco indicator. And yes, the Classic 350 finally has a fuel gauge! Furthermore, the switchgear of the bike is also new and this is the same unit as the Meteor. Interestingly, you get a USB charger too. All the controls, including the old-school rotary switches, operate with a nice feel and tactility. 

Front Wheel

Gone is the old 346cc unit construction engine and it has made way for the new 349cc, air and oil-cooled motor that’s a part of Royal Enfield’s new J platform. This is the same engine as in the Meteor - a bike we have ridden extensively and absolutely loved it. The experience has been something similar on the Classic.

Front Wheel

Furthermore, Royal Enfield has done a bunch of changes to improve the handling and stability. The single downtube chassis has been replaced by a double down tube frame and this is accompanied by chunkier telescopic forks with a diameter of 41mm, as opposed to the previous 35mm. Even the dual springs at the rear have 10mm more travel. Moreover, the front and rear wheels and tyres have slightly more width for a larger contact patch, thereby facilitating it with better stability.

Even the braking hardware is a part of the overhaul. While the front is 20mm larger at 300mm, the rear disc is 30mm bigger with a diameter of 270mm. The callipers have been enlarged as well. 

The Ride

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The moment you start up the bike, the difference from the older model is noticeable instantly. This one settles into a thumping yet smooth idle. Although it has the same relaxed character, the acceleration feels more energetic and livelier, especially at city speeds. There’s ample low-end torque to pull off easy overtakes. Reaching the speeds of 80-85kmph is not a sluggish affair but post that, it takes its own sweet time to reach the 100kmph mark. And if you keep on gunning it, it maxes out at around 114kmph. Progressing through the gears isn’t a task anymore as the gears shift with a slick feel and much lesser effort now. And this proves to be a boon in the city. However, the clutch starts feeling heavy after a point, especially when you spend long hours in traffic. 

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Vibration was a phenomenon that came as a part and parcel for the buyers of the Classic 350 previously. But I am glad to report that’s not the case anymore. Guess what, it can now cruise at 100kmph all day long without giving you the fear of its panels falling off. You only feel a minor buzz on the handlebar and footpegs beyond 80kmph or if you go wringing it in every gear. 

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Similar to its design, Royal Enfield has also tried to keep the commanding riding position of the Classic 350 unchanged. The only small revision in its riding triangle is that the handlebar has now been moved slightly forward to shift the rider’s weight at the front, which basically contributes to better handling. The seat has also been worked upon and the design and cushioning are different than before. 

Bike Seat

As for my experience, the overall ergonomics felt comfortable for a good amount of time. But on a long ride, after about an hour, my tail bone started hurting a bit and the pain only kept on increasing with time. After around two hours of continuous riding, taking a break became crucial. This was mainly an issue with the design and cushioning of the seat. So, it’s great in the city or shorter rides, but if you plan to go touring, you might want to install an aftermarket touring seat. 

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On the brighter side, all the hardware changes have resulted in a drastic improvement over the previous-generation model. At 195 kilograms (kerb), the Classic is a pretty heavy motorcycle and you can definitely feel that weight while changing directions. But it comes across as a more obedient and confidence-inspiring package while making way through traffic. And it’s the same story around twisties. Even if you push it around corners, the bike doesn’t really get upset as the rear end doesn’t squirm as much.

These improvements are also courtesy of better weight distribution than before. It’s two per cent heavier at the front now with the distribution being 46 per cent at the front and 54 per cent at the rear. That’s why it feels easier to move around on the main stand.

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It also sheds speed quicker! The front, in particular, sheds speed much quicker by delivering a stronger bite and feel. To be precise, Royal Enfield claims the stopping distance has been reduced by 21 per cent. As for the rear, it feels way too soft for our liking, but the company says it has been tuned as per the riding style of most Classic users. 

Engine From Left

Moving on to the ride quality, the Classic 350 irons out minor road imperfections, small potholes, and stones efficiently. But it’s only when you hit a nasty speed breaker or a deep pothole that you feel the firmness of its suspension, even at slower speeds. The rear end literally bobs you around if you don’t slow down enough. And things remain the same with a pillion on board. 

For those who are curious to know about its mileage, the 2021 Classic 350 returned around 31kmpl, which is decently fuel-efficient. With its 13-litre fuel tank fully topped up, you can do about 403km before having to take a fuel stop. 

Our Take

Right Side View

To be honest, the Royal Enfield Classic 350 was already bringing in commendable sales for the company. Besides RE’s rich heritage, the Classic delivers that thumping feel, a boss-like riding position, and of course, the adorable styling. With the 2021 model, Royal Enfield played it smart by keeping these traits intact while fixing other issues like high levels of vibrations, lack of important features, inefficient brakes, and lazy handling. 

Now, we can say this with conviction that most of these changes work in the favour of the new Classic 350 by making it a much better package. So, if you want a pair of wheels that evokes a sense of nostalgia while being relevant in this day and age, and as Vikrant usually says, something that tugs at your heartstrings, the 2021 Classic 350 is the one. 

Front View

For those who prefer something different than the conventional, Royal Enfield is offering a host of accessories for the Classic 350 under its new ‘Mak It Yours’ platform. So, you can choose stuff like bar-end mirrors, different seats, a number of engine guard options, and a plethora of other add-ons.

The prices of the 2021 Royal Enfield Classic start at Rs 1.84 lakh for the entry-level variant and go up to Rs 2.15 lakh (ex-showroom) for the top-end Chrome trim. While the base model is just around Rs 4,000 dearer than the corresponding variant of the previous Classic, the price difference between Chrome trims is nearly Rs 8,000. 

Photography by Kapil Angane 

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