The new Honda CB350RS is basically a sportier variant of the H’ness CB350. However, what is important to note is that it’s a noticeable Rs 7,000 more expensive than the fully loaded DLX Pro variant of the H’ness CB350. So what are you paying more for? How different is the new bike and should this be the variant you should consider? We answer all those questions in this first-ride review of the Honda CB350RS.
We loved how Honda has stuck to the original CB roots when they designed the CB350, and with the RS, they have taken that old school charm and added a huge dollop of sexiness. Let’s take a look at the changes here over the CB350 H'ness.
The RS might be a sportier variant among the two, but Honda has made sure that it stands apart from its H’ness brethren. First up are the fenders that are shorter than the metal chrome units on the CB350 H’ness. The headlight has a chrome ring in the H’ness but it has been blacked out on the RS. The RS model also gets fork boots which not only add to the aesthetic part but is a practical add-on, protecting it from dust. The indicators, too, aren’t just a different design but these are LEDs.
Moving to the side, the RS also gets a skid plate. The RS uses a single horn setup instead of dual units on the DLX Pro variant. These side panels, too, are redesigned to go with the sportier theme of the CB350RS.
At the rear, the RS looks very Ducati Scrambler-ish, thanks to the LED taillamp and the fender design. Another big change that really adds some meat here is the rear tyre. Now, this is a 150-section MRF Zapper Kurve that's not only wider but is also a size down at 17-inches.
Overall, the CB350 RS is a fantastic looking motorcycle and is sure to appeal to those who prefer not just retro but sporty as well.
The Honda CB350RS also packs revised ergonomics since it is supposed to be sportier. The footpegs are about 112mm further behind and 12mm higher than the CB350 H'ness to aid better cornering clearance. Even the handlebar is all-new and is wider and higher for better leverage.
The seat, too, is new as well and while it is slightly on the firmer side, it is comfortable. All this coming together, the RS offers a slightly more aggressive riding position but not at the cost of being uncomfortable. Even the saddle height at 800mm is pretty friendly for people who have average height. The lack of heel-toe shifter matches the sporty persona of the RS.
On the features front, smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth, USB charging is NOT available in the RS variant. Now that is quite a bummer considering those are very handy features. The instrument console is exactly the same as the CB350 H’ness and you get an analogue speedometer and a small digital screen reading out the odometer, trip meters, fuel, time, and the gear position indicator. The screen also displays the distance to empty, average mileage, and real-time mileage figures. There is a hazard warning switch too for the emergency stops.
On the rider assist side, Honda offers a switchable traction control or Honda Selectable Torque Control system along with dual-channel ABS and an assist and slipper clutch.
Mechanical specification-wise, the RS is exactly the same as the H’ness. Thus, the 349cc, single-cylinder engine still makes 20.8 bhp and 30Nm of torque. The engine still feels refined and commuting in the city feels absolutely delightful. You can shift-up early using the super smooth five-speed gearbox and use all that torque to chug along comfortably. It has enough torque even in the higher gears so you barely have to downshift.
Even on the highways, as long as you are in the cruising zone, which is between 90–100kmph, the RS will oblige happily and it will sit at 100kmph all day making it good for touring too. But it’s only when you want to sail-past at higher speeds that the RS’ performance starts feeling a little lacking. Urgency is not this motor’s forte and revving higher reaps no dividends. We would have loved if Honda would have made slight changes in the RS to offer better performance, like altering the gearing or engine mapping as compared to the H’ness.
So, if you’re looking at a relaxed performer, the RS is sure to keep you happy, but if you want a peppy performer, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Now talking about handling, the RS uses the same cradle frame, telescopic fork, and twin shock absorbers as the H'ness. But the RS gets gripper, block patter MRF Kurve tyres. The rear tyre uses a wider 150 section rubber while minor changes in the hardware make it two kilograms lighter. Do these changes make a difference?
Indeed they do. Further aided by the slightly more aggressive riding stance, the RS is more enjoyable on a good set of twisty roads. The handling is neutral and the stickier tyres and the increased ground clearance mean that you can lean it further than the H’ness. What also helps are the brakes which are lovely and inspire plenty of confidence.
The ride quality is excellent too and it absorbs the bad bumps really well which makes commuting on our pothole-ridden roads a less tiresome affair. Overall, we were really impressed with the ride and handling package of the RS.
Now, some of you might ask, was there a need for the RS with the H’ness already being around. Well, just like we had the Royal Enfields in different avatars like the standard, classic, and Thunderbird, why not have different avatars of the CB350, right?
The CB350RS is priced at Rs 1.98 lakh in this dual-tone shade and is almost Rs 7,000 more expensive than the top H’ness DLX Pro variant. Yes, it does miss out on the Bluetooth feature and the USB charging, but it makes up for that with a more engaging riding experience. So, if you always liked the CB350 and wanted it to look a little sportier, a little sexier, and have a sportier riding experience, the CB350RS provides just that.
Photography By Kapil Angane