The 42 Bobber is Jawa’s newest offering which, evidently, is one gorgeous-looking motorcycle. But, just like most of the bobbers, is it all about form? Or, there’s more to it than a heart-warming design? And should you buy it? To answer these questions, we have already done a standalone review of the 42 Bobber which you can check out here.
What we are doing here is comparing this bobber with the Royal Enfield Classic 350, which needs no introduction. It has existed in the market for years, went through a complete revamp in September last year, and we have been rigorously using it since then. Now, cutting to the chase, let’s say you want to buy a modern-classic motorcycle and your budget is between Rs 2-2.5 lakh. In that case, which one of these would make more sense considering your commuting and touring duties? Let’s find out.
Design and Quality
The day the 42 Bobber was launched, everyone at BikeWale was gawking and admiring the pictures of the motorcycle. It looks clean, minimalistic, and really pleasing to the eyes. And interestingly, it looks very similar to the Triumph Bonneville Bobber. The overall stance and a few other elements like the bar-end mirrors, peanut-shaped fuel tank, scooped-out seat, and slash-cut exhausts look inspired by the Bonnie. Well, we aren’t complaining because the result is truly an eye candy.
As for the Classic 350, on any given day, even this can pretend to be a bobber. All you have to do is remove the pillion seat, just like we did. We agree, it does not look as pure a bobber as the 42 and it might not attract as much attention on the road. But the Classic 350 isn’t a bad-looking motorcycle by any stretch. In fact, its vintage design is one of the reasons that it has been the best-selling offering in its segment for years now.
On the quality front, the Classic 350 is surely a notch ahead. Not that the 42 Bobber has any serious quality issues. Both bikes boast even panel gaps, sturdily put-together components, and a good paint finish. Even the switches are nice and tactile. However, the 42 Bobber could do with better finishing on blacked-out components like the exhaust and wheel rims, more neatly done welds, and more precise cuts on the engine cooling fins.
Ergonomics and Comfort
Before hopping on the bikes, I was surprised to notice that the Classic 350 is easier to get off the stand and push around, despite being substantially heavier than the Bobber. The latter is lighter but takes more effort to be moved. You have to bend down quite a bit and there’s nothing solid to hold on to. Also, the bar-end mirrors keep hitting your wrist while turning the handlebar, just like the Perak.
The 42 Bobber is easier to hop on though, courtesy of its low seat height. And once seated, you’re greeted with an upright and neutral riding position with forward-set footpegs and an easy-to-reach handlebar. In fact, the riding triangle on both bikes is nearly identical and comfortable. However, on the Bobber, you’re bent relatively more forward. Also, the seat of the Bobber doesn’t offer enough space to move around which might get uncomfortable after a while, especially for individuals on the heavier side. The Classic, on the other hand, seats the rider in a more upright position and the saddle is roomier.
Now, while riding the bikes, the Jawa needs to be ridden much slower over bad patches of the road due to its stiff ride quality. You can feel almost every surface imperfection and the shock only intensifies with rising speeds. Even the smallest potholes or road joints send a nasty jolt if you aren’t slow enough. And on the highway, slight dips and crests keep it bobbing continuously. The Classic, meanwhile, has a firm edge to its ride but it is not as uncomfortable as the Bobber. While you can feel undulations here as well, the suspension feels relatively plusher and absorbent. On the highway, in particular, the Classic’s ride is considerably more settled.
Features and Tech
On the feature front, the Bobber is more contemporary with a fully-digital LCD console, LED headlamp and tail lamp, a slipper clutch, USB Type-A and Type-C charging ports, and hazard lamps. Also, the seat can be adjusted in two steps. While the Classic misses out on most of these fancy bits, it does get a turn-by-turn navigation system along with a USB charger. But do note that the tripper navigation is available only in the top-end trim of the Classic.
Performance and Handling
The engines of these bikes are profoundly different in terms of specifications and architecture. The 42 Bobber is better on paper with its power and torque output of 30.2bhp and 32.74Nm, respectively. Its 334cc motor is an oversquare unit with liquid cooling and four valves, and comes mated to a six-speed gearbox. Meanwhile, the Classic 350 runs on a longer-stroke 349cc mill with air-cooling, a two-valve head, and a five-speed gearbox. Also, it makes lesser power and torque at 20.2bhp and 27Nm.
The engine characters, too, are as different as their specifications. The 42 Bobber has a peaky and high-revving nature. It accelerates briskly, majorly after 4,000rpm, and keeps building up pace spiritedly until its redline. In a nutshell, it is substantially quicker than the Classic. Even at speeds of around 90-100kmph, there’s enough pull to execute quick overtakes on the highway. What acts as the chink in its armour is the vibrations, which creep in on the bar at around 80kmph and increase along with the speed.
In comparison, the longer-stroke mill of the Classic favours a more relaxed and relatively lazier performance. While there’s a decent pull from the low-end to mid-range, it doesn’t like to be revved hard like the Bobber. While it can easily do 100-110kmph on the highway, the journey to those speeds is comparatively slower and overtakes need to be planned. However, the Classic provides a more peaceful ride as it’s almost free of vibrations even at highway speeds.
In the city, there are several aspects of the Bobber which are admirable. So, if you’re in the right gear, pulling off overtakes is a quick affair. Even the slipper clutch is extremely light. In fact, despite its long wheelbase, the lighter kerb weight makes it more agile to filter through traffic. However, what hampers the experience is the gearbox which, after a few minutes of riding, becomes clunky and reluctant to shift. Then, the engine doesn’t like to be in higher gears at slow speeds. For instance, if you’re in fifth gear at 40kmph, the acceleration from there is accompanied by a mechanical knocking sound along with vibrations.
Talking about the RE, slow-speed riding is more enjoyable on the Classic. The commendable tractability of the motor means you can keep trudging along in the fifth gear at 30-35kmph and the pull to the higher speeds is clean. Plus, there’s barely any vibration and the Classic keeps chugging along smoothly. Although the clutch is heavier, the crispness of the gearbox makes riding it slow a cakewalk. That said, manoeuvring it through traffic requires you to muscle it more than the Jawa.
Come across a set of corners and the Bobber feels lighter on its feet. It’s much easier to tip in and stick to the line. However, it has a limited ground clearance and the exhausts start scraping in no time. While the Classic can be leaned more than the Bobber, tipping it needs more effort. Then, it also feels a bit wobbly if your inputs aren’t smooth.
It’s a similar story in the braking department wherein the Bobber is more efficient. The front disc has a good amount of bite with decent lever feedback while the rear rotor delivers decent stopping power. The Classic, meanwhile, demands you to pull the front brake lever quite hard and even the bite takes some time to kick in.
Our detailed scrutiny had us conclude that the Classic 350 is a more practical, better-finished, and more feel-good offering of these two. The Jawa 42 Bobber looks like a missed opportunity to me. It does have a lot of ingredients to make it desirable, like a decent number of features, fairly agile handling, better brakes, lighter kerb weight, and quick acceleration — all of which make it a relatively more involving motorcycle to ride. Above all, it sports an outstanding design. But all these traits are overshadowed by its prominent shortcomings like a fussy gearbox, crude engine character, and stiff ride quality. If these issues are ironed out, the desirability of the 42 Bobber will definitely go several notches higher.
On the other hand, the Classic 350 has a more pleasant riding experience on offer. No denying that it’s considerably heavier, demands more effort to turn in, doesn’t accelerate as briskly, and the brakes lack bite. But these are gripes one can easily overlook courtesy of its smooth yet characterful engine, a plusher ride quality, and a nicer fit and finish. What’s more, it also makes for a better choice for longer rides due to the presence of a pillion seat which can be used for mounting luggage as well. Plus, you can deck it up with touring-focused accessories. And as I said in the beginning, the removal of the seat can make it look like a bobber. The Jawa, meanwhile, is largely for those who are hell-bent on bringing home a stunning bobber and are ready to live with the shortcomings.
Photography by Kapil Angane