Royal Enfield Classic 350 First Ride Review

11 June 2018, 10:27 AM Neil Nair

Introduction

Pros- retro appeal, great brand value.

Cons- lacks the famed ‘thump’, weight, is vibe-y in nature, wooden feel of the brakes.

Royal Enfield has been in the modern classic game since the beginning and has virtually introduced that segment in India. While the brand has gravitated towards café racers and adventure touring motorcycles in recent years, the Classic 350 is as classic as it can get. 

Deriving most of its styling from the manufacturer’s 250cc Type 11F from the World War II era, the Classic 350 continues with the copious use of chrome for a retro appeal. Except for additions to its colour palette and a few revisions to make it BS-IV compliant, the bike hasn’t received any major changes since its introduction in 2009. And yet, the Classic 350 remains Royal Enfield’s most sought after motorcycle in India, selling 50,000 to 55,000 units a month. 

Quality

There isn’t much to criticise about the quality of components on the Classic 350 and the overall fit and finish of the bike is up to the mark. The Classic 350 does not use many plastic components, save the switchgear, which too is of decent quality. The quality of paint on the bodywork is top notch and the hand painted pin stripes around the logo and the side panels exude a mild sense of pride and exclusivity. The Classic 350 also comes equipped with a pillion seat and grab handle as standard which is removable for a more retro look. 

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 1,39,039

Comfort

The 350 offers an upright riding position thanks to its wide handlebars and neutrally-set foot pegs. Its wide, oval-shaped tank along with the tank pads provide additional credibility to the riding ergonomics of the bike. The seat is wide enough to accommodate larger riders although it could do with better cushioning. The Classic 350 gets a stiff suspension setup which is ineffective on ill-paved roads, but make up for minor bumps.

While the Classic 350 does not quiver on ignition, the vibrations sneak in on the handlebar and tank as early as 40kmph. These are worst felt while in 3rd gear and even render the mirrors useless on the go. The bike, however, eases itself in the 4th and 5th gear and at speeds of 70-80kmph after which the inevitable vibrations make themselves noticed again. 

Performance

At the heart of the Classic 350 is a 349cc, single-cylinder, carburetted engine that produces 19.8bhp and 28Nm of torque. It is mated to a five-speed gearbox that is smooth with seldom any false neutrals. The engine has ample torque and the bike picks up without much jittering from the 3rd gear too. However, the short gearing ratio leaves you frequently shifting between gears in heavy traffic. Adding to the down part, the Classic 350 now feels muted and lacks the famed ‘thump’ that one would expect from a Royal Enfield motorcycle. The bike isn't entertaining around corners either as its elephantine weight reminds you that the Classic 350 is not meant for knee downs.

The Classic 350 is most comfortable to ride in the highest gear, doing 80kmph. Push it harder and the bike struggles to reach the 100kmph mark. The bike gets a disc-drum brake setup which lacks bite and progression. I found myself engine braking most of the time to bring the Classic 350 to a halt; only denounced with harsh jerks from the long-stroke engine. 

Technology

The Royal Enfield Classic 350 misses out on most of the electronics that bikes around its price tag offer. While the classic analogue instrument cluster matches the design language of the bike, it only displays speed and odometer. It also gets an ammeter which the manufacturer could easily swap with a fuel gauge like on the Classic 500 for practicality. The cluster also uses a green backlight for the neutral and turn signal indicator which is not visible in daylight.  The manufacturer currently does not offer the bike with ABS although we can expect it to get a single-channel ABS unit next year before April.  

Fuel Efficiency

The Royal Enfield Classic 350 returned an average of 30kmpl on our fuel efficiency test route. With a fuel tank capacity of 13.5litres, the bike has a range of 405kms without any fuel stops. 

Fitness of purpose

The Classic 350 is meant to exude a masculine, modern-classic look. It also carries an aspirational value which relates to the pride and Bollywood Supercop feel that comes with owning a Royal Enfield. In those terms, the Royal Enfield Classic 350 ticks all the right boxes with its purpose and appeal.

Our take

The Royal Enfield Classic 350 makes for an everyday bike although a better suspension setup would also make it better for long distance touring. The bike could also do without the vibrations and wooden feel of the brakes that are intrusive to the experience. However, with a price tag of Rs 1.39 lakhs (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the standard version, the bike is more accessible than the Classic 500 and is also more modern and better equipped than the Bullet 350

 

Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi

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