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Royal Enfield Hunter 350: First Ride Review

10 August 2022, 10:03 AM Neil Nair

Introduction

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Right Side View

Why buy it?

- Feels quick and peppy to ride

- Offers accessible seat height and low weight

- Loads of customisable accessories

Why avoid it?

- Could get better features

- Not comfortable over longer rides

Stats reveal a whopping 25 per cent growth in young folks buying motorcycles since the pandemic. And if that number is to be believed, the Royal Enfield Hunter 350 has made its debut at the right time- after being in the works since 2016, that is. 

Now the Hunter 350 aims to twist the idea of how a motorcycle that rolls out of a Royal Enfield factory should be, even though it is built on the same ‘J-series’ platform as the tried and loved Classic and Meteor 350. By the looks of it, the Hunter 350 comes across as sportier, accessible and inclusive. But is it? And above all, is it capable of making you feel special, despite being an entry-level offering? 

To find out, we rode the motorcycle for a couple of days around the scenic urban jungle of Bangkok and here is what we came back with. 

The Visuals

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Right Side View

The Hunter 350 is without doubt a neo-retro motorcycle. Inspired by the 1958 Royal Enfield Fury, it sports minimal bodywork and the silhouette of a roadster. At first glance, it even comes across as a smaller version of the Interceptor 650, especially in its ‘Retro’ version with spoke wheels. What you see here is the ‘Metro’ variant that is more modern with its alloy wheels and sportier colours. Nonetheless, the circular headlamp, mirrors, tail lamp and turn indicators lean more towards the past. Even the detailed shape of the knee recesses on the tank is something you’d see on bikes from yesteryear. 

Royal Enfield Hunter 350

Royal Enfield Hunter 350

  • Displacement349 cc
  • Mileage - Owner Reported37 kmpl
  • Max Power(bhp)20.2 bhp
  • Kerb Weight177 kg
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 1,49,900

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Left Side View

That said, the Hunter 350 is well put together in terms of build quality. The switchgear, as seen on its siblings, feels tactile and is fairly easy to operate. The panels have been fitted well and the finish of the plastics is appreciable too. What I liked was the quality of footpegs that shut and opened with a reassuring click. And with whatever little time we had the Hunter 350, there weren’t any signs of rattling or compromise despite it being one of the most affordable Royal Enfields you can buy. 

The Package

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Right Side View

Since the Hunter 350 shares the same platform as the Classic and Meteor, it comes packed with the same 349cc, single-cylinder engine that churns out 20.2bhp and 27Nm plonked into a frame that is nearly the same. And I say nearly because Royal Enfield has revised Hunter’s chassis to offer a low seat height and sporty dynamics with a sharper rake angle. 

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Front Wheel

But these are the basics. You can further choose between the two variants of the Hunter 350- Retro and Metro. The biggest differences between the two are the wheels and tyres. While the Metro rides on alloy wheels wrapped in 110/70 front and 140/70 rear tyres, the Retro uses spoke wheels. These are shod with comparatively thinner tyres- 100/80 at the front and 120/80 at the rear. Apart from that, the two variants are also offered with different features. 

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Instrument Cluster

The Metro comes with a semi-digital instrument cluster with the Tripper Navigation as an option whereas the Retro sports a different, analogue speedo with a small digital display. Moreover, it also sports basic-looking switchgear, drum brakes at the rear and single-channel ABS as standard. Lastly, there are the colour options. While the Retro is offered in two colours, you can have the Hunter 350 Metro in five vibrant, dual-tone paint schemes.

The Ride

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Left Side View

Even before you thumb the starter, the Hunter 350 feels welcoming, especially if you are on the shorter side of things. With an 790mm seat height, the Hunter is accessible compared to the Classic’s 805mm seat. For me, at 5'8', both feet rested on the ground easily, further away from the pegs. You'd be at ease even if the tape measures you at 5'5'. Taller riders wouldn’t have an issue either as the stock seat has quite a lot of room to move around.

You are perched bent forward with your arms fairly straight holding on to the wide handlebar and your feet mildly rear set. The position is sporty, city-friendly and engaging as well. But that's at the start. After a while, stretching out to grab the low handlebars began to feel uncomfortable. Even the seat, soft and comfy at first, felt a tad tiring to be on by the end of the ride. However, RE’s variety of seat options could change that for you.

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Left Side View

And as you push the ignition toggle to the left the 349cc single comes alive with a characteristic exhaust note. The motor is the same as the one on its siblings but RE has tweaked the exhaust setup on the Hunter. So, the generic thumping sound is replaced by a bassy rumble. 

But that's not the only sprinkle of sportiness to the otherwise laid-back J platform. Right off the line, the Hunter 350 feels quick. Its performance numbers are the same as the Classic and Meteor but this one has a major advantage when it comes to weight. At 181kg with its 13-litre fuel tank full, the Hunter is 14kg lighter than the Meteor. The weight, or lack thereof, is from the use of fibre components, smaller and lighter wheels as well as a shorter exhaust canister. 

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Right Side View

The bike feels much more responsive and involving as you twist the throttle. Overtaking isn't much of a hassle either, even at speeds of over 80kmph in top gear. Up to this mark, the motor feels smooth and is mostly vibe-free. Although as the revs increase, the Hunter emanates vibes from the edge of the seat and handlebar. While these aren't unnerving, they do render the left mirror useless after a point. With the Classic as a benchmark, I found the Hunter to be slightly vibier. 

But with a similarly stiff rear suspension setup, ride comfort levels felt the same. In stock setting, Hunter’s twin shocks kicked back even on the rare occasions of bumps and ridges in the road. Even with a pillion on board, there wasn’t a significant difference in ride quality. However, with the ability to adjust preload at the rear, that can be tweaked to be a bit more manageable. On the other hand, the front feels well settled over tarmac undulations. 

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Left Side View

On the well-paved highways of Bangkok, at full clip, the speedo needle read 120kmph and the Hunter felt stable. Its low weight, sharper rake angle and involving performance have teamed up well to offer involving riding dynamics. It feels agile and is easily flickable and that proved to be a boon in the traffic-dense Thai city. We even had a chance to sample the bike on a go-kart track. 

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Right Side View

There, it proved to be sprightly, but not particularly fond of corners. The handling felt intuitive and nimble but the lack of grip from the tyres and a pair of easily scrapable footpegs wasn't very confidence-inspiring. And while the brake lever has a spongy pull, the bite and progression offered at both ends was decent all through. 

Should you buy it?

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Rear View

The Metro variant of the Hunter 350 that you see here will cost you Rs 1.64 lakh. While the more retro version with its base features and spoke wheels, sits at Rs 1.50 lakh. In our opinion, this asking price is more than the value the Hunter offers especially compared to bikes like the TVS Ronin in that price range. While you do get a 350cc motorcycle for under Rs 2 lakh, the features it has to offer aren't noteworthy or unique. Moreover, in the short time we had with the motorcycle it also seemed to lack soul and character otherwise associated with Royal Enfield’s motorcycles. Unlike the Classic 350 or the Interceptor 650, there is is no legacy or game changing attributes that would help it stand out from similarly styled motorcycles like the Jawa 42 or the Honda CB350 RS. 

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Right Side View

But having said that, the Hunter 350 as a tool, is a good motorcycle. It does what it is meant to do. It is fairly refined and has visual appeal. It also offers accessible seating ergos and useable performance to initiate new riders and those upgrading from 125-150cc motorcycles. While it could have been priced lesser, it still is more affordable than its siblings and comes in as a fun offering in a line-up of otherwise laid-back motorcycles. Lest we forget, the whole range of accessories would keep you interested for longer too. 

So if you're on a budget, particularly looking for a Royal Enfield and the Classic or Meteor is too old school, the Hunter 350 is the bike you should be looking to get home. But if features and performance are on your priority list, there are bikes that offer much more for much lesser. 

Photos by Kapil Angane

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