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.
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.
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.
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.
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.