It's obvious within a few hundred meters of riding the Hunter 350 that it is an easy bike to ride. It's not as light as a 150cc or a 200cc motorcycle. And its clutch pull is borderline heavy. But, the way the motorcycle moves along with the rider's inputs - without nary a surprise or tantrum - makes it easy to ride and like, especially in the city.
Courtesy of its 17-inch wheels and relatively sharp steering geometry, it changes directions with zeal; its 180kg weight notwithstanding. It is predictable and poised and rarely feels ungainly when filtering through traffic at a crisp pace. I have had to make a few late and sudden direction changes on the Hunter on my commutes - that too on a wet road, but the RE never felt nervous, lazy or scary.
Helping this agility is the motorcycle's seating ergonomics. The Hunter's rider triangle strikes a good balance between comfort and one that offers a good sense of control. It leaves the average-sized rider forward-canted courtesy of the handlebar's position - the bar is neither too close nor too high relative to the rider's seat - and the slightly rear-set footpegs. Plus, it's easy to hook the bike via the tank and the heel guards, which further allows for quick and accurate inputs to the handlebar.
Having said that, we would still want a narrower but grippier front tyre to improve the feel and response.
Easy does it
The Hunter scores high on manoeuvrability too, which gives its city credence even more weight. We did mention earlier that it was quick to filter through traffic as speed, but it's equally manageable when ridden slowly. U-turns come easy, and it wasn't a hassle to ride through almost stationary Ganpati-visarjan jams last month, either. It helps that it has a low centre of gravity and a decently wide sweep for its handle lock-to-lock. Plus, its relatively low seat height - and rider footpegs which are away from the general area where one might put the foot down - further help the cause.
The suspension, however, is a mixed bag. It is set up to lend the bike crisp handling and prevent it from scrapping its belly over tall speed-breakers. But as we are learning, it doesn't take away from the ride comfort too much.
Yes, its rear does feel slightly firm, especially at slower speeds. But it isn't uncomfortable. Or difficult to live with. Now in Mumbai, where roads are a melange of poorly patched road work, potholes, and endless ripples, one can constantly feel what's happening underneath the bike. However, thanks to a well-damped setup, the bike never feels unsettled over broken and undulating roads. And it doesn't throw a fit over hard landings if you happen to miss judge a speed-breaker either.
It also isn't firm enough to warrant getting off the seat or riding standing up over bumpy roads for fear of the back getting hammered. And so, I rarely gingered around or paid too much attention to the road underneath while filtering last month, even though the monsoon was still wreaking havoc at the time. Naturally, I did catch a few bad potholes from time to time, and the front did bottom out as a result. But thankfully, I still haven't broken a wheel yet or visited a physio for my back.
The Hunter isn't perfect. An hour into my commute and the stock seat begins to feel uncomfortable. What's more, its rearview mirrors vibrate a bit too much to be useful. And it is tedious to put on the centre stand. It seems like RE went down to 17-inch on wheels on the Hunter but forgot to redesign the centre stand to compensate for that. The clutch can get tiring to use in stop-and-go traffic too. And the front brake on our bike is fading a little too quickly. The latter is something we intend getting looked into in the upcoming service.
Next month, we will go touring. We know Royal Enfield is pushing this as an urban machine. But unless you have the Hunter and then another highway-friendly motorcycle, chances are this bike will have to do it all. Including intercity runs.
Make: Royal Enfield
Model: Hunter 350 Metro Dapper
Kilometres this month: 1003km
Fuel Efficiency: 34.1kmpl
Price as tested: Rs 1.95 lakh, OTR, Mumbai
Photography By: Kaustubh Gandhi
Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Right Side View