The Hunter 350 and the Ronin 225 have the same goal. Both these motorcycles aim to hook a buyer looking for a modern bike but with some tasteful sprinkling of retro charm. However, the Hunter and the Ronin couldn’t have taken more diametrically different approaches to it.
On one end, there’s heart-warming design, history, torque, and great storytelling in the Hunter. On the other, you have the Ronin, which is more about technology, features, better power-to-weight ratio, and the promise of a more exciting real-world riding experience. But, which of the two will prove to be the better approach in our riding conditions? That’s what we are here to find out. But, the answer, as you will find out in due course, isn’t a straightforward one.
Styling and Quality
The answer to - which is the better-looking bike - is an easy one; it’s the Hunter. Its proportions, lines, stance, and simplicity make it endearing. And the design is cohesive enough to seem as if it were cut out of one large rock.
The Ronin, on the other hand, comes across as a curious case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. The design, though not unpleasant, doesn’t come together to be emotive enough. It seems as if TVS wanted to check a whole lot of boxes instead of going for purity of purpose.
However, once you walk up to the bikes, the Ronin clearly stands out as the more premium motorcycle. The attention to detail, the panel gaps, the operability of the switches, and even the general fit and finish and design of even the small elements are better executed on the TVS. We also prefer the Ronin’s switchgear, instrumentation, mirrors, and fuel filler cap as these exude an air of premiumness missing on the Hunter.
Ergonomics and Comfort
Neo-retro these might be, but both the Hunter and Ronin will spend most of their time as commute machines. Therefore, a comfortable seating triangle is key here. As it turns out, with their low seat height, wide handlebars and upright seating postures, neither is uncomfortable. But between the two, we favour the Hunter.
Its mildly rear-set footpegs compared to the forward-set ones on the Ronin give the Royal Enfield’s rider a higher sense of control and involvement. And it works better while commuting, touring, corner carving, jumping speed-breakers, or standing up and riding over poor surfaces. As for the Ronin’s seating, it’s best suited for a lazy ride out on a straight road.
The TVS does have a more comfortable ride quality, though. Not that the Hunter’s ride is uncomfortable. But, one can feel everything that’s passing under the wheels of the Hunter, be it small potholes, tiny bumps, ripples or road joints, and this makes for a busy ride at times. The Ronin on the same section of the road feels more absorbent and pliant, both at high speeds and low. Even over seriously bumpy or broken roads, the Ronin is the more settled of the two. And it’s the bike we would recommend if you have a delicate back.
Feature and Tech
The win here, unequivocally, goes to the Ronin.
The Hunter uses basic cycle parts. It has regular telescopic forks up front and a preload-adjustable twin spring-shock combo at the rear. The Ronin gets upside-down forks up front finished in tastefully done gold hue, and a rear monoshock that offers more adjustment than the RE. Additionally, it gets bespoke tyres from Eurogrip. The latter is a brand we have come to like and appreciate for its ability to produce tyres that strike a good balance between grip, feel and longevity.
Furthermore, the Ronin also comes with LED lighting all around, while the Hunter only offers an LED tail lamp. The former’s illumination in the dark is better too. The TVS gets fully digital instrumentation with readouts for two trips, average speed, battery charge level, and distance-to-empty, apart from Bluetooth connectivity and turn-by-turn navigation. One can also choose between Rain and Urban riding modes on the TVS, which essentially alter the throttle response. And lest we forget, in this top-spec TD trim, the Ronin sports three-way adjustable levers too.
All this is missing on the Hunter. And its part-analogue-part-digital instrumentation also doesn’t get a tachometer which, again, the TVS does.
Performance and Handling
On paper, the two bikes produce the same power - around 20bhp. But that’s where the similarities end. The TVS uses a perfect square engine layout which gives it both an easy and quick-revving nature but without having to compromise on mid-range torque. Additionally, the Ronin uses oil cooling, a four-valve head, a higher compression ratio, and it is significantly lighter.
The Hunter, at a little over 180kg, is nearly 20kg heavier. It also only uses a two-valve head and runs a long-stroke configuration. The latter means it would ideally favour low and mid-range torque over top-end performance. Not surprisingly, its peak torque figures are significantly more than the Ronin.
In the real world, the Ronin immediately strikes you as the more eager motorcycle. It sweeps through its rev range quicker and is happy revving to its redline too. It also seems to run shorter gear ratios for its five-speed gearbox, and that enhances the feel of the performance. These closely stacked ratios also mean that the Ronin doesn’t get bogged down even if it is in too high a gear. Anything over 3,000rpm and the TVS pulls cleanly.
The Hunter feels comparatively more relaxed in the way it delivers its performance. It feels like a bigger bike with a bigger engine with a lot in reserve, but it won’t be rushed into delivering it all. Now don't get us wrong, the Hunter is brisk but just not as alive as the Ronin. At least coming off a traffic light. It is fantastically tractable, though. And it will keep up with city traffic without a bother, overtake without much effort, and hit 100kmph without gasping.
It manages the twisties well, too, disguising its weight and feeling agile, willing, and involving. The only thing holding it back is the tyres. And the front brake, which lacks power and bite, fades too quickly.
The Ronin - its commuter seating notwithstanding - is light and agile too. It tips into corners without much effort, stays true to its line, and doesn't weave or wallow when leaned over, and with those Eurogrip tyres offering such a good feel, it instils confidence in the rider. But, a slightly more aggressive seating triangle would have made for a more involving experience.
Given that the Ronin is lighter, it has a smaller capacity engine, and it runs a slimmer rear tyre, it's no surprise that the TVS turned out to be the more efficient motorcycle in this comparison. It returned a little over 42kmpl on our test route, while Hunter's fuel efficiency figure was almost 36kmpl over the same route, carried out at the same time, with the same two riders. Add to it a fuel tank capacity of 14 litres and 13 litres for the Ronin and Hunter, respectively, and the TVS offers a theoretical range that's over 100km more than the Royal Enfield.
As is clear from the points, the TVS Ronin is the better motorcycle here. To begin with, it is easier to ride and live with. It is lighter, quicker, and more tech-laden. It has lighter controls, better brakes, and is easier to put on the centre stand. It is nimble yet comfortable. It’s alert yet not too intimidating. And apart from its unique looks, there’s no real reason not to buy it.
But, the Hunter, is the better neo-classic. It is better looking. But crucially, it balances the old-school charm with a new-age riding experience much better than the TVS. The engine, for instance, is modern but still has an old thumper vibe to it. But, the rest - the chassis, suspension and wheels - give the Hunter agility that’s very modern and sporty.
As we see it, you can’t go wrong with either. It just boils down to whether one wants a motorcycle that looks like a neo-classic but is quick and totally modern. Or one which is slower but has some old-school goodness to match its heart-warming design.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi
Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Right Side View