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Honda’s new H’ness-CB 350 will challenge RE’s stronghold

S Muralidhar | Updated on October 09, 2020

Built to a plan, this midsize motorcycle tries to deliver more features, bang for the buck, and packs as much thump too

The fastest growing segment in the two-wheeler market has been that of 350-500cc displacement motorcycles. This slice of the market has been growing dramatically in size, complexity and choice over the last 3-4 years. Both existing players and newbies have witnessed a huge jump in sales due to a surge in demand from buyers in urban and semi-urban areas. Many of these buyers are first time two-wheeler owners who have been drawn by the prospect of new experiences on the open roads, and the lifestyle changes that a bike in this category could bring them. Of course, there are numerous buyers who are just upgrading their daily commute too.

Joining this burgeoning tribe of riders is the new Honda H’ness-CB 350, which was officially unveiled last week. That Honda is laying a lot of expectations on the new bike is amply evident from the fact that it has developed the H’ness exclusively for India, decided to pack it with high-end features and to market the new bike through its exclusive premium bike vertical — Honda BigWing dealerships. Currently, the company sells its imports through this channel.

Attention to detail

What is also clear from the design of the H’ness-CB 350 is that Honda believes many of the buyers in this segment appreciate the upright, naked-roadster style with retro-modern design elements. What some may consider to be unadventurous, the design of the new motorcycle still comes across as well-thought-out and unique, though Honda’s ear to the ground again seems to have been the reason why it has chosen to give the new motorcycle a thumping exhaust note. But, what it may miss from having an edgier design, the H’ness-CB 350 makes up with heavy attention to detail. There are a number of chrome elements, something Indian riders are still in love with, including for the mirrors, exhaust pipe and fenders.

The large fuel tank can be specified in a dual tone paint finish and the lights are all LEDs, both in the headlamp and the tail-lamp. In fact, emphasising the retro modern design, the lamp housings are all circular, though the light configurations are modern projectors. Another classic, timeless design element that the bike gets are the sharply defined, machined fins for the 350cc engine-block. Y-shaped alloy wheels with the rear sporting wide 130/70 profile tyres. The bike can also be expected to be quite sure-footed with dual channel ABS (anti-lock brakes), and 310mm and 240mm disc brakes for the front and rear respectively.

The engine is an air-cooled, 348.36cc, single-cylinder, fuel-injected, 4-stroke unit. It delivers a peak power of 15.5kW at 5,500rpm and a peak torque of 30Nm at 3,000rpm (said to be category leading). It is a long stroke engine and Honda engineers are said to have added a main shaft coaxial balancer to the cylinder to cut vibrations, both primary and secondary. Another unique bit is the offset cylinder position with an asymmetrical con-rod, intended for reducing sliding friction and optimising combustion by minimising energy losses.

The H’ness-CB 350 comes with a half-duplex steel pipe cradle frame meant to deliver a soft steering feel. Load split to the front is said to be optimised by mounting the engine at low position to lower the centre of gravity. A highly rigid box-section steel tube has also been used for the swing arm to reduce distortion and to better transmit torque to the road surface, improving overall comfort. The saddle height is 800mm and the riding position features a closely set handlebar and a positional relationship between seat and footrest has been designed for a firm hold in any riding condition.

Segment-first features

Honda also claims that the H’ness-CB 350 gets quite a few segment-first features, including selectable torque control (HSTC), which detects differences in wheel speeds between the front and rear, calculates slip ratio and maintains rear wheel traction by adjusting engine torque via fuel injection. HSTC can be switched off or on using a controller on the handlebar. Also, the DLX Pro variant is equipped with the world’s first-ever Honda Smartphone Voice Control system (HSVCS) developed in-house. Riders can connect their smartphones with the motorcycle via Bluetooth through the HSVCS app. Once connected, the system can be operated with controls on the left side of the handlebar to use features such as phone calls, navigation, music playback and incoming messages.

To facilitate complete concentration on riding, the info will be communicated from the helmet headset speaker (when a compatible unit is connected).

Though it is not the first application of a slipper clutch in an Indian motorbike, Honda claims a segment first for the assist and slipper clutch in the H’ness-CB 350. This is meant to help reduce clutch lever operation in stop-and-go conditions, and makes gear shifts smoother. Digital-Analog speedometer and info display is another highlight.

The H’ness-CB 350 will help Honda break into a Royal Enfield stronghold. This is also a bike that will bring some more reasons for buyers looking to upgrade their ride from the commuter class. There will be two variants on offer, including the DLX and DLX Pro; the latter only gets dual tone paint and a dual horn as additional features. Prices start from ₹1.85 lakh.

Published on October 08, 2020

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