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New Royal Enfield Classic 350 review: An aspirational bike to own

S.Muralidhar | Updated on September 01, 2021

Few cult classics can retain their charm like this RE has. Its time for another avatar; now stronger and more refined

For its fans the Royal Enfield Classic 350 is perfection personified on two wheels. It is an icon whose appeal has transcended time and geography. Its design has remained largely similar to its ancestors and has yet managed to stay relevant for a new generation of riders. For years it has been the blind choice for those who have sought the ultimate laid-back two-wheeler and the companionship of its characteristic exhaust thump. The Classic 350 is the one that helped the RE brand become the favourite amongst current day riders and gave it a global footprint too.

After its revival in 2009 (global launch in 2008), the Classic 350 has won over the hearts of over three million riders worldwide. The next generation of the bike has just been launched and, last month, I got an extended riding experience on this new avatar. The first question on my mind while taking delivery of the bike - is it still a Classic? Happy to report that it is, from all angles, in its performance and even its exhaust note. Here are my first impressions after the first test ride.

 

Design & Ergonomics

The Classic’s design signatures - teardrop fuel tank design, the triangular cradle frame, floating rider seat with exposed springs (optional fitment), the tiger’s eye front fascia and the low-slung exhaust pipe are all still what define the new model of the motorcycle. Every feature and design element has been revisited by the team at RE to ensure better fit, higher quality and improved refinement. Some of them, like the hand-painted gold pinstripe, have been reimagined. There are a range of colours to choose from including two military inspired colours, the gun grey and stealth black, and even two chrome finishes. The Desert Storm will continue to be available. Phew!

At 195 kgs, the weight of the new Classic 350 is nearly the same as the outgoing model. Some changes to the riding position have been done to accommodate the slight forward bias in weight distribution. The weight distribution which used to be 44:56 (front: rear) in the previous Classic 350 is now 46:54. The seat height has been lowered by 32mm to 805mm. The handle bar has also been moved just a bit forward and lower to compensate and fine-tune the riding position. The ground clearance is 170mm. After riding it extensively, I’d say that the seating position is spot on and the overall ergonomics of the new Classic 350 is the same comfortably erect, yet laid back one that we have all loved. The fuel tank capacity is 13 litres and the claimed fuel efficiency is over 37kmpl. So, getting anywhere between 350 and 400 km on a full tank should be possible. The only problem that seems to persist is the accuracy of the fuel gauge. Rated top speed is 114.6kmph.

 

Most of the switchgear is carried over from the Meteor, and that is a good move. Rotary engine start/ kill switch in red with the RE lettering and the matching one for the headlamp in black add to the ‘retro’ charm. The fit and finish quality has seen a big improvement over the previous generation Classic 350. The polished, oily chrome surfaces and detailing all around the bike now look much less likely to age over time. Cast parts, plastic covers and knobs, and metal panels also sport a sturdy, clean finish. There have been some comments about the tail-lamp housing being over-sized and clunky, but that’s meant to refer back to the Classic’s past. Pretty much the same reason why there are no LEDs in the headlamp, which instead features 60/55W bulbs with a multifocal clear lens reflector. The nacelle with the pilot lamps are also a Classic signature. The rider seat has also been sculpted to offer better support, but the best saddle in the business would still be the Meteor’s. A single seat configuration with exposed springs etc., can be customised for the new Classic. The two Chrome editions will get the ‘Tripper’ navigation pod that we first saw in the Meteor.

 

Performance

The new Classic 350’s engine is the same 349cc, ‘J’ Series mill from the Meteor. This replaces the previous Classic 350’s UCE (unit construction engine). Featuring a cylinder with a 72 X 85.8mm bore and stroke, this 2-valve, air-oil cooled, fuel-injected engine delivers 20.2bhp of peak power and 27Nm of torque. So, simply in terms of output numbers, the new engine is not very much different compared to the outgoing UCE mill. But, this is a much more refined unit and the performance characteristics have been tweaked to ensure better low-end torque and wider mid-range output. In fact, compared to the Meteor too, the fuelling and ignition calibration has been changed in keeping with the Classic’s profile. Throttle response is different, and, if this question has been the one you’ve wanted answered all along, the exhaust has been tuned to deliver the characteristic, all-important ‘thump’ note of the Classic. Well, it is not the kind of loud ‘wake-up-the-neighbours’ thump that some of the aftermarket exhausts give the Classic; but more like the pleasing healthy signature note that keeps you company as you ride into the horizon. The chrome finish to the low-slung exhaust is another highlight.

An inherently refined engine and a crisp shifting 5-speed constant mesh gearbox come together to offer an excellent combination. Ride quality is good and largely vibration-free in city speeds, and showed up only when I crossed over into 3-digit speeds on the highway. It is still one of the best in the segment to cruise in full throttle and at about 100kmph speeds. The suspension set up has improved with 41mm diameter front forks (current 35mm) at the front and 90mm travel for the dual-rate springs at the rear. The new bike’s twin downtube spine frame has improved rigidity and stability, compared to the outgoing model’s single downtube, stressed member chassis.

 

The new Classic 350 also gets better performance kit in the braking department. The brake setup has been carried forward from the Meteor, and features a 300mm disc at the front and a 270mm at the rear (280mm and 240mm in the old model). Dual channel ABS and larger brake caliper pistons make the new Classic 350 significantly more sure-footed during hard braking. The stopping distance has come down to 43 metres (100-0kmph) from 55 metres for the previous gen. Some variants of the new model will be offered with a153mm rear drum brake and single channel ABS. The new Classic 350 also rides on wider rubber, with the front tyre being a 100/90-19 profile and the rear is a 120/80-18.

BottomLine

For the new Classic 350, extensive customisation is possible and there are three broad themes on which the finish and accessories have been created - retro, blacked out and minimalist. There is a wide choice of alloy wheels (my choice would still be the spoked wheels) and engine guards, and other options include sump guard, touring screen, bar-end mirrors, backrest for the pillion and touring seats. In addition, there is also the “Make It Yours” customisation programme on the brand website which allows for further personalisation options.

The Classic 350 stays an aspirational bike to own for many in India and around the world. Its appeal has crossed mediums and borders. Much of that success has come because it has stayed true to its heritage, while engaging its current audience. That authentic heart throbs in the new Classic 350, even though older fans of the bike may miss that streak of capriciousness.

Prices for the 2021 Classic 350 start from ₹ 1.84 lakh and go up to ₹ 2.15 lakh

Published on September 01, 2021

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