The all-new Classic 350 is a much improved product. But the CB350 is an all-rounder too
Royal Enfield has been the leader in the 300-400cc motorcycle segment and the new 2021 Classic 350 aims to further solidify the company’s foot hold in the market. But remember, the Honda CB350 comes across a perfect all-rounder and its closes rival. Calls for a comparison then, eh?
The new RE Classic 350 was launched just a few weeks back and is aimed at those looking at a nostalgic feel, laid back motorcycling and easy Sunday morning rides. Priced from Rs 1.84 lakh onwards, the Classic 350 will sell alongside the good old Bullet and the newer Meteor 350. In this article, we pit the bike against the Honda CB350, an offering that surprised us all. It now only looks equally good but the exhaust note is a delight for the rider.
Although the Classic 350 is an all new bike, Royal Enfield has managed to retain the same old looks, now with an added old world charm. The little Chrome apron the headlight, the small pilot lights and tons of chrome on the engine casing and other parts like the exhaust come together to make this a dream run for Bullet fans. The bike gets spoke wheels, split seat and a longish, wide tank that feels at home between the rider’s legs. Attention to detail is good for the price segment.
The Honda CB350 on the other hand is a fusion of old world school and modern day elements. This retro-cool motorcycle ends up satisfying those looking at some amount of features - the LED headlights for example, or the semi digital instrumentation cluster that offers a lot of rider info. And then the alloy wheels and a wider rear tyre. There is less chrome on the bike too and the up-swept exhaust hints at its sportier nature. PS : the bike you see here is loaded with some extra add-ons like a luggage rack and engine protection kit.
In terms of dimensions, the CB is longer, wider and taller than the Classic 350 but by a small margin. Both the bikes have good road presence but the CB can be had in a better looking RS trim too. Likewise, if you are too young for the Classic, head over to the modern looking Meteor 350.
Both the bikes make use of a similar capacity 350cc, single cylinder engine. The Classic uses the same new motor that we first saw in the Meteor. As compared to the older Classic, smoothness levels have gone up and the bike is quicker off its feat too. Efficiency is up and you can cruise at an indicated 90km/h all day long. True to most Enfields, the bike can also chug along in traffic at 50km/h in the 5th gear and this is what makes it so much enjoyable for lazy weekend rides or just enjoying countryside views at slow speeds.
The CB on the other hand is a different machine. It has more power and higher torque than the Classic and will offer better 0-100 timings as well. Tall gearing and tuning give it an easy nature at good speeds too but the trouble here is the weak low end. You simply cannot ride it at low speeds in a higher gear. 40 in 4th or 50 in 5th isn’t possible and you end up seeing yourself in a lower gear most of the times. That said, we love the way it sounds from the rider’s perch and it is also about 10-15% more efficient than the Enfield. Top speed is higher too but the 5th is an overdrive gear and for any good serious momentum at higher speeds, you need to downshift to the 4th gear. Gear shifts are smoother than that of the Enfield though.
The Classic 350 is a good 14 kilos heavier than the CB and in real world, this does make a different. Its not as agile either at lower speeds and those graduating up from a smaller bike or a scooter will not be too comfortable immediately. However, ride quality is nice and the bike feels planted over broken tarmac too. High speed manners, in terms of stability, are top notch.
The CB on the other hand feels like a smaller bike on the move. You can easily filter through traffic and even ride on the pegs when you go off the road. Brakes feel so much better too than those on the Classic 350. Ride quality isn’t bad either and around a set of twisties, this bike will be far quicker than the Classic. However, the composure and confidence that the RE offers on no roads, or high speeds, or with a pillion is unbeatable. It really is a Bullet after all!
The CB is feature loaded and a more enjoyable bike over the Classic. No two ways about it. However, dealer network (Big Wing Showrooms) is wafer thin and engine-gearbox combo isn’t the best for low rpm rides. The Classic 350 on the hand ticks one very important box : riding feel and riding pleasure. If you seek this, look no further. The bike has improved across all parameters, dealer network is terrific and new colour combinations look uber cool. It won’t be as agile, as quick, as modern or as feature loaded but sometimes in life, we need to look beyond all this. The all-new 2021 Royal Enfield Classic 350 needs a big applause.