We ride the Royal Enfield Classic 350 BS6 to see if it is still a valid choice amongst the current crop of modern classic bikes
The Royal Enfield Classic 350 — a bike that ever since its launch in 2009 has been Royal Enfield’s breadwinner of sorts. A bike so legendary, customers happily wait months to get their hands on their ‘Bullt’ and go dug-dugging to the horizon. One reason for its fan following is that it ran almost uncontested in the classic/retro bike space, until the resurrection of the Jawa brand, and the launch of the Benelli Imperiale 400 and subsequently the Honda H’ness CB350. The Classic 350 was amongst the first in the RE portfolio to receive BS6 compliance and with all the choices out there, is it still the natural choice for those looking for a retro classic bike? Let’s find out.
Our review unit is the Classic 350 Signals edition which costs roughly `10,000 more, with no additions save for the Stormrider Sand paint scheme. Besides, this one gets a few aftermarket extras like the headlamp grille, touring mirrors and the touring seat from RE’s genuine parts catalogue. With that out of the way, let’s get into the review. In the conversion to BS6 the 346cc single has lost roughly half a bhp and now makes 19.1bhp but an identical 28Nm. The mill also gets fuel injection, making the throttle response slightly crisper, and it has a sense of urgency under hard acceleration if kept in the right rev-range i.e. low to mid range. The powerband is narrow and you have to work the gearbox for quick overtakes. In terms of NVH, the engine is still rather crude and unrefined, and over 80kmph it feels like something that could belong in an adult toy store. Remember, this is the older push-rod engine that has been updated to BS6 norms, and not the all-new engine that debuted in the Meteor. And for all the Bulleteers out there wondering about the iconic thump of the exhaust, it’s gone. The addition of the catalytic converter on the header pipe has pretty much neutered the bass-heavy dug-dug and it’s more of a mechanical clatter now.
The Royal Enfield Classic 350 BS6 remains largely unchanged over the BS4 model when it comes to the ergonomics and other mechanicals. The suspension does a great job at handling undulations and bad roads at regular speeds. The bike remains unfazed and flattens out most imperfections. And the touring seat that our test bike came with is a must-have add-on. It is plush but not soft enough for you to end up with a sore bottom after a long day in the saddle. Braking on the bike is handled by disc brakes both front and rear, and it gets dual-channel ABS to keep you in check. The braking is adequate but could do with a little more initial bite. However, the ABS is calibrated well and isn’t as intrusive as other systems out there.
Fit and finish on the bike is another place where RE have upped their game and the bike seems better built than the previous iterations. That being said, there is still the occasional thunk over rough patches where you feel something might have fallen loose. It still gets the same two-dial instrument cluster with one consisting of the speedometer with the odometer and another dial that has a fuel level warning light, the ABS light and the engine light. It’s strange that a bike in 2021 doesn’t get a fuel gauge or even resettable trips on the odometer.
To sum things up, it is definitely a step up over the previous generations but I can’t confidently say it packs a strong enough punch to be the clear choice amongst its rivals. And more than just the bike, Royal Enfield allows you to buy into the lifestyle. Leaving other manufacturers aside for a moment, after experiencing the Meteor 350 and what RE is capable of, the Classic 350 feels long in the tooth and desperately in need of a makeover. Maybe it would be wise to wait for the Classic to get the Meteor’s engine?