Royal Enfield Hunter 350 first ride review
The Hunter 350 becomes the third motorcycle in the company's 350cc J-series of motorcycles joining the likes of the Meteor and the Classic, adding a unique roadster dynamic to the range. Is it all that different? Let's find out.
Easy on the eye
The new Royal Enfield Hunter 350 looks great in person. It's got a refreshingly distinctive streetbike-roadster body shape compared to the easy-going, tourer styling of the Meteor and the Classic. The halogen headlamp, the fork gaiters, the new sculpted tank, the flattish seat, the short, slightly upswept exhaust can all comes together well in this minimalistic yet cool retro bike design theme. Charm, it most certainly does with its looks. I really like the look of the bike with spoke wheels, though.
RE has come out with two variants of the Hunter 350 - the top-spec Metro variant and the base variant, the Retro (Rs 1.50lakh). The Metro will come in two trim series - one being the Dapper series Metro (Rs 1.64 lakh) and the other being the Rebel series Metro (Rs 1.69lakh) - which comes with a livelier two-tone paintjob, different style badging, and the tripper navigation pod as standard fitment.
Distinguishing features of the Retro variant are its narrower treads, spoke wheels, its switchgear that's from the older RE models, differently styled info display, indicators, seat and grabrail, while the tail light unit features a bulb and isn't an LED unit like on the Metro.
What makes the Hunter so unique...
First of all, you should note that the Hunter isn't quite like the other two motorcycles in RE's 350cc line-up. Yes, it is powered by Royal Enfield's J-series engine the same 350cc motor as the Meteor 350 and Classic 350 J-Series bikes. This highly-refined motor continues to produce a max power and torque of 20.4PS and 27Nm. But the big difference with this bike compared to the other J-series bikes, is that here, the handlebar, panels, airbox, suspension damping, rake angle are all unique to the Hunter 350. Even the twin downtube frame has been shortened, so when you swing a leg over the bike you'll assume a mildly aggressive riding stance which is a contrast to its more laid-back siblings' riding geometry.
The Hunter 350 gets 17-inch cast alloy/ spoke rims at both ends with tubeless running shoes on. Managing suspension duty is a 41mm telescopic fork at the front with 130mm of travel while 6-step preload adjustable twin shocks with 102mm of travel handles business at the rear. The Hunter gets a 300mm disc with a twin- piston calliper at the front and a 240mm disc with single-pot calliper at the rear (the Retro gets a rear drum brake). The Metro variant of the Hunter 350 gets dual-channel ABS as standard, while the Retro comes with single-channel ABS.
What's it like to ride?
I spent a couple of days riding the Hunter 350 out in Bangkok, in the blistering heat as well as in wet road conditions, and here's what I learned about the new variation of the long-stroke 350cc J-series engine bike.
Firstly, the biggest, most substantial difference between the Hunter 350 and the Meteor and Classic 350cc bikes is the altered ergonomics, and you'll immediately tell the difference once you swing a leg over the motorcycle, if it wasn't quite apparent from the bike's design alone. The tweaks to the chassis are very different will have you seated in a more aggressive, upright riding position compared to the other two cruiser-style bikes in REs latest 350cc line-up. The new Royal Enfield Hunter 350 claims a seat height of 31.5 inches, which is similar to that of the Classic 350 but is higher than the 30.12 inches seat height of the Meteor 350.The revised ergonomics will have you feel a little of your body weight on your palms, because you are that much more leaned forward compared to the other bikes. It's a fairly comfortable riding stance nonetheless, because you're not in a completely 'committed' position but you do feel the intent. The new shape of the tank leaves you more than enough room to move around the place and take on corners at the pace you please, and that's something unique to this particular model. While the RE Meteor and the Classic 350cc (cruiser-style) bikes feel like they are more the sort for taking on long sweeping bends, the Hunter just feels that much more athletic. It complies very well with quick changes in direction. It's only when you scrape the underside of the exhaust pipe when you tip the bike hard into a right hander are you are reminded of the Hunter's limitations. But it definitely feels with the current the chassis-engine-suspension setup, aside from a couple of restrictive bits like the low-slung exhaust pipe and the side-stand, this bike could definitely do a lot more. The seat is very accommodating for two up, and you won't find it uncomfortable over short distance rides of about little more than an hour and a half in the saddle.
The Hunter weighs in at 181kg which is around 15kg lighter than the RE Classic 350, and out here, it does appear to have a little more pep in its step in terms of throttle response. The motor is as refined as before, just as you would expect of the latest breed of Enfield bikes, but feels a tad livelier than its 350cc siblings. The Hunter's 1,370mm wheelbase is also smaller than the other two 350s and factoring this along with a tighter rake angle, and what this all means is that the Hunter feels more in tune with sudden changes in direction compared to the other two. Handling-wise definitely feels a lot livelier and not so laid back as compared to the other two. The tyres perform really well in the wet, but the front disc, as with most other royal Enfield bikes, appears to be lacking a bit of bite.
The Hunter or the Hunted?
The Hunter 350 is a motorcycle that keeps things simple, fun and engaging with a touch of finesse - just like the other modern RE machines - which makes it very likeable. The pricing of the Hunter 350 is aggressive. Given its price range and overall dynamics, it does come across as a refreshing change to the line-up, if you aren't interested in the 350cc cruiser-styling from RE. Not only does the Hunter give you a different body-style option if you're interested in a 350cc bike from RE, but it feels the livelier of the three options currently on offer. we'll have to test it out back home soon. Oh yes, also it's the most affordable of the three REs, which can never be a bad thing. Is it a worthy adversary to the Honda CB350? Yup, I certainly think so.
Starts Rs 1,49,900
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