Retro Motorcycles are just like time machines; step over the saddle, click on the ignition, select first gear and the moment you’re in motion, you are sent 50 years into the past (Pretty ironic coming from someone whose age isn’t even half that). In the past few years, there’s been a clear “Top Dog” when it comes to this specific style of motorcycle, clue- it is “Built Like A Gun”. So when Honda announced that they were introducing a variant to their lineup of 350cc singles that rivalled the king of the segment, it sure piqued my interest. The guys at Big Wing Honda Pune East were kind enough to lend me their CB350 for a day to see what’s what and answer the big question… Is it better than a Bullet?
At first glance, the CB350 is so similar to the “motorcycle that shall not be named” that you wouldn’t even think it is a Honda from a distance. The CB350 that I rode specifically, was in a beautiful matte dune brown colour adorned with a suite of optional extras like a front visor, the chrome engine guard, the fog lights and the pillion backrest. While many would wince at the lack of originality, I would argue that the CB350 is like a reimagined, dare I say improved rendition of the RE Classic, redefining small details in order to look like a more premium bike compared to its Rival.
This being a thumper engine, one might expect a lean, rough, somewhat weak motor, but you’d be caught by surprise. The 350cc single pulls strongly no matter what you throw at it. The 21 Ps and 30 Nm peak torque is spread nice and flat throughout the rev range, allowing you to lug the motor in a higher gear if you want to listen to that lovely thump. The gearing is tall, letting you pull the engine for what it’s worth before slotting into the next cog. Yet, the torque allows you to trundle along in the city without too much clutching. It is a lovely motor. The CB350’s block is not only refined but also frugal, honda claims this 350cc mill to be capable of achieving up to 46 Kms to the litre! Real-world numbers are closer to 33 Kms per litre in the city and 37 Kms per litre on the highways but mind you those are still some impressive numbers.
Talking about the clutch, it is pretty light too making it rather effortless in stop-and-go traffic, the slipper clutch also does a decent job when it comes to slamming the gears down while dropping anchor. Which brings me to the brakes, the 310mm disc at the front does alright in the stopping department but it lacks feel under heavy braking. The rear 240mm disc however, gives great feedback through the foot peg. That being said, the overall stopping power is more than sufficient, even for spirited riding, as long as you can omit the lack of response from the front. The newfound 44mm of length in the CB350 hasn’t made the bike difficult to shimmy through tight spots either, making it a fairly practical, daily-able bit of kit.
The CB350 feels planted and well settled when it comes to its suspension, the combination of telescopic forks and twin hydraulic shocks on a cradle frame chassis is a similar setup you would get in any of its competitors, but the CB350 is sprung on the slightly stiffer side. It is apparent while moving at low speeds over rough patches but once you pick up pace the bike does a pretty decent job at ironing out the bumps. Overall the CB350 rides well, providing a neutral and planted ride. It’s well-judged in terms of ride quality, but I wouldn’t call it plush.
The CB350 starts at ₹1,99,900 Ex-Showroom (Delhi) for its DLX variant and ₹2,18,000 Ex-Showroom (Delhi) for its DLX Pro variant, ever so slightly cheaper than the starting price of 2.02 lakhs for the dual channel abs model of the Royal Enfield Classic 350, making it a very good option to consider if you’re in the market for a retro themed bike.