There are a few formulas in the world that you just don’t change - the recipe for Coca Cola, Blue Masala Lays, a good old pair of denims, your parent’s disappointment in you and so on. These things are etched in stone. However, for things to remain the same, everything must change. Such is life’s paradox. Imagine the plight of Royal Enfield when they had to update one of the most iconic bikes out there - the Classic 350. Briefed with just one objective “Don’t screw it up” I think they’ve outdone themselves.
Design and Build
Like an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, when you look at the new Classic from a distance, you won’t notice much of a difference. Come close, however, and that’s when you really get to know that it’s a completely new bike. When we say new, we mean it’s got a lot of new bits that have been borrowed from the Meteor, right down to the chassis.
Royal Enfield made a very conscious decision of keeping the overall look identical to the original, except now it comes with new paint schemes and the red and chrome variant (pictured) we got for review looked absolutely royal. But when have they not? And that’s precisely why they’ve kept it that way. As for the build, the classic stays true to the brand’s ‘Made like a gun’ by-line. It’s all solid stuff here, amounting to a cool weight of 195kgs.
What’s really a bug bear are the plastic switches and control units on the handlebars. We like the retro style, but being plastic, they feel unbearingly cheap and our main complaint is the oddly positioned pass light that is awkward to operate. While doing so you end up hitting the indicator switch which can be really dangerous. If not change the layout, we wish Royal Enfield at least gave the option to switch the switches to metal ones like some of the reservoir caps through the MIY option. The mirrors too are a bit tough to adjust and we’d prefer aftermarket options.
Ride and Handling
There have been a few ergonomic changes apart from the fundamental ones such as the new Twin Downtube Spine Frame chassis and the Air-Oil Cooled 350cc fuel-injected mill. The handlebars have been repositioned and the seats are now wider for added comfort and an overall more relaxed riding position. We clocked over 600 kms on the ride in Pune and back to Mumbai without a pain in the butt (literally).
The bike handled itself with aplomb and adding to the comfort were the new and bigger 41mm Dia forks. Handling the Classic through the bends and curves of the ghats felt intuitive and predictable which greatly lends the rider confidence to push that bit harder and hit that corner that bit faster. Leaning was fun too thanks to the sensibly positioned back brake lever now making its way above the exhaust - no more scrapping! Also aiding the cause are the new wider tyres but more on these later.
While we had the confidence and the ability to push it hard, did we really want to? Nope! And before you ask, it isn't because of poor brakes. In fact the brakes are bigger and have ABS support with quite a bite.The real reason is that the sweet spot of the Classic 350 is at about 80kmph, sure it will go faster and hit triple digits without an issue, but you wouldn’t want it to, unlike on the Meteor. The 5-speed gearbox shifts smoother than MJ’s moonwalk on Billie Jean and there wasn’t a misstep we encountered.
Son of a gun!
Royal Enfield has been listening and the most requested upgrade that we wanted to see was a digi meter with a fuel gauge. There is a simple one that shows the fuel bars but it would be nice if it showed the range in kms so that you know when you’re going to go dry and need refilling. But that’s not it, they took a step up and threw in the LCD info panel and Tripper which gives you turn by turn navigation details and is pretty accurate, but we did get drop outs quite often where the app would just crash and it needed a restart along with the bike to connect. We see this app integration as a way of adding an approximate range where it can be displayed on the little LCD since the app already has gps and measures distance and speed. Another inclusion could be an SOS function, but again we’re asking for a bit too much for too little money.
Another rather dim point was the headlight. It’s basically a candle in the wind, okay for city rides where there’s ample street light, but you’d want way more on a dark highway. We did get an indication of RE offering add-on auxiliaries as an option but it may not be available directly at launch. We’d also recommend swapping out the stock tyres for something better but keep in mind that the spoke wheels still have to run on a tube-tyre system which we wish RE had made tubeless. Considering cost in mind maybe it is justified, but they could at least have it as an option because let’s face it, those alloy wheels just don’t look the part.
It’s a beautiful bike capable of making you fall in love with motorcycling all over again. Use it as a daily driver or take it out on the highway, the Classic, as the name suggests is well, Classic! Royal Enfield has upped the ante with this one and we won’t shy away from admitting that it might just be the best 350 in its class today. There’s comfort, there’s just enough oomph and the most important ingredient of all - class!