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Royal Enfield Classic 350 road test

Royal Enfield Classic 350
Royal Enfield Classic 350

The retro-styled Royal Enfield Classic 350 may be a small version of the Classic 500, but it’s no puny weakling. It’s no “bullet” either.

The Classic 350 is carburettor-fed instead of fuel injected and has a smaller bore, but it doesn’t give too much away on the 500, especially in the traffic light derby.

And at just $6490 ride away for the dual-seat Classic 350 compared with $8790 ($8990 chrome edition) for the solo-seat 500, it’s a significant saving.

The Classic 350 is also now available in Chestnut and Mint colours. (They come with dual seats, not solo as pictured below.)

A mate on a Classic 500 accompanied me as I picked up the 350 from Motosport Bayside in Capalaba for our test.

We didn’t get more than 500m before the misty-eyed old guys began gawking.

Stopped at the lights with a truck on either side of us, we were besieged by questions from the drivers drooling out of their respective windows.

It wasn’t the first or last time the retro bike attracted a lot of attention on our test.

The 350 looks identical to the 500. Only four things give it away: the dual seat and dual horns on the 350, the oxygen sensor on the 500’s header pipe and, of course, “350” instead of “500” on the side panels.Royal Enfield Classic 350

Both Classics come with a centrestand as standard and there is a handy grab handle on the side so you can easily lift it on to the stand so you can oil the chain.

And there isn’t much difference when you get on board except the fuel light is replaced by an amp meter, so when it starts to cough, you need to reach down to the left and flick the fuel tap to reserve (and then don’t forget to switch it back to “on” after you have refuelled!)

That’s part of the old-school charm reflected in the timeless styling that includes a kick start as a back-up to the electric start, although I never needed to use it. However, starting a carby bike requires some choke when it’s cold. The knob is a bit difficult to access unless you have long skinny fingers as it’s tucked away behind the fuel tap.

Like the 500, build quality is pretty good; the welds, chrome and paint seem reasonable quality; and all the side covers and fenders are made of metal.Royal Enfield Classic 350

They also both feature a rear wheel that comes off leaving the sprocket and chain in place for roadside puncture repairs!

They’ve also considered you might be doing your own mechanical work while out on the road as they do in India, so they have included a comprehensive and compact tool kit in the lockable left side cover.

However, I wasn’t expecting the 350 to perform near as well as the 500.

The 350 is only down 5.5kW in power, but when total power is only 14.8kW (down from 20.3kW), that’s down by about a quarter. Torque is also down by about the same proportion from 41.3Nm to 28Nm.

Yet, despite the bike weighing only 3kg less, it feels comparable in performance to the 500.Royal Enfield Classic 350

Off the line, it sprints away to 60km/h in less than six seconds thanks to the well-tuned Keihin carby and twin-spark engine. At the top end, it will reach 110km/h on the flat with a slight tail wind and my 80kg aboard.

You wouldn’t want to ride extensive distances on the highway, though, because the buzz through the bars will give you numb fingers within half an hour.

The single-cylinder vibration also makes the high big-eyed mirrors useless.

A pair of aftermarket bar-end mirrors with extra weight should solve the problems of bar vibration and mirror blur.

The Classic 350 is very narrow, so you can easily and legally filter to the front of the traffic (unless you’re a learner or P plater) and you won’t have to worry about holding up the traffic when the lights turn green.

Mind you, the rider has to pin the throttle to the stops and work the smooth one-down, four-up gears to get it to liven up.

Its only limitations are on steep hills where it feels asthmatic.Royal Enfield Classic 350

Despite pinning the throttle a fair bit, the bike scores almost identical fuel economy to the bigger bike, sipping fuel at about 3.5-4L/100km. That should give about 400km in range from the 13.5L tank.

Riding position is a neutral sit-up-and-beg style with a comfortable reach to the bars and pegs.

However, the fat and flat seat feels as hard as Indian marble and within half an hour, it’s quite uncomfortable.

It’s also a quite high and wide seat, so it wouldn’t suit short riders. However, there is plenty of scope for a saddler or upholsterer to lower and soften the sprung tractor-type saddle.

Handling is exactly the same as the 500; under-sprung and over-damped. That makes it a rather bouncy ride, yet it copes well with rough roads and gravel if you keep your speed down.Royal Enfield Classic 350

The combination of the 19inch front and 18inch rear makes it stable at highway speeds, but a little slow at turn-in, however the light weight means you can change direction without a lot of counter-steering bar input.

Brakes are soft and vague with a fair bit of fork dive and the rear drum is almost non-existent, so you have to plan your stops accordingly. There is also no ABS, although the brakes are so soft it’s difficult to lock the wheels even under heavy braking in the wet.

I’d love one as a second bike and I’d buy the 350, rather than the 500, putting the money toward a few modifications such as a customised seat, bar-end mirrors and perhaps a breathing kit. I’d probably still have a couple of thousand dollars left over!

Royal Enfield Classic 350

Royal Enfield Classic 350

  • Price: $6490 ride away
  • Warranty: two-year, unlimited kilometre (parts) and 10,000km and one-year warranty (labour)
  • Service: 500/3000km
  • Engine: 346cc single-cylinder, Thunderbird Twinspark
  • Bore x stroke: 70mm x 90mm
  • Compression : 8.5 : 1
  • Power: 14.8kW @ 5250rpm
  • Torque: 28Nm @ 4000rpm
  • transmission: 5-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain drive
  • Suspension: Telescopic 35mm forks (130mm travel), dual gas-charged shocks with 5-step adjustable preload (80mm travel)
  • Wheelbase: 1370mm
  • Clearance: 135mm
  • Length: 2180 mm
  • Width: 790 mm
  • Height: 1080 mm
  • Kerb weight: 187Kg (with 90% fuel and oil)
  • Fuel: 13.5 litre tank
  • Tyres: 90/90, 19; 110/90, 18
  • Brakes: 280mm single disc, 2-piston calliper; 153mm rear drum
  • Colours: white, blue or black
  1. Only difference would appear to be the bore
    Both are lams approved no great difference in power
    Why bother? Why not just discount the 500 by about a grand?

  2. They are a nice little city bike, however having ridden the Enfields, bar end mirrors extend the width too much and do restrict filtering. Probably better to live with the standard mirrors which are OK at commuting speeds.

  3. took a 500 for a spin a while back and was really disappointed by the build quality. The chrome part had already started to rust on a new bike. Everything looked and felt cheap.
    I think I would rather by a 10 year Jap bike then this thing new…

  4. Hi, Im doing a ride across Australia taking inspiration from Winifred Wells who did the ride in 1950 on a new RE 350 Bullet. I be doing the same in 2017. Ill be buying a new RE 350 Classic so it will be very interesting how it goes compared with what England built 67 years ago. See or Facebook. All the best Beetle Bayley

      1. Please have a look at my web site or more info look up my Facebook of same name. The 350 has now done several trips 2 with wife on back one 1,300klm trip and the other a lot less of some 200ks. The bike is great to us, we just love the puttering along checking out the scenery go by gradually. The 500s we rode with do disappear in the distance especially in the hills, on the flats and down hill we do well enough. Great fuel economy at 30 klm a litre. Near on 4,,000klm all going great. All the best Beetle

  5. I’ve been riding a classic 500 for the past year and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ll admit I have a few bikes but I tend to grab the keys of the Enfield before anything else. I used it mostly for commuting and it turns each trip into a bit of an adventure, I also kick start it all the time which preserves the battery and makes me feel like Marlon Brando in the morning. My wife also loves going on the back of it while she hated going on the back of the Vespa or the NC750.

    I think it’s an excellent 2nd bike especially if you have a garage to keep it in or somewhere out the rain. It’s been reliable so far and it appears well put together but obviously a Honda will be more reliable in the long term. It made me laugh when you spoke about fixing punctures at the roadside. I recently had a puncture in the rear tyre and, being spoked wheels with tubes, this means replacing the inner tube rather than plugging the tyre. I don’t think the average punter would be able to do this at the side of the road. I’d just get cover for towing so you don’t have to worry about punctures.

    Performance wise my 500 is merely adequate for London traffic. It feels very happy at 50mph but any inbuilt mechanical sympathy will stop you from going much faster and that keeps me off motorways. I’ll also point out there’s no storage on the standard classic so you’ll need to get inventive for where to store a lock or rain suit. Another small complaint is that you can’t hear the indicators and the dash bulbs are very dim but you can replace these with LED bulbs which are brighter.

    I like my 500 though. I love kick starting it. I also enjoy just riding along enjoying the trip rather than feeling continually held up by slower moving traffic. It does vibrate more than other bikes but that makes it feel alive.

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