Purring around Provence
Royal Enfield seems to have a great sense of timing.
While northern European countries were being terrorized by winter storm 'Eunice', a group of motorcycling journalists from the Netherlands, Belgium and France were riding around in the sun and 20 degrees Celsius. While enjoying this beautiful weather and the brand new 2022 Royal Enfield Classic 350.
A true classic
The Indian manufacturer has managed to create a stunning machine that is far superior to any new bike currently on sale. It has everything that melts your heart at first sight. It's the exact combination of moderate power, high quality and retro styling that harkens back to the glory days of British motorcycle manufacturing.
As with its predecessor, the Classic 500, the 350 series are great backroad companions that will give you the exact same 'Zen' feeling as you clock up miles of sub-100km/h country roads.
Forget high torque
The absence of the massive power that many other bikes offer will not take away any of the pleasure from riding the Classic 350. You only have about 20 horsepower at our disposal paired with a five-speed gearbox. This will give riders a top speed just above any national limit. This alone will give you peace of mind.
The soothing sound of the single 350cc engine will send you back in time and make onlookers smile at you instead of raising their middle finger in frustration at your engine noise. This is 50's nostalgia in its purest form.
Royal Enfield has all the elements to enhance that feeling. The engine sound is unmistakably Royal Enfield, despite the efficient exhaust job. Even purists like us love it! Apart from the purring engine, it comes with a properly shaped metal tank, massive mudguards, spoked wheels, a single clock on the very traditional dashboard. I'm sure riders will find themselves answering questions about the bike's age every time they park the Classic 350.
Frame, suspension and brakes
The Classic 350 is equipped with 41mm non-adjustable forks and adjustable six-stage preload dual shocks. Combined with the spongy, sprung rider seat, you'll have enough cushioning to take care of most potholes on the road. A few days before the trip to France, I sprained my back and was in a lot of pain travelling all the way to Avignon, France. I had my doubts about driving on country roads, but truth be told, I had no problems at all! I think the Royal Enfield technicians deserve a big compliment from me and my aching back!
The Classic 350 is endowed with an all-new double base frame. It was designed specifically for this new bike, giving it the necessary stiffness. As with the suspension, the R&D department did a great job. It feels incredibly well built. Just look hard and see the shiny tank, polished mudguards and fancy panels and you'll find almost no plastic.
Instead, it's a mix of chrome (except for the 'blackened version' – which is kind of cool with its red stripes) and gloss, with chunky metal supports and a solid finish. By noticing all the small details you will definitely see the quality. No gaps between panels, misaligned elements or shadow welds. The bike even has a centre stand for easy maintenance.
All dory hunter
I'm a sucker for vintage and retro, so it's easy to charm me with a bike like this. With the price being what it is, you get tremendous value for your money. Is there no room for improvement? Of course there is. But not much.
Although the 350 comes with ABS as standard, the Byre brakes are nothing short of amazing. But they do what they have to. A little "oomph" can help you feel a little more confident when you're on the highway. But that's really it.
My suggestion, don't focus on these minor issues, just enjoy the bike in its natural environment. This can be zooming into an urban environment or on a country road. If you want a naughty smile and adrenaline rush, go for something bigger. If you want to smile and have time to experience the beauty of the world around you, this is your go-to bike.