Royal Enfield is working on revamping its line-up. They first launched the 650 twins a few years back then they replaced the Thunderbird with the Meteor 350. Now it was time to launch the most important motorcycle, the new generation Classic 350.
It must have been a challenge for Royal Enfield to make a new Classic because it is their best selling motorcycle and Classic has been ruling the segment since it was first launched. Finally, the 2021 Classic is here and there was a chance that Royal Enfield would have ruined it. However, I am happy to report that is not the case, the 2021 Classic is better than ever that too without losing its retro charm.
The new Classic 350 still looks like a proper retro motorcycle. Up-front the headlamp and the turn indicators are still circular units but Royal Enfield has cleverly updated the headlamp. It is now a clear lens unit that still uses a halogen bulb. There are also two pilot lamps placed just above the headlamp. I understand that an LED setup might not suit the whole retro vibe but at least Royal Enfield could have offered an LED Daytime Running Lamp or a more powerful bulb. At the rear, there is a circular tail lamp and circular turn indicators.
If you are looking from far away, you won’t be able to tell if it is the new generation of the Classic or the old one. It is only when you get close, you start noticing differences and realize that it is the newer generation. While riding no one noticed that it is the 2021 Classic 350, everyone thought that it is just a new paint scheme. I think that this was intentional by Royal Enfield because they still wanted to maintain the retro design and not screw up the iconic looks.
The switchgear is borrowed from the Meteor 350. So, it gets rotary style switches. They do give a retro feel, but are easy to use and are also made up of good quality. The paint quality is also a step up from the previous generation. There is some attention to details like “Since 1901” written on switchgear and the “R” logo integrated into the headlamp. Unlike the previous Classic 350, Royal Enfield has hidden most of the exposed wires. Due to this, the motorcycle looks neater and cleaner.
Royal Enfield has added some features to the new generation. The biggest one that was missing till now is the fuel gauge. Yes, finally the Classic 350 gets a fuel gauge and you won’t have to keep opening the fuel tank to check the fuel level. The fuel gauge is located in a small display that sits right below the analogue circular speedometer. The display also shows time, two trip meters, a service indicator, ECO mode and an odometer. Having said that, the digital display did fog up and the fuel gauge still has some errors regarding the reserve fuel level. There is also a “Trip F” which basically shows the distance that you have travelled after hitting reserve. Royal Enfield has also added a USB charger, side stand cut-off and a hazard light switch to the Classic 350.
Handling and Comfort
The handling of the new Classic is leaps ahead of the original motorcycle. This is due to the fact it is now using a new frame from Meteor. I was surprised by how the new Classic leaps into a corner and holds its line much better and feels predictable while doing so. It can now take corners at speeds that the previous bike just cannot do. Despite weighing 195 kgs, the 2021 Classic 350 does not feel top-heavy, it feels very easy to manoeuvre and you can easily filter through heavy traffic. The front does feel a bit heavy but you can get used to it and it makes the motorcycle feel planted.
Talking about the comfort of the motorcycle. Gone are the springs that used to be under the rider’s seat. The seat now looks more scooped out and is comfortable. What I will consider a major upgrade is a rear seat. The seat of the previous generation Classic was narrow and the pillion felt every jerk when the motorcycle went through a pothole or a speed breaker. Now, Royal Enfield has made the seat wider so now the pillion is also more comfortable.
Thump lives on
I was not expecting that Royal Enfield would be able to keep its iconic soundtrack especially after BS4 and BS6 emission norms muted the thump significantly. However, that is not the case here. The exhaust is bassy and sounds nice. Unlike some of its rivals that only rely on the exhaust note, the new J-series engine in Classic has its own distinct soundtrack. You can hear the thump when the engine is at lower revs or on higher revs. The motorcycle still feels solidly built and there are no creaks or rattles. If you are lucky enough, you might even get to hear a pop from the exhaust.
The new J-series engine is a big departure from the previous UCE engines. The engine is smooth and torquey. Any speed, any gear, you twist open the throttle and it goes. The vibrations are no more while doing city speeds, they only creep on the handlebar and fuel tank when you rev the engine hard.
Also, you can finally see what is coming behind in the rearview mirrors. Because of the vibrations, you could not use the rearview mirrors on the older Classics. You had to assume what is behind you or use the clutch so that the engine calms down or hold the rearview mirror so that you can see clearly. Having said that the rearview mirrors do change position quite easily. So, whenever you go through a pothole or a speed bump, you would need to re-adjust the mirrors.
The engine is the same as the Meteor. So, it is a 349 cc, air-oil cooled, long-stroke, single-cylinder engine. It produces 20.2 Bhp and 27 Nm of torque. The specs might not look impressive but Classic has always been a lazy cruiser and the engine complements the motorcycle beautifully once you start going. Royal Enfield said that they have made some minor changes to ignition and fueling. Due to this, the engine might not feel as eager as the Meteor but it does sound better and performs well. So, you won’t really miss out on anything.
It is mated to a 5-speed gearbox which is a joy to use. The upshifts and downshifts are smooth and there are no false neutrals which I face a lot on the previous Classic. The ideal cruising speed is still 80 to 90 kmph after which the engine starts to run out of breath.
Brakes and suspension
The suspension is slightly firmer than the previous Classic. This rectified the nose dive that the previous motorcycle had whenever the rider used the front brake. The suspension still does a good job of absorbing all the bumps and potholes and the motorcycle does not get unsettled.
Braking duties are being done by a 300 mm disc in the front and a 270 mm disc at the rear. The brakes do lack the initial bite but they are a lot better than the previous generations. The lower variant comes with single-channel ABS and a rear drum brake while the higher variants get a dual-channel ABS. The ABS is very well-calibrated. It comes into play seamlessly and a regular rider won’t feel anything.
The pricing starts at Rs. 1.84 lakhs for the Redditch colours. These only come with a single-channel ABS. Then there is the Halcyon Series that starts at Rs. 1.93 lakhs. Royal Enfield is also offering Signals Series and it costs Rs. 2.04 lakhs.
Then there is the Dark Stealth Black and Gunmetal Grey that cost Rs. 2.11 lakhs. These are the only variants that come with factory-fitted alloy wheels. Finally, are the chrome variants priced at Rs. 2.15 lakhs. All the prices are ex-showroom. Royal Enfield is offering a lot of accessories so you can customize your Classic as per your liking. You can even get the Tripper Navigation which we first saw on Meteor and Himalayan.
The new generation of Classic 350 is a massive improvement over the previous one. It still retains its signature styling, a thumping and refined engine and gets a few modern updates that were necessary. The price might have increased but still, there is a strong cult following behind Royal Enfield. The most important thing is that Royal Enfield did not mess up their best selling motorcycle. It will still attract a lot of people who want a motorcycle that looks retro but is still modern enough. Overall, Royal Enfield has launched an impressive product and it feels like a worthy upgrade to enter into the 350 cc segment.