The Royal Enfield Hunter 350 features some drastic changes unheard of in the company’s textbook. A gamble that could pay dividends.
Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Royal Enfield really turned a corner since the launch of the 650 twins. Those motorcycles attracted a lot of new riders to the RE fold and the Hunter 350 aims to take that to the next level. I will even go so far as to say that the Hunter will prove to be a revolution in Royal Enfield’s journey and there are many reasons to support this claim. The motorcycle is currently offered in two variants, Retro and Metro, and we will begin by exploring the merits of the top-shelf Metro.
It is easy to tell them apart because the Metro is the one with all the youthful paint schemes that include an eclectic combination of colours and finishes. It also gets 17-inch cast alloy wheels at either end; a first for a Royal Enfield motorcycle. What follows is an urban-scrambler type of design language where the elements are as minimal as they are functional. In the Metro, the round headlamp and tail-lamp are complemented by round indicators. The fuel-tank is a good-looking 13-litre unit that also doubles as a strong visual element, working in tandem with the blacked-out engine and bare minimum bodywork.
Neo-retro inclination is evident on the analog-digital instrument cluster as well. It displays the essentials along with a clock and gear indicator. The Tripper Navigation console can also be installed alongside as an accessory. The single-piece handlebar curves back towards the rider, offering a riding position that strikes a good balance between involving and comfortable. Credit for the latter must be shared with the well-padded seat as well which, although great for the rider, is not as generous for a pillion rider over long distances. Sure, switchgear may be shared with the Meteor 350 but it does not feel out of place on the Hunter and the overall level of quality is definitely consistent with what one would expect of a premium product.
To provide motive force, the Hunter relies on the capable 350-cc, two-valve, air-cooled, single-cylinder, J-series engine and it develops 20.5 hp and a peak torque of 27 Nm. Royal Enfield have done a commendable job of marrying this engine to an apt exhaust system that produces a soundtrack which becomes increasingly involving as the revs rise. If you don’t believe me when I tell you that it will make you want to ride the motorcycle more, then you must try it for yourself. The slick and precise shifts of the five-speed transmission and the engine’s impressive level of refinement only enhance the positive riding experience; be it in the city or on an open road.
The frame uses the engine as a stressed member and is suspended by simple componentry at either end: telescopic fork at the front and twin shock-absorbers at the rear. The disc rotors are mounted on the wheel directly in an effort to reduce unsprung weight and it is such commitment that allows the Hunter to reward the rider with impeccable handling. The combination of 17-inch wheels, steep head angle, and short wheelbase makes this an agile motorcycle that does not shy away from quick direction changes and stable corner exits. If anything, when enjoying a quiet stretch of twisty road, I found myself thinking that this package would certainly be capable of handling some more power from the engine.
As for ride quality, the Hunter strikes a lovely balance between soaking up bumps and urging the rider to corner enthusiastically. Braking is managed by discs at both ends and, of course, it comes equipped with dual-channel ABS. Overall, with the Hunter, I believe Royal Enfield have cracked the code for simple and fun motorcycling where the rider and machine contribute equally to an enriching experience. This strikes me as a motorcycle that can keep anyone entertained; be it a beginner or an expert.
Retro Metro Metro Retro
The most expensive Metro variant is priced at a very aggressive Rs 1.68 lakh (ex-showroom) and it is particularly tempting because the Royal Enfield Hunter 350 is a motorcycle that lives up to everything that I expected of it. Of course, some more power would have been welcome.
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