Royal Enfield Hunter 350 review: Preyer Service

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A Royal Enfield 350 single is an age-old idea, which formed the foundations of the company in its dual history, first with the Union Jack and later under the tricolor. And while some Redditch bikes had sporty personalities, the Subcontinentals (good name for a 350 cafe racer?) were as athletic as aging statesmen. That being said, there are now generations of Royal Enfield riders who have performed suitably silly feats on their improbable machines, each more poetic than the last. Now, however, instead of pushing their luck the traditional way, RE riders can push the limits of fun on the Hunter 350. And I got to check it out in Bangkok at launch and in Mumbai where I picked up our long -term. Not exactly an overall experience, but nonetheless a good indicator of the Hunter’s potential.

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 review

First of all, I have to say that sportsmanship is a spectrum; a gymnast and a sumo wrestler both practice the sport but in very different ways. And the hunter feels like an example of the first born in a family of the second. First of all, it is 14 kg and 10 kg lighter than the Classic and Meteor respectively, thanks to a revised chassis and lighter components. It loses the downtubes the other duo’s footpegs mount to and gets a slightly set-back footpeg assembly. The exhaust is a sportier chunky unit and it also sounds more aggressive than its more laid-back siblings. If you want to turn your Classic into a cafe racer, now you know where to go hunting.

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 review

There are two versions of the Hunter: the Retro and the Metro. The former gets basic instrumentation and switchgear, narrow tires wrapped around wire-spoke wheels, single-channel ABS, and comes with simple black or silver paint jobs. The Subway is one of bells and whistles, with multiple paint schemes to choose from; my favorite is the ‘rebel blue’ which has ‘Royal’ and ‘Enfield’ on either side of the gas tank in a typography more suitable for a sign. Whichever build you get, the quality levels are in line with RE’s recent proficiency in the matter, meaning everything feels solid and nothing is going to fall off.

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Royal Enfield Hunter 350 review

The Hunter felt light even when I took it off the side stand. And pressing the starter dial caused a driving rumble from the exhaust; no rational person will look for an aftermarket pipe for the Hunter. The lovely J Series 349cc single already looked happy in its final stage of life, having had its fueling and ignition tweaked for a sportier response in the Hunter. The turning circle was remarkably tight and triggered thoughts like, “If you do more, we’ll tell you where we came from.” And of course, the Hunter gets 17-inch wheels at both ends, finally bringing RE into the world of nearly limitless road tire options.

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 review

Horsepower and torque numbers are the same as before, but the Hunter is definitely the liveliest RE 350. Hard on the throttle, the Hunter rumbled through the gears convincingly. The sporty, upright riding position also helped set the tone for the antics that come naturally to the Hunter. RE claims a top speed of 114 km/h for this bike, but I found the sweet spot for a 90 kg rider to be between 80 and 100 km/h. There were no excessive vibrations, only feel-good accents that added character to the proceedings. And the occasional off-throttle pops made me want to start all over again. As with other RE 350s, the aura of the Hunter easily exceeds its spec sheet numbers.

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 review

In their launch presentation, RE went to great lengths to highlight the geometry of the new frame. And after driving it on a go-kart track in Bangkok and in the heavy monsoon traffic of Mumbai, I can say that Pythagoras would have been proud. Thanks to its compact proportions and steering geometry, the Hunter cut through gaps in traffic and corners of all kinds. It was a mix of quick steering and flawless stability that gave the throttle enough confidence to do its job. The stiff frame I first encountered in the Meteor now made more sense than ever, although the front and rear suspension felt a bit jarring if I tried to rough it up. However, with softer inputs, the Hunter was more than happy to grind its pegs to dust. In fact, it’s almost ridiculous how easy it is to do it.

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 review

I must also mention the Ceat tires, for their excellent grip, and which seem perfectly suited to the Hunter. So what could have been better? Well, given the Hunter’s sporty outlook, the sponginess of the front brake lever felt a little off. This bike is going to be ridden a lot harder than its two siblings, and it should have the kind of bite it needs and deserves. Also, the stock seat was good for about 45 minutes before my back went numb; RE probably knows this and, therefore, the nice aftermarket GMA seats he made for the bike. Clutch lever feel could also have been better; again, given the kind of enthusiastic driving the Hunter is intended for, the sudden engagement of the clutch almost made it feel like a CVT, and I’ve felt it on different Hunters as well. That’s why you don’t see any wheelies here.

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 review

With the Hunter, RE focused on the feel, as always, and came up with a bike that goes beyond the normally trodden RE trails. It will make sense for the traditional RE rider, but it will also appeal to a lot more riders than that. It brings a playful new take on the RE 350 single for those who might think the other RE 350s are too serious and dignified. The fact that I have already requested a clubman type handlebar to fit our long term should tell you what I think the bike can be. And that stems from the fact that the Hunter is straight out of the box – Royal Enfield’s funniest 350 single yet.

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