The iconic Royal Enfield Bullet 350 has received a comprehensive makeover, and we take it for a spin.
Ninety-one years is a long period of time. To give you an idea of how far back it was, the Empire State Building had just been constructed, Hitler had become a German citizen, and India thrashed the USA 24-1, to defend its Olympic title. And in 1932, an iconic motorcycle was born: the Royal Enfield Bullet 350. Many bikes came and went, but the Bullet 350 kept on going, reinventing itself, saving its maker twice, once when the Redditch plant was shut down and later when Royal Enfield India was on the verge of bankruptcy. In fact, it holds the record for having the longest continuous production run of any motorcycle. While the new Bullet 350 might have lost the legendary thump. What we have with us today is its latest iteration and possibly the last Bullet to be powered by an ICE.
The Classic 350 is the most popular bike in Royal Enfield’s portfolio, but when one imagines a RE, it’s the image of the Bullet that comes to mind first. I love the manner in which the designers have managed to marry the iconic styling of the Bullet with new design elements. At a glance, the 2023 Bullet 350 looks identical to the older bike, but look carefully, and many design changes start to appear.
The fuel tank shape is different, as is the badge on it and the centre panel. The seats are all new, and the headlight has been altered as well. The taillight and indicators are completely new and are similar to the Classic 350, and the chain drive has been shifted to the left-hand side. But more importantly, the iconic hand-painted pinstripes are still present on the new bike, and that gives the Bullet a special touch.
The new Bullet 350 also gets a semi-digital instrument console. There’s a large speedometer and a small display for details such as trip metre, odometre and time. The Bullet is a very analogue motorcycle in this regard, and there’s no Tripper, or turn-by-turn navigation as well. It also sports a new rotary switch gear, the quality of which is very impressive. In fact, the new Bullet 350 has much better quality levels and fit and finish when compared to its predecessor.
The 2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is offered in three variants and five colour options. The base variant doesn’t get pinstripes, dual-channel ABS, or the 3D logo. The top-end variant gets an all-black treatment on the engine and the exhaust.
The Bullet 350 was the last bike in Royal Enfield’s 350cc platform to be powered by a UCE, as the rest of the bikes sported the new J-Platform motor. RE maintained the older engine on the Bullet to keep the price competitive and to keep the purists happy. But with the new BS6.2 emission norms coming into effect, the company had to switch to a cleaner heart. And this brings two key changes: no Kickstarter and the Bullet 350 misses out on that iconic thump! While purists would fret at these changes, it was a necessary evil to keep the Bullet name alive.
2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350
349 cc, single-cylinder, air-oil cooled
20.2 bhp @ 6,100 rpm
27 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
One look at the spec sheet and you can make out that the specs and nature of the engine are similar to those of the Classic 350. This means loads of torque in the bottom end, and that gives the Bullet 350 a unique personality. You can do speeds above 100 kmph, but the Bullet 350 feels the best when you’re riding between 80-90 kmph. The clutch action is light and the gearbox works well too.
The key highlight of this engine is its relaxed nature, the focus is on torque and allowing the rider to cruise in peace. The torque also gives it tractability at low speeds to negotiate city traffic. Last but not least, refinement levels have seen a massive improvement when compared to the older model. One can expect a real-world fuel efficiency figure of 30-37 kmpl depending on the way you ride.
As I mentioned before, the Bullet 350 is a ground-up new motorcycle, and it gets a new twin downtube spine frame as seen on the Classic 350. While the Bullet 350 is a heavy bike (195 kg), the new chassis gives it a good balance, so the weight of the bike isn’t felt much.
You can filter through traffic rather easily, and this makes commuting easy. The Bullet was never designed to go corner hunting, but if you want to, it can handle fast corners in a more confident manner than its predecessor. Apart from the new frame, the fatter and grippier tyres give you extra confidence.
The suspension hardware has been updated, and the Bullet 350 tackles bad roads with composure, and the rider hardly feels any jolts except on sharp bumps and deep potholes. The Bullet 350 also gets dual-channel ABS as standard on the mid and top variants, along with disc brakes on either end. While there is bite and the ABS keeps the bike in control during hard braking, the feedback through the lever is poor.
As you can see, there are some massive changes made to the Bullet 350 when compared to its predecessor in isolation, and RE has done a commendable job of maintaining the aura of the iconic machine while giving it modern twists. The new Bullet 350 is quite affordable, as prices start at Rs. 1.73 lakh and go up to Rs. 2.15 lakh (ex-showroom) for the top-end variant, thereby undercutting the Classic 350.
But my pick is the mid-variant of the Bullet 350, you get this in this iconic shade as seen on our test bike and my favourite, the Burgundy shade, and more importantly, it gets dual-channel ABS. But when you take the Classic 350 into consideration, things are a bit different. Because the new Bullet 350 is basically the Classic 350 in a more classic form and comes at a more affordable price tag.
2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350
Benelli Imperiale 400
Prices (ex-showroom, India)
Rs. 1.73- Rs. 2.15 lakh
Rs. 2.35 lakh
Rs. 1.81- Rs. 2.03 lakh
I think it might even affect sales of RE’s bread, butter, and jam product, the Classic 350. The 2023 Bullet 350 has no direct rivals, and the only bikes that come close are the Jawa Standard and the Benelli Imperiale 400. While the purists might not be fans of the new Bullet 350, I am sure it will attract a new breed of Bullet lovers and, more importantly, ensure that the Bullet legacy keeps going.
Photography By: Anand Malepu
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