Jawa’s new retro roadster is finally the first big step in the right direction for a proper revival.
It has been nothing short of a tumultuous return for Jawa. Ever since its euphoric announcement in 2018, where it was going to ride in two bikes, the company has not been well equipped to handle the customers’ enthusiasm. More so, the products had fundamental issues that left a bad taste in the owners’ mouths. With new rivals bringing in more substance, Jawa’s Jawa had to undergo a massive shakeup. Hence, the new 350 is a big step up. Is it a step in the right direction? And more so, has it finally become worthy of taking on its segment rivals?
Well, for starters the engine is now larger. It might be the same 334 cc mill from the Perak, 42 Bobber and all of its Yezdi siblings, but much like each one of these bikes, the 350 too gets its own unique engine tune. And this happens to be my new favourite, just for the fact that it has great rideability across speeds while not compromising the Jawa spirited characteristics that much.
Yes, this 334 cc mill is a lot less powerful (22.26 bhp, 27 bhp on older model) than the old 293 cc and yes it is only making a little more than 1 Nm (28.1 Nm, 26.84 Nm on older model). But it is the way it puts down its power that makes you feel oh so good. So, as we set off for the White Rann in the early hours of the morning, the new 350 was holding a steady 85-90 kmph with minimal vibes keeping you company. It stayed sweet and effortless at those speeds, and had a bit more in reserve to reach 100-110 kmph and make overtakes on the highway.
While it is spirited in the lower gears, it doesn’t like to be revved out too much in the higher cogs. Jawa has told us this has been consciously done so that it offers that peaceful retro experience that most people are looking for. So, while it quickly gets up to highway speeds, it isn’t agitated or shouty while holding a steady pace. If you do start to push it beyond 100 kmph is when the motor shows discomfort and the vibrations become harsher. So, take a chill pill and relax at 90, like a roadster should. No false identity crisis here of being a revv happy streetbike in a retro body.
And there’s a lovely new soundtrack to accompany, perhaps another favourite of mine in the making. This symphony is most evident at lower revs and in the city. So, you can chill and ride the bike in a rather calming fashion, something that wasn’t quite as possible earlier. You no longer have to work the gearbox furiously to keep the bike moving, the shifts are better and thanks to a slip and assist clutch, the clutch action is also lighter.
Jawa has reworked the cooling system to make it more compact and efficient. We would only get to know if it actually has improved for the better again in our bumper to bumper chaotic city, not on pristine wide tarmac on a chilly cold day of riding to the Rann.
What is enhancing your sense of chill astride the new 350 is the new riding posture. Jawa has done some major reworking of the chassis, including raising it up a fair bit. Even the subframe is heavily revised with the seat height now standing at 790 mm. The controls are higher, wider and closer to the rider, so your upper body has less stress on it.
The only thing Jawa didn’t change is the footpeg position and I wish they did. Because currently, the lower half feels pretty cramped for taller and larger riders. If only the footpegs were moved ahead by a couple of inches, it would be a nice relaxed roadster riding posture.
But credit to Jawa, the seat cushioning is thicker and supports your bottom in a nicer manner on long rides. Even the pillion space is larger and wider and we did take a fellow journo friend of ours for a short spin but for a thorough pillion test will only take place once we get the bike for a longer duration.
On paper, it has become 12 kilos heavier (194 kg kerb) but you don’t really notice it as much. That’s because Jawa has been a bit clever on the packaging front. The bike has grown in proportion, especially in length and hence the weight is evenly distributed. So, picking it off the side stand isn’t as much of a bother.
Finally, the old Jawa Jawa was notorious for scraping its belly. The ground clearance was barely sufficient. With the revision to the frame and suspension, it has been raised to an incredible 178 mm. Thus, allowing for clearing even the tallest or largest of speed humps, and peacefully making through the stretches of bad roads you might encounter on your travels.
Despite losing out on outright sportiness, the new 350 still happens to be the best handling old school styled roadster on sale in India. The new chassis is still quite competent and the new suspension tune and wider tyres allow for better mid-corner bump stabilisation, lending you a far more composed ride.
More so, Jawa has increased the suspension travel at both ends. The ride isn't supple but pliant. But this allows the rider to stay better focused and not too bothered with how imperfect the roads actually are.
Adding to the sense of confidence are the solid braking hardware. The 350 stops rather well, no nostalgic feeling here.
While Jawas have always been capable handlers, it is really the build and fit, finish and packaging that has let them down in the past. And thankfully, most of it is a thing of the past. So, you no longer are faced with unkempt wiring, everything is neatly tucked in. The welds are far nicer. Panel gaps are more consistent. And overall finish levels on the 350 make it feel like it is right on par with the likes of the Royal Enfield Classic 350 and the Honda CB350s.
Jawa has also assured us that rusting issues have been dealt with but we will only come to know of it once we get to see them in action over a few months, especially after the monsoons. One area where the 350 still is rather underwhelming is the feature’s department.
Deciphering speeds between 60 and 100 kmph still is a task, there’s just an odometer and two trip meters and no other data on display as such. No LEDs anywhere might seem a miss but the headlight halogen bulb is new and powerful, super handy when we set off in the wee hours of the day.
I would have liked if there was a DTE and a clock perhaps added in the digital inset, as well as a neatly integrated USB charger, perhaps like how Triumph has done on its bikes. Smartphone connectivity for the sake of having it doesn’t make any sense but these small additions would have made the ownership experience a whole lot more appealing.
Jawa’s measures for its classically styled roadster motorcycle have worked beautifully. It feels like a more likeable and liveable motorcycle. The motor’s niceties are appreciated in a wider range of scenarios. It still has that little sporty kick to it, as all Jawas should, but it is more welcoming and happier to do a lot more than just hustle. Plus, the bike looks a lot more substantial and well put together in terms of quality.
So, shelling out the Rs 2.15 lakh doesn’t feel like a compromise now. We only hope the dealership level and aftersales experience improves as well. This will be a bigger task for Classic Legends as the brand has taken a hit over the years and for it to regain that lost trust will be a really uphill task.
Currently, whatever we’ve experienced on the ride, it is a worthy challenger in this space. And that is certainly the best step forward for not only Jawa but also Classic Legends. As for if it is better, well a retro roadster comparison should certainly be on the cards.
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