They say that ‘the world isn’t black and white’. Well, sometimes, it’s just that. Sometimes, there is no third option, and you must make a choice. For instance, imagine having to select a 300cc cruiser that could serve as your daily commuter, a weekend adventure partner, a stylish Instagram prop, a date-night ride, and a dependable touring companion. Would you opt for the gleaming, meticulously crafted, suave Honda CB350 H’ness? Or would you go for the rugged, bare-chested, devil-may-care new RE Bullet 350? The former exudes refinement and expects you to be polite and respectful. The latter, on the other hand, appears to have the rebellious attitude of a troublemaker, someone with no regard for authority and rules. So, which one of these two of these two will be your pick?
Let’s begin by looking at what these two motorcycles have to offer on paper. Despite sharing a similar appearance with the outgoing Bullet 350, the new 350 does not carry over a single part or component from it. If you ask a 5-year-old to draw a motorcycle, the Bullet 350 is exactly what he would draw. It embodies the quintessential motorcycle design, and we love it! The new RE Bullet 350 sports an upgraded design and gets a brand-new frame, new features, and a modern safety suit.
The bike comes with a classic round headlamp with halogen lamps, indicators, and a taillamp. To meet modern safety standards, it now features a 300mm disc brake at the front and a 270mm disc at the rear, along with dual-channel ABS for added safety. There is a hybrid instrument cluster, blending a digital LCD screen for fuel, an odometer, and two trip metres with an analogue speedometer that occupies the top half of the cluster. The switchgear is modern yet familiar, featuring toggle switches for ignition, headlamps, and information display, along with controls for hazard lights, and horn.
I think that RE has struck a perfect balance between the classic and the modern. So, in terms of styling, it seems that the RE Bullet 350 is tough to beat; however, let’s not be hasty and jump to conclusions before allowing the H’ness an opportunity to present its case.
When it was first launched, the Honda CB350 H’ness seemed like an outsider, but it has since established itself as the benchmark in its class. The CB350 H’ness sports a classic sport-touring design but with a strong emphasis on functionality. In terms of styling, just like the RE, it features a rounded headlamp unit, a rounded instrument cluster, a teardrop-shaped fuel tank, a large two-piece seat, and chrome highlights across the bike in abundance.
In terms of features, however, the CB350 H’ness takes a significant step forward. It features an all-LED lighting setup, 19-inch front and 18-inch rear blacked-out alloy wheels, smartphone connectivity, traction control, dual-channel ABS, slipper assist clutch, and an emergency stop signal. The CB350 also gets a larger 310mm front disc and a 240mm rear disc for braking duties.
Overall, CB350 H’ness offers a more comprehensive package, with a similar styling to the Bullet 350. However, despite these impressive features, the Bullet 350 is still more appealing than the two, given its rich history, heritage, and coolness factor.
Now, that we have examined what these two motorcycles have to offer on paper, let’s get to the meat of the matter – which one should you buy? Once again, let’s begin with the Royal Enfield Bullet 350.
There is no denying that the Bullet has an enduring charm that resonates with everyone. It’s an iconic nameplate and a dream of many. The popularity of the Bullet is rooted not only in what it has to offer in terms of design and features but also in the nostalgic narratives and cherished memories it evokes. But you can’t assess the worth of a motorcycle based solely on nostalgia, can you? So, the question arises – how good is the new Bullet 350 as a product? Well, when you compare it with its Japanese contender, the answer is anything but simple.
One of the first noticeable differences between the two is the weight, with the Bullet tipping the scales at 195kgs (kerb), while the CB350 weighs 181kgs. While the weight difference may not seem substantial on paper, it definitely becomes evident when you swing a leg aboard. In this regard, Honda has done a great job in terms of the CB350’s weight distribution, making it seem much lighter on the road than the RE. In fact, the difference feels so significant that one can easily assume the CB350 to be almost 30 – 40kgs lighter than the Royal Enfield.
In terms of ergonomics, the CB350 once again has an edge over the Bullet. The Bullet 350 positions the rider in a more tucked-in posture, whereas the H’ness offers a more on-top, in-control seating position. This makes the Bullet 350 feels even more cumbersome to handle, as you have to contend with more weight. The CB350, on the other hand, is easier to manoeuvre, eliminating the need to have a WWE Smackdown-style wrestling match with the bike.
Overall, the CB 350 is just easier to live with on a day-to-day basis. After reading this, Bullet enthusiasts may decide to march to my house with pitchforks and Molotov cocktails, but the truth is that living with the Bullet’s foibles and quirks is a conscious choice.
Let’s recap our story thus far. The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 has been updated to meet modern standards while retaining its classic design, which holds a special place in people’s hearts. On the other hand, the Honda CB350 H’ness sports a familiar design language and is equipped with better features. Plus, its lightweight build and better balance make it well-suited for daily use. Now, let’s dive into the actual performance of these bikes, where things become really interesting.
The new Bullet 350 features the familiar J-Platform 349cc single-cylinder engine, which produces 20.2bhp and 26Nm of peak torque and is paired to a 5-speed gearbox. The Honda CB350 H’ness, on the other hand, gets a 348cc single-cylinder engine, which produces 20.7bhp and 30Nm of peak torque and is also mated to a 5-speed gearbox. While both motorcycles appear evenly matched on paper, their riding experiences are significantly different when you bring them out to play.
The Bullet 350 delivers power in a more linear manner, and while it has ample low-end grunt, its torque curve plateaus in the mid-range before tapering off gradually. Compared to the CB350, the Bullet is geared pretty evenly, ensuring predictable dynamics in the city and excellent performance on the highway.
In contrast, the Honda CB 350 H’ness demands more commitment from the rider. There is a strong surge of power in the first two gears, making it well-suited for the city and low-speed conditions. The third- and fourth-gear ratios are taller, offering the right amount of mid-range grunt. Shifting to fifth gear, however, results in a sudden loss of power, which is quite anticlimactic and disappointing and feels like shifting into an overdrive ratio. This abrupt drop in momentum can be a bit frustrating.
When it comes to daily riding conditions, both motorcycles offer their customers a pleasant, but different riding experience. The RE Bullet 350 is a bruiser that likes to build its momentum and deliver power in a gradual manner. On the other hand, the Honda CB 350 H’ness requires the rider to pre-plan all his inputs, be it acceleration or braking, in order to truly appreciate its performance. While acceleration is easy, the Bullet requires a lot more effort in terms of braking. In order to bring this heavy machine to a stop, you will always need to grab a handful of the front brake and keep it pinned. There is also a lack of feel, which makes them seem wooden compared to the Honda’s. The CB 350 H’ness, on the other hand, feels a lot lighter and eager to stop. The brakes get more bite and thanks to a better weight balance, is a lot easier to handle while slowing down.
Where the Honda CB350 H’ness truly excels is in the NVH department. While Royal Enfield has made a lot of effort to reduce the NVH levels – it’s clearly evident in its new J-platform 350cc engine, which has really taken a significant step forward in terms of harshness and vibrations – it still can’t match the buttery -smooth performance of the Honda CB350 H’ness. Additionally, the light clutch and excellent handling further give the Honda CB 350 H’ness an edge over the Bullet in this regard.
While both motorcycles are pretty evenly matched in terms of touring abilities, I still have a clear preference – the RE 350. It’s an absolute powerhouse. And its impressive grunt makes up for what it loses in terms of tractability. The CB350, on the other hand, offers just the right amount of engine and gearing performance to ensure a comfortable and engaging touring experience. The Bullet 350, however, offers a better highway touring experience, for its sitting position, which makes it a lot easier to find a comfortable spot and avoid fatigue. While riding the H’ness, I found myself constantly moving to find a comfortable position.
So, what’s your pick between the two – the elegant and contemporary Honda H’ness CB350 or the big, brawny RE Bullet 350? There is no doubt that Bullet 350 occupies a special place in the hearts and minds of those who are even remotely interested in motorcycles. Plus, it offers an excellent package in terms of design, performance, and pricing. So, if you are enamoured of it, there is nothing that will satisfy your desire for the classic Bullet experience. For everyone else, though, the Honda H’ness CB 350 offers the best of all worlds. It looks good, rides well, offers features, and is priced right. So, while the power of lead is undeniably persuasive, the proposition of silver is just too compelling to ignore.
- Honda H’Ness CB 350
- Royal Enfield Bullet 350
Engine: 348.3cc / Single-Cylinder / Air Cooled
Power: 20.7bhp @ 5,500rpm
Torque: 30Nm @ 3,000rpm
Price: ₹2.10 – 2.15 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: the honda cb 350 brings in better riding dynamics, coupled to higher levels of fit and finish
• Safety Tech
Engine: 349cc / Single-Cylinder / Air Cooled
Power: 20.2bhp @ 6,100rpm
Torque: 27Nm @ 4,000rpm
Price: ₹1.73 – 2.15 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: Everybody knows and wants a bullet. if you are a fan, nothing else will satisfy the itch
• Comfortable Seat
• Low-end grunt
• Brake Feel