Retro is the name of the game these days. People have fallen in love with the old school charm of things and at the same time want them to pack modern features. For example a contraption which looks like an old school radio has a million GB hard drive and USB connectivity. It also comes with a remote controller! It is the same with motorcycles. People today want their bikes to look old school and sport a lot of chrome but at the same time expects electric start, Bluetooth connectivity and reliability. Royal Enfield was one of the first manufacturers which understood this and gave all their bikes what the market demanded. Then Jawa, Benelli and Bajaj too decided to surf the wave. Now though it is Honda’s turn to join in on the surf of retro motorcycles. Enter the Honda H’ness CB350.
Honda H’ness CB350: Design
Honda has a long legacy of building retro bikes under the CB series and it is this brand which Honda should have capitalized on. Instead it decided to call its bike the H’ness which is a bit cheeky. But for us it will be the CB350. The CB350 then is a perfect retro motorcycle in sync with the legacy of the series. It comes with chrome mudguards both up front and back, a large chrome exhaust pipe and then there are the little bits like the horn cover etc which have been chromed too. The large 15 litre fuel tank and side panel finish off the retro design. The large single pod headlight looks cool and packs in LED lights. The winkers too are LED and double up as riding lights and indicators. The instrument panel though looks a bit odd. It comes with an analogue speedo and a small digital readout for various functions. This includes gear indicator, fuel gauge, odo trip and a range of other features. There is a small pod right next to it which houses a Type C charger. The switchgear is unique too and the left hand side panel sports a control element for Bluetooth connectivity. So an external headset can be paired to the system. As far as overall quality is concerned, the CB350 impressed us too.
Honda H’ness CB350: Mechanical bits
Honda has also kept the cycle parts simple on the CB350. A telescopic front suspension and dual shocks at the back take care of suspension duties. The front features a 19in tyre while at the back there is an 18in one. The cradle frame chassis houses the 349cc long stroke engine which churns out 21bhp and 30Nm of torque. The engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Now if we look closely, these numbers are very close to its arch rivals. Also the CB350 is lighter than the competition and weighs in at 181kg.
Honda H’ness CB350: Ergonomics
Get astride and the CB offers a rather comfortable rider’s triangle. The handlebar falls to hand easily and then there is the seat which at 800mm offers a good reachability. The seat is large and comfortable for short rides but longer rides will demand a break or two. Now for an odd ergonomics problem! The gear shifter on the CB350 is a heel and toe one. The heel side of it is a bit raised and this means that one who wants to use it must lift his or her foot to access it. On the upside, the toe shifter offers ample space and this means it can be conveniently used for upshifts and downshifts.
Honda H’ness CB350: Performance
Start up the CB350 and it sounds exactly like, er the Royal Enfield Classic 350. There is prominent thump audible here and we were a bit surprised as Honda’s CB ranges of bikes have a very different sound track. Nevertheless the CB features a very light clutch which is features slip and assist function. There is no ride by wire though and at the same time the bike offers a traction control system which can be switched off. On the go the CB feels extremely nimble and light weight. It takes off well and not to forget the sound track which offers company to the rider all the time. The 350cc motor offers ample grunt to get to 100kmph fast but from there things start slowing down. A top speed of around 130kmph is what we expect from the CB350. Kept revved up through the mid range, the CB350 is a rather fun to ride motorcycle. On the downside, the tall gearing means that overtaking requires one to downshift as acceleration take s a bit of a time. Also the low speed cruisability factor is not there. Anything below 60kmph requires a downshift to fourth as the engine starts to knock.
Honda H’ness CB350: Ride & handling
When it comes to ride quality, the CB350 shows its Japanese traits. It is set up stiff and is rather comfortable to ride at higher speeds where it absorbs rather easily. At lower speeds though, the odd nasty pot hole will be felt. Around corners the bike feels very easy to handle and inspires confidence. There is ample clearance too and there is little chance of a scrape unless one does something stupid.
The H’ness CB350 is a rather impressive motorcycle. The bike feels nimble, offers good enough performance and most importantly looks cool too. What there not to like? What is even better is the fact that Honda has priced it right. This means that the CB350 ticks all the right boxes when it comes to the retro motorcycle bucket list. That the CB350 will be successful is no doubt. But the problem is availability as these bikes will only be sold out of Honda’s premium dealership chain.
Source : indiatoday