There is no such thing as a perfect bike. A given bike can, of course, be perfect for you, and for your needs—but a Swiss Army Knife in moto form? It doesn’t exist. That said, the new Royal Enfield Hunter 350 is pretty good at slicing through congested city traffic—and I can tell you that with confidence because I recently got to put it to the test.
Picture, if you will, the city of Bangkok, Thailand. It’s hot, and it’s humid, and there could (of course) be rain. The city is a living, breathing place, full of color and food and near-sensory overload at every turn. At night, the already-bright colors somehow look even more vibrant. Is it the neon lights? The charcoal smoke wafting through the air? The honking of scooters, tuk tuks, and other vehicles as they inch—sorry, centimeter—their way forward through the throngs? Probably, it’s all of the above.
Bangkok is home to almost 11 million people, give or take—and it has the traffic to show it. Add in the hoards of tourists that are just starting to return now that pandemic restrictions have lifted, and you have one of the most famously congested cities in the world. While it does have a great public railway system, if you’re going to attempt to move around on surface streets, two wheels are probably your best bet.
That’s one of the major reasons why Royal Enfield chose this city to launch the Hunter 350 in. For those unfamiliar, traffic here is like nowhere else. There are, of course, other extremely congested urban areas where two wheelers pack the streets in droves. Places like Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai immediately come to mind—each with unique traffic challenges of their own. Still, Bangkok is particularly famous for its nightlife—and indeed, it’s also a stunning place to ride at night.
The Royal Enfield Hunter 350 is the third member of the family to use Enfield’s 349cc single-cylinder engine, after the Classic 350 and the Meteor 350. It produces a claimed 20.2 brake horsepower at 6,100 rpm, as well as 27 newton-meters (or 19.9 pound-feet) of torque at 4,000 rpm. This mill is mated to a five-speed gearbox.
As those who have ridden the Classic 350 and Meteor 350 will already have noted, the balancer shaft used on this single makes it far less vibey than you might be expecting from a single. The folks at Enfield have said, time and again, that they wanted it to retain just enough of that thumper character to be charming, but not enough to make vibrations annoying if you spend any decent amount of time in the saddle. So far, the team seems to have succeeded in striking that balance.
While the engine is familiar, the frame is all-new, and designed with both agility and stability in mind. In creating the Hunter 350, everyone at Enfield—from Siddhartha Lal on down through the design team—said they wanted to make a bike that’s easy and confidence-inspiring, both for newer and for younger riders.
Thus, the packaging is narrow, yet strong. Standing over this bike is easy, even if you have a 27-inch inseam, like I do. The stock seat is instantly comfortable, even if you happen to find yourself in some seriously butt-clenching traffic situations.
A strong emphasis was placed on mass centralization, as well as a compact wheelbase of 1,370 mm—a full 20mm shorter than that of the Classic 350. The compact exhaust can is tucked in low and tight—no high-mounts here.
Suspension consists of a 41mm front fork, offering front wheel travel of 130mm. In the rear, you get a set of Enfield’s twin-tube emulsion shock absorber units, complete with six-step adjustable preload. Travel on the rear wheel is 102mm. What about wheels? The Hunter 350 rolls on a pair of 17-inch wheels make agile handling in tight spaces an absolute breeze.
If you’re thinking that the front brake looks fairly large, you’re right—it's a 300mm disc up front, fitted with a two-piston brake caliper. In the rear sits a 270mm brake disc with a single-piston caliper setup. Dual channel ABS comes standard on the Hunter 350—as do braided stainless steel brake lines (and no, I am not going to shut up about a relatively budget bike that gives you braided stainless steel brake lines).
That’s Great, But What’s It Like to Ride?
For the seasoned rider, everything on the Hunter 350 feels solid and intuitive. There are zero surprises with control placement or actuation. It’s instantly comfortable, like slipping your feet into a pair of shoes you’ve already broken in. The clutch and front brake levers, in particular, work extremely well for all that clutch feathering you’re going to be doing in the city. The feel is solid, but not at all difficult. Could the clutch be lighter? That’s a matter of preference, but it’s definitely not super heavy from the factory.
The real test of a bike like this is out in the streets—and let me just take this opportunity to say, Royal Enfield set expectations pretty high for the Hunter. Riding in Bangkok is not for the faint of heart—even if you have an entire logistics team planning the route, so you just have to worry about doing the actual riding.
Swimming along with the current of traffic is where the Hunter 350 shines. It’s extremely easy to handle, and makes you feel pretty confident, even if you didn’t start out that way. If you need to thread your Hunter between cars and other vehicles on the road, it’s extremely simple to do. Did you go the wrong way and need to make a U-turn? Almost all you need to do is think it, and the bike will make it happen.
It’s a solid, nimble little bike—and it seems to fulfill what Enfield intended it to do. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have had nearly as trouble-free a time getting through traffic, even though it was admittedly lighter at night than it is during the day. If you can maneuver through Bangkok traffic on a given bike, you can do it just about anywhere. If traffic makes you feel like a prey animal, maybe a Hunter is exactly what you need.
Curb weight is 181 kilograms, or 399 pounds, but weight isn’t the whole story—it's also how a bike carries it. That’s where mass centralization really makes a difference, because keeping the weight low and small can keep you from feeling as though you’re piloting an albatross. By contrast, curb weight on the Classic 350 is 195 kg, or almost 430 pounds.
Gallery: 2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350
Not every bike needs to be a race bike—and indeed, the Hunter 350 certainly isn’t one of those. For context, in Thailand, most (but not all) bikes you’ll see are 125s. That’s due in part to the heavier tax burden on “big bikes” (those over 400cc), and partly due to the fact that 125s are simply a lot less intimidating for the majority of people. As a family vehicle, they’re simply a fact of life. Where the Hunter 350 can fit into this scenario (or a similar one) is in offering slightly more power to get yourself out of hairy situations—but still keeping it compact, lightweight, and nimble for everyday traffic.
Pricing, availability, and color options will vary by region. In India, the Hunter 350 is already available for purchase, in various Retro and Metro trims. There, pricing starts at 149,900 rupees, which works out to about $1,884. The Hunter 350 will roll out to Thailand soon, and the rest of Asia not much after that. It’s also planned for Europe, as well as South and Central America. North America will get it, too—but our release isn’t planned before Q1 of 2023. Pricing for individual markets will likely be announced closer to each market’s release date.