My toxic trait—or, well, one of the many at any rate—is that when I buy a product I expect a level of quality in that product commensurate with its price. As you can imagine, in this day and age I spend a lot of my time disappointed. What if I told you, however, that I recently rode a bike with one of the best cost-to-value ratios I think I've ever ridden? In fact, probably one of the best cost-to-value ratios on the market today. What if I then told you that it was a Royal Enfield—specifically Enfield's new Hunter 350? Well, I did and it was and I'm here to tell you all about it.
Now, we already covered the Hunter 350's global launch in 2022 when Janaki went over to Bangkok to thrash the little wonder around the Magnificent City of the Nine Gems for, like, 36 hours straight. In her review, she gushed over the Hunter's smooth 350cc single, its stiff new frame, its low seat height, and its confidence-inspiring suspension. She was so effusive, in fact, that I couldn't wait to get my hands on a Hunter 350 to try myself. Thankfully, in mid-April of 2023, I got that chance.
Enfield threw the North American launch party for the Hunter 350 in San Diego, California. Now, I've been through San Diego a bunch of times but had never been to the city proper. Thankfully, Enfield flew me in pretty early in the day so I had enough time to do some sightseeing and touristy stuff before the launch party. I spent the afternoon touring the USS Midway, which was amazing, and walking around the Gaslamp Quarter soaking in the vibes. San Diego is a very pretty town, and I couldn't wait to get on a bike and explore it properly. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long.
The launch party was held at a cool, mid-century hotel complex outside of downtown San Diego called the Town and Country Resort. My colleagues and I milled about enjoying the open bar, snacking on some very respectable cheese, and enjoying the late spring evening. A collection of Hunter 350s in each available colorway was arrayed around a big screen that promised big news at the presentation. Most of us had already seen the Hunter 350, and some of us had even ridden it already, but the excitement was still palpable. Every conversation revolved around the same thing—how much would it cost?
Of course, we already knew how much it cost in other markets and, using that info, we could make educated guesses at the Hunter's price in Yankee Dollars. As journalists, though, we wanted hard facts. Data. We wanted the price and we wanted it now. After a solid dinner and an interminable presentation wherein various Enfield C-suite officers teased us by keeping the price just out of view, as it were, we finally got what we wanted. $3,999 American would be the price of the new Hunter 350. $4,199 for one of the upscale colorways.
We were all of us, to a writer, gobsmacked. How the hell did Enfield pull that price off? With the Hunter's features, fit, and finish, it was an amazing price. Once the first hit of excitement wore off though, I was a bit concerned. Four grand isn't a lot of money for a motorcycle these days, not a new one at any rate. That low price combined with the specter of Enfield's old build and reliability issues—which, honestly, aren't really A Thing anymore—definitely gave me pause. What kinds of corners were cut, and what was sacrificed, to get the Hunter 350 in at such a good price? One way or another, I figured, we'd all find out tomorrow.
The next morning was cool and clear, a lovely Southern California day promising good weather and highs in the 80s on Fahrenheit's thermometer. We geared up and headed to the muster point where we chose our bikes—I went with the good color, the two-tone Rebel Blue—and got our briefing. The day would be split into two parts—city and country riding. Since city riding is primarily what I do in my daily life, that was what I was looking forward to the most.
The city ride was the first portion of the day. We flogged the bikes up and down the hilly Sand Diego street grid and did a solid mix of tight maneuvering, traffic riding, and lazy neighborhood strolling. We even cruised along the Pacific for a while, using San Diego's various beaches as photo backdrops and rest stops. As I got used to the Hunter I really came to appreciate it. It's comfortable, well-built, and that 350cc single is perfect for the kind of in-town riding I typically do.
The engine is all torque and pulls well in both first and second gear. That torque, combined with the bike's stiff frame and the surprisingly good stock suspension, make for a competent and eager city bike. Zipping through town the bike is light and agile, the perfect thing for dodging potholes and distracted drivers. It has a great turning radius, and its small stature makes filtering and lane splitting—if you happen to live somewhere civilized enough to have those things—a breeze.
Once we'd had our fill of traffic and eaten a pretty decent lunch, we headed out into the hilly country surrounding the city. For the next four or so hours we did some spirited riding along some respectably technical roads. The Hunter 350 acquitted itself pretty well in the twisties, but ultimately it's not really built for canyon carving and it shows. If you put the spurs to it in any serious fashion, it's pretty easy to outride the bike's brakes and suspension. That's doubly true when you're flogging it through mountain switchbacks and decreasing-radius hairpins. The Hunter was fine in the twisties, I guess, but that's not the bike's happy place and I wouldn't recommend it.
I got a pretty good feel for the Hunter on this ride, and I'll be honest, I was impressed. You get a hell of a lot of bike for your money when you buy a Hunter 350, and Enfield did a fantastic job threading the needle between quality, price, performance, and fun. It would make a great first bike for a new rider with its manageable size, power, and handling. If you're in the market for a cool, affordable, reliable bike I'd definitely recommend the Hunter 350.