2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350: First Ride Review

Ritesh Patil
Does the newest iteration of India’s Sweetheart still enthral?

Photography: Siddhant Gadekar

There must be something really special about a motorcycle for it to survive nine decades. The Bullet nameplate has managed to achieve that and more. Over the years, it has found itself as the heartthrob of millions of Indians, being touted as a rugged workhorse and even the staple motorcycle of the armed forces. Royal Enfield sure had an uphill task ahead while developing the new generation Bullet. It had to ensure that the new Bullet retained the characteristics of its predecessor but also be modern enough to fit in the new world. Royal Enfield has a way of offering retro motorcycles with modern bones, like the BS6 Classic 350. 

The Bullet 350 shares the same platform as the Classic but Royal Enfield has done well to ensure you do not mistake one for the other. Most of it is to do with the retro thematic paintjob and the distinctive metal badging on higher Bullet models. It also continues with the tradition of hand-drawn pinstriping on the fuel tank, which no other Indian manufacturer offers. It’s stuff like this that makes the Bullet distinctive and special. Of course, there are more individualistic design markers carried over from the previous Bullet 350 generations, like the chrome headlamp nacelle, the square airbox and the comfortable single-piece seat. It does not get the rectangular tail lamp console though, and has a round one similar to the Classic 350 instead.

The Bullet gets new rotary switchgear as seen on the modern 350cc Royal Enfields which offers good tactility and feels built to last. The instrument console gets an analogue speedometer with a digital fuel gauge underneath. While it gets an old-school halogen headlamp, there is a modern feature in the form of a USB charging port, which is placed under the left handlebar.

Coming to the heart, the new Bullet shares its powertrain with the other modern 350cc Royal Enfields. The 349cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine puts out 20PS and 27Nm. While the engine’s long stroke characteristics offer similar vibes to the earlier Bullet models, it is more modern and refined. The torquey motor allows you to potter around town in higher gears at low speeds without any trouble. On the open roads, you’ll need some planning before pulling off quick overtakes. That said, the Bullet 350 can cruise at 80-90kmph all day long without breaking a sweat. Modern regulations and a modern engine architecture mean the Bullet misses out on its iconic low-paced thump or ‘Dug-Dug’ as it is lovingly known. The new Bullet though has its own sweet-sounding and unique exhaust note. 

The new seat is wide, well contoured and quite comfortable. The upright riding position accentuates the traditional ‘king of the road’ feeling, something a Bullet owner would highly appreciate. These characteristics make the Bullet 350 a comfortable motorcycle to ride on, both in the city as well as the highway. The suspension setup is the same as the Classic 350 with 41mm front forks and twin shock absorbers at the rear. These do a good job of soaking up bumps but feel a bit firm for lighter riders like myself, especially at the rear. Braking duties are now handled by front and rear disc brakes with the added safety net of dual-channel ABS (the base variant gets front disc and rear drum setup with single-channel ABS), and the motorcycle sheds speeds without any drama whatsoever. A little more bite from the front brake would have been nice, though. Overall, the Bullet 350 is an easy motorcycle to ride, despite weighing 195kg, and the weight is only evident when manoeuvring at low speeds.  

With the prices starting at Rs 1.74 lakh, ex-showroom, the Bullet 350 is no longer the most affordable Royal Enfield in the country, it is the Hunter 350. Also, the top-end variant at Rs 2.16 lakh, ex-showroom, might seem pricey for what’s mostly a colour update. However the Bullet 350 undercuts the Classic 350 by almost Rs 20,000 (for the base variant). The Classic 350 is one of the best retro motorcycles on sale but the Bullet offers similar ride characteristics, looks cool and has a lot more lineage attached to it, making it quite the no-brainer. While it is a stark departure from previous Bullets in terms of technology, the new Bullet 350 retains the essence of the original but recreates its own path. 

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