Yesterday, Honda pulled off a massive surprise by revealing the CB350. While most of us were eyeing for either the Rebel 300 or Rebel 500, Honda surprised the whole Indian motorcycling fraternity by unveiling an all-new motorcycle which goes by the name H’ness CB350. The Honda CB350 packs in some decent equipment and has delivered a sucker punch to its rivals. The motorcycle was developed over a period of two years where the Honda India team was in the lead.
The bike is made in India and manufacturing is 90% localized. Based on Honda’s CB line of retro roadsters, the CB350 does a lot of things better than its rivals.
More than outright power, it’s the torque which defines a cruiser’s characteristics. Pick any of the renowned cruiser from any segment whatsoever, you will find one thing in common that their engines are tuned to deliver more torque in the low and mid-range rather than more power higher up. The CB350 is no different. The CB350 is powered by a 348cc air-cooled single that churns out 21bhp and 30Nm. While the power output might not sound that exciting on the paper, it is the torque output which excites us. Comparatively, the Jawa is powered by a 293 cc single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC engine which puts out 26.51 PS and 27.05 Nm. And on the other hand, the RE Classic 350 is powered by a 350cc, single-cylinder engine that produces 19bhp of power and 28Nm of torque. We can’t wait to see how the best-in-class torque output translates into real-world performance.
Wait, what? A motorcycle which might cost less than INR 2 Lakh will come equipped with Traction Control? You read that right. Honda has left no stones unturned in making the CB350 all equipped for the gunfight. The thought process must have started when the folks over at Honda realized that the CB350 will churn out a respectable 30 NM of torque. So they decided to throw in what they are calling as Honda Selectable Torque Control.
It helps in maintaining rear-wheel traction by detecting the difference between the front and rear wheel speeds, calculating the slip ratio and further controlling engine torque via the fuel injection. HSTC can be turned ON/OFF using a switch on the left side of the meter. A ‘T’ indicator in the digital display flickers when the system is engaging.
The Honda CB350’s engine is mated to a 5-speed gearbox which is assisted by a slipper clutch. This segment-first feature will make the gear shifts smoother while reducing clutch lever operation load ensuring less fatigue. It is also considered to be an essential safety feature which we mostly see in track-focused sportsbikes and the likes. It also prevents rear wheel hopping if you get a little aggressive with the downshifts. Seems like Honda has gone all-in to make the CB350 the safest proposition in its class.
Best braking setup
Anchoring the motorcycle is a large 310mm disc brake up front and 240mm rear disc providing adequate braking performance which is further assisted by dual-channel ABS. The diameter of the front disc is the largest in its segment and the whole braking system should be adequate according to the performance on offer. The CB350 tips the scale at 181 Kg which isn’t particularly light and to bring all that heft to a halt requires capable braking setup, which the CB350 will come equipped with.
Biggest fuel tank
The word ‘cruiser’ is most probably derived from the word ‘cruise’ and it essentially means a motorcycle which feels at home out on the highways. A big fuel tank goes a long way in determining a motorcycle’s touring capabilities. This is another department where Honda has toppled its rivals with the CB350. The Honda CB350 can hold 15 litres of fuel while the RE Classic 350 can gulp down 13.5 litres of fluid and the Jawa can manage to hold in 14 litres of fuel.
Honda has gone all retro when it comes to its styling but this thing doesn’t belong to the ’80s as it features some modern design bits as well. Honda has included a round LED headlamp setup with the package. While all its rivals are still fiddling around with halogen setups, Honda decided to go one step ahead. And surprisingly, the LED headlamp setup does look good with the retro styling, giving it that trademark Honda neo-retro vibe. We can’t wait to ride the CB350 in the night to see how well the LED headlamps illuminate the road.
It is supposed to be a retro roadster/cruiser, right? Isn’t including just a fuel gauge is considered to be enough when we talk about a retro cruiser’s equipment list? Apparently not because connectivity features have started dripping down to two-wheelers as well. The CB350 might look like a thing of the past but it packs modern features like Bluetooth-enabled navigation, telephony, music control and LED headlamps. It also comes with Honda Smartphone Voice Control System which allows the rider to connect his smartphone with the motorcycle via Bluetooth through HSVCS application. Once connected, the rider can operate the system with controls on the left side of the handlebar to use distinct features such as phone calls, navigation, music playback and incoming messages.
To facilitate complete concentration on riding the information accessed will be communicated from the helmet headset speaker which is not included in the package. Its arch-nemesis, the RE Meteor 350 will also come equipped with Bluetooth connectivity and navigation. It is astonishing to see the culmination of old-school styling and modern-day tech.
Balancer shaft – Lesser vibrations?
Honda has equipped its long-stroke engine with a balancer shaft to keep the vibrations in check. The main shaft coaxial balancer placed on the cylinder eliminates both primary & secondary vibrations. Although Honda is renowned for making typically vibe-free motorcycles, higher capacity, long-stroke single-cylinder engines are infamous for their vibrations. In fact, a particular motorcycle has become the synonym of vibrations in the past few years. Apparently, Honda doesn’t want the CB350 to get associated with the same impressions so they have gone a step ahead to make the experience as vibe-free as possible. The picture will get clearer when we will get to swing our legs on the new CB350.
Special focus on acoustics
How often do you see a manufacturer paying special attention to the acoustics of the vehicle? It becomes all the more essential when you are developing a retro cruiser and your arch-rival is particularly famous for its thump. When Honda first released the exhaust note of the CB350, it was pretty evident that it will sound like a proper single-cylinder thumper. The Honda H’ness CB350 comes with a large tailpipe of 45mm that optimizes balance with the muffler capacity, producing a bold low-pitched sound. We are pretty sure that as soon as the Honda CB350 will hit the streets, customization houses will come up with aftermarket exhausts for the CB350 to make it even more aurally appealing.
The perks of being a Honda
If there’s one word which is repeatedly associated with Honda, it has to be ‘reliability’. The Japanese bikemaker does know how to make vehicles which last for ages. The build quality of the CB350 looks promising, at least in the images. It’s going to compete in a segment where its rivals are constantly riddled with one issue or the other. But now, Indian motorcyclists will have an option to go for something which is reliable and might stand the test of time. Another perk which comes with Honda’s badge is its vast service network. Getting stuck between nowhere with no service backup nearby is surely a nightmare for motorcyclists but the CB350 probably won’t bear with this issue.
The Honda H’ness CB350 might have arrived a little late into the party but it did come prepared. We are hoping for just one thing though that all the goodness should get reflected in real-world riding conditions as well.