The Royal Enfield Hunter 350 is an urban prowler, designed to explore the concrete jungle with grace and agility. We tested this new roadster in and around San Diego to see if it truly excels in the city as intended and if it has enough mojo to keep pace out of town as well.
Royal Enfield has been in continuous production since 1901, and the brand excels in the small- to mid-sized motorcycle segment. It also excels in honoring its British heritage with a classic-meets-modern aesthetic, making for motorcycles that catch your eye and take you back to simpler times.
While Royal Enfields are plentiful in India, where the bikes are produced and smaller-displacement bikes are the norm rather than the exception, the brand has been making strong headway in North America the past few years as well. Ron Luttrell, VP of sales and dealer development, reported that Royal Enfield has seen a 317% growth in U.S. sales since 2019 and that they’ve recently reached their goal of 10,000 units sold in North America. Not too shabby. With the introduction of the Hunter 350, it’s clear Royal Enfield is looking to hold onto that forward momentum.
Royal Enfield’s Hunter 350 shares the same 349cc J-series Single as the Classic 350 and Meteor 350. When we tested the 2021 Meteor 350, the engine put out 18 hp and 18 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel on Jett Tuning’s dyno. While the engine has been tuned for relaxed urban riding, what truly makes the Hunter 350 stand apart from its stablemates is its chassis geometry. With a shorter wheelbase and a steeper rake, as well as a lower curb weight, the Hunter provides a more accessible, nimble riding experience than what you might find on the Classic or the Meteor. That, coupled with an attractive and youthful styling, will allow the Hunter 350 to attract and fill the needs of a different rider demographic.
At the U.S. press launch in San Diego, the Hunter’s MSRP, which had been kept hush-hush until that moment, was revealed. The bike will start at $3,999, with some color options adding $200. When the price went up on the big screen, the journalists expressed their surprise, followed by applause. This low price, coupled with the bike’s youthful style and smaller size, is sure to bring in new and young riders.
The number of color options is also sure to please riders on the hunt for a motorcycle that fits their style. The Dapper White, Dapper Ash, and Dapper Grey will be priced at the lower $3,999, while the two-toned Rebel Black, Rebel Blue, and Rebel Red colorways retail for $4,199. All six color options were available for our test ride, and I immediately claimed the Rebel Red before anyone else could take it.
Swinging a leg over the bike in the hotel parking lot, I immediately felt at ease. The upright seating position was comfy, and the contoured seat was plush but supportive. With a 31.1-inch seat height, the Hunter 350 had me tip-toeing, but I was the only journalist at the launch who couldn’t flat-foot on it (I’m 5-foot-1). Even with my short legs, I had no trouble reaching everything I needed to reach.
The uncluttered and simple design added to the at-ease feel of the motorcycle. A single round digital and analog instrument display was easy to read and didn’t offer too many options or information to distract me from the simple joy of riding. There’s something to be said for having a customizable display with all the bells and whistles, but sometimes those things get in the way of a pure motorcycling experience.
After getting acquainted with our mounts, we rolled out onto the street, and that’s when the real fun began.
We started the first half of the day riding through San Diego, from neighborhoods to downtown, including shop-lined streets and beach-side roads. I have never ridden a motorcycle that feels so at home in the city. This motorcycle made me feel like I was much better at slow-speed turns than I am. It’s small enough to squeeze into tight spaces and wheel around without trouble.
The maneuverability of this bike is mostly due to its chassis geometry, something Royal Enfield said it put a lot of effort into getting just right for this type of riding environment. The Hunter has a 25-degree rake and a wheelbase of just 53.9 inches using 17-inch front and rear wheels. It’s lighter than the other Royal Enfield models with the 350 engine, with a claimed curb weight of 400 lb (the Meteor 350 and Classic 350 have curb weights of 421 lb and 430 lb, respectively). All of these characteristics give the Hunter an agility that took stress out of riding through busy city streets.
The Hunter’s styling certainly belongs in the retro-inspired Royal Enfield family, but it looks like the cool teenage cousin who just flew in from the city for a family holiday, the one all the other kids are jealous of. The bike has a youthful character, in both riding experience and personality, that will make anyone feel young again.
For braking, the Hunter 350 comes with a 300mm disc with a twin piston ByBre caliper up front, a 270mm disc with a single piston ByBre caliper in the rear, and ABS. I found braking power to be dialed in well for the sudden and frequent stopping of city riding. The suspension consists of a nonadjustable 41mm fork with 5.1 inches of travel and dual rear shocks with six-step adjustable preload and 4.8 inches of travel. The suspension also felt well-suited for its intended purpose. None of these components are state-of-the-art, but they did their job well for a bike with a price tag of about $4K, which is all I could ask of them.
Far and Wide
After experiencing how well-suited the Hunter 350 is to an urban environment, I was curious to find out if it could hold its own outside of town. Would that slow-speed agility affect the bike’s stability at higher speeds? To my delight, there was no compromise to be found. On the twisty roads up Otay Mountain, we pushed the Hunter 350 to its limit.
There’s something exciting about experiencing the full range of a motorcycle’s capabilities, from a slow roll around traffic to a full-out dash through the hills. Royal Enfield hit the sweet spot between granting the Hunter enough power to keep up with highway speeds while maintaining the bike’s tight stance and agility.
- Helmet: Scorpion EXO Covert FX
- Jacket: Joe Rocket Wicked
- Gloves: Joe Rocket Ballistic Ultra
- Pants: Alpinestars Daisy V2 Women’s Riding Denim
- Boots: Joe Rocket Trixie
That being said, if you’re commuting on the interstate every day, this might not be the ideal ride for you. With a top speed of about 75 mph, we were riding full-out on the freeway to get back to the hotel. The Hunter 350 held that speed smoothly and comfortably, but it would be preferable to have a little power on reserve in case I need to dart away from a dangerous situation, and the Hunter 350 didn’t have that. But I appreciated how steadily it could hold its top speed without feeling too stressed or overworked.
All Good Things…
All too soon, our riding day had come to an end. A testament to the Hunter 350 is that, after a full day of riding on a variety of roads, I was ready to keep going. Taller riders might feel fatigued more quickly by the Hunter’s smaller stature, but this model fit me so well and was so stress-free to ride that I saw no reason to get off it. If it weren’t for my rumbling stomach calling for the taco bar and the fact that I’d be completely lost in San Diego without a guide, I’d have been tempted to roll right on past the hotel’s parking lot and keep going.
This proabably isn’t the motorcycle that your Harley-or-nothing leather-clad uncle is going to buy, but for riders looking for a fun, agile, and affordable option, the Hunter 350 hits the nail on the head. I love to see more affordable motorcycles entering the market, and I believe this is an option that will make owning a motorcycle and experiencing the rides we all love a little more attainable for a new generation of motorcyclists.
2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Specs
Base Price: $3,999
Warranty: 3 yrs., unltd. miles w/ roadside assistance
Engine Type: Air/oil-cooled Single, SOHC w/ 2 valves
Bore x Stroke: 72.0 x 85.8mm
Horsepower: 18.0 @ 6,200 rpm (rear-wheel dyno, 2021 Meteor 350)
Torque: 18.2 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm (rear-wheel dyno, 2021 Meteor 350)
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 53.9 inches
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/3.7 in.
Seat Height: 31.1 in.
Wet Weight: 400 lb (factory claim w/ 90% fuel)
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gal.