There’s a small disclaimer I’d like to put across before you start reading this review – I have a soft corner for Royal Enfield because it’s a generational thing in my family now. This means that when Honda recently announced their contender for the retro-classic space in our market, I was both sceptical and optimistic. More recently, Honda launched an even more interesting variation of the CB350 H’ness – simply called the CB350RS. That’s already a step up, given it doesn’t have the suffix of ‘Highness’. To be honest, ‘Road Sailin’ isn’t exactly awe-inspiring, but let’s leave that aside for now. So, what is the CB350RS all about?
Firstly, it’s a little different from the CB350 H’Ness in a number of ways. There’s an attractive all-black theme all around, with the rear and front fenders being more like a ‘scrambler’. The seat contour is also unique to the RS and the handlebar is slightly shorter, making for a more aggressive riding position. Further complimenting that more engaging posture is the slightly rear-set footpegs, and fatter rubber at the rear. By the way, the CB350RS gets 17-inch wheels at the back, compared to the H’Ness’ 18-inch ones. Honda’s main changes on the RS come in the design department, making for a more ‘youthful’ theme all-around. But, does it all work?
Before we answer that, let’s talk about that 348cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled engine, which comes mated to a five-speed transmission. The power output figures stand at 20.7 bhp @ 5500rpm and 30 Nm @ 3,000rpm; which is quite impressive. What’s more, it’s the way the CB350RS delivers that power – making for the sweetest part of this motorcycle. The gear shifts are smooth, thanks to the assist and slipper clutch, and the torque comes in quite low in the rev range – meaning it really is road sailing with this neo-retro motorcycle. Above all, the CB350 feels effortless to ride; there’s even a slight kick at the higher RPMs, which gives you that extra boost.
Then there’s that deep but gruff sounding exhaust note, which, dare I say, sounds more like a worthy successor to the cast iron REs of yore. Why? Because you can feel that exhaust note hit deep, and, you’ll find yourself constantly pushing the RS to hear that sublime sound. Furthermore, the increased ground clearance means that the RS does a pretty good job on light trails, which only adds to its repertoire. But, city roads are where the CB350RS feels most at home, making light work of traffic, slicing through most of it without breaking a sweat. But, let’s try and answer a couple of simple questions.
First, why the RS? Well, because it appeals to a different kind of crowd, one which isn’t chrome crazy and takes a more contemporary approach. I’m happy to report that almost every single person with an existing Honda motorcycle I came across while I was riding, could not take their eyes off the RS; some even enquiring its price with a twinkle in their eye. Second, does it all work? Yes, and then some. I’d go so far as to say that I would prefer the CB350RS over the H’Ness. Simply because it’s more unique, and has an identity of its own, and also because you’ll make up reasons to ride it as much as you can. For the extra Rs 10K, compared to the base model of the H’Ness, the RS makes a strong case, one which should not be ignored.