Royal Enfield Bullet 350: A Time Traveler's Conundrum
Royal Enfield Bullet 350: A Time Traveler’s Conundrum

Between enough modernities and not enough retro elements, we try to find out with whom the modern “thump” of the 2023 Bullet resonates

The term “oldest, newest motorcycle” might seem oxymoronic, but that’s precisely how you’d define the updated Bullet 350. Why? In 2023, the Chennai-based bike maker had an uphill task of balancing the old with the new to introduce a new “thump” that would resonate with both the boomers and Gen-Z, both metaphorically and literally. The question that now remains is, were they successful? A month with the new J-Platform Bullet does shed some answers, but not without raising more questions.


A Classic Classic 350?



“Sometimes from a distance, I can’t differentiate between a Classic and a Bullet,” I recall mentioning to a friend, an avid Enfield enthusiast. In response, his facial expression remained stoic, transitioning from mild frothing at the mouth to what seemed like contemplation of my murder. For nine decades, the Bullet has maintained the silhouette of old-timey bikes, reminiscent of Vincent models you’d see in old-timey documentaries, and for nine decades, that has worked in its favour. But today, with its blacked-out bits, the absence of the kickstart, and the criminal underuse of chrome, does it resemble a Retro-styled Classic 350, a Classic Classic 350 of sorts?



Devil’s In The Details


But come closer, and you’ll notice the subtle vintage elements. The fuel tank still sports the hand-painted pinstripes, while the semi-digital instrument does enough to make you “feel” old instead of actually being old. There are smaller elements that serve the same purpose, especially the pilot lamps flanking its halogen headlamp. But, I believe it wasn’t sufficient before to distinguish it from the Classic 350, and it certainly isn’t enough now.



I wasn’t expecting to be indoctrinated into the cult of Enfield as soon as I swung my leg over, and that’s precisely what happened. However, you do “get it” in terms of what the Enfield fandom raves about. Almost instantly, the Bullet provides perhaps the most commanding feeling I’ve ever had on a motorcycle, thanks to its raised handlebar (20mm higher than the Classic) and an approachable seat height of 805mm, helping my 5’11 frame to flat-foot with ease.



As you move around a bit, you’ll also notice subtle modern touches, like the rotary switches borrowed from the new 650 Twins and the flagship Super Meteor. The single bench seat, too, visually distinguishes itself from the old while serving its purpose well, being far more comfortable than Enfield’s other stock offerings. Overall, up close, the 2023 Bullet feels retro in all the important areas while introducing modern elements for comfort.


The Bullet-Wala Feeling



The performance of the 2023 Bullet can be explained in three categories: low range, mid-range, and the “what-are-you-trying-to-do” range. If it isn’t clear already, the Bullet doesn’t want you to go fast or carve corners, although you can if you wish to. But the magic here lies in its low-end rumble, or the “thump,” which, for the record, sounds more muted than what I remember from my childhood. Regardless, the updated motorcycle gets the same J-Platform engine we’ve seen on the Hunter, Classic, and Meteor 350. With a longer stroke, it makes 20PS and 27Nm of torque, with much of the latter coming in very, very early in the rev range. The result? A torquey, easy-going, un-stallable machine that you would love to take everywhere if you enjoy the relaxed, slow approach of motorcycling.



The mid-range also feels ample enough, with the soft-sprung suspension doing a decent job of absorbing undulations. However, you do feel the 195kg of kerb weight when manoeuvring in traffic. But then again, this isn’t the motorcycle if your aim is to cut through traffic haphazardly. The “top-end,” though, is where things stop being thumpy and get buzzy. Up until 80kmph on straight roads, things are quite okay; push it further, and the engine and the chassis will audibly tell you to stop. Again, you can push it to a ton if you really want, but it isn’t a ton of fun. 


The Cost of the Cult



And here lies the time traveller’s conundrum. If I were to travel ahead in the future from some 100 years back on my trusty diesel-powered Bullet, I wouldn’t find the 2023 Bullet new enough. Vice versa, if I jumped back in time on my all-electric Bullet, I wouldn’t find it retro enough. As far as the present is concerned, the conundrum becomes more prominent when you notice that some variants of the Classic 350 are merely Rs 5,000 more expensive than the mid-spec Standard Black/Maroon 2023 Bullet. By then, why not just go for the Classic that comes in more appealing colours?


Yes, the much-needed hygiene changes such as a more efficient engine and other smaller additions do make the Bullet more approachable for new owners. But then, if you really want to own a Bullet, why not try your luck in old garages?


Image Credits – Royal Enfield

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