ROYAL ENFIELD HNTR 350 | RIDE REPORT
By GARETH CHARLTON - 27 Oct 22
The promo video plays; a host of familiar young faces riding the familiar streets of East London, taking photos, having fun - their motorcycle the facilitator in chief of their busy lifestyle. The target audience for Enfield’s latest 350 could not be clearer. Are you a young city-dweller who dreams of a motorcycle and the independence it provides? The Hunter is for you, sorry I mean the HNTR. Depending on your location in the world this model is pitched as either the Hunter or HNTR 350 and in the UK we don’t get the vowels. I suppose we did opt out of the EU…
Arriving in the crisp morning light at the West London start-line of the UK launch, the assembly of HNTR’s immediately hit the right visual notes. Bright, enticing, approachable, modern and yet undeniably classic. The third machine to use Enfield’s 350cc J-engine (following the cruiser-lite Meteor and classic Classic) the HNTR is pegged as the firms Roadster, with its stomping ground firmly determined as the city streets.
It is certainly a handsome little motor, reminiscent of the old Kawasaki TR250 unit with its upright cylinder surrounded with open space. Over the years small capacity singles such as Yamaha's SR and Suzuki's GN have provided a superb base for many a custom whip and I have no doubt the clean lines of this frame and motor will have many creative minds pondering a project beyond the plentiful parts catalogue... but I digress.
The global launch pitted the Hunter against Bangkok’s notorious road network to prove its urban worth and for the UK, the plan was similar. To cross the heart of London, west to east and back again. All well and good if you live west… a trudge if you live east and have to factor in the additional criss-cross. This had better be as good an urban assault vehicle as they say it is.
After a short intro citing the 1959 Fury as a key inspiration to the lines of the HNTR the host dropped a bombshell that left my underprepared-jaw on the floor. This motorcycle can be yours for £3899 on the road. Or to put it another way, 18 months of a London zone 1-4 travel card. I say underprepared, because the hugely successful Meteor 350 goes for a similarly wallet-friendly price - but its baby cruiser looks left me cold, so I forgot to pay attention. The HNTR on the other hand, with cast 17-inch wheels fore and aft, broad seat, aluminium grab-rails and striking graphics definitely piques my attention. And it feels like a quality piece of kit despite the budget price - fair play RE.
Time to ride. From tick-over the motor provides a satisfying single-cylinder soundtrack at a surprisingly low pitch, instantly encouraging an eager throttle hand as we peel onto the busy London streets. Now let’s get one thing straight, this is not a fast motorbike, rather with only 20 horses to call on it sits firmly in the slow category. But a decent corresponding torque figure of 27nm lends it enough hustle to keep up with and pass-out traffic in those aforementioned zones 1-4. I am also growing quite keen on the phenomenon of riding slow bikes fast, as opposed to fast bikes slowly - using more of a machine's dynamic range will always be more fun.
Almost instantly the bike feels familiar, as simple and easy to ride as geared machines come, with broad, flexible ratios and agile, yet sure footed handling. The front brake initially surprises with a lack of bite but does the job once familiar while simultaneously encouraging use of the effective rear, something which I confess has become a rare occurrence in my daily riding. The HNTR will likely be early, if not at the very start of a motorcyclists machine-owning journey and it is the perfect choice for recent recruits to the two wheeled world.
As we progress across the capital, taking in all the key sights, our throng of riders are clearly having a blast. We dart and dive for the camera guy, chat at lights, engage with eager onlookers and revel in the fun factor of the HNTR. This is exactly how this machine is meant to be used, socially, actively, in the heart of a city. A brief stretch of flyover allows sight of 60mph and no doubt the machine could sit comfortably in the mid 60’s for as long as your interest would sustain. But the tighter the roads and the gaps become, the more this machine truly excels, boasting comfortably the tightest turning circle I have ever experienced.
So, the HNTR has absolutely smashed its brief and will no doubt more than satisfy the riders it was built to target, but what of those outside of that demographic? Well it entirely depends on what you want from your bike and how you ultimately use it. But if you think the HNTR 350 may fit your personal riding brief, in it you will find an honest, low cc, low cost, imminently usable motorcycle that will never fail to raise a smile. In their stable of 350 and 411 machines Royal Enfield have created a bike for every taste and the HNTR is the sweetest handling of the lot. If I was starting my two wheeled journey again - this is exactly where I would start.