The GB350 was released in Japan in 2021 and has gained a cult following. Honda's answer to the 350 single retro market, the GB is a great little bike. Here is our GB350 review... Photos: Heather Ware

The Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) has always had an appetite for retro styled small capacity bikes. Yamaha’s SR is still popular (used) and small to mid-sized bikes rule, so it is no surprise that the GB350 is popular. But how does this little thumper cope Down Under?

At 197cm tall, Nick Ware could still fit on the spacious GB350, but at 110kg in gear, he found it, in his words, "The slowest bike I have ever ridden"...

At 197cm tall, Nick Ware could still fit on the spacious GB350, but at 110kg in gear, he found it, in his words, “The slowest bike I have ever ridden”… It actually went OK with me on it. I could ride at 110km/h on the highway all day.

The GB350 is Honda’s current offering for single retro segment. It comes in currently at $8123 on the road (ex Sydney, $6999 + ORC), with a 24-month warranty. Available in two colours, Matt Jeans Blue Metallic (tested) and Matt Pearl Morion Black, the GB has ABS brakes, LED lighting, Honda Assist/Slipper Clutch and switchable Traction Control called Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC).

The retro theme extends to the wheel sizes, a 19in front and 18in rear, wearing skinny 100/90 – 19 and 130/70 – 18in Dunlop Arrowmax GT601 tyres. The wide, long, brown leather-look seat height is an accessible 800mm, there is a handy centre-stand, large pillion footpegs and a pillion grab rail, a decent sized 15L fuel tank (giving a potential range of well over 500km), and weight is reasonable at 181kg. The front brake is a 310mm rotor with a two-piston sliding Nissin caliper, while at the back is a single 240mm rotor, oversized, something again popular in many SE Asian markets.

The GB350 is one of the best looking bikes in its class and certainly attracted plenty of attention while we had it on test.

The frame is a basic mild steel spine frame with a lower cradle, with conventional forks with 106mm of travel and at the back, a steel box-section swingarm with twin shocks that are preload adjustable and offer 120mm of travel. The pillion and rider footpeg hangards are cast alloy, footpegs rubber capped and there is a heel-toe shifter, which is something more popular in the Indian and Asian markets. Overall chassis styling is reminiscent of early Honda CB350s from the 1960s and 1970s, in fact, in India the GB is marketed as a CB350…

The powerplant in this beauty is an all-new 348cc fuel-injected Euro-4 air-cooled single-cylinder two-valve, 70mm x 90.5mm long-stroke four-stroke engine. It has a five-speed wide ration gearbox (with a low first gear for traffic), 9.5:1 compression, electric start only. The new motor, destined for a range of models, produces 15kW(20.8)hp@5500rpm and 30Nm@3000rpm. It’s a neat looking motor, too.

Other touches worth mentioning are the retro styled modern LED lights, with the headlight pretty impressive at night, and the huge amount of chrome on the machine too, which is great quality. Overseas owners can utilise the HSVCS (Honda Smartphone Voice Control System) but it is not available for us Aussies. But there are loads of great accessories available too, from luggage to seat options, a flyscreen, USB charge point (I am surprised this is not standard), and lots more here.

The GB350 comes with the pillion grab rail, brown leather look seat and LED lighting just to name a few things, but it hasn’t got a 12v outlet, that will cost you extra…

So what is the GB350 like to ride? Short answer – easy. The GB is one of the most laid-back, relaxed motorcycles you are ever likely to experience. It is smooth, comfortable, slow, and sounds great. Mix all of those things in together and you will find yourself enjoying the scenery, taking it all in and experiencing motorcycling in its purest most basic form, no frills, no complexities, and super relaxing.

The riding position is good for a few hours before a stretch. I’m 187cm and aside from some finding the heel side of the gearlever to be too high, everything else on the bike worked for me from an ergonomic perspective. The footpegs initially feel a bit tall and wide, but it works, and the levers and controls all fall to hand nicely and intuitively in that Honda way. The mirrors are a bit vibey at times but they do the job and look great, the clutch is light and smooth in action, while the seat is super comfy and supportive.

The GB350 is a great handling little bike, whether around town, or out on the open roads, learners and experienced riders will appreciate the geometry and suspension.

The rider triangle is also natural and comfortable, with the wide chrome handlebars having a nice bend, while offering that retro look, and the tank shape sits well between the knees. I do reckon that the offset dash LCD display area is a bit hard to see and read in certain light, but the speedo, which is analogue style, is fine. The exhaust note is really good for a standard pipe, a proper thump to it, I enjoyed that.

The horn is loud, another gift to us from the SE Asian market and a welcome one. I didn’t take the pillion in a million for a spin, but I reckon around town it would be fine. 20-horses would struggle out of the 60-zones though, that is for sure, but there is room and there is that grab rail, too. There are also neat luggage/occy hooks for strapping stuff to the seat. It’s a practical machine, not just a pretty one.

When we took delivery of the bike, it had 0km on the clock. It wasn’t until it got well into the 100s of kilometres until it started to loosen up, and that included some thrashing, and then it really came good and was able to hold consistent 110km/h speeds on the motorway, even up the big hills, and showed an indicated top speed of 130km/h, but it took a while to get there. I was impressed at that, as the Royal Enfield 350s struggle to maintain 100km/h, and top out at around 110km/h. The Honda is quicker, and that is standard. With a pipe, airfilter and some premium unleaded, it would be just enough to do long stints on the highway, I reckon, making it the most practical 350 single for our country.

The five-speed gearbox is smooth, first is ultra low for the super slow CBD traffic in many countries. Then the jump to second is long and second is broad so can be used in traffic and up to a more flowing urban pace. It makes sense in the peak hour traffic and means less gear changes once in second, and not much clutch work while in first. It will literally idle along in first at walking pace and not stall. Fifth is an overdrive, and great for saving on fuel. Speaking of which, the GB almost runs on fumes. I got 456km out of my first tank, and it was still showing one bar left on the fuel gauge! It likes to be short-shifted, and doesn’t like the throttle buried, rather rolled on gently, and it leans out and thumps along beautifully. Between 40km and 80km, it will just hold fourth gear. It is a really engaging motor, too.

Off the lights, don’t expect to beat the cars. If the GB350 is rushed, it just resists. It’s not a fast motorcycle so be prepared for that. But once on the go, and that long-stroke single with a heavy crank and flywheel, gets into a happy place, it stays there and the GB motors along like a steam roller. Shifting is smooth, as mentioned, and the clutch action is light with progressive take-up. Fuelling feels ultra lean, so there is probably a bit of meat there for those that want to do some tuning if there is a way yet with the GB, which I am sure there would be given its popularity in Japan.

The ride is a surprise, it is actually quite refined and despite super basic suspension at both ends, Honda have obviously done plenty of development and testing. I was expecting it to be overly soft and bottom out on our crappy roads, but it didn’t do that once. The rear is supportive and 120mm of travel ample, while the forks are firm enough over bumps and hard emergency braking, too. It actually handles really well through the twisties and has good ground clearance for what it is. The Dunlops are fantastic tyres, too, both in the wet and the dry, giving good confidence and feedback, a big positive.

Around town the GB350 is well balanced and very easy to go slow on, it has a good turning circle as well and is easy to park. Lofting the bike onto the centre-stand is a bit harder than it should be, could be the stand leverage ratio, but aside from that, it is all easy going. There is a basic helmet lock, too, and a steering lock built into the ignition switch. No annoying fobs here… thankfully.

“The GB has got the one thing I initially thought was missing, and that is character”.

Living with the GB as a daily rider really was a treat, and that’s coming from someone who is from more of a CBR1000RR background. And after spending many hundreds of hours testing Royal Enfields over the years, simply because the brand tends to launch a new model each quarter, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the GB has got the one thing I initially thought was missing, and that is character. But it just took time to grown on me. And by the time it went back to Honda, that engagement factor had really worked its way under my skin and I was constantly reaching for the GB keys for any reason, from ducking down the shops to get milk to heading to the BWS drive through. A cool little bike.

2024 Honda GB350 Specifications

Price: $6999 + ORC ($8123 ex Sydney)
Warranty: 2 Years unlimited km
Servicing: 1000km, 6000km, 12000km
Colours: Matt Jeans Blue Metallic (tested) and Matt Pearl Morion Black
Claimed Power: 15kW[20.8hp]@5500rpm
Claimed Torque: 30Nm@3000rpm
Claimed Fuel Consumption: 45km/L Tested: 2.8L/100km
Range: 450km-plus (tested)

Air-cooled single-cylinder two-valve fuel-injected four-stroke, 70mm x 90.5mm bore x stroke, 348cc, 9.5:1 compression ration, five-speed gearbox, wet multi-plate cable-actuated slipper clutch.

Frame Type; Downtube steel spine frame, steel box section swingarm  Rake: N/A, Trail: N/A
Front suspension: Telescopic conventional forks, 106mm travel, Rear suspension: Twin tube Emulsion shock absorbers with adjustable preload, 120mm travel.
Wheels & Tyres: Cast alloy 2.15 x 19in wheel – 100/90 – 19in (f), Cast alloy 18in wheel – 130/70 – 18in(r) Dunlop Arrowmax GT601 tubeless tyres.
Brakes: Front 310mm rotor with twin piston ­floating Nissin caliper, rear 240mm rotor, single piston ­floating Nissin caliper, ABS both ends.

Wheelbase: 1441mm
Ground Clearance: 166mm
Overall Length: 2163mm
Width: 800mm
Height: 1441mm
Seat Height: 800mm
Kerb Weight: 181kg
Fuel Capacity: 15L

Dash & Electronics: Analogue and LCD display, ABS, Electric Start, Traction Control, LED lighting.

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