The longest running motorcycle model in history has been updated for 2023. The new Royal Enfield Bullet 350 modernises a legendary two-wheeler. Here is our review... Photos: Royal Enfield

Bullet Meri Jaan – This Bullet is my life. This famous song, featured in a mid-’80s Royal Enfield Bullet TV ad in India, became a quirky retro Hindi soundtrack for generations. India is in love with the Bullet. I head there, ride the new Bullet 350, then discovered why.

The Australian colours, variants, arrival and pricing of the Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is yet to be released.

The Australian colours, variants, arrival and RRP pricing of the Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is yet to be released. Pictured from left, Standard Maroon, Black Gold, Standard Black, Military Red, Military Black… We tested a Black Gold model.

I will cover the background of the Royal Enfield Bullet, the longest running motorcycle model in history, in a seperate feature, but in short the Bullet model spans from the 1932 GS 350, through to the new 2023 350. That’s a staggering 91-years in production. Wait for the party in 2032. Get your boots ready.



The Bullet is to India what the Holden Kingswood then Commodore or Ford Falcon is (or was) to us Aussies. There’s one in every home, maybe two. Sadly, there is no motorcycle comparison for us as we are, generally, as you know, a Nation against motorcycles and us bike riders are an absolute minority.

Not so in India. In India, everyone seems to ride. And ride with skill. In India, approximately 67 per cent of residents own a two wheeler. In Australia? Below 5 per cent. Spot the difference.

Royal Enfield's Vallum plant produces around 3,300 motorcycles per day, helping feed the 30,000-plus daily bike sales in India...

Royal Enfield’s Vallum plant produces around 3,300 motorcycles per day, helping feed the 30,000-plus daily bike sales in India… I toured this factory and will have a full feature and video on it for you shortly.

16 million motorcycle sales last year in India is nuts… But in 2019, the sales peaked at almost 22 million. Yes, close to the 25.5 million population of Australia! Those are new bike sales, so you can imagine the total number on the streets including used and already in the market.


 

So I understand why RE put on such a big launch for the Bullet, and why it was held in India. It went for four days and involved two parties, one a huge beach party, and two days touring RE facilities before the ride day. It’s a super important model to Royal Enfield, despite the Classic being the top seller.



The previous Bullet sells 12,000-plus per month while the new Classic 350 is the top seller for RE at a staggering 26,000-plus per month, while the Hunter 350 is just under 20,000 units per month. Staggering numbers… We can assume the new Bullet 350 will sit somewhere between the Classic and the Hunter sales in India. Personally, I see it being the top selling of the 350 models Down Under.


In India, approximately 67 per cent of residents own a two wheeler. In Australia? Below 5 per cent. Spot the difference…


Two wheelers appear to vastly out number cars in Chennai, from what I saw. We can only dream of an Australia like that… The reduction in congestion would be staggering. Let alone being able to find somewhere to park in the cities! Safety gear of course is not a priority sadly, but I didn’t see any accidents in my travels, even during heavy rain the riders all stayed upright on the slippery roads.

There are generations of Indian families who have relied on and loved the Bullet. Grandfathers, fathers, sons, grandsons and Grandmothers, mothers, daughters and granddaughters all with the Bullet engrained in their makeup. Sid Lal, Royal Endfield MD and CEO, is one of those people. He has resurrected the brand and made it global.

There are generations of Indian families who have relied on and loved the Bullet. Grandfathers, fathers, sons, grandsons and Grandmothers, mothers, daughters and granddaughters all with the Bullet engrained in their makeup. Sid Lal, Royal Endfield MD and CEO, is one of those people. He has resurrected the brand and made it global. Interview coming…

There are too many reasons to list why the Bullet is a part of life in India but in short, it’s a true necessity. An unbreakable workhorse, a family vehicle, a weekend fun bike and a loyal partner all in one, the Bullet is designed to take on the harshness of Indian roads and daily riding. So, what better way to find out how the new 350 performs than the jump right in the thick of the cows and TukTuks?


So, what better way to find out how the new 350 performs than the jump right in the thick of the cows and TukTuks?


The last update for the Bullet 350 came back in 2020, but we never saw that model in Australia, we haven’t had the 350 here for many years. We had the Bullet Trials 500 Works Replica in 2020 (read our review here) and the Classic 500 beforehand, but with the useability and success of the J-Series engine more suitable to our open roads than previous RE small singles, it makes sense we get all of the 350 models now… They are generally good for 110km/h, 120 at a throttle cable stretch.

Everything is new compared to the previous model, the engine, frame, suspension, brakes, wheels, bodywork and electronics...

Everything is new compared to the previous model, the engine, frame, suspension, brakes, wheels and bodywork have all come over from the 2022 Royal Enfield Classic 350. Essentially, the Bullet is a restyled Classic…

Walking around the Bullet 350 in the carpark of our hotel, geared up and ready to ride, I can’t help but admire the style of the Black Gold edition, which would be my personal pick, so I hang my lid on the mirror to claim one as my ride for the morning.

I like the black rims, blacked out engine and pipe, and the black mirrors all backed up by the gold highlighting. It looks classic yet modern, somehow. Happy with my choice, I look at the other bikes in the lineup. They are all Black Gold editions anyway. Ha!



I hop on for the first time and have a look at the layout. I tested the Meteor 350 but I haven’t ridden a new Classic 350, so the Bullet is really new to me. The last Bullet I rode was a 500, maybe five or six years ago, and prior to that a borrowed vintage 350 on club rego, so I am truly looking forward to the new Bullet and although nervous, as I adjust the mirrors and settle in, I’m keen for the Indian roads and to experience just exactly what the Bullet is designed for. First impression is it’s got a good rider triangle, the mirrors are well placed and the controls and switches fall naturally to hand.

Pulling out of the hotel driveway onto the open road of Chennai for my first riding experience in India, I could not have been on a more suitable motorcycle.

Pulling out of the hotel driveway onto the open road of Chennai for my first riding experience in India, I could not have been on a more suitable motorcycle. the Bullet is built for this stuff and is just so, so easy to ride in urban situations.

As crazy as the Indian traffic appears from the outside (I’d spent some time watching outside the hotel just trying to understand how it all flows, but couldn’t work it out), now that I’m immersed in it, caught up in the current, getting dragged along in the rip, riding the rapids, I find it is much easier than anticipated. Picking my lines, following Kel Buckley up ahead, I find myself quickly at one with the Bullet and making good use of the horn and when and where to beep it, about every 10-seconds!



The narrow build, commanding ride position, powerful rear brake, nimble low speed steering and super tight steering lock make so much sense to me as I work my way through the chaos at speed fast enough to stay ahead of the flow and allowing me to be the one picking my lines, not be the one getting cleaned up! Short shifting the slick gearbox and taking advantage of the 350 torque works wonders, too, and the low first gear ratio is perfect for the tight parts, while second offers a very broad range.

The riding position is comfy for a taller rider, while the super soft seat and good rear suspension (no bottoming out even in India), will be great on bumpy Aussie roads.

The riding position is comfy for a taller rider, while the super soft seat and good rear suspension (no bottoming out even in India), will be great on bumpy Aussie roads. This is the Black Gold edition, which has a more custom look to it.

We all U-Turn to head back in the other direction and cruising between 70km/h and 90km/h is where the J Series long-stroke engine really sits in its sweet spot. I’m using fourth and fifth gears, rolling on and off the throttle taking advantage of the silky smooth fuelling and working my way past the slower vehicles and TukTuk’s, dodging the occasional cow and pedestrian, and enjoying the ride in the sun.


The engine is a gem, just don’t rush it, let the torque come to you and ride the long, broad torque curve…


The Bullet is almost vibe free, with some mirror blurring in the upper rev range and only very slight vibes through the handlebars and footpegs. The engine is a gem, just don’t rush it, let the torque come to you and ride the long, broad curve. The ratios are spot on in the slick shifting heel/toe gearbox, with top gear a tall overdrive but one, I’m discovering, that the 350cc engine has no problem pulling at all.



The J Series 350 feels well and truly fast enough for the wild Indian traffic and as things intensify and the world seemingly starts to close in on me when we get into some more dense areas en route to the countryside, the sensation of speed is actually pretty high. The clutch is getting a workout, it’s a little heavier than expected but linear in take up. Not as light as the 650 twins clutch, though.


I think the J Series would pull another gear, too, potentially increasing top speed to 130km/h, more suitable for Aussies… If only we could sell another million units a year here to justify that!


I need to remind myself that although here in India that fifth gear overdrive and 115-120km/h top speed is sufficient, when I tested the Meteor back in Australia I was looking for a sixth gear within half an hour testing, and I think the J Series would pull another gear, too, potentially increasing top speed to 130km/h, more suitable for Aussies. If only we could sell another million units a year here to justify that!



The highway soon turns to the suburbs, where I continue to beep the horn like a mad man. It works, I am getting the hang of warning people I am coming through, and I somehow know when I’m been warned, too. It’s a ‘snooze and you lose’ battle out here on the roads of Chennai but the trusty Gold Black Bullet 350 seems to be working with me as one to safely get me through the almost surreal set.

"The trusty Gold Black Bullet 350 seems to be working with me as one to safely get me through the almost surreal set"...

“The trusty Gold Black Bullet 350 seems to be working with me as one to safely get me through the almost surreal set”…

I take my eyes off the road ahead for a second or two to look around and almost get sideswiped by a car. Lesson learned. A lot can change in one second on Indian roads! Back to the bike… What I am noticing is the super comfort of the seat and the compliance of the suspension. I rated the Meteor forks highly, but I criticised the lack of travel from the shocks. Not so here, the Bullet is not bottoming out on any of these extreme bumps and both ends are balanced and well damped too. We will see how it goes here in Australia eventually.



Some cornering follows but not enough to fully test the Bullet like I will once I get home, but from upright to mid lean (where the bike will spend the majority of its life), the steering is sharp, nimble yet stable and geometry is overall sensible and sweet handling, just as intended for its purpose. The brakes are coming good now halfway into the ride, they may have not been run in.


“The ABS did an exceptional job, both ends”…


They’re predictable with low initial bite, perfect for slippery roads (and new riders), but stopping power is there, as I find out braking very hard when I spotted a child by the road with a lady on the other side seemingly calling him or her over. I thought the kid was going to run in front of me. The ABS did an exceptional job, both ends. The rear is the go-to, it offers strong power and a late locking up point.

A compliant ride at both ends was my biggest surprise with the Bullet. More so than on any other RE model I have ridden, the suspension is a strong point and above that of the category and competition. Overall handling is quite good for the weight and style.

A compliant ride at both ends was my biggest surprise with the Bullet. More so than on any other RE model I have ridden, the suspension is a strong point and above that of the category and competition.

We stop for lunch and I hop off the bike feeling great. I’ve enjoyed every moment of the ride, not just the simple yet engaging nature of the Bullet 350, but also riding in a new place with bike friends. This is what motorcycling is all about and as I sit down to order some local organic delights for breakfast and prepare to present my video piece to camera, I already know what I am going to say, and it is positive.



Styling I will leave to you. Personally, I love the look of the new Bullet 350 and would have a Black Gold in my garage any day of the week. But what you think is totally up to your own tastes. In terms of the Bullet as a practical and fuss free small capacity motorcycle, it ticks a lot of boxes. But RRP price will ultimately determine its local success. It’s good, but what will it cost us?

The biggest box it ticks is from what I am beginning to suspect Royal Enfield have a seemingly limitless supply of hidden away in a safe place, is the magic ingredient that makes a bike engaging. The Bullet will make you smile and that is something that can’t be engineered into a motorcycle. It comes from passion, history and in this case, an incredible 91 years of development…

[We will put the 350 Bullet to the full test on Aussie roads as soon as we get our hands on one. In the meantime, keep an eye out for our video on the India launch and our feature on the Royal Enfield Global HQ and Vallam Factory]…

 

Tech Talk, 2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350

The Bullet 350 returns in 2023 with an all new design based on the Classic 350. Everything from the frame to the styling is new. The forefront of the new Bullet 350 is the 349cc air-oil cooled single-cylinder engine. The new single-cylinder J Series was launched recently in the Meteor and generates 20.2hp@6100rpm and 27Nm@4000rpm.

Air-cooled for simplicity.

A heap of development has gone into making the new engine easy on the wallet and easy on new riders. Thanks to its EFI system, the throttle response has been optimised for a “linear acceleration” as Royal Enfield describes it. The new engine also has a five-speed gearbox, with fifth gear being an overdrive, taking stress off the engine while highway cruising, and a seven-plate clutch for easy gear changes in built-up traffic and a nice and smooth clutch release.

The new Royal Enfield 350cc powerhouse.

The Bullet 350 shares the all new Classic chassis for 2023. The brakes, suspension and frame have all been upgraded over from the Classic. Royal Enfield said they aimed for the frame itself to be stiffer allowing for a more planted feeling when taking corners at high and low speeds. The front-end sees conventional 41mm telescopic forks with 130mm travel and the rear has received a pair of twin tube emulsion shock absorbers with six-step adjustable preload. Both the front and rear have been adapted to make the bike easier to ride.

Continuing with the rideability theme are the ergonomics. Riders have a choice between multiple accessory seats, with low cut and premium patterns available through their genuine accessories. The seats as a whole have been slightly reshaped to cradle the rider better while also being widened and redone with softer foam for comfort, while the kickstarter has been removed to de-clutter the footpeg area. With brand new handlebars, the riding position has been tweaked to further improve comfort.

Spoked wheels feature at both ends, both options are wrapped in 100/90 – 19in at the front and 120/80 – 18in at the rear. The braking is handled by a 300mm rotor with twin piston ­floating caliper at the front and a 270mm rotor and single piston ­floating caliper at the rear. The new Bullet 350 has a hefty kerb weight of 195kg.

The Bullet 350 comes in five new colours, Black Gold, Standard Black, Standard Maroon, Military Black, Military Red. Pricing and availability in Australia was yet to be announced as we published. 

2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350 Specifications

royalenfield.com.au

Price & Availability: $7,890 R/A (Standard Black or Maroon), $8,050 R/A (Black & Gold).
Warranty: 3 Years unlimited km with Roadside Assist.
Colours: Black Gold, Standard Black, Standard Maroon, Military Black, Military Red.
Claimed Power: 20.2hp@6100rpm
Claimed Torque: 27Nm@4000rpm


ENGINE
J Series single-cylinder, four-stroke, air-oil cooled, 349cc, bore x stroke 72mm x 85.8mm, compression ratio 9.5:1, Electronic Fuel Injection(EFI), wet, multi-plate clutch, five-speed constant mesh gearbox, 2.313:1 primary ratio, 1st 2.615, 2nd 1.706, 3rd 1.040, 4th 1.040, 5th .875:1 final ratio 2.800:1.


CHASSIS
Frame Type; Twin Downtube Spine Frame  Rake: N/A, Trail: N/A
Front suspension: Telescopic, 41mm forks, 130mm travel, Rear suspension: Twin tube Emulsion shock absorbers with six-step adjustable preload, N/A travel.
Wheels & Tyres: Spoked 2.15 x 19in wheel – 100/90 – 19in (f), Spoke 18in wheel – 120/80 – 18in(r) both tubed tyres.
Brakes: Front 300mm rotor with twin piston ­floating caliper, rear 270mm rotor, single piston ­floating caliper, ABS both ends.


DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 1390mm
Ground Clearance: 170mm
Overall Length: 2110mm
Width: 785mm
Height: 1125mm
Seat Height: 805mm
Kerb Weight: 195kg
Fuel Capacity: 13L


Dash & ELECTRONICS: Analogue and LCD display, ABS, Electric Start.


2023 ROYAL ENFIELD BULLET 350 LAUNCH GALLERY


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