It’s no secret that Royal Enfield has become a household name over the years with the help of its retro-modern offerings. Most of us have encountered a 350cc Royal Enfield motorcycle in the neighbourhood since it has been one of the most popular motorcycle line-up in the country.
Be it the Royal Enfield Bullet 350, Classic 350 – the most popular offering from the maker – or the Thunderbird 350, all these bikes have established Royal Enfield as a very strong contender and an established manufacturer in the country.
Up until now, it was just these motorcycles in the sub-400cc retro-modern range for the old-school boys. However, with the entry of Jawa’s Forty Two and Benelli’s Imperiale 400, the market now has more than one really strong contenders, which, of course, calls for a comparison.
However, we’re leaving out the Benelli today to see how the Jawa Forty Two compares with the BS-VI version of the Royal Enfield Classic 350. This is because the last time we compared these three motorcycles, the Benelli came out on top. So, the whole idea of this specification comparison is to see which one of these bikes deserves the second spot. So, let’s see what both of them bring to the table.
A glance at both these bikes is enough to tell you that these are retro cruisers are not going out of fashion anytime soon. And why not, since people like you and I love it for its raw appeal and perhaps the omission of fancy electronic irritants means these motorcycles won’t interrupt you in case you’re opting to have fun with these machines.
So, starting with the Royal Enfield, it’s the oldest of the two here. We’ve seen this design language for a decade now and it continues here. But that’s the thing about retro designs, they are retro! With the BS-VI model, some of the variants of the Classic 350 have received alloy wheels – in place of spoke wheels – and tubeless tyres. But that’s about it.
The Jawa bikes, on the other hand, looks more desirable as a retro cruiser since it carries so much heritage with it. It’s a job greatly done to paying homage to the Jawas of yore. Some additional bits like dual exhaust, offset instrument cluster and the positioning of the ignition key next to the engine, makes the Jawa all the more retro and, hence, special.
Speaking of additional bits, it would have been nicer if Royal Enfield went ahead and added an actual fuel gauge and a tachometer to the BS-VI version of the Classic 350. However, RE is expected to thoroughly update its popular motorcycle very soon, so it might have reserved a feature upgrade for those models.
Now, to the engines of these motorcycles, the Classic 350 gets the same 346cc single-cylinder engine, which makes 19bhp and 28Nm of torque. We’ve ridden the BS-VI version of the Classic 350 and we can assure you that it’s easily more refined than before. The engine still has the same characteristics, meaning it is at its best during low-speed, easy cruising.
The Jawa, on the other hand, gets a smaller 293cc single-cylinder engine, which produces 27bhp and 28Nm of torque. As its on-paper figures suggest, the additional power results in peppier performance with the Jawa. It’s fast but it lacks the retro cruiser feel you’ll get with an otherwise modern-retro offering.
We tested the Jawa Forty Two last year with its BS-IV engine. The earlier engine did need a touch of refinement since there were a lot of vibes on the Jawa, so this might still be a concern. Also, the seat is very firm, the suspension is even firmer, and ergonomically you do feel a bit cramped.
So, all in all, both of these bikes remain very competitive offerings in the sub 400cc retro-modern space. Where the RE Classic 350 impresses with its retro feel, the Jawa Forty Two impresses with its peppier acceleration. But since this segment is all about the retro feel, the Classic 350 takes the crown in this regard. So, if you just can’t wait for Royal Enfield bikes to launch its upgraded line-up next year, you can still pick up the BS-VI Classic 350.