Jawa 350 first ride review: Can it pose a threat to Royal Enfield Classic 350?
Royal Enfield has been dominating the 350 cc segment in the Indian market for a very long time. The Classic 350 has been the best-selling motorcycle for not only Royal Enfield but in its segment. Several manufacturers have tried till now but no one has been able to crack it. One such manufacturer is Classic Legends, they launched the Jawa back in 2018 and it quickly made the headlines as the nostalgic factor for the brand was still alive. In fact, Jawa was the most searched manufacturer when they announced that they would be making a comeback.
The first motorcycle to come from the Jawa was the Standard which is also known as Jawa Jawa. Yes, it did not sell in huge numbers but what it did was put Jawa as a brand on the radar of a lot of people. It did manage to give people hope that they would be able to enjoy their childhood nostalgia once again. However, there were a few issues that people addressed and I am happy to report that Jawa is taking customer feedback and continuously improving their motorcycles.
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The latest motorcycle to come from the brand is called Jawa 350. Yes, it might look very similar to the Jawa Jawa but there have been a lot of major changes that the manufacturer has made. So, can the Jawa 350 finally pose a threat to the Royal Enfield Classic 350?
Jawa 350: Will turn heads
The road presence of the Jawa 350 is more than the original motorcycle. This is mainly because the motorcycle has grown in terms of dimensions. The 350 is 11 mm taller, has an 80 mm longer wheelbase and the ground clearance has also gone up. Another thing that adds to the road presence is fatter tyres. However, Jawa has retained the retro elements and the overall iconic silhouette of the motorcycle. Apart from this, Jawa has added a third colour scheme called Mystique Orange.
The motorcycle still comes with the well-known retro design elements of the original Jawa 353. I was surprised by how many people took notice of the new Jawa 350. So, yes, the Jawa 350 is definitely a head-turner. To keep in line with the retro feel, the 350 still uses a halogen lighting setup. The analogue instrument cluster has been retained and it looks gorgeous but it still has the same issues. It is a bit difficult to see what speed the motorcycle is doing. The fuel gauge situation is also a bit similar, a person can easily get confused because the other end of the needle is pointy. Then there is the seat which has been redesigned and has a more flat profile. Jawa is also offering a windscreen as an accessory which provides some levels of protection from the windblast.
The build quality and attention to detail deserve special mention. The way, the decals have been stuck onto the engine, the fuel tank cap, the quality of the chrome, and the finish of the instrument cluster feel top notch. The wiring is better tucked away, the bash plate is also smaller. There are new fender stays with chrome accent, a new chain cover, aluminium foot pegs and a new cover to hide the rear brake oil reservoir.
Jawa 350: New engine but different character
Jawa is now using the larger 334 cc engine that is doing duty on Yezdi motorcycles. For the 350, the engine has been detuned to 22 bhp while the torque output stands at 28.2 Nm. Yes, the power has gone down but the torque has gone up.
But you don't really ride spec sheets, right? So, I forgot the spec sheet swung my leg over the saddle and set in for a 250 km ride. This engine feels nothing like the ones we have experienced on other motorcycles from Classic Legends. It is tuned for low and mid-range and the sprocket size has also gone up. So, when you start accelerating, you'll see the speedometer needle moving quite quickly. It picks-up speeds in a linear fashion till about 80 kmph after which the progress slows down. And this is where the sweet spot of the motorcycle is. There are no vibrations, the engine feels relaxed and still has enough grunt to make quick overtakes. However, as soon as you cross the 90 kmph mark, the vibrations are very evident and they make their presence felt on the grips and the footpegs. We were running the motorcycle without db killers and it sounded quite nice and had a distinct sound to it. However, if your helmet is loud then it might get a bit irritating when you are riding the motorcycle on highways.
When compared, the previous iterations of engines sounded clattery and a bit mechanical, but the new one feels more refined. They were also high revving, to extract the power from them, the person would need to twist the throttle. Moreover, in the previous iterations, to make a quick overtake, often the rider would need to downshift A special mention goes to how quick, responsive and smooth the throttle feels. The on-off throttle transitions are also very smooth. Then there is the gearbox, which is a 6-speed unit and gets a slip-and-assist clutch. The clutch action is quite light, the gearbox slots in with positive feedback and rev-matching is also very easy.
Jawa 350: Ride quality, handling and brakes
Jawa has redone the suspension setup, chassis and swingarm for the 350 as well. It gets more suspension travel in the front as well as at the rear. They are still telescopic forks in the front and twin shock absorbers at the rear. The suspension setup has been very well-tuned. It absorbs the undulations and also ensures that the motorcycle feels stable at highway speeds. Yes, it does take some effort to dip it into a corner but once done, it does feel composed. Braking duties are performed by a disc in the front as well as at the rear and they do offer a reassuring strong bite. There is also dual-channel ABS on offer that is well-calibrated.
Jawa 350: Verdict
Classic Legends has made a significant improvement in terms of how the motorcycle feels and rides. Earlier, the engine was the weakest link of the Jawa Standard. Yes, it did love to rev but didn't really suit the characteristics of a retro-looking motorcycle. However, now that is not the case, the new engine and its tuning feel on point with how the motorcycle looks and feels. The quality levels are significantly higher, the ride quality is well-tuned and you will turn around and look at the motorcycle every time you park it. The 350 is probably the best motorcycle that Jawa is currently selling. Kudos, to Classic Legends for taking feedback seriously and working on it. So, if you are in the market for a 350 cc retro motorcycle then I can finally say that do take a test ride of the Jawa 350 before making your decision.