Honda CB350 H’ness (Image Ctsy: Honda)
As readers may recall in my review of the Honda CB350 H’ness, I really liked pretty much everything about that bike – its refined engine, its retro design and its friendly nature. Sure, there were some quirks on it that seemed out of place on a Honda, but that aside, it was two thumbs up from me. Except that I wouldn’t buy it.
Why do you ask? Well, I wouldn’t be caught dead on a bike called H’ness, whatever its merits (although it appears to have caught the fancy of around 10,000 people, who have booked it). However, for those as finicky as I, Honda has served up an alternative – the CB350 RS - which is an infinitely better name, not to mention it being a better-looking machine. The fact that RS stands for ‘road sailing’ is still cringe-worthy, but you can’t win them all.
The H’ness and the RS are exactly the same motorcycle, mind you; it’s just that the latter has had its design tweaked to make it look sportier and more contemporary, with an eye on younger buyers. Changes include much less chrome and more blacked-out elements, slimmer indicators, shorter fenders front and rear, ‘boots’ on the front fork, an engine protection plate and a differently shaped seat (called a ‘tuck-and-roll design). Further, the rear wheel is a smaller 17-inch one (but with a wider tyre) and the side panels are new-look.
It’s now a flashier bike, no doubt, and one that should appeal to its target audience; I particularly like the yellow and black paint combination, although the red and black is nice too. Fit and finish are excellent, although strangely, Bluetooth connectivity and the USB C charging port are now optional extras, even though the RS costs almost Rs 10,000 more than the H’ness.
How Is The Ride?
Since its engine is in the same state of tune as the H’ness (21 bhp and 30 Nm), the RS also shows a similar lack of low and top-end power, because of its rather tall and widely spaced out gearing ratios. Thus you have to keep working the gearbox (which is very smooth, on the plus side) in order to stay in the correct power band, failing which the bike struggles a little, especially in city traffic, where you have to stay in the lower gears. The RS really comes into its own on open roads, where it loves to be revved hard and for extended periods, and where you can easily hit and hold triple-digit speeds.
I think Honda missed a trick by not rethinking the bike’s gearing, but what you can definitely do is switch out the rear sprocket for a larger one, which will give you more of an initial shove. The RS, like the H’ness, is a pretty light and agile bike, so you will enjoy yourself when a set of corners appears. The brakes offer excellent stopping power as always and the suspension is forgiving of bumps and undulations.
At Rs 1.96 lakh, ex-showroom, the CB350RS is on the pricier side in this segment, more so because it has fewer features than its stablemate, the H’ness. That said, I’d still pick the RS because it looks sharper and has a name that I won’t be embarrassed about.