It’s a paradigm shift under the familiar silhouette. For existing Classic owners the J-Series engine will be a revelation – not all may like it but the 349-cc, single-cylinder, air-oil cooled unit is a quarter-mile ahead of UC (unit construction) engine it replaces.
Speak of engine refinement, construction, vibrations of the J-Series, as we experienced with the Meteor as well, are overwhelming areas of improvement over the Unit Construction (UCE) engine.
The thump at low revs is prominent – slightly subdued over the UC-powered Classic but enjoyable when compared with the Meteor. The engine operates nicely in the mid-range and bottoms out quickly as you try to build revs on a gear.
The 5-speed gearbox doesn’t carry the characteristics of clunkiness from the past, and in fact, feels lighter than the Meteor. It’s also slick, making life in bumper-to-bumper less fatiguing.
Identical between the new Classic and Meteor is the chassis and brakes. The discs (F: 300 mm and R: 270 mm) have grown compared to the outgoing Classic, but the weight has not. The mechanical changes done to the motorcycle have sharpened its agility, handling, and braking prowess.
Meteor and Classic are quite distinct in the way they ride, giving ample to the target audience to choose from. Firstly, the rear wheels are different. Classic rides on larger R18 (120/80) than Meteor’s R17. Classic has the option of both spoke with tubes and alloys with tubeless tyres. The sprockets and ECU mapping of both the motorcycles are different. The 5th gear is Meteor is taller, clearing showing focus on riding long distances. Lastly, compare Classic and Meteor, the former has a revised exhaust geometry and ignition timing to achieve a thumping bass to the exhaust note.
New engine, bigger brakes and suspension, it’s a little surprising to see Classic not gaining weight. Also, what surprises is the manifold gain in agility. A major reason behind this is the better equipped front forks and rigid chassis. The wheelbase has also increased by 20 mm to 1,390 mm. The handlebars are marginally tucked down, but it’s imperceptible to notice the difference. The riding triangle is upright, with mildly rear-set footpegs.
Classic will be available in both single and dual-channel ABS options, which as mentioned earlier have increased in size. The efficiency of the disc brakes, however, feels spongy at times, especially on wet or slushy tarmac. The force on the levers feels slightly inconsistent in similar conditions. Also, contributing to the quandary is are the CEAT tyres, which seem like a cost-effective choice. That said, the braking has substantially improved over the phasing out Classic.
The engine purrs effortlessly between 90 and 100 kmph, beyond which it struggles to keep up for long hours. While that’s the permissible speed limit in most of our road conditions, it’s important to note the new Classic is going to be a global product. Also, it seems the diktat to retain the old world charm of Classic was passed to the engineers. The headlights and taillights with halogen bulbs add fragrance to retro attire but fail miserably to light up the road ahead during monsoon or pitch dark conditions.
A couple of feature additions to the Classic are in sync with Meteor. A USB charging port, new rotary engine kill switch and Bluetooth-based Tripper system for navigation (chrome variant only) have been supplied to the Classic. Royal Enfield says it has worked on the foam and texture of the split seat. And I don’t doubt the comfort it offers when hours are spent on the saddle.
Royal Enfield has dug a mine of chrome it seems. It will, unarguably, go well with the customer base. The shine on the circular headlamps, long exhaust pipe and mirrors is so typical of Classic. Wait for the party piece. Right under the analog dial is a digital instrument cluster, which shows fuel gauge and odometer reading. Finally, a smart move was asked for. Going ahead, Royal Enfield should also consider displaying the distance to empty and gear position indicator.
The auto major is asking between Rs 1.84 lakh and 2.15 lakh. The motorcycle feels fresh, lively to ride and handle, and clearly showing a lot of customer feedback has gone into the R&D. That said, there are niggles and fine-tuning that need to be done.
Choose MYI (make-your-initiative) or aftermarket to customize the Classic to your liking, but I’m hopeful the current one will not spring up quality issues like its predecessors.