Got back to motorcycling after 2 decades with my new Honda CB350

Having been a commuter, short distance tourer on the Suzuki KB125 that I had during college days, motorcycling was given up due to back ache and change of continents.

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Prologue:

Hi friends,

This is my first attempt at writing anything more than 100 words in this excellent forum. Kindly accept my apologies in advance for any errors that might have crept in.

I am a medic who went overseas for post graduate training in early 2000s and returned back in 2017 to do something at the grass roots levels to improve our health care system. Last 4 years have been really busy trying to set up a charity, working with different organisations in faraway corners of the subcontinent etc.

While working in a remote tribal hospital in 2018, I was surprised by the high quality of the road network and the motorcycles that were accessible to the rural youth. Sadly, this also meant really bad accidents. This led to a little research on reasons for higher mortality and means to improve the situation.

We started with Road Safety Bikeathon in 2018 in association with Rotary Club Mysore to drive home the importance of wearing helmets and seat belts. What started as 12 Royal Enfields on a sunny day has now over 4 years, become a crowd of more than 100 bikes (different manufacturers) and 10 vintage cars touring the rural areas spreading this very important message over a weekend. Last year we started focussing on the Mysore, Gonikoppal Virajpet, Madikeri, Kushalnagara, Piriyapatna belt after having achieved measurable improvement in helmet wearing in the Kabini, Begur, Saragur, HD Kotte areas.

It’s amazing to see what a bunch of urban riders can achieve in changing perceptions by being polite, fully kitted up (in safety equipment), riding in unison along the rural roads. Everyone wants to know what is happening and why are they hundreds of miles away from their natural habitat. The answer about road safety initially confused them. When the same was reiterated by local medics and police officers in local lingo at short, roadside meetings, it created the intended impact and there was respect for safety accessories.

After famous sports persons (from Dhoni to Messi and more) and movie celebrities, the only other group, rural youth would take heed of are the urban youngsters of our country (thanks to Insta, FB, TikTok etc.). This gave us the unique opportunity of presenting a large group of ‘safe & hip urban’ youngsters to make helmets and seat belts look “fashionable” and cool.

Aeons ago at a seaside village in Trivandrum with the KB:

The Desire:

Having been a commuter, short distance tourer on the Suzuki KB125 that I had during college days, motorcycling was given up due to back ache and change of continents. The sense of freedom, being part of the elements and ability to reach remote places is what biking is all about for me. Being the organiser of the Bikeathon, I had travelled short distances in different makes of two wheelers to spread the road safety message. Rest of the distance was covered in the safe cocoon of a car. The bug bit me during these events to do the whole route on a bike, despite the health and other challenges.

Team BHP as always, was the source of information and inspiration to find the right ride. The search was triggered by how good the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 looked. Multiple test rides took me closer to buying one given the torquey engine, vibration free experience and manageable weight distribution. But talking to BHPians, Meteor owners (including an orthopaedic surgeon) and a 40 minutes ride on Bangalore Mysore Highway during last Bikeathon taught me that upright position with all the stress and force impacting an erect spine was the last thing advisable for a vertebral frame with multiple prolapses (including the neck!).

First choice was the sexy Meteor:

As always, the heart doesn’t want to listen to these mundane woes of an ageing body and the search continued. Yezdi Adventure, Classic 350 and Himalayan were tested and rejected due to the following reasons:

Yezdi Adventure: poor weight distribution, fit and finish left a lot to be desired.

Classic 350: Gorgeous machine, smooth ride but didn’t pull at the heart may be because I was smitten by the Meteor more than the Classic.

Himalayan: While a great all rounder, the heaviness and difficulty to use it as a commuter bike ruled the mighty Himalayan out.

I was keenly following the different bike threads here and Cyborg’s excellent one about his CB350 and the ease of ownership inspired me to do a test ride despite my personal preference to an Indian product. Honda’s insistence on selling them only through Bigwing outlets was truly a hurdle in going for a quick look and test ride. Thankfully the outlet in Trivandrum was generous in letting me try one over an extended time and route, while we were on a short break in January 2022.

I was pleasantly surprised by the suspension, weight management, sound and flickability of the bike. The refinement, fit + finish and road presence were expected, given the brand and their effort to mimic the king of the jungle. Roads, untarmacked streches, highways and little lanes were all easily managed in spite of my rusty riding skills. Slightly forward leaning position suited well for my dodgy back and there were no niggles after a 45 minutes test ride. The riding triangle felt perfect for my height and reach (5’11, 75 kg). Loved the thumpy exhaust note echoing back from the walls while riding the narrow lanes along the hilly terrains of Trivandrum.

I’m not a fan of H’ness badging and the original version had it highlighted with a bright red background. The anniversary edition offerings looked AWESOME! The matt green one with brown split seats (and a less conspicuous H’ness badge) took my breath away. Popped out the teenager in me, drooling at the ride, palpitations and all! Thankfully home office also okayed the choice despite reservations about health and regular use. It helped a lot that the good old KB125 had a major role to play for us getting together in the first place.

Test rode at Thiruvananthapuram in Jan 2022 and purchased from Bengaluru within a fortnight:

Few other photos of the Green Bug:

Purchase:

Mr. Ayush at Topline Honda in Bangalore is a thorough gentleman. He made sure that the whole booking and purchase process was seamless and lasted all of 10 days! Even though my natural inclination was for an RE product, Honda and their staff have justified the faith reposed in them. Currently the process is on to get familiar with a bike after a 2-decades vacuum. The multiple monuments within a hundred km radius of Bangalore will be the initial destinations with the better half. Small aliquots in achievable time frames will make this possible. The 2 weeks Panchakarma Rx for the back in December 2021 has gone a long way in increasing ability and confidence to get back. I am attaching a few more photos from the initial days of getting to know the BUG.

Posing in front of the BEAST (Hexa XTA):

A side on view:

Another side angle view:

Its a riot of colours:

Initial Impressions:

It has been a few months since the BUG came home. We have fell in to a good routine. My kids and wife clamour for a pillion ride whenever they get a chance which says a lot about the comfort in the back seat. Weekly once or twice I take the bike to work, a 50km round trip with a long stretch of 60kmph riding along the toll roads. My observations so far are:

Pros:

  • Excellent suspension.
  • Good road presence.
  • Super smooth engine.
  • Excellent gear shifts with hardly any false neutrals.
  • Good balance.
  • Precise brakes.
  • Can tackle uneven roads admirably.
  • Loud horns.
  • Proper bassy exhaust note.
  • Decent mileage, I’m getting a combined mileage of 34-35 kmpl.
  • NO vibrations.
  • And to top it all off, a total looker with the exclusivity factor (especially for the anniversary editions).
  • Topline Honda Bigwing Showroom & Service Centre: is a winner all the way with courteous service and professional attitudes.

Cons:

  • Low end torque is inadequate requiring frequent gear shifts in city rides.
  • Head lights were not fit for purpose.
  • Service centres are few and far between.
  • Matt green paint finish will put me back by a lot if scratched.

Mods:

  • Puig crash guard extender.
  • Auxiliary lights (60W) from HJC with Maddog Switch and wires.
  • Bobo Mobile holder and Zoul type C charging wire.

Posing by the flaming Eucalyptus undergrowth:

Blending in with the spring blossoms:

Any angle, its a pleasing view:

Burning hot:

Money Matters:

The final OTR in Bengaluru including the roadside recovery, extended warranty and insurance (from Topline) was Rs. 2,63,109/-

The First Service after 1 month, cost me Rs. 1,579/-

Accessories as mentioned above cost Rs. 15,295/-

Fitting Charges were Rs. 1,200/-

Helmet + SHAD SH33 Top box = Rs. 14,099/- (still confused about which rack to get as I am scared of spoiling the look further!).

Carbon Racing hood = Rs. 2,499/- (fitted at home)

Attaching few more photos of the bug with fitted accessories below:

Conclusion:

The Honda CB350 is an excellent choice for someone interested in cruising in highways at below 100kmph speeds and for regular city commutes. It is refined, easy to handle and packs enough grunt. Modern features like Bluetooth connectivity and hybrid display with good visibility, could induce an occasional smug grin. ABS, predictably good brakes and wonderful weight management will definitely keep you safe. Despite the macho sound, there is hardly any engine heat. There is ample pillion comfort and space. Above all, it is kinder to one’s backbone + buttocks and easier on the wallet to maintain.

Posing with the lilies:

As a bonus, you get a lot of attention on the roads thanks to the looks and also the sound. Recently, I rode up to a popular restaurant in Bengaluru and the staff insisted on parking the bike by the shade because ‘it’s an expensive BIG BIKE’ This incident definitely made my day and I’m definitely going back there, that too only on the BUG.

Profile:

The hood divides opinion but protects efficiently from windblast up to my head level and makes highway journeys enjoyable. I feel it takes away from the gorgeous looks of the bike but needs must for a 40 something. It will also come in handy for the next road safety bikeathon to keep up with the younger crowd.

Attaching a leaflet from the last year’s Bikeathon:

I am an enthusiast, but definitely not an expert on motorcycles. You could call me a professional when it comes to medical emergencies. And recently I’ve acquired the additional tag of a chronic back pain patient and have taken medical and ayurvedic treatments. As a returnee to motorbike riding after a long hiatus, Team BHP helped in many ways to gather the confidence and to take the final leap of faith.

Got to give a big shout out to BHPian Sebring and his excellent ownership thread of SMURFY. Most queries of a potential CB350 buyer are already covered well in there.

If I can be of any help to others here, it will be an honour.

Always ready for the next adventure:

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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