Royal Enfield takes another step away from its traditional Bullet range once again with the Rumbler 350. So, what makes this little 350cc cruiser something rather special? We sent Mat to find out…
Words: Mat Pics: Ben Galli
Small capacity cruisers are often ignored in Western markets, but Royal Enfield seems to think differently about the often-forgotten class, introducing the new Rumbler 350 to both the Australian and New Zealand markets.
The Rumbler 350 isn’t a completely new bike in a global sense, with the bike itself having found huge success in Royal Enfield’s home market of India, under the Thunderbird name.
Obviously Royal Enfield couldn’t bring the bike in to our market with that name – with the Thunderbird trademark owned by Triumph Motorcycles – so the Rumbler name was chosen to represent the funky, little cruiser-come-commuter here and in Oz. And rumble it does!
Old School Heart
Sure, at 346cc and with a low compression ratio of just 8.5:1 the Rumbler is never going to stick it to other similarly-sized bikes in the LAMS class, but what it does bring is a metric tonne of character.
With a carburettor pumping gas into the 350cc engine – which the bike shares with the 350 Classic models (the international 500cc version does get the same EFI engine as the 500cc Classics) – and a kick start hanging off the side, it certainly hits the mark for the character that only an old-school bike and a simple engine can provide.
Royal Enfield subscribes to the philosophy that you don’t need a powerful engine to create a fun commuter, but you need a bike that riders will actually enjoy the ownership experience of.
While Royal Enfield Australia/New Zealand’s Brand Manager Mal Jarrett made it clear that as “it’s a 350cc single, so it’s not a tourer, it’s a fun commuter”, the Rumbler hits the road with possibly the biggest tank in the sub-400cc class, at 20-litres. While the consumption figures haven’t officially been tested, Royal Enfield reckons the little bike can squeeze over 400km out of a tank.
Old Meets New
The headlight and taillight are both bright LED units, with the halogen LED up front really letting you get noticed when you’re out at night. Indicators are conventional bulb units, but these will likely be available as LEDs when the optional accessories for the bike reach market.
While the steep rake on the 41mm forks does give the bike an appearance of having run into something, compared to the raked-out appearance we normally associate with bikes labelled as a cruiser, it works a treat for giving the Rumbler a very light and easy to manoeuvre nature. Perfect for slaying inner city traffic congestion.
While it’s not the “coolest” looking bike in the world, it has its own special kind of charm, which is a rarity these days when everyone is seemingly doing their best to be like everyone else.
With three colours available – Matte Black, Marine Blue, and the impossible to describe, but very cool ‘Lightning’ – there is plenty of scope for the Rumbler to roll to a different beat on our city streets.
Taking it to the Streets
Kicking the Rumbler into life – because when you’ve got the option, you tend to relish the opportunity – the first impression is that the 785mm seat height is actually quite tall for a bike that is aimed at being a bit of a cruiser.
The pillion accommodation is removable, and I think the bike will actually look better for it, since how many bikes in the LAMS class actually need pillion accommodation anyway?
There is rumoured to be a Scrambler version in the works as well, which I think offers plenty of scope to really amp up the style of the Rumbler to a whole new level.
The single cylinder engine does just as you would expect when you pull away from a stop. Being a low compression unit, it doesn’t surge away on the slightest input of throttle. Instead, it happily chugs its way up to the 5500rpm redline and is surprisingly happy in 4th gear at 50km/h.
It’s got a very friendly nature to it and in all honesty, is one of the most loveable little engines I’ve ridden in a while, despite its modest 20hp and 28Nm of power.
The Hipster’s Tour of Melbourne
Melbournites LOVE their coffee and cake it seems, and with the essentials scoffed down we hit the traffic again, this time with the beachside suburb of St Kilda’s in our sights.
Clicking through the 5-speed gearbox as we dispatched the stacks of cars, was made easier thanks to Royal Enfield including a heel-toe shifter with the Rumbler’s base spec. While I’m not usually a fan of the system, I’ll admit it worked damn well on the little 350, to the point that I was soon heel-toeing my way through the gears naturally.
Another nice touch on the part of Royal Enfield, is the inclusion of a centre stand in the price – which sits at a rather pleasant $6790 including 2-year warranty – which means not only being able to easily maintain the bike yourself, but also sneak into tight parks.
Plus, for the first time on a bike with the 350cc engine, the Rumbler has a removable rear sprocket, meaning it is less costly and easier to maintain than its stablemates. Yep, the Rumbler is pretty well suited for those wanting that extra bit of practicality in their motorcycle.
As the Royal Enfield team had promised us ice cream on arrival in St Kilda, and we were rather warm, the little Rumbler’s were having every ounce of performance squeezed from them as we hammered the little bikes for all they were worth.
Interestingly, lean angle while riding in a, shall we say “Spirited” fashion, wasn’t hindered by the centre stand, with the exhaust and side stand bracket the first to touch down.
Into the night
Much like our own flagship Royal Enfield store on Auckland’s North Shore – Experience Motorcycles Royal Enfield – the Melbourne store is packed with Royal Enfield merchandise, bikes and more.
Despite the shelves filled with some rather cool, Enfield-branded merch’, it was the two pre-production twins that were garnering the most attention. With production for these bikes beginning shortly, it seems likely a certain British manufacturer is in for a fright when these two bikes land on our shores later this year.
After being torn away from the lovely new twins, we set off into the darkness – a rarity for a motorcycle launch – to put the lighting to the test. With its big LED up front, the little Rumbler does a damn good job of being noticed.
Whether the Rumbler does the same with punters is yet to be seen, but for the money there aren’t a lot of bikes on the market that offer the same sort of characterful riding experience.
If the future of Royal Enfield models in our market is based around bikes that opt for more of the same, the beat of the Royal Enfield drum might become rather enticing for riders who want a bike with more than the usual amount of soul.
2018 Royal Enfield Rumbler Specs
|Price:||$6790 + ORC|
|Engine:||Single-cylinder, 4-stroke, Twinspark|
|Bore x Stroke:||70mm x 90mm|
|Max. Power Output:||19.8bhp at 5250rpm|
|Max. Torque:||28Nm at 4000rpm|
|Carburation:||UCAL 29mm constant vacuum carburettor|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||20 litres|
|Clutch type:||wet, multi-plate|
|Transmission Type:||5-speed constant mesh|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||2060mm x 790mm x 1205mm|
|Fuelled Weight (fully fuelled)||192kg|
|Front suspension:||41mm telescopic fork with 130mm travel|
|Rear suspension:||Twin gas charged shock absorbers with 5-step adjustable preload 80mm travel|
|Front tyre:||90/90 – 19|
|Rear tyre:||120/80 – 18|
|Front brake:||280mm disc with 2 piston caliper|
|Rear brake:||240mm disc single piston caliper|