Honda Needs to Bring the Reborn CB350 to the US
The neo-vintage segment of motorcycles is extremely popular right now. Cafe racer-style bikes like the Triumph Thruxton and Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 are just two examples. There’s also the Moto Guzzi V7, as well as Honda’s selection of 125cc models: the Monkey, the Super Cub, and the Trail 125. But while the Japanese marque has the affordable end covered, it doesn’t have anything retro in-between those bikes and the CB1100. At least, not in the US. The new 2020 Honda H’ness CB350 is a modern take on an old classic—and it needs to come here.
The classic Honda CB350 was a motorcycle hit
The Honda CB350 name appeared on 2 different models in the US.
At the time, it was the smallest production four-cylinder engine in the world, displacing 347cc and redlining at 10,000 RPM. However, although smooth, the Honda CB350 Four was more expensive, heavier, and only somewhat more powerful than the two-cylinder model it shared showroom space with.
That bike is the 1968-1973 Honda CB350, aka the CB350K. It didn’t have a front disc brake until 1973, Curbside Classics reports. However, its 326cc two-cylinder engine makes 36 hp, and revs to 10,500 RPM, Hemmings reports.
It has a reputation for “bullet-proof reliability,” Silodrome reports, as does the bike as a whole. It’s also easy to modify and maintain, Hagerty reports. And with its low weight and purchase price, it became the motorcycle of choice for budding racers and budget-minded riders. As a result, it was the best-selling bike in the world at the time.
And now, the Honda CB350 is back.
The 2020 Honda H’ness CB350: classic looks, modern tech
For 2020, the Honda CB350 returns with new features, and a new name: H’ness, for ‘Highness,’ RideApart explains.
Unlike the previous Honda CB350s, the 2020 H’ness model doesn’t have a four-cylinder or even a two-cylinder engine. Instead, it has a 348cc single-cylinder engine rated at 21 hp and 22 lb-ft, RideApart reports. That goes to the rear wheel via a 5-speed transmission.
While 21 hp doesn’t sound like a lot, that’s only 8 hp less than the Royal Enfield Continental GT 535 made. And it had a 535cc single-cylinder engine. Plus, the 2020 Honda H’ness CB350 only weighs 399 pounds. It’s 170 pounds heavier than the Grom, but it has over twice the power and almost three times the torque.
Also, unlike the original Honda CB350, the 2020 H’ness model has front and rear disc brakes with standard ABS. The base DLX model comes with LED lights, a slipper clutch, and traction control. The DLX Pro offers different color options and adds Bluetooth connectivity.
Regardless of trim, though, the Honda H’ness CB350’s instrument cluster includes an analog speedometer with a digital display and warning lights. The digital display contains the clock, the fuel gauge, the gear indicator, and a trip odometer, the Hindustan Times reports.
Could it come to the US?
In India, the 2020 Honda H’ness CB350 starts at the equivalent of $2520 and competes with entry-level Royal Enfields and Jawas. Unfortunately, as of this writing, Honda has no plans to offer the H’ness CB350 in the US, Revzilla reports.
Honda already offers an entry-level motorcycle above its 125cc offerings in the US: the 2021 CB300R. Admittedly, its naked design isn’t exactly retro. And its $4949 starting price is roughly double what the H’ness CB350 costs. However, its 286cc single-cylinder makes more horsepower, Cycle World reports. Plus, the CB300R is 86 pounds lighter than the H’ness CB350.
So, does that mean the 2020 CB350 won’t come to the US? Not necessarily. Like the Grom, Monkey, Super Cub, and Trail 125 demonstrate, it’s possible for Honda to offer bikes with similar outputs as long as they serve different purposes. In a way, the CB350 and CB300R are kind of like the Monkey and the Grom: the former has retro style, while the latter is sportier.
Plus, although Royal Enfield’s Interceptor and Continental GT undercut their Triumph rivals, they still cost about $6000. And there aren’t many classic-looking bikes that are much cheaper, outside of maybe the 17-hp Cleveland CycleWerks Ace. Honda would have to make sure its 348cc single-cylinder engine could pass US emissions, which would likely raise the bike’s price. But if it came here, the 2020 CB350 could be a hit all over again.
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