RE Hunter vs TVS Ronin - Two new bikes, one unfamiliar path
Out here in India when it comes to retro themed classic motorcycles, no one does it quite like Royal Enfield. You have the Meteor 350, the Classic 350 and now you have the Hunter 350 a motorcycle that's expanded the portfolio to a broader fan base. But now TVs has joined the party with the Ronin. Now this is a 225cc single cylinder bike that's aiming for some of RE's market share in this capacity segment. Now how different is it from the Enfield? Does it have any strong points? Does it justify its cause for seeing the light of day? We're here to find out. So let's get right to it.
One glance at the Hunter 350 and you'll immediately tell of its simplistic nature and thoroughbred English roadster styling, but when you come over to the Ronin, it's a bit of a mixed bag of sorts because it has some elements that lean towards cruiser, some that tell of its sort of scrambler intent, overall, this bike's looks won't appeal to all.
With the Hunter you know what you're looking at and you have an idea of what to expect from this handsome looking motorcycle. With the Ronin, It's really confusing because it's got a stretched-out cruiser-like front end, then there's a the fancy LED headlamp and golden USD fork that adds sportiness to the mix, and then there's the engine guards and side panels give the bike a ruggedness - very scrambler-ish traits. And to top it all off, there's a good odd-old mix varying paint splashed all over the bike as well. It's as though TVS thought of making the Ronin a proper cruiser at first, didn't think it looked sporty enough, thought there should be some scrambler sort of elements to it as well, and with some deadline fast approaching, threw it all together and launched the bike. So the TVS definitely loses ground when it comes to form, but the Ronin certainly makes up for it in term of function.
With the Ronin you get dual channel ABS with two settings - Urban and Rain - while the Hunter doesn't have any settings and ABS on both machines can't be switched off completely. The TVS' display is all digital and not part analogue like the Enfield.
The Ronin's screen also reads out average speed per trip, so you can calculate fuel efficiency on the go and although the fonts are a bit tiny, they are easy to read on the go. The Enfield on the other hand gives you a readout of kilometers covered once you go into reserve fuel which is awesome, but nothing much besides that.
Both these motorcycles are designed primarily for city usage and still their mannerisms are very different from each other, out on the road. Much of that has to do with their engines as the bikes have been designed and built around them.
Now the J-Series motor in the Hunter, the same engine as on the 350cc Classic and Meteor models. It makes about 20PS of power around 27Nm of peak torque. Well 80-90kmpph out on the highway is a real sweetspot on this motorcycle, and the way the engine and 5-speed gearbox is setup, and if you have to overtake a vehicle at that cruising speed, you won't have to downshift, but just whack the throttle open and you'll be ahead of the traffic in no time at all. It's not the same with the Ronin though, because at that speed, you'll have to downshift to get past traffic in a jiffy.
The 225cc air- and oil-cooled motor that powers the Ronin is very different in comparison to the unit that powers the Hunter because this engine is a square engine which means that its bore and stroke is identical. This would imply that it would rev a lot better and faster than the engine in the Hunter. Which is a little over 20PS of peak power and 20Nm of max torque. Here too 80-90kmph is manageable without a fuss. You won't have to make a lot of gear changes at low speeds because this engine is very tractable and very refined as well. The best part of the way this bike is setup is that its engine just loves to be revved and it feels like it accelerates a lot faster than the Hunter.
Swinging a leg over the 790mm Hunter 350's narrow bench seat is fairly easy. The bike will have you seated in a slightly more aggressive riding stance when compared to not only the Ronin but the other 350cc bikes in RE's stable, with its slightly rear-set pegs. The flat handlebar is well within reach but it it'll have you put some weight on your palms. The 13-litre tank is very comfortable between your legs as well and the bike feels decently setup for city commutes.
Even though the Hunter has been designed to excel within city limits, I couldn't understand why Enfield would give the bike such a heavy clutch. Sure the levers, like every other component on the bike feels of a sturdy build, but over time, in peak traffic employing the clutch very often would be painful. Otherwise the bike is a breeze to ride around town. The Hunter will have you in a slightly sportier stance than the other two 350cc cruisers style bikes in the RE shed, so taking corners on this one feels a lot better. But on long runs out on the highway, especially with a pillion aboard, things can get uncomfortable on account of the small narrow seat. Whenever I had to go hard on the brakes I'd keep sliding in front onto to the tank but what's worse was that my pillion's helmet would pretty much always keep bumping into mine, which was supremely annoying.
Getting astride the Ronin, is fairly simple as well, just like the Hunter, but the riding position is a lot more relaxed the handlebar a little more upright, the footpegs a little more forward set. The seat feels a better padded and is broader in comparison to the Enfield, this should work out better for you on longer stints in the saddle.
Once I got on the Ronin I instantly felt a lot more relaxed and it's not just because of the riding position. The way the bike behaves, and responds to undulations on the road especially the rear monoshock man that's a far cry from the stiff dual springs on the Enfield. The TVS feels very nimble in and around the city, just like the Enfield. But with the Ronin, you get an assist and slipper clutch which is extremely light to employ and the levers are span adjustable.
The other commendable bit about this one is that neither you nor your pillion will be sliding about the place when you're forced to stab the brakes. There's a lot of thought gone into the Ronin. Just wish it looked more desirable. And that's the one thing I think this bike lacks. That desirability quotient. And much of it has to do with the way it looks. Because in terms of downright functionality, this one has it covered.
So the main reason we pit moth these motorcycles against each other while leaving out competition in the form of the Honda CB 350 or the Zontes bikes was primarily on the pretext of their pricing. They are priced pretty much the same at around Rs 1.65lakh whereas the competition that isn't present here today cost way more. The Ronin is the more comfortable motorcycle to ride from this pair, it is the easiest of the two to ride too and is more tractable for the city. If you wanted a more engaging motorcycle of the pair. If you wanted to just get out of town one weekend, ride around and have some fun, this would be the better motorcycle of the to, but if you prefer a more relaxed, laid-back approach to motorcycling the Ronin makes better sense. It is a lot better in terms of features, ride quality, a more bang-for-your-buck motorcycle.
The good thing with the RE Hunter is that this motorcycle will open the doorway for to you to step through and explore a whole new way to motorcycling the Royal Enfield way of life, the biking culture as it stands. And it's that pride of ownership that will be appealing to many. So the logical choice between the pair has to be the Ronin, because it's the easier of the two to ride and it is the more comfortable of the two. But then again the Enfield, if you wanted a motorcycle that's a little more fun and engaging to ride, this bike would be the one to choose.
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