The 2021 update also sees the 346cc UCE’s departure, and in its place comes the ‘J-platform’ 349cc engine. This engine is identical to the one that made its debut last year on the Meteor 350, but Royal Enfield has said that the one on the Classic has its own ignition timing, exhaust layout and fueling map. Map? That’s a word my father never used to describe his Royal Enfields. There are many who won’t agree with the use of the modern tech on the Classic, but everyone needs to move with the times and all I have to say is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
The old Classic’s pushrod-valve system is replaced by a SOHC two-valve head, and while the engine remains air-cooled, there is an additional internal oil circuit within the cylinder head to aid cooling. The new engine has an increased bore, by 2mm, and a reduced stroke, by 4.2mm, while also gaining a primary balancer shaft. Like with the Meteor 350, these changes were made to increase the usable range of torque, while simultaneously stamping out the off-putting high-RPM vibrations, and the results are quite evident.
It doesn’t thump like an old cast iron Bullet, but still feels like an RE motor.
Royal Enfield wasn’t after performance numbers while designing this engine, but it still gets the Classic to 60kph in 5.25sec and 100kph in 16.23sec, whereas the outgoing one does it in 6.49sec and a lethargic 25sec, respectively. What Royal Enfield enthusiasts will appreciate the most though is that the engine still oozes character. Yes, it doesn’t have the loud thump of the older engines, but it still has a sweet-sounding exhaust note. It’s also quite unique in the way it builds speed and, as you go off the throttle, loses it. Royal Enfield has made sure that the engine braking is very controlled, and that fueling isn’t cut abruptly as you go off throttle, so as to give the bike gradual deceleration.
This is also the first Classic that can sit at around 95-100kph without feeling like it’s coming apart. I would go so far as to say that this bike performs better than my old UCE Classic 500 in every single way. The 5-speed gearbox is smooth and works well with this motor, but the clutch feels heavy, especially in bumper to bumper traffic.
The 2021 Classic doesn’t leave the same long-lasting impression when it comes to the fuel efficiency numbers. At 32.7kpl (city) and 36.7kpl (highway), it delivers similar results as the older one on the highway, but a slightly lower figure in the city.
Added ground clearance and more suspension travel means its even more ready for a trip to Ladakh, or a bit of fooling around off-road!