The blood line starts at the nine-two blob
on the rev counter and extends to a very precise
11,000 do-or-die" screaming rev limit!
Long gone are the days of the long-stroke, plonking
middleweight... the B31s, Vipers, Model 50s,
Bullets and the like.
Whether it is good or bad is debatable and
many of the sports singles like the Gold Star
BSA and Velo Viper Clubman had just as good
performance as this new high-rewer from Japan
... but there the similarity ends!
Flashing indicators, electric starting, wing
mirrors, twin-leading-shoe front brake and even
minor items like steering locks, locking helmet
holder and dual seat are typical of the advance
in specification of modern machines.
Technically, the CB 350 is almost identical
to its smaller brother the CB 250, sharing the
same stroke of 50.6 mm, but bored out from 54
to 66 mm giving a true capacity of 325 cc and
not the quoted 350 as the name would imply.
In practically all other aspects the machines
are identical except in colour scheme. They
evenxsuffer the same small 2.6-gallon fuel tanks,
which may be ideal for popping about town but
could certainly be larger for long distance
Gearbox ratios, too, are the same, although
the final drive ratio of the 350 is higher using
a 2.250 as the final reduction in comparison
with 2.375:1 on the CB 250. This gives a very
slightly higher top speed without detracting
anything from the acceleration.
So, how does the CB 350 perform on
the road and track?
The bike we had on test was brand spanking
new and we had to take it reasonably easy until
at least 850 miles were showing on the very
Starting, with the electric starter, was of
course simplicity itself. The routine when cold
was simply to turn on ignition, fuel and close
the choke on the twin Keihin carburettors. A
very slight whiff of throttle and press the
starter button on the right-hand twistgrip.
A few minutes to warm up and then the choke
could be turned fully off and with a light pull
on the silky smooth clutch, the first gear could
be engaged. There was a slight clunk when cold
due to clutch drag, but this disappeared when
Acceleration from a standing start is average
to good, particularly if you hang on to
the revs and watch them fly rapidly the 9200
red line. But using all this performance Hid
create more exhaust noise than necessary about
town. In fact, this is one point where the 350.
like the 250, could be faulted.
At small throttle openings, you could hear
little more than the rustling of the overhead
cam valve gear, but on full throttle the exhaust
really started to bark.
Changing through the gears upwards could be
accomplished quite easily without using the
clutch with barely any transmission snatch,
although this is not really wise for the less-experienced
rider. In fact, the clutch is so light that
it is no real effort to use it all the time
when changing up and down the gears.
Acceleration over the standing quarter mile
was 16.8 seconds. Not outstanding but we discovered
that the 350 is surprisingly under-geared
because even in the upright sitting position
with a fully kitted-out rider on board, the
engine would still spin into the "forbidden
red" area in top gear at just over 90 mph.
Obviously, by changing the gearing with a larger
gearbox or smaller rear wheel sprocket on the
back, maximum speed could be improved considerably
without doing any further tuning to the motor.
Simply add a sports-type fairing, clip-on handlebars
and raise the gear ratios, and you must have
a 100-plus-mph bike.
The question of course is will the handling
and brakes take it? The answer! As far as handling
is concerned, it isn't until the bike is topping
80 mph that you have any worries, but then if
it is caught by a sudden wind or in the track,
it does take on a peculiar, head wallowing movement;
almost as though one of the tyres has gone soft.
But up to this maximum speed the CB 350 is
delightful, it can be twisted through the corners
like a lightweight and the suspension irons
out virtually all but the big potholes.
Two-up riding tests the ground clearance of
the bike even when the suspension is set in
the hard or highest position. Pillion passengers
complained of vibration through the footrests
once the revs started to climb over the 5000
mark, but apart from that they seemed happy
with the riding position and comfort, if short
space, on the dual seat.
Using 'the motor hard, fuel consumption dropped
to around 50 to 55 mpg, but simply by keeping
the revs under 7000 you could easily obtain
over 70 mpg with the added bonus of really quiet
One of the marvellous things about the Honda,
in spite of being thrashed without mercy, was
that the motor showed absolutely no signs of
oil leaks on the outside. It finished the test
as clean as when it started.
Braking on the CB 350 was just adequate. It
was neither brilliant nor poor because although
the twin-leading-shoe brake was very progressive
and predictable for speeds up to about 70 mph,
it did lack power when used to the full from
80-plus and would fade with repeated high-speed
The trafficators are controlled by a three-position
switch on the left handlebar and, at last, this
control can be used effectively by a gauntleted
hand without "over-switching". and
the slight squealing of rubber on road as the
brakes were applied heavily was very comforting
to the ears.
What, then, is the general feeling about the
Honda CB 350 among the staff of MCM who have
ridden it day in and day out over the past few
Firstly, it is very much a dual-purpose machine,
equally at home squeezing quietly through traffic
jams in London or taking the occasional 100-mile
motorway or main-road trip in its stride with
one or two on board.
Slight criticisms on braking and high-speed
handling with a minor complaint about the buzzing
vibration felt by pillion riders.
Fuel consumption varied from reasonable to
extremely good, especially for a 350, where
most of the modern two-strokes really start
to become thirsty.
It is obvious that with very little effort
this machine could be turned into a high performer
but the biggest question of all is: who wants
The electrics on the Honda are 12 volt and
extremely good. The lights are controlled from
a switch in the headlamp nacelle with a parking
light controlled by the ignition switch. Dip
and main beam are easily operated with the right-hand
handlebar switch after first being turned on
at the headlamp.
The class really died when legislation came
into being limiting the learner rider to a maximum
capacity of 250 cc. Once past the test, they
either move on to a much bigger banger such
as a 650 or 750 or drop out of motorcycling
to buy the proverbial tin box on wheels.
So where does the CB 350 fit in? It's only
£29 dearer than the 250 model and with
the extra flexibility and performance is definitely
worth it! This is particularly the case if you
carry a pillion passenger on the occasional
It may not be a multi-cylinder "superbike",
but it offers far more in economy, is less of
a big beast for heavy traffic conditions and
will cruise happily at 70 to 80 mph with two
people on board.
Honda have gone where angels fear to tread
in the motorcycle market before and set the
trend! Are there enough people wanting a reasonable
performance bike, but not having enough money
to pay superbike prices for petrol, insurance,
spares and service?
The CB 350 is the intermediate machine
for the rider who has passed his test but wants
a good general purpose machine with a little
more power than a 250 . . . that in a nutshell
is the CB 350!
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