What is it?
Hipsters rejoice – a tidy, retro urban cafe racer that packs solid performance for a 350cc engine at a very approachable price. Part of Honda's street model line up, this learner-approved moto features a newly created and built Honda engine. An exciting, value for money addition to the smaller capacity motorcycle market. Released in 2021 in Japan, we've been twiddling our thumbs waiting for the GB350 to arrive – hurrah, the wait is finally over.
The ‘GB' moniker harks back to the '80s when the iconic GB250 Clubman and GB400 Tourist Trophy entered the market. Similar to these two classic motos, the modern GB350 also has an air-cooled OHC 350cc big single engine.
Whats under tank?
A 348cc brand-spanking-newly developed engine powers this nifty cafe hopper. A 15-litre tank is a decent size considering the size of the bike, most 350s feature a 13L tank. While trying to get a gauge on fuel economy, a friendly Honda rep said they got an easy 400km out of a tank on a bike that hadn't finished its run in period, and still had plenty in the tank. How encouraging.
It's considered a middleweight moto and sits at 181kg with a very agreeable 800mm seat height. It features front and rear disc brakes with standard ABS.
How does it look and feel?
A no nonsense retro cafe racer that is impressive to look at, well designed and perfectly stripped back. Its stylish retro simplicity is welcome, it's not trying too hard to be anything – nifty, sturdy, classic but new. Honda have put a lot of thought into this bike, the accessory list is extensive. You could probably carry quite a chunk of shopping or head off on a cruisy month of beach hopping with a long list of luggage options – every different type of side/rear/seat saddlebag is possible as well as visor options, back rest and USB-C socket to name a few.
As an aside, I love that we are seeing so many bikes with USBs. Finally our world of moto is catching up to this basic need – I'd almost consider it a human right. I look forward to not having to buy them as an extra.
Interestingly it has a centre stand, which is usually reserved for scooters or adventure bikes. Apparently this is for ease of city parking on uneven footpaths and also adds to the retro aesthetic. Note the retro muffler, it sounds decent too.
The compact meter is a hybrid analog speedometer and LCD display. It's refreshingly basic and easy to read, providing you with information such as gear choice, fuel, traction control which can be turned on and off (not sure how necessary this feature is), odometer and time.
A ‘leather-looking' seat is easy on the eye (we'd all like leather-leather but then we have to pay for it) and fits well with the range of colour options.
It comes in Matt Jeans (for your Canadian tuxedo lovers), Blue Metallic or Matt Pearl Morion Black which looked a lot like Black to me.
How does it handle?
Easy. It's forgiving, has a low centre of gravity and feels sturdy with a solid weight of 181kg. Sometimes lower capacity bikes can feel like toys, but the GB350 feels like more bike than you would expect for a 350. It has room for a passenger, whom could be quite comfortable if you treated them to the back-rest accessory option. Ergonomically my long limbs were quite content.
We fanged around the streets of St.Kilda in Melbourne and onto the highway and I was surprised at how comfortably it sat at 80km/h and even 100km/h. It will get you to 130km/h but it'll need a minute. There is minimal lag when you set off at the lights – which is confidence boosting. Scooting through traffic at high speeds, unsurprisingly due to engine capacity, the GB350 is not quite as responsive so pick your battles.
HSTC (Honda Selectable Torque Control) is also feature… but I can't say I noticed it. HSTC senses the speed difference between the front and rear wheels and controls the rear wheel drive force to suppress rear wheel slip when the throttle is opened. This can be switched on and off.
It won't take you long to spot the ‘ECO' mode light flashing up on your instruments. The ECO mode modifies the throttle response, slowing it down, to create smoother acceleration, theoretically aiding in fuel efficiency.
The power delivery is smooth and features the Honda Assist/Slipper clutch.
Where would I ride it?
This is your everyday set of wheels. Small capacity, you won't be taking it on too many long distance rides due to comfort and power but the economical fuel tank would get you there if you did want to go further. Go grab your milk, head to beach, off to work. Give your mates a ride, this little go getter is so approachable. Excellent for weaving through traffic at low speeds.
How much does the Honda GB350 cost?
MLP $6999 plus on roads, so it's sitting around $8000 drive away.
Would I buy one?
The GB350 is stylish, uncomplicated and delivers everything you want in terms of value for money. I remember when I had my learners, the best thing in my price range was a Virago. How things have changed and what you are getting bang for your buck in the Ls market makes me so happy.
The LAMS market is competitive space right now, with Royal Enfield, Harley Davidson and Triumph all releasing similar capacity bikes, there's a few options to pick from. Competition is healthy!
A spring-chicken version of me would have been thrilled to see the GB350 as an option for my first moto.
Disclosure: Kate Peck is a Honda motorcycle brand ambassador (but appreciates that quality knows no logo and loves all moto children).