Since 1901 when the company was founded, Royal Enfield has always adopted a ‘functional simplicity’ to their engineering and design approach. Anyone with even half an interest in motorcycles can pick the aesthetic from a mile away and mechanically they’ve always been so bulletproof that they became the national motorcycle of India, where fuel quality is poor and the conditions are extreme. But in recent times as the company releases one brilliant model after another, local distributors have embraced the custom scene, and Royal Enfield France has built a strong bond with the talented team at Hedgehog Motorcycles. For their latest trick, they’ve taken the sweet and simple Hunter 350 and turned out a truly modern machine, with vibrant looks and a huge personality for the little thumper.
The last time we caught up with the guys at Hedgehog, they’d just finished another collaboration with Enfield, a Continental GT650 called Savage which was as ’80s in looks and style as Spandau Ballet. The bike was a hit, online, in magazines and on the European show circuit, so everyone involved decided it was time to work together again immediately after that bike had made the rounds. To mix things up, the basis for this build is the humble Hunter 350, a super affordable bike that utilises the ultra-reliable J-series engine. It’s a bike aimed at new riders and those on a budget, but also packs in a host of features for the price point.
Now having settled on the model, RE France had a new Hunter delivered to the guys at their workshop located just outside of Montpellier, and immediately the ideas started flying around. Hedgehog is big on not only having a final design completed before they fire a single tool into action but also using CAD to ensure that all the changes they have in mind will actually work in the real world. So, with all of the drawings in pencil and with the mouse complete, everyone was on the same page and ready to roll.
All of the basic bits like the seat, tank and instruments came off and with their desire to visually make the machine more compact at the rear, the angle grinder came out and was whizzed into action to lop off the subframe just behind the shock supports. This instantly meant the big factory fender and two-up seat could be ditched too. Next, the guys had to decide how they’d mount the bodywork changes they had in mind, and some clever fixing points provided for a quick and clean solution. The final step to finishing the frame was to come up with a solution to the curved rails above the side covers, the same problem that’s plagued CX500 owners for decades.
The solution comes in the way of some simple steel panels, which are finished in a frame matching black, and which also help to elevate the seat. Now the CAD designed bodywork could be brought to life and boy does it transform the look and feel of the little Enfield. The Monza inspired front fairing gives the bike a beefier vibe, and then the twin wings add some extra modern MotoGP aesthetic, and the cut-down screen even gives the bike some real aggression. The stock tank remains, so the tailpiece plays an important role in tying in the front and rear, and its sharp lines are taken from the winglets.
Then there are the little pieces that draw your eye in, the front brake duct is not something you’d ever expect to see on a bike like this, but when combined with the rest of the look it works brilliantly. As does the belly pan, another item that adds to the mean racer vibe, and the small front fender helps to further exaggerate the imposing wings, all of which show the benefit of a comprehensive initial design phase. Time for paint and as always the boys go bold, the bottom half of the bike features a yellow and black finish in matte, before flipping the script and giving the top half of the bike a gloss white, with pink to magenta torn effect.
To add an extra layer of magic, under bright light the white paint shows off a pink pearl effect and the yellow tank emblem begins to go translucent. Having so much going on at the front of the bike, the best way to balance it out was to give the rear wheel a solid disc and its black and yellow colour scheme is then carried over to the perfectly stitched leather seat. Time to turn on the CNC machine and craft some practical components that help add to the wow factor, and the sprocket cover delivers in spades. An oil-cooler cover and rear number plate holder were next out of the machine and these pieces will likely end up for sale to the public; for this bike they are finished in a flat black powder coat.
To improve and sharpen up the riding style, the CNC machine was kept spinning and a beautiful top triple clamp helps to lower the front end, and a set of clip-ons complete the boy racer look. Those new bars are fitted with some micro switches to clean things up and adjustable levers to suit any rider, but it is the exposed throttle mechanism with its yellow see-through cover showing off the inner workings which really takes things to another level.
Does RE France expect everyone to do this level of work to their Hunter 350? No. But it shows you the potential of the little bike and reminds everyone that even such a simple offering can be seriously cool.