The styling of the Zontes 350R can be best described as interesting. Not a single element of the styling will have you mistaking it for anything else, with its sleek tail-lamp taking the top spot. It also boasts of features such as screen mirroring and keyless functionality which are hard to find in bikes, even expensive ones. However, electronic features can only take a bike so far — what is it like to ride?
Given its diminutive size, you would be forgiven for thinking the 350R is much lighter than its 180kg kerb weight would suggest. Lifting it off the stand immediately tells you that this is not a lightweight machine. While the rider’s seat is well-padded and the overall rider triangle is spot on, the foot pegs foul with your shin when you put your feet down (something that we noticed on the 350T ADV as well).
Where matters get worse is at the prospect of carrying a pillion. The rear seat is unreasonably hard and does not have enough space. On the off chance that you manage to convince someone to get on, the 152mm of ground clearance proves inadequate to handle anything other than the smallest of undulations, in no small part due to the large collector box underneath combined with the soft suspension setup.
Given the fact that nearly all its underpinnings are shared with the 350T ADV, except the suspension, 17-inch tyres and the smaller 15-litre fuel tank, the 350R feels all too familiar. The same buzzy engine, soft suspension and brakes that are overly intrusive are further highlighted on the road where the 350R will potentially spend most of its time. Anything over 90kph will have harsh vibrations at all touch points and you would not want to cross that threshold anyways, given how poor the braking setup feels. In the short while that we had with the bike, the front brake lever almost touched the throttle grip and the ABS intervened far too early, dangerously increasing the time and distance it took to come to a dead stop. Another peculiarity is the fact that when the radiator fan kicks in, the tank starts buzzing uncomfortably.
The Zontes 350R is reasonably comfortable and has some enticing features. On the whole this bike leaves you wanting for more. Whether the edgy 350R captures the imagination of others, especially with many proven products available in the market, is something we will have to wait and watch.