Harley-Davidson are back in the learner space in 2024, with the X 350 and X 500. Having cut the popular Street 500 back in 2021, these new models represent a fresh start, despite some stiff competition from a raft of rivals.
Up against Royal Enfield’s three-pronged 350 range (which will also score a fourth motorcycle when the Bullet 350 launches down under), Harley-Davidson also has Honda to contend with, following the release of the GB350.
It’s a brutal space to play in, especially when you consider that Triumph Motorcycles has two 400cc bikes on the way, Suzuki have a trio of 250cc learner bikes, and CFMOTO are a major player in the category.
Essentially that means the X 350 needs to be exceptional. It’s certainly a much better bike than the Street 500, but it’s not without its downsides despite being a pretty cool ride to get around on (more on those in a moment).
Manufactured in China, the X 350 gives the American brand an entry point to entice novice riders to Harley-Davidson. It’s one they hope will allow customers to step up to larger bikes in the range, ensuring buyers stay loyal throughout their motorcycle journey.
The X 350 features distinctive styling, harking back to the XR-750, and has a real dirt racer vibe. Our test bike came in the sensational Dynamic Orange, but you can opt for Pearl White, Dramatic Black and Supersonic Silver.
It’s a very attractive bike in the flesh, although a tail tidy and aftermarket exhaust wouldn’t go astray. Harley-Davidson will of course offer a plethora of accessories. A smart looking LED headlight sits out front, making for a strong, commanding look.
It’s here we find the first of the X 350’s let downs, in the form of its speedo. While it’s clear and easy to read, it doesn’t display fuel range or gear selection, and is analogue only. A little more functionality and usability for new riders would be nice.
That’s especially so when you consider that Royal Enfield and Suzuki both have simple TFT displays, with that information. On the road, the Harley-Davidson X 350 is well balanced, has plenty of punch, and is nice and revvy when getting into the twisty stuff.
The bike handles well, and the ride is predictable, which is perfect for learner riders. Lean angles are 51 degrees to the left and 52 degrees to the right, and it’s powered by a 353cc DOHC 4-valve liquid-cooled parallel twin engine that produces 27kW of power.
The X 350 sports a 41mm inverted fork with adjustable rebound damping up front, with coil-spring mono-shock suspension on the rear. It too features pre-load and rebound damping adjustability.
Dual front disc brakes work well, with the support of a single rear disc, with ABS. For a 350cc motorbike, Harley-Davidson have also managed to keep some character and playfulness, including a nice little exhaust note higher in the rev range.
A 13.5-litre fuel tank delivers a claimed 4.95-litres/100km, which provides a good distance between pit stops. A nice low seat height of 777mm and a short wheel base of 2110mm, combined with a running weight of 195kg, makes the X 350 easy to manoeuvre.
It’s nimble enough to shift around whether you’re parking, lane filtering or just moving around the garage. Ergonomically, it’s better suited to shorter riders, who will love the X350’s more aggressive riding position.
For those who are taller, it becomes a bit of a struggle once you’ve knocked over 50 or 60km of constant riding. To be clear, it’s not horrible by any means, but if you’re measuring up at 180cm or more, you will feel a little cramped in the legs over longer distances.
This is the result of the peg position, and harder seat (despite its cool look). It’s also not something we noticed during the launch event held at Allianz Stadium late last year (most likely given the short time we had with the bike).
Hand controls are nice, simple and easy-to-use, with minimal clutter. Everything engages at first touch and there is a firm click up and down the gears. On a positive note, we managed to not miss a single gear, or find any false neutrals during extensive testing.
All-in-all Harley-Davidson’s X 350 is a great learner legal or commuter motorcycle, straight out of the box. It has superb styling that displays a youthful exuberance. Build quality, fit and finish are very good as well.
The playfulness of the engine, combined with the easy handling characteristics of the X 350 will brandish the bike a lot of fans. It’s a huge improvement on the Street 500 in every aspect, which also sets the stage for its X 500 sibling.
The X 350 will be priced from $8,495 ride away, and is backed by a 2-year unlimited kilometre warranty. For more information on the 2024 Harley-Davidson X 350, you can visit their website or talk to your local dealer.
Our test bike was provided by Harley-Davidson Australia for review purposes.