Ever since Classic Legends resurrected the iconic Jawa brand in 2018, competition in this segment has been soaring. Royal Enfield always ruled the roost, but the arrival of Jawa has given wings to this segment with more motorcycles like the Benelli Imperiale 400 and Honda H’ness CB 350 entering this space, prompting RE to bring in another fresh contender, the Meteor 350, a motorcycle that went on to champion our comparison test last month. A Bajaj-Triumph is in the works and we hear Yezdi also plans to make a comeback! To keep up with the rivals, Jawa has promptly upgraded the Forty Two for 2021 with styling and mechanical upgrades.
If you don’t fancy chrome on the standard Forty Two, Classic Legends is now offering optional matt-black treatment along with three new colours — Allstar Black, Orion Red and Sirius White. Save for the fuel tank, headlamp housing and the fenders, the rest of the motorcycle is painted black, making it appear strikingly attractive, without robbing any of its old-world charm, giving it kind of a baby Street-Twin look. The contrasting white would be my pick as it really turned heads on our shoot location. Additionally, there’s also a sporty grey stripe running the length of the fuel tank and rear fender as an ode to the brand’s rich racing legacy. That said, the alloys are also new but you can spec your Forty Two with spoked rims if you wish to.
Moving on, Jawa is offering a bunch of optional accessories including a headlamp grill, wind deflector, shark fin grab rail and saddle bags. I don’t see any added benefits with the headlamp grill other than just aesthetic enhancement. Jawa riders are unlikely to wander off the beaten path where the headlamp would require constant protection from debris. On the upside, unlike some aftermarket options, they’re skinny units that won’t disturb the headlamp’s luminosity. I would recommend the optional grab rail only if you embark on long road trips often as they can double up as mounting points for your luggage. Coming to the grab rail’s actual functionality, the standard one is far better to hold than this edgy and sharp optional unit.
Another notable upgrade is the addition of a 25mm longer and more comfortable seat. It has been a long time since I rode the outgoing Forty Two so I can’t quantify the improvement, but a colleague says that the old seat felt like a wooden plank on long journeys. This new seat is far from what you’d classify as a wooden plank. It’s extremely comfortable and after an entire day of riding, my arse was perfectly at peace. That said, the rider’s triangle continues to be sporty and you’re seated slightly leaned forward unlike its rivals. However, where it loses on comfortable ergonomics, it scores in ride quality. The suspension has been reworked and it’s more absorbent over rough roads. It feels composed and the telescopic front and twin hydraulic shocks at the rear ensure that your spine doesn’t bear the brunt of poor tarmac. The damping also feels precise and you can tackle bumpy corners with some verve without worrying about the chassis being unsettled. Furthermore, the softer ride doesn’t come at the cost of high speed stability and the Forty Two continues to be sure footed at triple digit speeds. Although, with a softer set-up and low travel, the suspension tends to bottom-out over deeper potholes.
The cornering clearance has been improved thanks to a better positioned side stand, but I’ve just returned from a racing school at the MMRT so naturally, the cornering clearance never felt adequate with the side stand and the exhaust scraping the tarmac more often than not. But objectively speaking, you can still ride it enthusiastically, be aggressive on the throttle and go fast on most occasions. However around corners, the low clearance is one limiting factor.
The engine also deserves a mention. While the BS6 Forty Two was launched months ago, this is the first time we’re riding it. The pandemic-related restrictions were eased long ago, so we’re unsure of why the media rides were delayed. Nevertheless, with BS6 Classic Legends also introduced ‘cross port technology’ that according to that brand improves the volumetric efficiency of the engine by enabling better flow of charge and exhaust gases. And now for 2021 there’s a reworked intake and exhaust system allowing the engine to produce 26.9bhp (0.8bhp+) and an identical 27Nm. There's also a repositioned lambda sensor that helps optimise performance (air-fuel mixture in particular) while also adhering to the BS6 emission norms.
In terms of sheer speed, little difference can be felt, but the reworked engine feels smoother and more refined than before. There’s a linear build up of power and when maximum punch kicks in smack in the mid-range, the Forty Two lunges forward with streetfighter-like enthusiasm. On your weekend rides, you are more likely to lead the pack with the Forty Two’s sprightly performance. It goes without mentioning that the Forty Two and the Jawa are the sportiest modern classics in the segment. However, lack of low-end torque means you have to keep working the six-speed ‘box for quick maneuvers, which can be a bit frustrating while riding in the city. Rivals like the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 and Benelli Imperiale 400 offer better low-speed performance thanks to their tractable motors, but lack the outright punch that this Mojo-derived engine offers.
With its more comfortable ride quality and a more sophisticated engine, the Forty Two is certainly a joy to ride. You can take it on long rides around the countryside, swiftly overtake the Royal Enfield groups, and reach your destination quicker thanks to its sprightly performance. It’s not the best in the segment yet and the Meteor 350 feels like a more complete motorcycle with better equipment list, relaxed ergonomics and a more tractable engine, but with most minor niggles sorted out, the Forty Two is a worthy alternative if you want something sporty from this segment. At Rs 1.84 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, the 42 is now dearer by Rs 7000, and from our experience, it's a price worth paying.