Twin shocks, four gears and a dead simple 350cc two-stroke twin – the Jawa is back. For those who don’t know, the Czech-made Jawa has been around nearly as long as Royal Enfield’s Bullet, and now you can buy one in the UK again.
It’s not quite as retro as a Bullet – I’d say 1983 rather than ’53 – and now comes with a few radical updates like electric start, front disc brake and even a digital dash.
Hop on board, flip on the manual choke and the Jawa 350 starts on the button. But if you want to go for the full ‘old school’ experience, push in the gearlever (which doubles as a kickstart) and kick it into life. Ring-ding-ding is the result, but this is no RD250.
The Jawa is tuned for torque rather than power, and with just 23bhp to haul 149kg, it’s not exactly a blast from the past – whack open the twistgrip at 40mph in top, and not much happens apart from induction roar.
Lolloping along Oxfordshire country lanes, at 50-55mph, the soft long-travel forks and rear shocks soaking up the bumps, was easy, laid-back fun.
Out on the M40, the Jawa loses some of its charm – over 60mph, the footrests vibrate and the mirrors blur, though if you can stand that the bike will happily hold 65-70, with a top speed of 77mph.
Back on the twisties, the Jawa feels light and slim enough to throw around. The tyres (Czech-made Mitas) look like a throwback to the 1960s, but they work well enough, and the front disc plus four-pot caliper is very powerful – in fact it’s actually a bit too sharp for the bike’s performance.
The Jawa is a bit crude in some ways, but it’s an honest bike at a good price, with practical points like fork gaiters plus an enclosed rear chain. And idiosyncratic extras include a sidecar or a monowheel trailer. This or a Chinese 250? You decide.
JAWA 350 CLASSIC £2995
Engine: 349cc two-stroke twin