The story goes back 120 million years, much before humans came into existence. A major event was happening on the earth. A large landmass, which we now call India, started to drift towards a larger landmass at speed of about 2 inches per year. It might seem slow but it’s an enormous land mass we are talking about. If only we knew what kind of an engine it had to provide so much torque. However, about 80 million years ago, our landmass got bored and the turbo kicked in- speeding up the huge landmass to 6 inches per year and then 50 million years ago it hit Eurasia . Unfortunately, the brakes had failed by that time and the impact between these two continents was huge. So huge infact that the land between them squeezed and squeezed so hard that it formed world’s newest and tallest mountain ranges which came to be known as the Himalayas.
Images : Bobby Roy
Yes, the origin of these mighty mountain ranges was the product of a collision. However, the birth of the Royal Enfield Himalayan wasn’t. It was not like two speeding motorcycles collided and it gave birth to the Himalayan. It’s a meticulously planned product from the house of Eicher, owner of Royal Enfield brand. Himalayan is purpose built for adventure and touring in the Himalayas. So, does it work? Will the impact of the RE Himalayan be anywhere close to that between the Indian continental plate and Eurasia? Will it bring far away lands any closer? Let’s find out.
Tell anyone in India that you are a motorcycle tourer, the first assumption most of them would make is – “Oh, so you own a Royal Enfield”. That’s the kind of legacy the brand carries. Royal Enfield is perceived by a wide majority to be the definitive maker of long distance bikes for tourers. It’s the trusted companion to go remote places – be it the pristine valleys of Ladakh, salt flats of Kutch or lush green untouched mountains of North East. While Royal Enfield riders swear by the brand, it also has an equal number of critics. Needless to say, ever since those closely associated with motorcycling circles and media got the slightest whiff of the Himalayan being developed by Royal Enfield, they have been following the bike like the pug in the Hutch ad followed the kid. Royal Enfield lovers were looking forward to a full fledged tourer and its critics were in a dilemma – “What if it turns out a capable machine? How would we take our feet out of our mouths?”
I first saw the Himalayan as a spy image on a friend’s phone. I wasn’t exactly too excited but definitely curious, looking at the new take of RE on touring. Then the launch happened. I was one of the first to arrive at Garden of Five Senses in New Delhi for the launch. I saw the bike and it was love at first sight. Now, I am not a big Royal Enfield fan, so this sensation of finding this machine desirable was a forbidden lust of sorts. But isn’t forbidden love the sweetest? Now, I just wanted to ride one. The bike wasn’t launched for Delhi, though it was launched in Delhi – Irony much? Yeah, we all had a tough time getting our heads around it. Thankfully, after a ping pong game between NGT and Royal Enfield over registration in Delhi NCR, RE won and Delhiites too could finally have the RE Himalayan. Once that was allowed, they got some media bikes in Delhi and I was on top of it – quite literally.
Why the Himalayan?
While Royal Enfield has always been seen as the perfect companion to Ladakh by the traditionalists, riders often needed to modify their bikes to ensure that their long expedition went on smoothly. Their riding patters and requirements from the motorcycle also changed over time. With pressure of corporate jobs and limited leaves, riders no longer had the luxury of a month for riding. Trips to the Himalayas had to be quick, hassle-free and fast with minimal changes required to be made tot heir motorcycles. Hence there was always a demand for a proper adventure tourer which not only worked on-road, but would keep the rider happy when the roads disappeared. Himalayan, the first proper Adventure Tourer from and Indian company on this side of INR 5 lakh caters to this very need.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Appearance
Himalayan to adventure touring is like a long distance rider with touring jacket, touring pants, a large waist pouch, all weather gloves and touring boots. It stands there, stares at you with its round headlamps asking you to ride into the horizon beyond that mountain. It’s a much more likeable sight than that of the improvised bikes of which we have seen a multitude of. Unlike the Himalayan, their rider analogue would be wearing a loosely fitting elbow and knee guards, over this long sleeved T-shirt, jeans and sports shoes – it worked for some, yes, but just wasn’t proper. It didn’t didn’t look or feel right.
The 21 inch front wheel mounted on long travel suspension, along with the 17 inch rear wheel with a monoshock gives the bike a tall stance. However, it’s not a very sophisticated 21st century, modern look. You a get an exoskeleton frame with minimal details. The usual box for air filter and storage box on either side is missing and you get plates with Himalayan written on them. The front end of the bike witnesses an extension of the frame with the round headlight mounted on it. Not only does this frame extension protect the fuel tank, it also acts as a mounting point for jerry cans carrying extra fuel for those long rides. The double split cradle frame is exposed.
The bike is designed by Harris Performance – the same company which designed the Continental GT. It’s got tons of character with function dominating form, though we wish the finish was a bit better. We can do with less plastic (which might fall off) but we expected better finish – the welding marks on certain sections look shoddy. So while, the fit and finish of the bike might not be immaculate, but it looks well-built and feels it will hold up well while tacking the rough terrains of the Himalayas. Exhaust on right is not exactly pleasing to the eye but it is to the ears. The Himalayan, by design, is a purpose built bike for adventure touring and doesn’t even try to look dapper. It’s singular objective is to be a terrain taming tool, which is light, simple and rugged. It aims to mitigate the damage caused during those falls, and the simple mechanicals lend themselves for easy repair. And it’s only because of this unrelenting focus of its function that the Himalayan manages to have a mystical charm about it, even with its barebones structure. Kudos to RE for executing it with such focus, and not letting it get adulterated with populist elements.
Also, what the Himalayan lacks in terms of fit and finish, it makes up for it in the equipment department. No more broken shins with this Royal Enfield as it only comes with an electric starter, no kick starters here. The instrument cluster is neat, well laid out and easy to read and is a mix of digital and analogue elements. You get two trip meters, a clock, hazard light button (a fantastic inclusion) and the tachometer. Geeks in us really liked two unique features on this bike – a digital compass which shows which direction you are headed in and an arrow shows where North is. Pretty geeky right? You’re free to picture yourself as a pillion, lost in the wilderness along with the rider, a paper map in your hand, and that compass being the only aid telling you which direction to turn towards.
The second unique feature is a special reserve trip meter. It comes on automatically when fuel is low, a little before before you need to put the bike in reserve physically. It comes on and displays the distance you have travelled on reserve. This would really help on long tours. No need to reset of the trip meters. The ‘Trip F’ notification flashes until you get some juice into the bike’s tank. Once you quench its thirst, it goes away. Good thought, Royal Enfield.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Ride and Handling
I got the bike for four days which included a weekend. No prizes for guessing, I decided to take it for a trip to the the inspiration behind its being, the Himalayas, to get to know her. I rode on long butter smooth highways, long sweeping curves and took it off the road. And I had a smile on my face through the entire trip.
The bike just feels right in most real world situations. Initial torque on the bike is appreciable and 60 km/h comes real quick, with a very usable first and second gear. It then soldiers on to 100 km/h and the surge of power would start dwindling down there on. The Himalayan would glide its way to 120 km/h and stay there. We believe that 100-120 km/h as cruising speed on Indian roads is more than enough for most practical (and legal) intents and purposes. So no complaints there. However, if you like to boast about the outright acceleration or top speed your bike possesses, you shouldn’t be looking at the RE Himalayan. The brand new 410 LS engine is relaxed at high speeds, where LS stands for Long Stroke. With a long bore, the piston is not shunting through it at red line. The fifth gear is purely for cruising with a tall ratio, and is meant purely for highway cruising. The bike more of less achieves its top speed even in fourth gear and there is hardly any power to tap into once you shift to fifth.
I took the road from Ramnagar to Ranikhet and through my several rides in the Himalayas, this was one of the most beautiful roads to ride on. The views were right out of a painting, road surface was smooth and curves just invited me to caress them and surely I did. The bike performed pretty well. It did take a while to get used to leaning the Himalayan adeptly enough, owing to its tall stance and unique structure, but once I got the hang of it, it managed to impress with its poise. On my way up the hills, I stayed in 2nd and 3rd gear and with it’s torquey engine, was never left wanting for more power. I usually prefer slower entry and faster exits around corners and the bike didn’t require constant gear shifts to do so. I like that because gear shifts are one of the darkest areas on the Himalayan. The gear box is clunky and neutral is hard to find when you stop. However, the constant clatter emanating from the engine, which sounded like a sounded from the cams did get annoying at times. The vibes in the handle bar were not shivering our bones but the clattering sound wasn’t music to the ears either.
So does it really make for a great tourer?
Isn’t that the only question you want answered? See, I am a mind reader.
We wouldn’t be wrong in stating that the most common form of biking among biking enthusiasts in India is touring. And when one is out of the comforts of a city on a bike, there are many challenges. One of them is bad roads. Also, sometimes, the whole adventure aspect of undertaking a ride depends on how challenging the roads are to reach the destination. Such riders have bee looking at the Himalayan as their best pal for such trips. Adventure Touring is their raison d’être
The Royal Enfield Himalayan was pretty good on long straight highways and butter smooth curves. It’s comfortable, provides a commanding and comfortable seating position, ride quality is excellent and bike is stable at high speeds. The large wheels and the suspension also provide a fantastic confidence while cornering, specifically from an adventure tourer perspective. Whenever I ride fast around curves, my big worry is witnessing a pot emerge out of nowhere which may upset the bike. With the Himalayan, however, I glided over several undulations and pot holes, even while leaned over without breaking a sweat. I did put the bike deliberately into some larger pot holes and it astonished me with its composure. So, if you are on the Himalayan and see a large pot hole, don’t worry, it would be taken care of. Braking on the bike is quite confident too. Both wheels get disc brakes and did not fade even after much use while climbing up and rolling down the hilly roads. Sure, there is scope for improvement, but as a whole, the dual discs do a good job of dropping the anchors.
While I was enjoying the road, it started to drizzle and soon it started raining heavily. This is one of the most peculiar things about the hills – at one moment you are looking at bright sunshine and it’s raining cats and dogs in the next instance. The Himalayan proved it’s mettle even in rains. The tyres did not lose traction even on wet road and the bike rode confidently. Those dual purpose tyres actually do a good job on a variety of surfaces, and in a multitude of road conditions.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Off-Road:
Oh yeah! I wanted to dedicate a special section to the Himalayan’s off roading capabilities because there are Indian bikes which are faster on road, better handlers around curves but absolutely useless off the road. And let me say this resoundingly – all other Indian bikes will surrender in front of RE Himayan. I got to ride it in dirt, slush, rocks and broken tarmac. The bike just glided over all these surfaces. The 21 inch narrow front tyre and 17 inch rear tyre along with the huge ground clearance and long suspension travel really come into their own as the roads end.
About the long travel suspension, it does not bottom out and rear suspension is soft enough to not let the jerks travel through to your back and spine. Going fast over rough terrains is easy. Slot it into the right gear, stand up, and give it the beans – the Himalayan really makes it look easy. The best part being that at the end of it, rider won’t have an aching body after a good off road session. I just loved it off road. I can’t say that enough.
How good (or bad) is it in the city?
I got to ride the bike for a couple of days in Delhi’s peak traffic. Surely, it’s no traffic cutter. Also the engine heat does travel through your jeans to your legs. However, it is not something you will hate in traffic. The usable low end torque does come in handy in the city. I wish the gear shifts were smoother, I wish that engine emanated less heat, within the city, I wish the bike sat lower, but none of those things should dissuade you from buying and owning one. It does just fine within the urbanscape. Oh, and it most definitely is an attention grabber at those traffic lights.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Verdict
Royal Enfield Himalayan is a bike like no other in its price segment. It’s not for everyone though. If you are the kind of rider who likes to go to new places, venture out into the unknown – this is the bike for you. It’s that simple. But if you’re a more casual rider who’s mostly travelling within the city with the odd trip out, almost all the time on the road – you’d probably be better off with something sportier. It’s doesn’t lend itself as the default first bike to a wide majority for obvious reasons. It does, however, make a compelling case for itself to those who really venture out and explore. For that specific purpose, though, the Himalayan is unmatched from a value perspective as things stand. We just hope it passes the test of time well enough. May we request some user reviews from those of your who own it then? Send them to us at [email protected]
Price as tested : INR 1.73 lakh ex-showroom Delhi / 1.55 lakh ex-showroom Maharashtra (1.78 Lakh OTR Mumbai)
The Review was First Published on Motoroids India
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