After seeing a lot of moto journos praising the hell out of Royal Enfield’s Himalayan, I decided to see how much of a fake or real jizz this motorcycle could produce. So I took a test ride of the motorcycle to get a basic feel of the it, rode it through rough terrain, with and without a pillion and through traffic! The Adventure motorcycle segment in India is not a virgin anymore, but is the Himalayan really worth all that hype?
Looks: Most bits of the Himalayan makes the motorcycle look like it just came out of a local fabricator’s workshop. It doesn’t look ‘modern’ as such yet simplicity does speak out loud sometimes but Royal Enfield has definitely overdone that bit. The rear section looks like it’s come from an 80’s moped and the front looks like it was themed during the industrial revolution. What is surprising to me is that I liked the way in which different bits on the motorcycle blend well with each other, except the rear view mirror. The color scheme is well chosen too. But I still feel that they could’ve done a much better job with the looks.
Engine refinement and power: This new 410cc oil cooled engine is amazingly refined for a Royal enfield motorcycle but it isn’t refined if you’ve become used to riding a motorcycle that doesn’t compete with a vibrator in any way. Low RPMs on the Himalayan are smooth but things begin to rattle before your eyes when you see the rev needle crossing 6000 RPM, especially the windscreen. That being said, this isn’t a rev happy motorcycle in any way. Shit loads of torque is what the engine has, so much that I didn’t realize I was doing 25 in 4th gear till I looked at the gear position indicator. To me though, 24.5 PS on a 182 kg motorcycle (Kerb weight) means it has power to weight ratio of 135 bhp per tonne. That’s extremely less for a motorcycle with a capable chassis and upright riding position. I don’t know why RE got stingy with giving the Himalayan more horses. Also, if one tours on the Himalayan for a very long distance , he/she will definitely carry as much stuff as a 1 BHK house can accommodate and that would add at least 40 kgs to the overall weight. I still don’t understand how one would be able to cruise ‘peacefully’ at 110 kmph (claimed by many riders riding without luggage) with so much weight. And, if you’re using aluminium panniers on the Himalayan to carry your 1BHK house, it could give rise to wind drag and add a lot more weight. I toured across India on my Duke 390 with aluminium panniers and yes, they’re much, much heavier than soft luggage. To add more light to this power to weight ratio issue, just imagine if your spouse wanted to join you on the journey as well. So, 182 kgs of motorcycle and fuel+ a fit 75 kg rider + 40 kilos of luggage+ your healthy spouse weighing 80 kilos brings all that upto 377 kgs. Indians are actually much healthier than the weight I’ve mentioned or they eventually get healthy. So, to round all that up, 400 kilos being dumped on 24 and a half horses is moto-animal cruelty.
Most of the vibrations occur around the instrument cluster but I was surprised to see that foot peg vibration was extremely low. My eyebrows went as high as the Himalayas when I heard the engine note. The Himalayan does not fart like other Royal Enfield motorcycles and neither is it extremely loud. The engine sounds calm even when you accelerate aggressively. What I liked the most are the tiny explosions that you can barely hear when the revs go down gradually.
There’s something on this motorcycle that doesn’t even come close to the words refined and smooth and that is the gear box. It felt very hard to use, especially when I was shifting from 1st to 2nd and vice-versa. I don’t know if this is the case with all new Royal enfields but if it isn’t the case, then shifting aggressively with this hard gearbox could add a lot of pain to your left foot when touring long distances. The thing about this engine for a non Royal Enfield enthusiast like me is that it is way more bearable than any other Royal Enfield motorcycle, so riding for a long time on this motorcycle won’t be torturous as the other REs.
Ride quality: The Himalayan’s ride quality is satisfyingly comfortable, especially if your garage consists of a bicycle and motorcycle having hard suspension and thin seats. The seat is pretty cushdy as well and it’ll definitely make you say ‘aaahhh’ if you find yourself back on the motorcycle after a long trek from the jungle. Handlebars too are upright and confidence inspiring. Thanks to the soft suspension, the pillion rider didn’t complain of being uncomfortable and neither did she complain of any spinal sweeps when I twisted the throttle aggressively. In fact, she loved the amount of space the rear seat provides and was happy about not being ‘terrorised’! The roads of Bangalore today definitely do a good job in giving a piece of the terrains that the Ladakh region offers, thanks to unexpected spine shattering potholes, sand/gravel patches, leaking borewell/sewage water that flows onto the road and floods it. So, I got a chance of being brutal with the Himalayan in such conditions and the result was as expected, the long travel suspension absorbed most bumps without unsettling me or the pillion rider but in some instances, the Himalayan’s rear tyre did crash through.
Handling and braking: This motorcycle could be fun when you stand up on the footpegs and rip through trails. The chassis is built and placed in a way that allows the Himalayan to be flicked around corners effortlessly. It does not make the rider and pillion realise that they’re riding a 182 kgs adventure motorcycle as it feels surprisingly light. Wanna have some small jumps on the Himalayan with a pillion? It’ll do them easily with soft landings.
ABS should’ve been a mandatory feature on the Himalayan to prevent its wheels from locking up under hard braking, especially when one tours in a ‘diverse’ country like ours. The Himalayan’s brakes I felt are pretty good but the front brake lacks some amount of bite and it could prove to be beneficial to somebody who just got introduced to world of motorcycling considering there’s a 300mm disc in the front. I wasn’t able to do high speeds on this one to test the brakes to their limit but I still have doubts on the effectiveness of the front brake. The rear brake is properly tuned to do its job, it has good stopping power and doesn’t lock up very easily.
The tyres on the Himalayan are CEAT tyres that don’t fail to make you feel confident. They don’t cost a bomb either so replacing them after a long tour won’t be a big burden on your pocket. But to me, the quality of tyre actually proves itself after it has completed at least half its life so I could only comment on whether or not these tyres work well after I ride an old Himalayan.
Ergonomics: The seat, narrow fuel tank, high handlebars and large foot pegs do a job of making the rider feel at home. I personally liked all that was there on the dash and also the fact that the dash is inclined so is easier to read all that’s being shown. I see no point in having a compass there but it would satisfy a wannabe adventurer’s ego. The windscreen vibrated a lot though, something needs to be done about that.
Practicality and maneuverability:
In traffic, I was doing 25 kmph in 4th gear and the Himalayan didn’t even cough once. I was able to maneuver the motorcycle with a lot of ease. The handlebars aren’t as wide as my Duke 390’s handlebar so squeezing through cars wasn’t much of a task. Making U-turns on this one is almost like making a U-turn on a scooter, so its really good as a city motorcycle too! I obviously couldn’t measure the amount of fuel this motor could consume in the city but taking into account its low revving motor, mileage would be biased to being economical.
Price: Considering the kind of equipment the Himalayan has, I feel that it is priced judiciously ex-showroom but on road, it becomes a bit steep at 1.84 Lakhs on road in Bangalore.
Himalayan as an Adventure tourer…
The way I see it, the Himalayan could serve the purpose it is built for- adventure. It’s got a huge ground clearance of 220mm, a large front wheel to absorb all the rough terrain, spoke wheels so you won’t have to worry about the wheel cracking on heavy impact, short seat height for guys and women like me, enough bars around the motorcycle to tie your luggage, a bash plate underneath to protects its heart, carburetor engine and a capable chassis that helps one explore. I didn’t get to test its headlamp but I’m pretty sure it isn’t powerful enough to assist a rider in the dark.
However, since we are in the 21st century, Royal Enfield could have got innovative by adding some pop to the motorcycle to make it more appealing in terms of looks, it could’ve added additional aids like heated handlebar grips for the chilly and hilly areas (that would at least do justice to its name!), and of course- more POWER!
Would I buy the Royal Enfield Himalayan?
I am somebody who is used to touring on a KTM Duke 390, that means I enjoy doing 3 digit speeds every now and then and love pitching my ride into corners at high speeds. The Himalayan is a different animal altogether that offers a different kind of enjoyment. It has paraphernalia that the Duke doesn’t have but at the same time, it doesn’t offer the things that the 390 does, which I look for the most. To make things simpler, I would’ve considered buying the Himalayan if I toured on a Royal Enfield Bullet or if I rode motorcycles that barely crossed the 140 kmph barrier. But me switching onto a Himalayan at this point of time seems like a bit of a downgrade. I don’t have a healthy spouse so I don’t have to worry about a comfortable pillion rider setup, I haven’t reached that point of time in life where comfort is my first priority and neither have I had any enmity with speed and power, so it is pointless for me to even think of buying it. The Himalayan does offer a peaceful touring experience which I am most fond of, but that isn’t enough a reason for me to go and buy one, especially at a time in life where the sound of an inline-4 cylinder engine for me resonates with the sound of OM! But, I definitely wouldn’t mind having a RE Himalayan if somebody gifted it to me 🙂
To conclude, well the Himalayan is a one of a kind motorcycle whose concept maybe alien to the masses of India, but it is doing a good the job of changing the perception of many people about Royal Enfield. It could perform job of elevating Royal Enfield’s goodwill too, provided all things go well with the Himalayan for the next few months and even after that. So back to the question of whether the Himalayan is worth all that hype? Well yes, but not entirely. It is partly justified because the motorcycle inaugurated a whole new motorcycle segment in India, challenged many people’s expectations along with mine and proved it is better than what I expected it to be. On the other hand though, why I mentioned that it only deserves the hype partly is because its only been a few days since it was launched so I prefer not jumping the gun too early. Its always better to wait and watch, especially if you’re considering to try Kit Kat shake from a new cafe that was once known for selling chutney. 😉