There is a huge buzz currently about the Royal Enfield Himalayan. And rightly so. Everyone has their own reasons to want one. Here’s what’s going on in my little noggin.
REWIND A FEW MONTHS AGO – It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden my bike long and hard. I miss it like hell. Feeling the road under you slip backwards, the wind brushing by your body and dodging the assortment of stuff you’re sharing the road with, might it be with wheels, legs or just stuff left lying around by, I don’t know, ancient tectonic movements. Anyways, it’s fun. The most overused, clichéd word is freedom, which it probably is. But I’ve always found biking to be extremely exhilarating and amazingly peaceful at the same time.
It’s not that I’ve not had time or any of the usual excuses for not riding, but it’s been like that since I kind of came off my bike last year. Well, I’m ok and I didn’t die, which is good. But my bike didn’t escape unscathed. It’s just not the same. Even a couple of mechanics who knew it had crashed didn’t find anything wrong with it but it’s definitely undergone some skeletal deformation. It doesn’t turn well, has a slight sway and just feels out of balance. I hate it. I mean I still love my bike still but it’s like a girlfriend who’s cheated on you. You just can’t get yourself to accept her in spite of loving her. And it’s not like she wasn’t a bit mean and high maintenance already. I had to keep buying her new shiny stuff just to keep her interested and make her work like she should. I had to really beg and plead and caress her right just for me to get a good ride. I assure you I’m still talking about my bike.
I wonder whether you’ve guessed what bike I ride. Yes-yes, I ride a Royal Enfield. It’s been an awesome 4 years. I bought it second hand so I expected putting in more efforts than usual to get it to be a happy companion. And frankly it never let me down where it mattered most, but now I think it’s time to move on to something better.
Over the years experiencing different types of riding – open highways, small country roads and off-road – you discover stuff about yourself. You get to know where you have the most fun when you’re on a bike. What puts a real smile on your face. Riding fast on open roads in a straight line enthralls you, hitting apexes on small twisty mountain roads pumps adrenaline into your veins and gives you one hell of a buzz. But riding by yourself on an obscure road with nobody around you, finding places no one even wants to find, just gives you a different perspective of the world. Riding through the dirt, over rocks and around miniature craters as you push yourself up a hill. Feeling the bike slide under you through sand or mud, navigating through water into the lush green unknown and ultimately coming up at the most amazing view in the world, does stir up something, somewhere deep inside you. The heart’s beating faster, but it’s not pounding. You feel a rush but it’s not overwhelming. But most importantly you feel happy, just happy being there and having ridden where you have. You feel a true sense of calm settling all over your body. I’d definitely call this freedom.
This is where the Himalayan comes in. Ever since I experienced solo adventure riding, as it’s called overseas, I have found what really makes me smile under the helmet like a slightly retarded chump. I’ve been waiting for some bike to be up to the task of going off-road without being crazy and most importantly – crazy expensive. I got bored of waiting for the KTM 390 Adventure, witnessed the underpowered Impulse just roll over and die and saw its death putting the last nail in the coffin of any manufacturer in the right mind to try something like that in India.
But wait! Who can you count on to make decisions, not from any place where words like logic and winning formulas and accounts takes precedence, but unheard of stuff like passion and adventure mean something! A trailblazer to throw out all norms and make something real and purposeful, of course – Royal Enfield. Even since they made the Continental GT, they have been on a roll. Being led by someone with such a global approach obviously was going to rub off on the company and bring some style and purpose to motorcycling in India. They started the whole ‘adventure on a motorcycle, go where few dared’ thing with their bikes. So they did just that and made the Himalayan. Something I always envisioned them making ever since I rode to Leh Ladakh with the Himalayan Odyssey in 2013. Not only did they already own the market of adventure riding in India, they had the experience and passion too. And I think the Himalayan is a real modern representation of their brand along with the Conti GT.
This is quite a big reason I want to buy the Himalayan. Not just because it is a purpose built bike for adventure, but I want to buy a product born out of real passion (I know I’m overusing the word now). Something developed and tested by the owner of the company, Dakar rally riders and true motorcycle enthusiasts (when we know most others are sitting in AC offices launching products based on trends and profit margins). It reminds me of so many stories from the early days of motorcycles, from the 20’s and 30’s in Europe and America, when small manufacturers built motorcycles in sheds with whatever they could find and the only thing on their mind was to make something that looked beautiful and went fast. They didn’t want to build bikes to make money, but because they wanted to build something better than everybody else. A time when stuff was built from new and unique ideas and the builders put a piece of their soul in the machines. The Himalayan sparks a bit of a similar flame in my heart as those bikes.
I accept it’s not the most beautiful thing on two wheels nor will it appeal to everyone. Friends and relatives will pester me, why not buy a KTM 390 or wait for the BMW 310 and for sure some bearded pot smoking hipster is going to say, “dude, it’s not even a real bullet”. But that’s the thing. I want it because I can ride it where I am most happy riding – in the wilderness. I am not the best rider in the world and I definitely don’t have hard core off-road skills. But me and my Himalayan will slowly learn together. I don’t want to ride so that everyone sees me and calls my bike cool. Au contraire, I want to ride to places where no one will see me. Where I can sit on my bike, smile and say “This is so beautiful, but I wonder what’s on the other side of that mountain”.
As you know this is not a review of the Himalayan. I have test ridden the bike and my short initial impressions review is coming up. Stay tuned!
Till then you can watch the videos of the development of the Himalayan, as I did and fell in love with this machine and the story behind it.
The Himalayan Story.
The Himalayan Evolution.
The Himalayan – The Siddhartha Lal Diaries