So there it stood. The black beast. It looked like a T-rex. A bony yet muscular body, head sticking out front and a big beak ready to bite.
I’d been waiting for the Himalayan for a very long time. I was really looking forward to it’s launch and to get my hands on one. I had read all there was to read, seen all there was to see and then finally it was time to do. I went over to the showroom, and was finally face to face to the mighty Royal Enfield Himalayan.
The bike looks extremely purposeful and though it is really tall, it does not seem very bulky and heavy like the other Royal Enfields. It’s imposing but not intimidating. The tall knobly front tyre and fat rear looks ready to take on any terrain. When you see the long forks at the front, monoshock at the rear and big engine in the middle with a tough looking bash plate you know the Himalayan really means business.
I kicked a leg over it and turned the key to ‘ON’. The neutral light flashed on so I gently thumbed the starter. Nothing, Hmm. I thumbed the starter again, a bit harder this time. Nothing. Turns out the neutral light flashes as part of the start-up procedure and the bike was in gear, which is something to remember. So I pulled in the clutch, put it in neutral and gave it another whirl. It sprang into life instantly and settled into idle. It was louder than I’d expected and had a nice meaty exhaust note, though it’s not as deep as one would want. As you rev it, it thumps away pleasantly and lets out these off-beat pops on the over-run. The pops may not sound very healthy, but it’s normal and most importantly, it sounds good. Like an old-school race bike.
The ramp from the showroom to the road is a steep cement path, where I was quite happy to stand up on the slightly rear placed footpegs and crawl down comfortably. It felt quite natural for my first time atop this not-so-light dinosaur.
The Engine – I slowly opened up the throttle and the bike accelerated quite confidently. It was very smooth and linear as expected from the 411cc long-stroke OHC motor. I found a good old empty stretch of road and wacked open the throttle in second gear to unleash the 24.5 horses and 32 Nm of twist. The bike surged forward and it kept pulling hard till 6000 RPM when I changed up and repeated the process. I slowed down to almost a stop and did it all over again. The Himalayan accelerates fast! It’s not mind-bendingly fast but linear, smooth and rapid. The gearing is tall and it suits the bike. It feels relaxed but definitely can accelerate hard enough to get into as well as out of trouble. On paper the numbers seem unimpressive, but on the road the power is adequate and very usable.
An important thing to note is the lack of vibration which was a common trait with all other Royal Enfields. The balancer shaft does seem to be doing its job. A few vibrations creep in as the revs climb but they are not intrusive or do not shake your teeth out.
The Handling – I weaved about left to right and immediately felt the bike smoothly banking side-to-side. I went through a few corners zipping into and out of little lanes to test the cornering habits of the Himalayan. The weight and the humongous 21-inch wheel at the front do make the steering feel a touch lazy but it definitely feels happy to change direction. It’s not lightning quick but pretty responsive indeed and does lean quite confidently.
The Braking – The brakes bite quite well and the Himalayan slows down quickly. The brakes do not latch on and bring the bike screeching to a halt instantly but they are effective and confidence inspiring. I need some longer test drives to comment on feel and effectiveness in the long run.
The Suspension and Ride – To give the suspension a work out, I turned off onto a small side road and just threw the bike into the innumerable potholes, half broken man hole covers and mounds of gravel that were left around for some construction work. The front tyre just strolled over the elevations and cruised over holes without a care and the rear grabbed on and propelled the bike out of everything. On the gravel, the front tyre just dug into the stuff, after just the slightest hint of a slip and again just walked over. The 220 mm ground clearance meant the underpinnings never even came close to touching anything, which in any case is protected by a metallic bash-plate.
The suspension was a treat and this whole exercise a piece of cake. The long travel (200mm at the front and 180 mm at the rear) meant the bike could just lunge ahead over obstacles and the perfectly tuned springs made sure the bike didn’t get unsettled or bouncy over the rough surface. You can tell that a good amount of work has gone into both front and rear suspension tuning, as it is soft enough to keep the ride compliant and soak up the bumps but taught enough to keep composure and not bob around like a boat.
Of course I couldn’t do any long high speeds runs or hard core off-roading, but with what I did, I really got a taste of what to expect from the bike. Especially, for everyday use as well as the kind of riding I do, which is basically riding for hours on small obscure country roads with mild to moderate off-roading as well as some touring once in a while. As I rode back to the showroom, I thought to myself, this T-rex really isn’t a ferocious beast at all. It one of those big friendly ‘vegetarianosarous’ or whatever they are called.
The Himalayan is a very capable bike with all the hard edges rounded off. It’s welcoming and very confidence inspiring. The relatively low seat height, wide tall handle bars and comfy upright seating position makes you feel immediately at home. The linear but torquey engine makes it very easy to ride at a fair old pace right off the bat. The pliant suspension and effective brakes makes sure you’re not scared to ride it as fast or as slow as you like.
This makes it a perfect adventure bike for the beginner or casual to moderate adventure rider. It, of course, retains the typical Royal Enfield long distance touring capabilities. The Himalayan is not going to be a specialized tool like either a hard core dirt bike, high speed mile mucher, agile corner-carver or even a light fill-it and shut-it city bike. It’s like your mom-approved best friend. Well mannered, supportive and sincere but won’t back down from doing the naagin dance at a party and still will make sure you sleep in your bed and not a gutter afterwards.
I would definitely recommend the Royal Enfield Himalayan to anyone thinking about buying one, if you think you fit into its philosophy or are planning to get into adventure riding, especially for the price of under Rs. 1,80,000. Because if you want anything more, you have to look at the ‘Million Rupee’ club, at minimum.
These are the initial impressions of the impressive Himalayan. Stay tuned for a comprehensive review and find out how the Himalayan is to live with once I get my hands on one. For more updates, like our Facebook Page – WanderDriveEat.
To know about problems faced by new Himalayan owners, check out this article – Royal Enfield Himalayan – Reports of Early Problems Already Coming In – UPDATE
We always have some emotional bonding and illogical longing for certain bikes. I definitely have it for the Himalayan. Find out my story in this article – Why The Himalayan Floats My Boat
Royal Enfield Himalayan Specs –
Engine – Single Cylinder, 4 Stroke, SOHC, Air-cooled (With oil-cooling)
Capacity – 411 cc
Bore X Stroke – 78 mm X 86 mm
Compression Ratio – 9.5 : 1
Max Power – 24.5 BHP at 6500 rpm
Max Torque – 32 Nm at 4000 – 4500 rpm
Ignition System – TCI, multi-curve
Clutch – Wet, Multi-plate
Gearbox – 5 Speed, Constant mesh
Lubrication – Wet Sump
Fueling – Carburetor with throttle position sensor
Engine Start – Electric only.
Chassis and Suspension –
Type – Half-duplex split cradle frame
Front Suspension – Telescopic, 41 mm fork, 200 mm travel
Rear Suspension – Monoshock with linkage, 180 mm wheel travel
Wheelbase – 1465 mm
Ground Clearance – 220 mm
Length – 2190 mm
Width – 840 mm
Seat Height – 800 mm
Height – 1360 mm (windscreen top)
Curb Weight – 182 kg
Fuel Capacity – 15 lts
Breaks and Tyres –
Front Tyre – 90/90 – 21”
Rear Tyre – 120/90 – 17”
Front Brake – 300 mm disk, 2-piston floating caliper
Rear Brake – 240 mm disk, single piston floating caliper
Electrical System – 12 volt – DC
Battery – 12 volt, 8 AH VRLA
Headlamp – 12 volt H4 60 / 55 W
Taillamp – LED