Royal Enfield Himalayan Review
Go back maybe a decade or so and Royal Enfield was a motorcycle that was considered an acquired taste. Their tagline “ Jab Bullet chale toh duniya rasta de” was well deserved. You would hardly see any Enfields on the road because It was not everyone’s cup of tea, not just another motorcycle but more of a lifestyle. People were hesitant to even try an Enfield belonging to a friend or relative, forget about buying it. The legendary thump of a Bullet would make heads turn and people would look in envy at anyone riding the beast. The heavy motorcycle, big engine, a gear and braking system that people considered complicated was indeed an entirely different class.
Fast forward a decade and it is a completely different scenario today. From a “hardly seen” motorcycle, it is now probably the “most seen” motorcycle on the roads. With all the recent changes to the engine and the look, Bullet is now an everybody’s motorcycle, an everybody’s favorite. Pulsar a couple of years ago was the bike that you would probably see the most on the roads but now it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is a Royal Enfield ruling the roads and the market.
Royal Enfield for decades continued with the same look and just one model which pretty much became their identity. They kept building variations of the same motorcycle. Engine specifications and name of the model may have changed but the look remained quite the same. In last few years however, several new models have been launched in order to successfully boost up the sales and grab the market. The most recent entry in the list is the Royal Enfield Himalayan. I have been riding around a Royal Enfield for over a decade now, ever since college, and have used a 70s model Bullet, an Electra and a 500 CC Machismo. One of my cousins bought a Himalayan and just for the sake of checking out how the newest motorcycle from Royal Enfield was, I borrowed it from him. For the next one month, I rode it around the city and took it up the hills a couple of times (once to Lahaul & Spiti). Putting my month long experience in a nutshell, I will just say that if you have been using motorcycles like Pulsar or Yamaha, Himalayan will quite please you however if you are a hardcore Bullet fan like me, then it will disappointment. Here is a brief overview.
Engine: A 411cc single-cylinder air-cooled engine that produces 24.5bhp at 6500rpm and peak torque of 32Nm at 4000-4500rpm.
Gearbox: 5 Speed
Braking Front: 300mm single Bybre disc with twin-piston calliper
Braking Rear: 220mm disc with single-piston caliper
Suspension front: 41mm telescopic forks with 200mm travel
Suspension rear: Monoshock with 180 mm travel
Wheel Front: 21-inch 90/90
Wheeel Rear: 17-inch 120/90
Color: White or Black
With very basic and minimalistic styling, Himalayan has the traditional dirt bike look, a single round headlight, a small windscreen and a “beak” type front mudguard. It borrows nothing from the decades old bullet look. One look and it won’t take a genius to figure out that this bike is designed for the adventurous sorts. The high ground clearance, engine guard, and the large 21 inch wheel makes it perfect for the purpose of off-roading. The instrument panel is quite comprehensive as compared to the traditional bullet panel that has only a couple of dials. It pretty much has everything from a large speedometer indicating both kmph and mph, two trip meters, service indicator, gear indicator, average speed indicator , odometer, ambient temperature, clock, side stand indicator, the tachometer, duel gauge indicator and a digital compass. Quite overwhelming at first if you asked me. The fuel tank is of a newer style too with a large capacity of 15 liters. There is some carving around the areas where you will need some room for your knees. The engine is quite bare-bone, design is narrow and the seats look built for off-roading rather than happy cruising at first. The handle bar is placed high this time as opposed to earlier Enfield and is light with the headlamps mounted on the frame. The entire weight of the headlight, meters and the small screen rests on a crossbar under the tank and nothing on the handlebar.
Remember the old times when you had to push the decompress button and free-kick a few times before kick starting the Bullet? Well this time the kick is gone entirely. The new Enfield Himalayan only comes with electric start. The gear takes a little hard-pushing, a traditional bullet feature but ride turns smooth as soon as you open the throttle. Accelerate a little too much and the Himalayan will immediately tell you that it is not meant for higher speeds. The vibration on the handlebar and footpegs becomes quite apparent the moment bike goes over 80-90 kmph. Keep it under that speed and under 5000 rpm and it will perform happily with no complaints at all. Weight of the motorcycle is about 180 kg which cannot be considered light but doesn’t prove troublesome to manage even in traffic jams. The long suspension will keep the ride smooth through all potholes and bumps. The turning radius is quite short and it is easy to turn around at narrow curves. The low seating keeps the ground within reach at all times. Seating position is neutral and accessible seat height makes it easy for riders of all heights. At an upright position, it is easy on wrists, shoulders and back. The seat is quite comfortable for both the rider and the pillion. The brakes are quite effective but you will have to apply some pressure.
Overall it is a very comfortable motorcycle but the best part about the Himalayan is its Chassis. The entire construction of the bike is quite compact and agile, something any off-roading beginner will look forward to. Riding on the dirt tracks, you can comfortably stand on the footpegs and hold the tank while negotiating the gravel, sand and potholes. With a little rack for gear on the back, it has plenty of space and several mounting points to put up the entire luggage you will need for a trip. You can easily clip on fuel jerry cans or saddle bags as well.
So the big question of should you buy an Enfield Himalayan? Quite honestly if you are used to riding around 150 CC motorcycles or bikes like Pulsar, FZ then by all means go for Himalayan. With all the features and the muscle it offers, it is worth every penny. Consider it as an old wine in a new bottle. It offers everything that Bullet is famous for but just with a new look. If you are however used to ride around the iconic “Bullet” feeling the thump, that raw power, that vibration, all that extra juice then you will be disappointed. There is no denying that Himalayan is an impressive motorcycle with no competition in Indian market as of now but take it out for a ride and you will definitely feel the need for a little bit more power. I have found a Pulsar performing better around those quick take overs, even with a smaller engine. If high speed cruising is what you seek, Himalayan will again disappoint you. You will feel that the motorcycle is happiest at 70-80 kmph, take it above that and you will soon start feeling the vibration in footpegs followed by a weird noise which will immediately have your lowering the speed. Enfield came up with a brand new engine for Himalayan called LS410. It is totally different than what you would have seen or experienced on other Enfield motorcycles. Producing a maximum power of 24.8PS at 6,500rpm and 32Nm of peak torque between 4,000-4,500 rpm, it is more advanced and refined than RE’s previous engines but the performance somewhat falls short than what you would expect from a 400CC engine. There is also a bit of heating during heavy traffic conditions.The gearbox too needs much effort while shifting which can sometimes become annoying. Finding neutral can sometimes become hard when you stop. In terms of mileage too, Himalayan would not give any better than 25-30 within the city and about 35 kmpl on highways.
Another very strange part of this motorcycle that I noticed can cause some injury is its confusion neutral light. The moment you turn the ignition on, the neutral light will lit as a self check, even if the bike is in gear. This may lead to someone starting the motorcycle in gear and falling off. It will definitely make you pay extra attention while changing gears specially between 1st – Neutral and second.The center stand that RE offers as an accessory too is totally useless. It will take all your strength to get the motorcycle on that stand and when off, it will start messing with the chain. Brakes too can take some getting used to. Hard stops require a fair bit of pulling the lever. Being a hardcore Bullet fan, the biggest disappointment to me was that the thump was almost entirely muted and it sounded nothing like an Enfield to me.
I think it quite clear which segment of the market Enfield is trying to target with Himalayan and it would be quite wrong to compare it directly with their previous standard “Bullets”. Himalayan is an entirely different deal, designed for entirely different category of people and belongs to an entirely different class. Some people called it a superbike which in my opinion is wrong. It is not a superbike in anyway, but a dirt bike? Yes. An off-roader, yes. A motorcycle that you can take up the hills, yes. A city bike for daily commute, yes but will take some getting used to. It is the probably the first motorcycle that was built for a specific purpose and was named in the same manner. With the increased tourism in Ladakh and Spiti region, thousands of people take their motorcycles up the hills each year and most of the times those motorcycles are a Royal Enfield. That is the segment that RE is trying to target this time. With a Himalayan, you can happily take it anywhere, be it in pouring rain, on non-existent roads or even on snow. The very design of the motorcycle makes it look like built for an adventure.
My final verdict would be that Royal Enfield Himalayan is quite worth the money if frequent trips to the hills and occasional off-roading is what you seek. It will work well within the city as well, for daily commute, but the entire look of the motorcycle would make it look like it is not meant to be there. If you are an existing RE user, own the standard or classic bullet, and are thinking of replacing it with Himalayan then it will be bad deal. You are bound to regret your decision in this aspect. It will however be a nice addition to your garage if you just want to get another RE.