It’s undoubtedly the most talked about motorcycle in India at the moment. After a set of leaked images reached the interwebs, everyone wants to know all there is about the all-new Royal Enfield Himalayan. Having ridden it in its natural abode and namesake, a few things have become incredibly clear.

What is it?

The name clearly gives away the purpose and intent behind this motorcycle. Heading to the Himalayas on a Royal Enfield has been a rite of passage for many budding adventurists and motorcyclists in India for several decades. The quintessential, standard British motorcycle has doubled up as a cruiser, a tourer and a commuter for all those who just couldn’t do without the ‘thump’.

So if a standard Bullet held such incredible appeal to the adventure tourer in all of us, what happens if the top brass at RE decide to put their heads together and create a Royal Enfield designed for the mountains? That’s where the Himalayan comes in. It’s got everything you need in an adventure tourer – long travel suspension, an upright riding position and a large 21-inch front tyre with a smaller, 17-inch rear, both in off-road tread.

Much like all Royal Enfields, the design is elemental, minimalistic and traditional. Royal Enfield has designed this motorcycle keeping in mind fledgling motorcyclists who want an easy access, light weight and durable machine to cut their teeth in the adventure motorcycling scheme of things.

Granite Male

Does it work?

That would be a loud and resounding Hell yes! Having ridden the motorcycle around the mountains for a good 200km it’s clear that the boys at RE have created exactly what they set out to do. The Himalayan is probably the most approachable adventure tourer around, so easily does it banish your fear of whatever dangers lurk beyond the tarmac. That 21-inch front is as steady as an Olympic oarsman’s grip. The Himalayan has been field tested extensively in the Himalayas and the months of R&D has clearly paid off.  Even at low speeds, the Himalayan feels incredibly nimble, devouring slush, gravel, snow and broken tarmac with an appetite of a much larger motorcycle.  But big tourers come with big kerb weights which don’t necessarily make off-roading any friendlier a process.

Clean, easy-to-read, instrument cluster is wonderfully analog. Gets a compass too.
Clean, easy-to-read, instrument cluster is wonderfully analog. Gets a compass too.

With the Himalayan however you’ve got a light, functional and steady frame which remarkably enough, is quite flickable when you need it to be and resolutely planted when you’re going through a tricky stretch. It’s also got 3.2 kgm of torque which peaks fairly early in the rev range – a considerable asset during touring and commuting, where low end torque helps immensely.

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Let’s take a closer look…

The Himalayan gets a brand-new LS 410 engine (LS standing for the traditional long stroke engines, Royal Enfield has been known to make). The single-cylinder, 411cc, air-cooled unit is relatively low-tech and simple. It’s considerably more refined than the traditional 350-500cc block, but you still get enough sensation from the engine to keep things typically Enfield. Lots of low end torque makes it brilliant to take on the most treacherous and cratered fissures of the mountains – the engine pulls cleanly up to 4000-5000 rpm with peak torque constantly available. The narrow frame makes it extremely comfortable for long distance cruising – you’re perfectly upright, and don’t feel fatigued even in freezing temperatures with no tarmac in sight. The Himalayan is the first RE to get a rear monoshock suspension unit, developed in tandem with the recently acquired British racing and motorcycle parts outfit Harris Performance.

The bike’s peak power of 24.5 bhp might be underwhelming by city standards, but it’s quite sufficient for touring purposes. That said, the gearbox does feel a bit clunky, especially between first and second gear – gears you will be spending plenty of time in.

Built for all roads, built for no roads

Verdict:

Making a frugal, low maintenance motorcycle is an Indian motorcycle manufacturer’s stock-in-trade. But to make a tourer that not only does the job, but makes the process of off-road motorcycling much easier and far more inviting, especially for novice riders – takes an incredibly focused team with a clear vision. The Royal Enfield Himalayan will undoubtedly be a rider’s passport to several unexplored frontiers in and around India for a long time to come.

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