The lure of the Himalayas will be even bigger now. That’s because the Royal Enfield is knocking on your doors with the Himalayan. The adventure tourer, as the company likes to call it is something bikers across the country have been waiting for very impatiently. A bike like this hasn’t been seen before in India and this was an opening the Chennai based bike maker explored, albeit a little late. On the invitation of Royal Enfield we were in Shimla to spend some quality time with the Himalayan. That God decided to make things even more exciting by giving us a lot of rain and snow for company only made the experience even more thrilling. But we were game and so was the Himalayan. So we set out towards Narkanda, one of the highest points in the region on a date we would remember for a long time to come. There simply was no better way to experience the Himalayan for the first time and the challenges the terrain and weather threw at it presented a perfect opportunity for the bike to prove that this is where it belongs.
The Himalayan carried forward the Royal Enfield lineage but probably for the first time the company has shown that it is willing to change with the changing times and needs of the modern day biker. There are no shades of grey here and the Himalayan comes in pure white and black, called snow and granite. There are hardly any graphics apart from some very creative inscriptions of the name of the bike at various places. A quintessential part of any Royal Enfield bike, chrome is also missing here and instead what we get to see is a mix of paint and plastic. The steel frame that surrounds the tank looks unique and works; there are twin front mudguards, one for functionality and the other one for yelling out loud that yes I’m an off roader. A well defined look is rounded up with the front windshield that suits the bike just perfectly. Its height doesn’t interfere with the line of sight, looks good and is functional too. The headlamps are round and simple and probably more could’ve been done here but is really impressive is the instrument cluster. Its part analog and part digital and looks great and in another first gives a lot of information. This includes ambient temperature, travel time, service intervals and multiple trip distances. Not to forget compass, this wasn’t so utilitarian in the Himalayas, but will immensely help while riding in places like the Desert or the Rann of Kutch. Finally the LED tail lamp is positioned well and looks good too.
Get onto the Himalayan and you get an instant liking for the bike. Ergonomically you cannot ask for a better ride position from a tourer. Restricting the seat height at 800 mm simply means that the bike will find favor even with short riders who can still plant their feet firmly on the ground. The accessible seat height and the long suspension travel are a boon for the Himalayan they not help with long rides or taking on the bad roads but keep the rider at equal ease during navigation in urban jungles. What you need in the city is a set of wheels that maneuvers well and can squeeze into narrow spaces. The Himalayan feels and looks good to do that. Built on a rugged duplex split cradle frame designed and developed by Harris Performance, the bike feels is stable and agile in equal parts. The mono shock rear suspension with linkage is a boon on the bike and will specially make the pillion feel good about being on the bike. Another impressive thing is the 220 mm of ground clearance which makes the Himalayan a go anywhere bike, be it Rocky River beds or at stream crossings. However if you are expecting the famous Bullet thump on this bike you’ll be disappointed. It sounds unlike any other Enfield, the motor is more refined and the vibrations are kept to a minimum.
The completely new and evolved overhead camshaft engine platform forms the base for its new long stroke LS 410 engine. The fact fueling is carbureted and not injected means that this will be affordable to maintain and easier to fix in remote locations. A max power of 24.5 bhp and a high torque of 32 Nm along with usable power at lower RPMs make for smooth riding in higher gears at lower speeds. But having said that the first gear specially is long and you can almost touch speeds of 50 kms/hr which means climbing higher altitudes and mountain passes may pose a bit of a challenge in some adverse conditions. Royal Enfield says a modern design and use of specific materials on the engine translate to increased efficiency and low maintenance, and the engine can go 10,000 kilometers between oil changes. On this ride of ours the brakes were tested to full potential and they did not disappoint. On wet tarmac with hardly any visibility on winding roads, there will be situations when a biker will do panic braking and the ones on the Himalayan will come in really handy. The dual purpose tyres also are a great addition to the bike. A very functional exhaust that is tilted upwards and that and under body protection mean there will be a very confident ride while passing through deep river crossing and broken roads. According to the company the fuel tank provides a long range of approximately 450 kilometers.
With the Himalayan, Royal Enfield has made rapid strides and the bike looks like a winner all the way. A starting price of Rs. 1.55 lakh (ex-Mumbai) has already got bikers running towards the showrooms for a test ride. Add to that factory fitted luggage mounts and the company has taken care of all touring needs. Royal Enfield has also launched meticulously designed, purpose-built protective riding gear that caters to the long range tourer travelling to unpredictable places, terrains and climates. We tried the gloves, jacket & pants and are happy to say everything stood the harsh weather test just perfectly. With the Himalayan the company is selling more than just a bike, it’s selling an experience, which the cross country biker will surely relish.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars.