ROYAL ENFIELD HIMALAYAN
‘It hasn’t got any electronics but it has got a compass’
The new Himalayan marks a new direction for Royal Enfield, and is symbolic of the Indian giantõs significant expansion. Not only is it REÕS first adventure bike, itõs also a first for the Indian market, which the firm hope will help kick-start their plan of becoming the worldõs largest manufacturer of mid-capacity motorcycles. Theyõre well on the way to that goal, too. Production has already upped from 50,000 per year to almost 50,000 per month over the last five years.
So to produce a bike that will appeal to their home nation, Enfield opted for a simple, easy-to-use adventure bike. Òmotorcycles are becoming more and more extreme and weõll never do that,ó say Royal Enfield. ÒWE will always be approachable, non-intimidating, and fun. We donõt really care how fast it gets from one place to another. Our bikes are old-school and evocative.ó
Enfield have clearly taken a step (or 10) back from the ever-expanding crop of behemoth adventure bikes. And theyõre right to say theyõve kept things simple. The Himalayan employs a completely new 411cc air-cooled, single-cylinder carburetted engine. Some may say that helps when long distance travelling as thereõs less to go wrong, but the lack of fuel injection dramatically reduces performance at altitude (an issue in the Himalayas) and it will need fuel injection if itõs ever to meet Euro4 regulations that would allow it to come to the UK (meaning that, currently, it cannot unless you import one privately, see right). It also uses a conventional 41mm fork up front and a monoshock rear built by Indian firm Endurance, and has Bybre (Bremboõs budget brand) brakes front and rear Ð with no ABS, which is another Euro4 faux pas.
The bike comes with a 15-litre tank, which Enfield claim returns 279 miles. It has an easy-to-read dash with an analogue speedometer, rev counter, fuel gauge and digital panel with gear indicator, trips, temp and thereõs even a compass! It also comes with a decent screen, luggage rack, sump guard, crash protection, removable rubbers on the pegs, and a centrestand. And thatõs about it. No electronic gizmos, traction control or enduro rider settings. And once itõs sunk in that it really is a back- to-basics, simple and pure adventure bike Ð it becomes great fun.
It has clearly been built to a price, which means reliability is yet to be tested fully, but after six days of absolutely hammering the bike off-road, through knee deep rivers, up and down mountains and over the highest road in the world Ð it never kicked up a fuss.
And it really was constantly hammered, pushed and crashed off-road. Even after a 10-hour day of pure gravel tracks and boulder fields the bike remained perfectly comfortable.
The suspension set-up could always be better, an inverted fork and a dollop of plushness would always be appreciated but the 200mm of travel up front and 180 at the rear were enough to cope with every rock and river crossing thrown at it, remaining compliant and reassuring when moving fast over rough terrain. Those good manners are helped along by the 21in spoked front rim and 17inch rear combination.
The 300mm disc and twin-piston Bybre caliper up front and single piston at the rear are basic but did a good enough job of scrubbing speed off in a hurry, although the lever requires a fair tug. The same goes for the stiff clutch.
‘It has an easy-toread dash with an analogue speedo plus gear indicator and there’s even a compass!’
Neither lever makes it easy to smoothly control them with two fingers, which is important off-road.
The engine is smooth enough, and the low down torque makes climbing steep hills easy in low gears with the sweet spot at around 4000rpm. It loves low gears off-road and can happily flit between second and third all day. But when off-roading, the Himalayan lacks that extra power and little squirt of juice you need every now and then to help get you out of trouble on rough patches by blipping the throttle. Although, most of our riding was done at high altitude, so it’s tricky to say how it would react at sea level, and if it gets the fuel injection it would need in Europe then that might make the difference.
On road, the engine performs well too, it’s predictable but doesn’t enjoy being revved too hard as power soon fizzles out at around 6000rpm.
Overall, after six days of riding over some of the world’s most dangerous roads, the Himalayan proved incredibly manageable, light and smooth with enough tractable power to be fun. This is a proper adventure bike for far-flung lands, with long-distance touring ability, a decent tank range, all-day comfortable riding position and simple set-up, which can be fixed anywhere in the world – not something that can be said for many of today’s adventure bikes. The Enfield’s ridiculously easy to ride and live with, dogged and will take whatever’s thrown at it. Small displacement, simple motorcycles are the real adventurer’s choice and there’s no doubt many serious go-anywhere travellers will adopt Royal Enfield’s new Himalayan for traversing the globe’s toughest terrain.
This thing couldn’t be further from the hightech world of modern adventure bikes
We reckon the simple and easy-to-fix Enfield could be a hit with hardcore adventurists
Out in the wilds of the Himalayas it’s either a rugged bike or a tough little horse
Sat-nav? Nope the rugged Himalayan comes with a compass on the dash
Bum basic carb’d single won’t pass emissions regs here
It’s not flash but was indestructible in our test