‘It hasn’t got any elec­tron­ics but it has got a com­pass’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - ANDY DAVID­SON STAFF WRITER andy.david­son@mo­tor­cy­cle­

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

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