Rain, hail, snow, sub-zero temperatures with bone-jarring wind chill, off-road, on-road, clay-road, grass road, no-road, you name it, and the Himalayas threw it at us with a vengeance on the Royal Enfield Himalayan adventure bike ride, making the ride an adventure itself.
About 50 percent of the experienced hands on this ride had minor spills with their bike at some stage or another, leaving little doubt here was one heck of a tough test of man and machine.
The Himalayan looks a Royal Enfield, retro, adventurous and thoroughly rugged. Like all Royal Enfields, this too is an easy bike to work on. To this end, the Himalayan can be push-started to life should the electric starter pack-up, and you can put on your headlight even with a dead battery.
Practicality goes hand-in-hand with the Himalayan. The front windscreen keeps riders sheltered from the elements, this being slightly adjustable for angle. The Himalayan instruments are neat, sitting upright to face the rider. You can see speed and engine-speed in analogue format, along with fuel-level and other required riding information, including ambient temperature, twin-trip gauges and average speed for each trip. There's even a compass!
The Himalayan does well to give you space to clip on fuel and water jerry cans, or even extra front-mounted panniers, all of which enhance its touring bike appeal. Control levers are buffed alloy, comfy to the touch and the bike comes with classic look mirrors that work well, good switchgear and palm grips.
Royal Enfield has thought of the Himalayan's off-road prowess, to have a long, slim 15-litre fuel-tank that provides adequate thigh grip, and allows easy standing on the bike footpegs, for improved control when scything through the rough stuff, which the Himalayan does with relaxed ease.
In terms of build quality, the Himalayan feels a notch up on older generation Royal Enfield bikes. Fit-finish and overall quality are adequate too on the adventurous new tour bike.
Into thin air
Royal Enfield has fitted the Himalayan with a new from scratch, four-stroke, air-cooled, 411cc engine.
This is a two-valve powerplant, with long-stroke, single-cylinder dimensions at 78mm x 86mm. The Himalayan runs with a carburettor, and like most bikes from this manufacturer, sounds unique, with a relatively faster rev note, and quiet yet punchy tone.
To ride, the Himalayan feels a 'pukka' Royal Enfield, underpowered in some measure, but with nice and easy power delivery that feels torquey, and allows you to chug effortlessly through virtually all riding conditions. You don't need to play the gearbox too much, which shifts with reasonably good feel, in a one-down, four-up pattern. The single biggest bugbear we faced on our ride, was the Himalayan’s heavy clutch, that lacked the right feel, and gave my forearm an unwanted workout, forcing me to ride the bike clutch less when tired towards the end of our 100km plus run in trying conditions.
The Himalayan engine makes 3.3kgm of torque, delivered at 4,500rpm and 24.5bhp of maximum power at 6,500rpm. The bike can go an impressive 10,000km between every oil change.
You never feel the need to push the Himalayan engine to high revs, which in keeping with all Royal Enfield bikes’ character, is "purposeful, but not extreme" in the words of Siddhartha Lal, group MD and CEO.
Tough as nails
The Himalayan is low enough for an average height, or even a short Indian adult, to easily set feet on the deck when at a standstill. You sit on a plush-feeling riding saddle, in a comfortable, upright riding position.
The Himalayan carries its 182kg girth well, the front end light and steering with quick, neutral manners as is key to safe handling when riding off-road, where quick front end correction is often required when the bike starts sliding.
Ride quality is good, perhaps a touch firm in front, but very pliant and confidence inspiring on tarmac. Royal Enfield has got the adventure bike’s chassis right, from the word go. Standing up on the pegs and riding over rough roads is no problem, even at high speed.
As obvious, the Himalayan has generous ground clearance, always a boon when riding off-road. A steel construction frame binds the Himalayan together, with 200mm travel 41mm telescopic suspension in front, and a monoshock with linkage at rear, supported by a steel swingarm.
The bike comes with Ceat-made on and off-road tyres, a larger 21-inch front wheel and 120/90 x 17-inch tyre at the back. Grip is good, on- or off-road. As on any true off-roader, the Himalayan comes with spoked rims. Single disc brakes are provided front (300mm) and rear (240mm). Braking is effective, with progressive feel at both levers, allowing for comfortable braking even on loose surfaces. There’s no ABS. The Himalayan is a forgiving, even easy motorcycle to ride in any conditions.
Rugged and comfortable adventure bikes are perfectly suited to Indian terrain, with our roads often as good as no roads. Royal Enfield has boldly plunged in to this interesting segment, where most manufacturers turn a blind eye, save for Hero who pioneered and nurtured the segment with its amazing Impulse 150. Even KTM has failed to cash in on its rich off-road legacy, shying from being adventurous in India.
And the Himalayan, although not flawless has excelled, to prove Royal Enfield has got the adventure format right from the word go. This is the only adventure bike in India today, on which you need only to pack your panniers, hop on and head off on your own private adventure, in any weather, over any road, or even no road.