The Himalayan is a motorcycle purpose-built for adventure and touring. Powered by a 411cc engine (24.5bhp and 32Nm), it is built on a rugged duplex split cradle frame developed by Harris Performance—the UK-based motorcycle racing and parts manufacturer that Royal Enfield acquired in 2015. Launched in 2016, the Himalayan has been extensively ridden on urban roads by owners, and off the roads by owners as well as enthusiasts. To extensively evaluate it, we try and do something different—ride it across the Himalayas, from Kathmandu into Tibet.
But first, the design: The Himalayan doesn’t look vastly different from most touring motorcycles, though it’s marginally smaller, and thus better to manoeuvre. The front end, like most touring bikes, is tall. The front suspension is telescopic, with 41mm forks and 200mm travel. The monoshock rear suspension with linkage allows for 180mm wheel travel.
During our trip, we rode it on various kinds of surfaces—freshly laid tarmac, no tarmac, waterlogged roads. The Himalayan, regardless of the terrain, delivered a smooth and almost untiring ride experience. Its 220mm ground clearance helped ensure it could even cross shallow river beds. The ground clearance, combined with the optimal wheel size—the front tyre is 21-inch and the rear is 17-inch—allowed for decent control while riding over rocky terrains. A long wheelbase of 1,465mm meant it handled twisty roads very well, especially while riding uphill from Kathmandu to the Chinese border. Mention must be made of the Ceat dual-purpose tyres that the Himalayan rides on; these provided ample grip. The seat height is 800mm, so riding position is comfortable, but the rear end is high, so taking your leg all the way to the other end, for short riders, may be slightly difficult (especially if you’re in a riding gear that allows for limited body movement).
What also leads to a comfortable ride experience is the ergonomic sync between footpegs, handlebar and seat height—all of which provide an upright riding posture necessary for long trips. The disc brakes—300mm front and 240mm rear—have enough bite; these come equipped with ABS—a life saver.
The fuel tank is 15 litres, and in a mix of riding on the smooth tarmac and bad roads, averaging speeds of 50kph and in thin-air environment, I got a mileage of about 35kpl. Another good thing about the bike is that luggage-mounting points, for hard panniers, soft luggage and jerry cans, are integral to its design. And then the simple yet well laid out instrument cluster that keeps track of speed, direction (has a compass), ambient temperature, travel time, service intervals and multiple trip distances. However, the thermometer is perhaps fitted near the engine, so it gives incorrect readings. It doesn’t have an altimeter, which is a fun feature for such a machine (I had to carry my Casio watch to keep a track of the elevation).
Essentially, the Himalayan is not about a 0-60kph experience, but more about a 40-100kph one, and on roads where other motorcycles would fear to tread. Also, the engine delivers high torque and usable power at lower RPMs, so this means minimal gear shifts. So be it climbing the hills or manoeuvring through traffic, your left foot can rest.
Available in three colour options—granite, snow and sleet—the Himalayan is priced Rs 1.81 lakh, which, I believe, is value. It allows both seasoned riders as well as enthusiasts to do more with just one motorcycle. It comes across as a machine that one can take to the Himalayas or to the corner grocery store with equal ease. Lastly, nowhere on the Himalayan you will find the Royal Enfield slogan “Made like a gun”, because the Himalayan is not made like a gun, but like a motorcycle.