His grandfather called it a Bullet; his father called it a Bullet; until last Saturday Rakesh Kumar used to call it a Bullet. For three generations this family from the remote town of Thanedar near Shimla has been managing apple orchards, and riding Royal Enfield motorcycles. Even though Kumar now rides the Thunderbird, he and the whole town calls it the Bullet. Such strong is the brand name of the world’s longest running production motorcycle model.
But when Kumar looks at the Royal Enfield I am riding, he changes his mind. “It just cannot be a Bullet,” he says. Observing closely, he adds, “It’s the Himalayan.” The Himalayan is a motorcycle purpose-built for adventure and touring. The company says that it brings together 60 years of Himalayan riding experiences in a fully ground-up design. Powered by the new 411cc, single-cylinder air-cooled engine, which produces a maximum output of 24.5bhp and a maximum torque of 32Nm, the Himalayan is built on a rugged duplex split cradle frame designed and developed by Harris Performance—the UK-based motorcycle racing and parts manufacturer that Royal Enfield acquired last year.
The Himalayan doesn’t look vastly different from most touring motorcycles; it’s just that it is slightly smaller. And smaller means compared to, say, the Triumph Tiger range. But then, for Rs 1.55 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), it is considerably cheaper too.
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. We rode it on various kinds of roads—freshly laid tarmac, no tarmac, waterlogged roads, and snow. The Himalayan, surprisingly, regardless of the terrain, delivered a smooth, untiring ride experience. Its 220mm ground clearance ensures it can, with some careful manoeuvring, even cross shallow river beds. The ground clearance, combined with an optimal wheel size—the front tyre is 21-inch and the rear is 17-inch—allows for good control while riding over a rocky terrain. The wheelbase of 1465mm means the bike handles twisty roads very well. Mention must be made of the Ceat dual-purpose tyres that the Himalayan rides on; they provide ample grip on almost all kinds of terrain. While we are yet to ride it on the highway, we have reasons to believe that the highway ride experience won’t be tiring either. The seat height is 800mm, so even short riders won’t feel intimidated sitting on the bike; however, the rear end is high, so taking your leg all the way to the other end, for short riders I mean, can be slightly difficult.
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 but the Himalayan, as of now, doesn’t get the ABS.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan gets a 15-litre fuel tank, which, according to the company, provides a range of approximately 450 km. (That means the bike’s fuel-efficiency is about 30kpl.) The good thing is that luggage-mounting points, for hard panniers, soft luggage and jerry cans, are integral to the Himalayan’s design. One of the best things about the motorcycle is its instrument cluster. It has a simple yet well-laid-out design 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 at such a place where the engine heat reaches, so sometimes it gives wrong readings—but the difference is only of a degree or two. It doesn’t get an altimeter, which, we believe, is a fun feature for such a machine.
This machine is not about a 0-60kph experience, but more about a 40-100kph one. Compared to smaller Japanese bikes, the Himalayan is not as quick initially, but once you pick up speed, and if you are in the right gear, it can even give the Honda CBR250R enough panic. The engine delivers high torque and usable power at lower RPMs, so this means minimal gear shifts. As we found, even at a low speed of 40kph you can shift into the fifth gear and cruise effortlessly. So be it climbing the hills or manoeuvring through traffic, your left foot can rest. The company claims that modern design and materials of the engine translate to increased efficiency and low maintenance, and the engine can go 10,000 km between oil changes.
Available in two colour options—cleverly called granite and snow—the Royal Enfield Himalayan’s on-road Mumbai price is Rs 1.79 lakh, which, we believe, is a steal. It allows both seasoned riders as well as enthusiasts to do more with just one motorcycle. Our two-day extensive riding shows that it appears to be a motorcycle 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 really made like a gun, but like how a motorcycle should be.
Royal Enfield has also introduced a purpose-built protective riding gear that caters to the long-range tour travelling to unpredictable places, terrain or climate. It includes the four-season Royal Enfield Darcha riding suit made in collaboration with REV’IT; and versatile touring jackets and trousers with Cordura, protective armour, removable thermal liners and breathable waterproof lining. The collection also has riding gloves, riding trousers and riding boots.