Straight up, why this travelogue?
The Himalayan is more than just a name or another product for Royal Enfield. Back in 2016, a day before Auto Expo, the company decided to finally make the big announcement amid much fanfare and unveiled the motorcycle. The Himalayan earned a lot of good words and applaud from the motorcycle and media fraternity for multiple reasons. First and foremost, the Himalayan is India’s first indigenously built and most affordable adventure tourer and a 'dream come true' motorcycle for many that couldn’t go for the Ducati Multistradas and the Triumph Tigers due to budget constraints. Moreover, it forayed the entry of Royal Enfield into the ADV territory that was very much new for the brand.
While many patted the back of the company for such a bold attempt, some said the company should stick to making cruisers only. Amid all this, the stars did not seem in favour of the Himalayan as reliability issues started surfacing quite frequently. Numerous Himalayan owners from across the country started criticizing the bike stating that it has a poor build quality and people had almost predicted that the regular incidents of parts failure will lead to this ADV meeting its fate soon.
Royal Enfield took all this feedback in a positive way and with the BS-IV emission norms kicking in, rather than just updating the engine to meet the stricter standards, it decided to address all the issues that had started to haunt the prospective Himalayan owners. As a result, the BS-IV Himalayan rolled out with a fuel injection system along with a better build quality which lead to the number of complaints dropping significantly. Now with the upcoming safety regulations kicking in April 2019, the company has added a dual-channel ABS to the package.
So, instead of riding the Himalayan in the city, the journalist within scratched his head and urged - Why not take the Himalayan on a 1,000-kilometer road trip to test out its limits and answer the question once and for all - Has Royal Enfield managed to clean the stains on Himalayan’s image and should you now buy it, finally? Our weekend getaway from Delhi to Ajmer in Rajasthan will answer just that!
Delhi to Jaipur
Let me start off by mentioning the weather gods. December is usually very chilly in New Delhi with the mercury dropping in to create new records almost year. All geared up, I stepped out at 6 in the morning and it seemed that the Himalayan was managing the Delhi winters a lot better than me. One push at the electric starter and the bike came to life with its distinct rumble coming out through the stock pipe. It was pitch dark in the morning and the fog level was also reasonably high. Since it was an early morning, the roads were pretty much empty and Delhi to Gurugram took just 20 minutes compared to over an hour otherwise. After crossing Dharuhera, the traffic further dropped and the long free-flowing National Highway 8 seemed like a biker’s delight.
After exact 140 km, I decided to take my first break at Neemrana to click the ‘mandatory’ sunrise picture of the motorcycle and have a cup of hot tea and parathas which had become almost necessary to keep me alive amid all those chills. I had only ridden the BS-III Himalayan before and this was the first time I was testing out the BS-IV model. All thanks to the fuel injection system, the Himalayan now feels a lot smoother and the throttle response is much crisper than before. Power and torque figures remain unchanged but this time around, the bike feels a bit quicker as well. The power delivery is linear and the taller gearing made sure that you do not have shift gears every now and then. Perfect ingredients for mile munching, isn't it? Another highlight of this engine is that it feels stress-free throughout the rev range, further easing up the touring task.
After about 40 minutes, I was back on the saddle, which is very comfortable and thickly padded and there was absolutely no sign of body aching. The fog had dispersed almost completely by this time and the better visibility encouraged me to now put the Himalayan through its paces. The 80 - 85 kmph cruising speed was now increased to 100 kmph and the Himalayan showed no signs of stress. Even the vibration levels at this pace were not much annoying and hence, you can cruise with the said triple-digit number on the speedo all day long. Crossing about 110 kmph is when the vibrations start creeping in and you can feel the buzz on the footpegs and the handlebar. Further, at 120 kmph, the motorcycle starts to lose its steam and at 142 kmph, the motorcycle refused to go beyond despite trying all the aerodynamic improving tactics.
The next stop was Jaipur and I reached the Rajasthan capital in two hours from Neemrana. I decided to take a stop first at Amer Fort for some photography and let some nostalgia kick in as I had lived nearby for four years during my college days. After taking a short break, I headed towards Nahargarh as the route offers a breathtaking view of the city. Now it was time to be lost back in the concrete jungle and Himalayan & I were done for the day.
Jaipur to Ajmer
The ride to Ajmer was a short one with just 135 km to go on one of the best national highways in India. Despite the fact that it would take just a couple of hours to reach the destination, I decided to start off a bit early as I wanted to catch the sunrise on the go. I took the first break at Dudu for tea that is located almost halfway between Jaipur and Ajmer. While there is no denying the fact that the highway is a delight for bike lovers, there are instances when you need to be a bit cautious due to the cattle. During my ride from Jaipur to Ajmer, there were a couple of instances when I found some cows appearing suddenly on the road out of nowhere. This is where I have to mention the braking performance of the motorcycle.
The Himalayan gets disc brakes at both ends that offer a satisfying stopping power. While there was not much to complain about the stopping capabilities during the entire road trip, I felt that the braking could have been a little better as the front set up lacks the instant feedback at the lever and that initial bite. Nonetheless, after a few kilomteres on the bike, you will get used to it and understand how hard you need to pull the lever to extract the expected amount of braking. The latest addition to the package is a dual-channel ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) that is indeed helpful on such long distance rides as it makes sure that the wheels don't lock up during hard and panic braking and works fine.
By 9:30 AM, I reached the outskirts of Ajmer and by now, the traffic usually starts appearing on the roads which means now was the time to see how the Himalayan performs in city congestion. The upright riding position along with the wide handlebar made sure that you stay comfortable throughout and even getting stuck in traffic does not get annoying until and unless you are in a hurry. Also, one thing that I really liked about the Himalayan is its ability to handle even in tricky situations. Looking at the motorcycle may make you think that it is a bit hesitant when it comes to maneuver but trust me, not even once I had a problem in dealing with the traffic and narrow spaces. It was 10 AM and I was parking the motorcycle inside my home.
Ajmer to Pushkar
At 4 in the evening, I headed out to Pushkar which is located 21 km from my home and 15 km from the main city out of which the last 8 km comprises of twisties as you have to first cross the Pushkar valley to reach the religious town. After crossing a couple of sharp incline corners, I started feeling confident as the Himalayan felt calm and composed during turns and perfectly maintains its line. There are a few portions on the Pushkar road where the surface is not well maintained but the relatively softer suspension absorbed those broken patches quite effectively. The first thing after reaching Pushkar was to head to the Sunset Point that offers a great view of the holy Pushkar Sarovar (lake). A humble request to some priests and I was allowed to take the bike towards a small stretch shortly after which the Ghats (the holy flight of steps leading down to the Pushkar lake) begin.
After getting done with some pictures, now it was time to get the taste of the world-famous, deliciously hot Pushkar Malpuas. The tummy was happy now and instead of taking the usual route back to Ajmer, we decided to take the road located on the other side. The reason was the Pushkar Mela ground where the grand fair is organized every year. The massive ground is covered in loose sand with some gravel on the circumference that gave an opportunity for mild off roading. The Himalayan uses dual purpose tyres with 21-inch wheel up front and a 17-inch unit at the rear and all thanks to this, the motorcycle wasn’t stuck even for once during the attempt. In addition, it also crossed the broken tarmac and the roads less travelled with commendable stability and the Himalayan just glided over the stretch in an enthusiastic manner. It was dark by now and I headed home quickly to freshen up, have dinner and to be back on the saddle for the return ride to Jaipur.
It was 8:30 PM and after having a quick meal, I was back on the bike. The idea was to reach Jaipur by 10:30 and stay at a friend's place overnight to complete the remaining journey the next morning. This time, I was aiming for a quick ride to Jaipur but just after Kishangarh, a truck accident had jammed the highway for about 30 minutes which made me enter Jaipur only by 11:10. My friend's house where my stay for the night was scheduled is located in Brahmapuri that is quite near to many historic monuments. So instead of directly going to the said place, I decided to have a quick tour of the city and found Hawamahal as the perfect site for a midnight picture during the peaceful hours.
The Final Run
I started the ride at 6 in the morning and the first thing that came to my mind after riding a few kilometers is that it is not just the summers for which Rajasthan is famous for as even the winters are equally extreme. The route that leads to the exit of Jaipur with nearby areas including Chandwaji is properly engulfed in greenery which means an additional 2 to 3-degree drop in temperatures, making the situation even tricky. After crossing 70 kms, I decided to take a quick break and with 200 km more to go, I decided to hurry up a bit as I needed to be in Noida before 10 to be in office. Now was the best time to actually test if the Himalayan can cover over a hundred kilometers in triple digit speeds and the bike passed the test with flying colours.
I started at 7:10 AM from Shahpura and decided to care about the chilly temperatures the least as this had become more of a necessity rather than a luxury. For the next 160 kilometers, the Himalayan was doing 120 to 140 kmph and all thanks to the low traffic density, I managed to touch Gurugram sharp at 9 AM. The next 51 km to Noida took 1 hour 20 minutes though because of the peak traffic hours.
All said and done, all the issues in the Himalayan seem to have been rectified and now the bike looks like a well-rounded package that you can surely rely on. The bike offers ample comfort over long distances and during off-road scenarios, it won’t disappoint you either. However, as no product is absolutely flawless, this one too has some areas of improvements.
For instance, the dual-channel ABS on the Himalayan is not switchable which translates to limited fun during off-roading. Also, I wished a better illumination from the headlamp. The reason being, doing triple digit speeds on an absolute ill-lit stretch in pitch dark and fog was not very confidence inspiring with the amount of light offered by the motorcycle. At Rs 1.79 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the Himalayan is currently the most affordable proper adventure tourer in India that surely deserves a spot in your top three options if you are planning to get a comfortable and versatile motorcycle.
Total distance covered: 1,015 km
Combined fuel efficiency: 36 kmpl
Total fuel consumption: 28.1 litres
Top speed achieved: 142 kmph
Average speed: 51 kmph