Royal Enfield Himalayan Review
Phil Suriano’s Royal Enfield Himalayan Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety and Verdict.
In a nutshell: A new player in the adventure bike arena and a new direction for Royal Enfield, the Himalayan is an impressive dual-purpose machine and arguably the best Royal Enfield yet.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Specifications
Price $6,990 rideaway Warranty 2-year, 20,000km warranty Engine 411cc SOHC single Power 18.02kW at 6500rpm Torque 32Nm at 4500rpm Exhaust single, underslung Gearbox 5-speed constant mesh Frame Steel half-duplex split cradle type Front Suspension 41mm telescopic fork, 200mm travel Rear Suspension Monoshock w/adjustable preload, 180mm travel Front/Rear Wheel wire spoke 21-inch / wire spoke 17-inch Front/Rear Tyre 90/90-21 M/C 54S / 120/90-17 M/C 64S Front Brake 300mm disc w/two-piston floating caliper Rear Brake 240mm disc w/single-piston floating caliper L x W x H 2190mm x 840mm x 1360mm (w/screen) Wheelbase 1465mm Seat Height 800mm Ground Clearance 220mm Weight 182kg wet Fuel Capacity 15 litres
Whenever a company – and that includes a motorcycle company – does something out of the norm, it draws attention. That has absolutely been the case with Royal Enfield’s new Himalayan, which is now in Australia and priced from just $6990 rideaway.
Outsiders may look at the Himalayan and think “it’s just another adventure bike” and to a degree, that’s true, but in Royal Enfield terms, it’s like moving from a biplane to a jet.
Royal Enfield’s roadsters – the Bullet and Classic – have been a part of India’s road scene for decades. And anyone who’s been to India knows a lot of the roads ain’t great, so a bike needs to be simple and sturdy to survive there.
It’s this thinking that’s gone into the creation of the Himalayan, but rather than modify one of their existing platforms to meet the robust adventure bike criteria, the Himalayan is new from the ground up.
The engine is a new 410cc single not seen in any previous Royal Enfield, the frame (from RE-owned Harris Performance) is new and unique to this model, and the back end features the company’s first use of monoshock suspension. The latter seems hard to believe, but it’s true; until the Himalayan, it’s been twin shocks all the way for Royal Enfield.
It’s a reflection of the maturity of the Royal Enfield brand and their desire to modernise and expand globally that the Himalayan – the first truly new Royal Enfield – has been created. The Himalayan is also expected to be the first in a range of new models from the Indian manufacturer in the years to come.
Take the badging off the Himalayan and I’d challenge anyone who didn’t already know to immediately identify it as a Royal Enfield – there’s just so much that’s different and “modern” with this bike.
It may look basic (like an oversized ag bike in some respects) and lack some of the styling finesse we’ve come to expect from modern adventure tourers, but the Himalayan is rugged, honestly simple and largely eschews form for function. I was impressed with the appearance.
The fit-for-purpose standard features include a rear rack and pannier brackets, dual front mudguards, mid-sized windscreen, engine bash plate, and side bars that serve as mounts for the headlight, instruments and screen. These bars can also serve as attachment points for additional luggage. They’re not true engine protection bars, but these are coming as part of a range of Himalayan accessories.
On closer inspection, the finish has a certain “industrial” feel, with the inside of the front racking system clearly showing welding joints, with no attempt to finish it to a higher spec, but that’s largely a reflection of the bike’s price point.
That said, the Himalayans that Australia receives are finished to a higher standard than those for the Indian market, with a claimed 35 changes made to export models, including an upgraded electrical system, improved engine performance, modified transmission, an improved frame and better ergonomics. Being Royal Enfield’s biggest export market, we’re the first country outside India to receive this export-spec Himalayan.
Some online reports I’ve seen have slammed the home market bikes for build quality and other issues, but I found little to fault on our export-spec models. It’s nitpicking, but I felt the horn could have been concealed better and the additional barwork could be a little thicker in diameter.
Spoked rims are what you need and expect on a bike like this, which in this instance are shod with rubber from Ceat. No, I’d never heard of the brand, either, but this Indian-made dual sport tyre proved effective for most of the terrain we encountered on the test and would only need to be exchanged from proper enduro-style knobbies if your riding consists of a lot more “off road” than “road”. If you’re doing that, you’ll also want to detach the lower front mudguard, as clearance is tight.
With off-roading in mind, I’m hoping a high-mount exhaust is on the future accessories list, as the standard road-style placement will cop a pounding in regular rough terrain work. Braking is the same as the Continental GT, with a 300mm disc up front and a 240mm unit at the rear, both gripped by calipers produced by an Indian subsidiary of Brembo.
Black and white colour options are available, with detail touches including an attractive brushed aluminium finish on things like the fork brackets, lights and handlebar ends.
The biggest and most pleasant surprise on the spec front, though, was the instrumentation. Like most everything else on the Himalayan, it’s new and exclusive to this model, with the asymmetric layout consisting of a half-moon analogue speedo atop a digital display for the odometer, gear indicator, clock, trip meters and ambient temperature. Alongside the usual idiot lights is a small analogue tacho, with a fuel gauge and compass also present in two smaller gauges. The latter is a quirky, but cool feature that many of us on the test liked, even if we had no call to use it. However, when trekking the wilds of northern India or Outback Australia, I’m sure this would become much more practical.
A centre stand is standard, the tank holds 15 litres (good for around 300km between fills) and ground clearance is 220mm.
The screen, bar work and mudguard clearance all make the Himalayan look taller than it actually is. At only 800mm, the seat is pretty low, so it’ll suit smaller riders, but those who are 6-foot and over will feel a little cramped, especially with the feet up on the pegs. Hopefully a higher seat will be on the Himalayan’s accessories list.
As a mid-sizer, I found I could comfortably straddle the bike and plant both feet on the ground, so shorties will love it. The seat itself also provided an adequate amount of padding and I had no comfort complaints during the longer stretches of the test.
The bar reach was good, providing a comfortable, upright riding position, further enhanced by the neutral position of the foot pegs. These dirt bike-style pegs feature rubber inserts which can be removed for off-road work – another neat touch that shows the amount of thought Royal Enfield have put into this model.
The windscreen is fixed and provides good protection.So it was all good on the ergonomic front with one exception. In my opinion, there’s room for improvement with the levers – I found them to be stiff and heavy to operate. I’ll blame my small hands, but adjustable levers would be welcome.
Start the Himalayan up and you’re reminded just how basic its engine spec is. There’s a manual choke, but no kickstarter, which may be a mistake – time will tell. Induction is via a single carburettor, but a fuel-injected version is apparently coming. Royal Enfield says the carb-fed version allows for poor-quality fuel in remote areas (common in India) and allows for easier roadside repair work by adventure trekkers, which makes sense. It also keeps the price down, which explains why this model doesn’t come with rider-assistance tech like ABS, either.
Engine noise is minimal and, sticky levers aside, gear changing was smooth and forgiving, too. You need to work the five-speed transmission to get up to major arterial and highway speeds, though, as the gearing is relatively tall. However, riding the Himalayan at speed showed one of the benefits of the long-stroke ‘LS410’ 410cc engine and its inbuilt counter-balancer – no vibration! Unlike other Royal Enfields I’ve ridden, the ride on the Himalayan was smooth and largely vibration-free at high speed, meaning your hands and feet don’t become numb on longer rides (essential for long-distance travel) and you can actually use the mirrors.
Our two-day test ride started at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport and took us down to the Princes Highway and on to the Great Ocean Road and Wye River in the Otways, which allowed for a variety of terrains to be encountered. Some wet weather added to the experience, as well.
The Himalayan felt very stable at low and middling speeds, with handling in corner entry and exit being surprisingly good. The aforementioned comfort of the riding position helps here, too, as an uncomfortable ride seems to magnify what would otherwise be minor niggles on the road.
Steering input and throttle control was also very positive, which allowed me to push the bike through some of the Great Ocean Road’s famous twisties with confidence, despite the greasy conditions and limits of the dual purpose tyres.
The suspension – 41mm tele fork front and monoshock rear – is basic, with only pre-load adjustment on the rear, but I found it to be fine for my weight (80kg) and experience level. It handled the road imperfections and pot holes easily, and proved adept on the rough stuff. The travel of both units proved especially welcome when we took on rough fire trails, dirt roads and a couple of very muddy and wet tracks, easily handling small whoops and the uneven terrain.
A few of us were pushing the Himalayan to try and find its breaking point, but to its credit, the little traveller met every challenge thrown at it. Sure, those dual sport tyres eventually let us down in the really heavy going, but importantly, the rest of the bike didn’t.
Experienced dirt bikers may look for more suspension adjustment, but the Himalayan is aimed at the average rider who likes to mix a little dirt work or weekend adventuring into their regular commuting. How much that ease of use is impacted by a pillion or full luggage kit is unconfirmed, as we did our test solo and without extras like loaded panniers, which have only just arrived in the vanguard of what’s expected to be a comprehensive accessories catalogue.
For me, the Himalayan was a surprise – in a good way – as it exceeded my expectations. Comfortable around town and on the highway, the Himalayan also easily soaked up gravel roads and dirt tracks without the need for any changes beyond tyre pressure adjustment. It also stood up to a lot of punishment, based on my test, so I’d be expecting that durability extends over long-term ownership as well.
It’s that durability, versatility and ease of use that should see this model become a success, especially with LAMS riders.
Compact adventure bikes look set to be the next big growth segment in the market, with the Himalayan up against Kawasaki’s Versys X-300 and the Honda CRF250 Rally and BMW G 310 GS. You could add the new CFMoto 650MT and SWM Superdual, as well as the “old faithfuls” in the form of the Kawasaki KLR650 and Suzuki DR650 into the mix here, too, but the latter four may be considered too daunting for smaller riders and first timers.
Crucially, none of these competitors can beat the Himalayan on price. That sub-$7K factor should be enough on its own to ensure it gets a decent foothold in the Aussie market.
While set up and styled as an adventure tourer, the Himalayan is not trying to be the last word in this arena. It’s more of a commuter and roadster that you can confidently explore on beyond the city limits.
Simple, understated and eminently affordable, the Himalayan will be up for just about anything that the average rider expects of it – and you can’t ask for more than that.