It was roughly two years ago when Royal Enfield announced their new middleweight adventure motorcycle, a purpose-built machine designed to take on the rugged Himalayan mountain range. For decades, people have been riding Royal Enfields around India’s Himalayan mountains but the historic brand wanted to produce something better-suited to the terrain than their Classic and Bullet lines.
The concept for the Himalayan first began to take shape around 2011, originally designed and built in India for the Indian market. The idea was to produce something more modern (for Royal Enfield’s standards) and more off-road capable, featuring a single rear shock, generous suspension travel, an overhead camshaft, disc brakes, fuel injection and a 21″/17″ wire-spoked wheel set. Yet they also wanted a back-to-basics motorcycle with simple air/oil-cooled 411cc engine, analogue gauges and no electronic rider aids.
It had to be appealing and accessible to a wide range of riders too, so Royal Enfield gave it a low seat h, torque-tuned motor, nimble handling, and kept the nostalgic styling the company is known for. Over the past two year, the company’s efforts have been rewarded with strong sales overseas, and now they’re finally bringing it to the US. Better yet, it’s coming with an affordable price tag of just $4,499.
Recently we got our first chance to test the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan at the Press Intro in Midlothian, Texas, where we explored some of the area’s backcountry roads and off-road terrain. Read on to find out our first impressions on this new middleweight Adventure Bike coming to North America.
One of the first things you notice about the Royal Enfield Himalayan is its distinctive styling. There’s nothing quite like it in the Adventure segment. It’s outfitted with a chrome-framed round headlight, rounded fenders and petite windscreen for a classic look, while the crash bars, wide handlebars, long-travel suspension and dual sport tires telegraph its rugged intentions. Somehow this mix of contradictory styles blends seamlessly together in a design that’s pleasing to the eye.
Frames are welded robotically at Royal Enfield’s state-of-the-art Chennai Plant.
It’s not without a few quirky features though, like a fuel injection system with a choke, separate ignition and fuel tank keys, an electronic compass on the dash just to name a few. According to Royal Enfield, the bike uses a simplified EFI system and the choke was included to help with cold starts in the high elevations of the Himalayas.
One of the nice touches, for a bike in this size range, is a center stand that comes standard. Plus the Himalayan also comes equipped with a small rear luggage rack, decent-sized serrated steel pegs, and upper crash bars that can also be used to carry RotopaX fuel containers. Suspension is non-adjustable other than a rear preload setting (adjusted using tools) but it does offer a respectable 7.9 inches of travel up front and 7.1 inches in the back. Ground clearance is also generous at 9 inches.
The Himalayan comes equipped with a luggage rack so you are ready to get out and explore.
Large bar-end weights help keep vibrations down on the highway but the Himalayan does not come equipped with hand guards.
With a fairly-tall suspension, getting the seat h to a manageable 31.5 inches (29.9″ with the low seat) wasn’t easy. Royal Enfield did it with careful consideration of the geometry and a scooped out seat design that has you sitting down low in the bike rather than on top of it. Putting feet on the ground is made even easier with a seat that is narrow in the front, allowing your legs to have a more direct path to the ground.
Firing up the Long-Stroke single for the first time, the exhaust note is quiet but has a nice thump to it. It’s not as distinctive as the Royal Enfield’s push rod engines, but it has character. Redline comes on at 6,500 rpm, which implies its an under-stressed motor and an oil change interval of 6,000 miles also helps keep maintenance costs down.
On the first ride down the block, I noticed the Himalayan’s clutch lets out late and it has a slightly heavy pull for a small-displacement bike. Even so, fueling was good and it was easy to get off the line. Going down the road, the 411cc single pulls strong in the lower RPMs for a smaller motor. The counterbalanced engine is also smooth at slower speeds and only exhibits some vibration under wide-open acceleration.
As far as the ergos, the Himalayan has a laid back almost cruiser-like seated riding position. The h and reach to the bars feels nice for long rides, and the small windscreen blocks wind up to about chin level while being low enough to stay out of your line of sight.
There was not much more than a hint of vibration on the highway thanks to tall gearing, large bar-end weights, and a long-stroke motor that keeps the revs low at 65 MPH. The Himalayan’s saddle also proved comfortable with its wide shape and ample padding. Foot pegs have a slightly forward position compared to your typical dual sport, which helps reduce knee bend for taller riders (I’m 6’2″). Although, I did notice my knees sometimes rubbed on the upper crash bars. It wasn’t a problem with padded knees but if you wear jeans when you ride, it could be.
The Himalayan’s gauges are compact, but small numbers are a little hard to read for aged eyes. The digital compass is a nice touch and makes us want to leave our maps and GPS behind for a real adventure!
On several long straights, I tucked in behind the fly screen to explore the Himalayan’s full power. Acceleration won’t ‘wow’ experienced riders but it is adequate for passing around town. The highest indicated top speed I achieved on our short highway stint was 75 mph, although it felt like it could reach low 80s with more room time to accelerate. The torque-oriented powerband feels like it maintains speed well but the Himalayan could use more power for long rides on the interstate highways of the US.
Riding at a brisk pace on backcountry roads, the bike feels stable at speed and the braking power is good from the single 300mm front rotor, yet it does require a firm two-finger squeeze to stop quickly. The Himalayan’s low pegs do touch down early during aggressive riding but otherwise, it felt nimble and flickable in the turns.
Eventually, we settled down into a more-comfortable pace and it was then that I really felt the enjoyment of riding the Himalayan. The bike likes to cruise along more than it likes being pushed. It encourages you to experience the world around you and reminds you it’s not about the bike but the ride itself.
Having some fun in the mud on the Royal Enfield Himalayan.
Royal Enfield designed the Himalayan to be good on both the street and dirt, with a bias toward off-road. And once we turned off the asphalt, the bike felt like it was more in its element. The suspension is surprisingly good for a bike in this price range. It absorbed bumps well and didn’t Pogo or wallow like you might expect. Damping and spring rates were adequate for a larger rider, and several jumps and g-outs at speed didn’t bottom out the suspension.
A short reach to the ground, and a relatively light weight of 401 pounds, makes this bike feel unintimidating in the dirt. Its tractable engine with mild power also helps make it easy to ride off-road for a novice. In fact, it would make an excellent learner bike for those looking to develop their off-road skills.
A more experienced rider can still have a great time on the Himalayan though. That is, as long as they don’t have high expectations on performance. You can ride it fast and it’s got a big enough performance envelope to get your thrills, but if you are looking for a strong dose of adrenaline, this isn’t the bike.
With its soft power delivery, experienced riders wanting to push the bike may find it difficult to get the rear tire spinning (steering with the rear) or get the front wheel up. The scooped out seat also limits your options for transferring weight for different terrain, and getting your weight over the front wheel to maximize traction proved challenging in the seated position.
The stand up ergos feel more like a dirt bike than when seated. Bars are a good h, even for taller riders, and the bike doesn’t feel cramped. The serrated pegs were nicely sized and grippy with the rubber covers off, although feet did get knocked around more often in the rutted out terrain due to the low peg position. I also noticed the rear subframe bows your legs out around the calves when standing. And if you’ve got big feet, the right side exhaust under the pegs intrudes on heal movement a bit.
Despite some limitations for hard-edged off-road riding, the Himalayan was a lot of fun on our muddy test course and everyone seemed to be enjoying the ride. The bike was nimble and easy to manage on the slick trails, even with road-biased 70/30 Pirelli MT60 dual sport tires. A few test riders did have tip overs but the Himalayan seemed to take a fall well. No broken or scratched up plastics, a broken mirror was the only casualty we saw.
The Bottom Line
Royal Enfield is the oldest continuously produced motorcycle company (since 1901) and also the fastest growing. Much of the recent success is due to their focus on fun, accessible, and affordable middleweight motorcycles. With the Himalayan, they’ve created a back to basics bike; what motorcycling used to be. And with its combination of accessibility, ruggedness, unique styling, and affordable price, its the kind of bike that could open doors to a whole new group of motorcycle owners.
Clearly the Himalayan is a great adventure bike for newer riders with a great price, but experienced riders can also enjoy and appreciate it too. Even if you own a big-bore adventure tourer or a high-performance dual sport, this might be the perfect second bike for more casual expeditions. There are also a lot of riders that are getting up in age and their backs aren’t up to lifting a dropped 600-pound motorcycle anymore.
Royal Enfield’s new state-of-the-art production plant in Chennai, India has instated rigorous quality standards. Every Himalayan is also put through a 100-point inspection when it arrives in the US before shipping out to dealers.
Royal Enfield has generated a lot of excitement about their new middleweight ADV Bike but there is still some questions people have about quality control. To address this, Royal Enfield put in place much stricter controls and inspection processes in recent years. They also opened a state-of-the-art 50-acre production plant in Chennai, India in 2017 where the Himalayan motorcycles are produced.
The Himalayan has also been in production for two years overseas, so its already had a shakedown before coming to the US. The Royal Enfield dealer network has been steadily growing in the US as well. All great signs for the launch of the Himalayan and future success for the historic brand. We look forward to getting our hands on a Himalayan for more extensive testing. Stay tuned for more to come! New Himalayan motorcycles are currently in route to the US from India. Look for them on dealer floors mid-April 2018.
2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan Specs
Single cylinder, air-cooled, 4 stroke, SOHC
Bore & Stroke:
78mm x 86mm
Max. Power Output:
24.5 BHP @ 6500 RPM
70 MPG (estimated)
Gearbox / Transmission Type:
5 speed constant mesh
Half-duplex split cradle frame
Telescopic 41mm forks, 7.9 in. (200mm) Travel
Monoshock with linkage, 7.1 in. (180mm) Travel., preload adjustable
Dimensions (L x W x H):
86 in. x 33 in. x 53 in.
31.5 in. (29.9 in. low seat)
300mm single disc, 2-piston floating caliper
240mm single disc, single piston floating caliper
12 Volt DC
12 Volt, 8 AH VRLA
12V H4 60/55 W
Snow and Granite
GEAR WE USED
• Helmet: Arai XD-4 Vision • Jacket: REV’IT! Dominator GTX • Pants: REV’IT! Dominator 2 GTX • Gloves: REV’IT! Dominator • Boots: Falco Avatour • Bluetooth Headset: Sena 10c