No product of Royal Enfield has ever excited me. I don’t know the reason, may be because their products are too loud, too heavy and there are too many of them on the road. However, the launch of the Himalayan did get my interest level high and I have been looking for an opportunity to get my hands on it. The perfect opportunity came in last week when I and my immensely experienced rider friend Ameya Inamdar got an opportunity to test the Himalayan On and Off road.
On “the” day we walked into the Royal Enfield- Brahma Motors were asked to take a seat while the person in charge was notified. The ambiance of the showroom instantly made me realize that Royal Enfield is not just selling bikes but “biking” as a lifestyle to Indian masses. The showrooms are now one stop shop for all the gear and accessories that a rider will ever need. So you can walk into Royal Enfiled showroom wearing shorts and tee shirt and ride out with your new bike and all geared up, ready to get Leh’d!
My thought trail was broken by the sight of the black Himalayan that appeared before us. Before swinging my leg over it, I took some time take a good look at the bike and all the stats that I had studied about it started making sense.
The front 21″ spoke wheels with 90/90 Ceat tyres that were placed on ground by 41 mm telescopic fork and 300mm disc with twin-piston caliper that had steel breaded lines. Then there was the round headlamp that was not fixed on the handle but on the shrouds that extend from the fuel tank on either side. The headlamp didn’t move with the handle which means that one has to do the guessing game when maneuvering over turns in dark.I wondered, Why isn’t the projector headlamp from Thunderbird was used? May be because the Royal Enfield wants the headlight to work even when the battery is dead ? Preparing for real life scenario ?
There are very few bikes in India that have seamless integration of the front and and the tail sections. Himalayan is surely one of them.The minimalist design stands out well and defines the slogan “Built for all roads. Built for no roads” very well. The 17″ rear spoke wheel with 120/70 Ceat tyres inspire confidence. To add to it there is a 240 mm single piston caliper disc brake. So no cost saving there and there shouldn’t be any when you have 150cc bikes that have disc brakes at the front and at the back. However, I would have been delighted if ABS was available, at least as an upgrade. But the new government law about ABS will take care of that in the year 2017, I hope. The rear suspension is a link-type mono shock that has 180mm travel. I couldn’t wait more to hit the road and to put the suspension to work.
I swung my leg over the bike and quickly understood that 80 mm seat height is going to be an issue for short riders. Think about getting on and off the bike when you are all suited up and there is a saddle bag that rear seat. Now imagine riding for all day long and the difficulty on getting down and back again when your body starts giving up.
The seating position is relaxed and the foot pegs are front biased but no heel shifter. The heel shifter would have added more convenience in changing gears I believe. Also, the brake pedal should have a bit wider to save any foot slipping instances. I was immensely surprised with ease I could turn Himalayan in the traffic, as the turning radius is great. What is not great is the short handle bar. It works well on straight roads but I felt a bit of cramped up during turns. The console hosts an array of information where besides the usual stats you also have a compass. The design of the console is nothing to boast about but nothing to complain.
The upswept exhaust gels well in the design. There are dedicated slots for panniers which I think is a functional part of the motorcycle and a great aide for the long distance rider.
I soon started riding on the road and soon I realized that Himalayan sounded different that the usual “Thumper” Royal Enfields. The 411 cc engine with 24.5 PS power and 32 NM torque all available from 2500 RPM made the ride easy and not overwhelming or difficult in stop and go traffic. There is just enough power to keep moving, not less nor more. Riding in city traffic even with luggage or a fat friend wouldn’t be an issue. Himalayan is equipped with carburetor which I think is made to keep the cost low, but Royal Enfield claims that this will aide the rider or the mechanic to tune the air-fuel mixture as per the riding conditions. I personally don’t buy this idea.
We then reached the off-road track, I purposely carried more speed than I usually do and the Himalayan with all its bell and whistles supported me very well. I was cruising on the “No road” effortlessly and the bike was not complaining at all. On few occasions I tried panic braking and the Himalayan obeyed and kept the straight line. I wish it was raining, as the mud would have really made the riding more fun and would have tested the character of the bike and my skills.
Riding up and down on the non-existent sand and rocky trial was fun and the Himalayan made it very easy. Even Ameya has enormous fun push thing bike to “his” limits and he thoroughly enjoyed the foot-peg therapy. I wished the front visor gave more clear view of the obstacle ahead, especially when climbing up.
At the end of the ride both of us agreed on below points.
- With introduction of Himalayan, Royal Enfield has got a solid option for folks who like going off-road on weekends but want to use it to commute between home and office on weekdays as well.
- The minimalistic and functional design works really well.
- It is good bike for long touring but only for straight roads. It is not quick and certainly not enjoyable on curves.
- The short riders will have issues.
- At approx. 1.75 Lac ex-showroom, it is a descent package.
With Himalayan, Royal Enfield has not only developed a new product that is functional but has started a new chapter for themselves wherein folks won’t connect over the “Thump”, instead they will cherish the new terrains they discover with the Himalayan !
I am sure that other manufacturers will take a note of the success of Himalayan will launch products specifically to complete against Himalayan. This will bring healthy competition in affordable off-road segment in India and will in turn benefit the Indian customer. Till the Himalayan will make it dominance felt.