The Royal Enfield Himalayan isn't exactly an all-new bike. It has been around since 2016, when Royal Enfield introduced the company's first adventure-touring motorcycle. The Himalayan also got the first counterbalanced engine on any Royal Enfield, but the first carburetted Himalayan has had its fair share of complaints from owners, particularly about reliability and mechanical issues. Last year, the Royal Enfield Himalayan got two significant updates. First, the Himalayan was introduced with fuel-injection, and late last year, Royal Enfield also introduced dual-channel ABS. And now, we got to spend some time with the new RE Himalayan ABS, to see how much has changed.
What Has Changed, What Hasn't?
The design and overall silhouette of the Royal Enfield Himalayan remains the same. It's a love it, or hate it, sort of design. We like the functional, and almost industrial, bare-bones design, and it looks built to take on a lot of hard work. The overall design, body panels, cycle parts and even the engine remain the same. The engine also remains the same 411 cc, air-cooled engine, which puts out 24.5 bhp of power at 6,500 rpm and 32 Nm of peak torque at 4,250 rpm.
The chassis, suspension, wheels and tyres also remain the same, as do the instrument panel and lights. But what has changed as mentioned earlier, is that the Himalayan now gets fuel-injection and standard dual-channel ABS. Those are the only changes, but they have made the bike feel different; the throttle response has improved, and so has stopping power, but we'll get to that in some more detail.
Also Read: 2016 Royal Enfield Himalayan Review
How Does It Perform?
The 411 cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, single overhead cam engine has the same output as before, but what it now gets is electronic fuel injection, and the difference is apparent from the time you press the starter button. The engine idles steadily with reassurance, and what has definitely improved is the acceleration. The fuel-injected engine feels smoother and more responsive than the earlier carburetted engine, and shift quality on the five-speed gearbox also seems to have improved significantly. Although shift quality is precise, it's not exactly slick by modern standards. The clutch though is heavy, and if you're caught in a bumper to bumper situation, working the clutch over and over again won't exactly be a pleasant experience.
So long as the traffic is moving, the Himalayan is a relaxed performer on tarmac. The engine's got a strong low and mid-range, and you don't really need to keep working the gearbox to keep momentum going. But this is not a high revving engine, so the Himalayan still is happiest when you play with the torque and let it pull leisurely, rather than trying to get to triple digit speeds in a hurry. Out on the highway, you will get to around 125 kmph if you push it, but at those speeds, the engine isn't the happiest.
Despite being a counterbalanced engine, the 411 cc single has more or less the same characteristics as either the Royal Enfield 350 cc or 500 cc engines. The only minute difference is that it revs a little bit more, but that doesn't translate to any real performance gains. Cruising at 90-100 kmph is where the Himalayan's sweet spot is, but at higher speeds, the vibrations on the handlebar, footpegs, seat and fuel tank will begin to get bothersome after sometime.
Handling and Braking
Handling on tarmac, for the most part, is predictable and neutral. This isn't a bike to hustle around a set of corners, neither is it designed to be ridden that way. But the traditional double-cradle chassis keeps things taut and predictable, and even when taking on the occasional sweeping turn, the Himalayan feels planted and stable. But more than the motorcycle's ability, it's the lack of feel from the front end which will discourage you from pushing it hard around a corner. Of course, there's the large 21-inch wheel, but the dual-sport Ceat tyres don't offer the confidence to push the bike around a fast corner.
One of our grouses with the first generation Himalayan was in the braking department. And now, Royal Enfield has introduced standard dual-channel ABS on the Himalayan. Yes, there's a definite improvement in the braking department, but the two-piston caliper gripping the single 300 mm disc doesn't quite offer the bite or confidence to shave off triple digit speeds in a hurry. And the ABS isn't switchable as well. So when you're riding off-road, over loose surfaces and the like, the intrusive ABS becomes disconcerting, and sometimes downright disturbing. But that small windscreen, upright riding position and easy ergonomics make it easy for a long day in the saddle, and couple that with a sorted ride quality, it's quite the comfortable mile muncher, as long as you're not in a tearing hurry to get anywhere.
With an 800 mm seat height, the Himalayan is easily accessible to riders of different heights and build, and reaching the ground with both feet is easy for my near 5 foot 10 inch frame. The low seat height will be helpful to wade across mountain streams with a rocky bed, or across mud and slush when the going gets tough. And the 32 Nm of torque ensures you will chug across most obstacles and rocky or sandy terrain without a care in the world. And speaking of rocky terrain, the Himalayan also offers 220 mm of ground clearance, and a standard engine bash plate, so no worries about oil spilling out of a broken crank case, or getting stranded while tackling such terrain.
The 21-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear wheel combination of spoked wheels is perfect when the road ends and the going gets tough. The tyres which feel somewhat vague around a sharp corner on tarmac now begin to show their purpose. They are nowhere near comparable as more expensive and proper off-road knobby tyres, but grip levels of the Ceat tyres over gravel and sand are quite satisfactory. The 41 mm front fork isn't adjustable, but offers 200 mm travel, and that means there's no bottoming out, even when you are jumping over rocks, ditches and sandbanks. And yes, the rear monoshock also offers 180 mm of travel. With a kerb weight of 191 kg, the Himalayan isn't exactly light, but it's still light by adventure bike standards, so even when you end up dropping it, it's easy to pick up, straddle and ride on. And in case you break something, it won't cost you a fortune to repair, or replace.
The Himalayan's performance on tarmac may not exactly be earth-shattering, but once the road ends, and the trail begins, its easy-going performance makes things a lot simpler. Even riders with limited or no exposure to dirt riding will find the Himalayan's stability and off-road capability a whole lot of fun. At ₹ 1.79 lakh (ex-showroom), the Royal Enfield Himalayan is the most affordable adventure touring motorcycle available in the market right now. With a strong sales and service network, and easy availability and cost of spares, it's also easy to live with. And that's the Himalayan's biggest strength.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan is a simple, bare-bones motorcycle which is affordable, approachable and is built for a leisurely two-wheeled adventure. It's not an out and out motocross bike, or has the performance to make you pull a wheelie in the dirt, or even pull off a proper power slide. If you're looking for a modern, sophisticated and performance-oriented adventure motorcycle, you shouldn't even go looking at the Himalayan, because it may leave you seeking a lot more, because this is no Triumph Tiger or BMW R 1200 GS.
But if you're looking for a simple, affordable and easily accessible bike to ride some dirt trails without being overwhelmed with performance or expensive repair bills, the Himalayan is just the right bike for that kind of job. Affordability, accessibility and versatility are its biggest strengths, and with that price tag, there's no other motorcycle on sale right now which offers those qualities. In fact, riding the Himalayan over a couple of days, you begin to appreciate its simplicity and the capability it offers, and those are the main reasons you should consider one.