I’ve never been an RE guy, but I’d be lying if I said their latest bike never had me interested. They have done some very innovative work as far as marketing this thing goes, the latest video is very well made. As soon as the test ride bike arrived at the showroom, I was there with a bunch of friends for the Royal Enfield Himalayan review.
We rode this thing on the highway, through traffic, into dirt, with and without pillion, just to test out every little aspect of it that we could. A day well spent I suppose!
This Royal Enfield Himalayan review is divided into 3 sections to keep things nice and organized:
- Positives: Things which kick ass
- Negatives: Things which don’t kick ass
- Fixable negatives: Things which don’t kick ass, but can be improved with a little mechanical love
Royal Enfield Himalayan review: Positives
Let’s take a look at the positives first, and the thing that stands out here the most is ergonomics and comfort. Everything is spot on, the handlebar position, the footpegs, the switches, the seat height, the fuel tank width. It took me barely a few seconds to get used to this bike and be at home with it, both sitting and standing up.
Vibrations are there, but far lesser as compared to any other RE you might have ridden. It depends on the bike that you are coming from, if you are used to Japanese refinement, the Himalayan will feel rough. I’ve come from a Duke 390, so the vibrations were pretty OK for me. Same goes for the engine heat, which was fairly manageable and nothing too distracting.
The clutch is light, gear shifts are smooth, throttle is precise, brakes work fine, and the bike is pretty nimble on its feet. Since the Himalayan weighs 182 kgs dry, I had expected it to be a bit difficult at slow speeds, but not only is it brilliantly easy in U-turns thanks to the sexy turning radius, you never really feel the weight, even at standstill.
Which brings us to the power. Now I’d thought that 24.5 bhp would not be enough, but in my ride experience, it’s just about. I was able to hit a top speed of some 135 kmph indicated, although I don’t think it’ll ever touch 140, because this speed was on a slight downhill section. The first 2 gears are very usable, the first one takes you to 50-ish, and the second one is good till 80-ish, with the third taking you well past 100, followed by the 4th and 5th which are mainly meant for highway speeds and better fuel economy. The windscreen was very effective in preventing wind-blast at higher speeds, although it might be a bit less useful for taller guys.
It’s effortless in slow traffic, it’s easy to power through mud, and it can sit at 110 kmph on a highway, even with pillion or luggage. I’d call that good enough.
Next up is ground clearance, which is just phenomenal at 220mm. Even with a pillion, jumping over rocks or pavements was no big deal at all. My Duke comes with 170mm of GC, and I have scraped its bottom far too many times than I’d have liked to. This would be a welcome change!
The third positive is what all you get in the standard package. With many companies, especially the premium ones, the base price of the bike gets you just that, a bike. If you want any of the additional bells or whistles, you gotta pay for them. With the Himalayan though, you get the bash plate, fly screen, 15 liter fuel tank, beautiful instrument console, and partial fitments for luggage/fuel among other things as standard fitment. There’s going to be a bunch of official accessories too that you can buy to customize your ride, but the base package is thoroughly impressive.
The 10,000 kms of service interval is just plain awesome. I’m not good at taking care of my bikes, and a machine that can do 10,000 kms without oil change is exactly what a lazy cunt like me needs. Also, the fuel economy is pegged at some 35 kmpl for real world conditions, which combined with the 15 liters of tank gives a very tasty 500+ kms of range.
Finally, the price. The Himalayan has been priced exceptionally well, not only against the competition, but existing RE models as well. Do keep in mind the ex-showroom Mumbai price 1.56 lacs now that we’re moving towards the negatives of this thing.
Royal Enfield Himalayan review: Negatives
The most immediate problem when you see the bike for the first time, is the fit and finish. I don’t mind ugly bikes, I’d always prefer function over form, but for many out there, the Himalayan might be a bit too bare bones. The build quality is not bad, although the plastic cosmetic touches around the bike are fairly flimsy and prone to fall off.
Lack of switchable ABS was a problem for sure. The brakes are good, but it’s hard to gauge the limits of traction on those CEAT tires. The rear is very easy to slide, and the front would be difficult to manage if it lets go. I know a lot of people feel ABS is not required for off-roading, but the problem with that logic is this:
Riding is not like a game of Counter Strike. You don’t just directly spawn in the middle of nowhere.
Normally 50% of your so-called off-road ride will be through tarmac, where ABS is essential, especially in a country like India.
A lot of people also seem to have some sort of sexual fixation with spoked wheels, but they are never really able to explain enough why I should prefer spokes over alloys. If you know the answer, feel free to comment and we’ll try and have a discussion. My problem with spoked wheels are tube tires, which lead to very messy punctures. Rim bending happens far less as compared to punctures, so I’d like to be prepared for the thing that’s expected to happen maybe 5 out of 10 times, rather than once. I have bent the rims on my 390, repaired them, and done some 25000 kms since, all while enjoying the safety net of tubeless tires.
One thing that really surprised me about this bike was the lack of a kick starter. It’s supposed to be taken through the middle of nowhere, just depending on self-start to get things going isn’t the brightest idea. Push start in the middle of the Himalayas sounds easier than it actually is.
Royal Enfield Himalayan review: Fixable negatives
The biggest problem when you ride the bike, is the sound.
The Himalayan sounds like a Hero Honda Splendor with a damaged piston. The Himalayan sounds like a Classic 350 with a can of Pepsi for the exhaust. The Himalayan sounds like a tractor engine that’s flooded with water.
The sound is too metallic, tinny. Every time you downshift it backfires like a bitch. It is fun, but only for the first 3 kilometers or so. Then it’s really annoying.
On top of that, the test bike seemed to have some sort of rattling sound coming out the front every time you gave it the beans. It might have been nothing, but weird sounds on an RE generally mean something is about to fall off, so I was a bit scared.
If I ever happen to buy one, the exhaust is the first thing that’s going to change, and a bottle of Loctite should be handy.
The mirrors are absolute shit, and a bit pervy too. After every few minutes you can find them staring blankly at your dick. Change them immediately.
The carb didn’t cause much problems during the test ride, but I think things are going to be different up in the mountains. I don’t like to get my hands dirty, and I don’t really know how to tune a carb, or even clean it for that matter. EFI would have been much better, but I guess a bigger carb would also do the trick, along with a better air filter, spark plug and the exhaust.
The footpegs are too small. When I tried to stand up with the foot on the rear brake and the knees clamped on the tank, my legs were touching the super hot engine. Aftermarket pegs should be easily available, or make some of your own.
Royal Enfield Himalayan review: Final thoughts
That’s it, this is all I have to say about the Himalayan for now. I’m very impressed with this machine, but that might be because I didn’t expect anything from RE to begin with.
It’s probably the only bike out there right now that can do everything with at least 80% proficiency or better. It’s good for commuting, nice on the highways, and brilliant off the road, with the unique ability to keep your pillion happy all the way.
But would I buy one? No, not yet.
Royal Enfield’s reputation precedes them, they have never made anything that isn’t constantly breaking down.
On top of that, every new bike, right from the small street bikes, to S1oooRRs and R1s, face problems with their initial batches. There’s no amount of testing that can prepare a bike for the real world, and I expect many updates to be made to this thing over the course of the next 6 months.
RE has changed, and I like the direction they are going in now. I’m not a purist, I don’t give a single shit about thump or brotherhood or heritage. If the Himalayan is able to stand the test of time, I’ll buy one. All I ask of RE is for a premium version with EFI and ABS. I will pay for it, and I’m sure a lot of others will too.
In any case, I can assure you of one thing. This year’s Raid de Himalayas will have a lot of Himalayans in it.