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RE-engineered to tackle the hills and the highways

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 17, 2016

Royal ride: The Himalayan is an adventure tourer that is at ease in the dirt and on the tarmac - Photo: DHRUV SETHI

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Himalayan-tech-spec

The Himalayan shakes things up significantly while managing to hold on to its Royal Enfield DNA



I come from the city where Royal Enfield makes its bikes, but driving out from Chandigarh towards Shimla, it quickly becomes obvious that their spiritual home is up here in the hills. As we go up the winding ghat roads to the British summer capital, every so often we pass a Bullet trundling uphill - weighed down by the kind of baggage that a Himalayan expedition necessitates.

Despite how common they are on these roads, it’s safe to say that none of Royal Enfield’s existing lineup of motorcycles is particularly comfortable in Himalayan conditions. The big beastly Bullets have built up a reputation of being go-anywhere bikes over the years, but that reputation is fuelled more by their legendary thump than their capabilities.

Enfield’s newest offering however, is purpose-built to be an adventure tourer. Like other Enfields before it, the Himalayan doesn't pack a lot of horses, but has enough torque to last a lifetime. Unlike the other Enfields though, it is tall, agile, has a great suspension and has been designed with the express goal of treading tough terrain for extended periods.

Autofocus spent two days putting the Himalayan through its paces on the best and the worst roads we could find in the vicinity of Shimla and while the extreme conditions got the better of us frequently, the motorcycle proved more than equal to the challenge.

Design

The Himalayan may look nothing like any of Royal Enfield's previous motorcycles, but the company insists that it still carries the Enfield DNA. "It does not have the tear drops and the triangles, but it is still clean, rugged and honest," says Sivakumar, the industrial designer who gave the Himalayan its contours.

From the large windscreen in the front, to the luggage carrier at the tail and the engine that is sculpted for maximum comfort while standing and riding in off-road conditions, it is apparent that every aspect of this bike's design reflects a clear sense of purpose. And the purpose, in the words of Eicher Motors CEO Siddhartha Lal, is to create an unintimidating adventure tourer which is equally comfortable on and off the road.

Even the instrumentation, which features a compass and a thermometer alongside the usual speedo, odo and tacho, clearly declares that this bike is meant for long distance riding. It doesn't hurt that the retro analog dials combined with the odd digital display gives the entire cluster a very classy look. Build quality and the level of fit and finish is excellent as well.

The bike rests on large 21-inch (front) and 17-inch (rear) tyres, which are ensconsed under extremely elevated wheel arches. Despite this, the seat is relatively accessible even for shorter riders, although the rear might prove a challenge for saree-clad signficant others.

Performance

The 411cc single-cylinder long stroke engine that powers the Himalayan is the first new mill to come out of Enfield stables in several decades.

The air-cooled power plant behaves much like Royal Enfield engines have always behaved – lacking in power with a measly 24.5 bhp but delivering a generous 32 NM of torque. And in keeping with the unintimidating and accessible positioning, the Himalayan finds its comfort zone in the balmy region between 4500 rpm and 6500 rpm, abandoning the higher revs to the speed freaks on their pocket rockets.

The classic Royal Enfield thump is gone, replaced by a bassy, but smoother note that is still pretty good on the ear. Also gone is the rattle of incessant vibrations that emanate from the bowels of the engine. Thanks to the counter balancer in the LS410 mill, the Himalayan feels much more refined than its siblings.

Our ride, restricted to the heavily trafficked Shimla roads and the dirt tracks nearby, did not afford us the opportunity to push the bike to its limits in terms of speed. In fact, the extremely tall first few gears ensured that we rarely went past third over the course of the weekend. But thanks to the overload of low-end torque, even the lower gears are enough to keep even the most rev-happy biker interested.

The position of the foot-pegs means that the Himalayan is not the kind of bike that encourages knee-down cornering, but it is quite maneuverable and extremely stable.

Braking, which is handled by discs in the front and rear, has a gradual bite that will prevent kneejerk locking in tight situations – which we invariably found ourselves in around every other bend on the blind, twisty ghat roads.

The suspension – telescopic in front and monoshock in the back – is an absolute dream that gobbles up bumps and potholes like a fat kid in a sweet shop. The Himalayan feels so at home on the off-road stretches, that it actually becomes a little dull to ride it on normal tarmac afterwards.

Verdict

There’s a little bit of the Himalayas in every Indian city.

Whether it’s that rain-wrecked section of road that resembles a mountain trail, or the construction prone area that is littered with loose debris, the Himalayan will ensure that your daily commute is entirely uneventful. But on the weekend, it promises to do the opposite, opening up vistas filled with spectacular sunsets and starry nights far away from home.

With its rugged and understated design, phenomenal torque and obdurate stability, the Himalayan is an exciting new part in Royal Enfield’s long and storied history. And this chapter is going to appeal to more than just the phat-phatiya crowd.

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Published on March 17, 2016
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