Prefer Tibetan yak butter tea to Starbucks after your adventure ride? The Himalayan might be for you.
Royal Enfield is bringing its “purpose-built for adventure” Himalayan to the United States in the summer of 2018, and they’ll sell you one for $4,499. That’s an easy entry into the adventure market, but what does your money get you?
While the Himalayan’s stayed true to Royal Enfield’s no-frills tradition, it’s an all-new platform, not a Bullet in trail clothes. The half-duplex split-cradle frame is suspended by a long-travel (200 mm) front fork and a monoshock with linkage (180 mm travel) at the rear. The front wheel’s 21 inches and the rear is 17 inches, both spoked and disc-equipped. The seat height is 31.5 inches, just a bit taller than Suzuki's V-Strom 250. A manageable seat height helps greenhorn adventurers feel confident in the saddle. Riders with more experience will hold their rulers to the bottom of the bike and find nine inches of ground clearance. With a four-gallon tank and a curb weight of 410 pounds, the Himalayan sounds adventure-worthy so far. But is the engine up to the task?
Royal Enfield’s LS410 engine is about as simple as a modern four-stroke gets: a single-cylinder, oil-and-air-cooled SOHC. LS means “Long Stroke,” and Royal Enfield intends their thumper to perform its best at low revs where the torque (26 foot-pounds) can do its thing. The 411 cc lump makes a peak 24.5 horsepower at 6,500 rpm. Earlier versions of the Himalayan in other markets got carburetors, but the U.S. models will feature fuel injection. That will make some of you very happy and others not so much. I like the idea of being able to adjust my air-fuel mix at the carb as I climb the foothills of the Himalayas, but I’d use that feature about as often as I use the 200-meter dive rating on my watch. Fuel injection it is, then.
In addition to the analog speedometer and tach, instrumentation includes a compass and an indicator to let you know which of the five gears you’re in. Again, it's a basic bike, but that's the point. Royal Enfield says they wanted to build a motorcycle to simply “traverse the terrain, the way it’s meant to be. Purpose built for all roads and no roads, the Himalayan has not been designed to dominate its awe-inspiring environment, but to flow in perfect harmony with it.” It’s not in danger of any dominating with that power output, but for an adventure motorcycle under $5,000 new, that’s to be expected. Look for accessories like hard bags and additional fuel storage if you'd like some upgrades.
As for the styling of the bike, I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. Royal Enfield is famous for making classic motorcycles, and the Himalayan reflects that tradition with a few modern additions. The headlight, windshield, crash guards, and silhouette look old-school, but the dash, exhaust, discs and controls say otherwise. The stylized Himalayan branding is fairly subtle, but it’s one of my favorite touches, along with the luggage-ready mounts under the seat. It could be the basic, rugged package many of our readers have been asking for. The U.S. gets white and graphite paint, but I expect more colors after that.
What kind of motorcycle is the Himalayan?
So who’s going to buy this Royal Enfield? It’s an obvious candidate for fans of retro style. It could compete for the attention of riders interested in the scrambler segment, as it sports the de rigueur wide bars, semi-knobbies, and kicked-up pipe. Hey, it’s higher than Ducati’s Scrambler exhaust, so I’m calling it close enough. The Himalayan’s also a bargain proposition at the lower end of the ADV spectrum, coming in less expensive than the the likes of Kawasaki's little Versys-X 300 or BMW’s G 310 GS.
How the Himalayan fares in the States remains to be seen, but riders around the world have already had them for a while. I’ve seen praise for the bike’s Little Engine That Could, as well as the overall styling. However, more than a few owners wish for better on-road braking performance, and of course more power from the engine. One Himalayan rider replaced his LS410 with a KTM 390, continuing the Universal Law of Everything Gets Engine Swapped Eventually.
Buyers seeking a faster Enfield could test ride the new 650 Interceptors, instead. RE also announced that those models, recently unveiled at EICMA, will come to the United States in the second half of 2018 "with a target price of less than $7,000."
Oh, and finally, in case you have doubts about modern Royal Enfield engines: Indian Army personnel just set the Guinness World Record for most people on a single moving motorcycle. Their Royal Enfield 500 moved 58 riders down 1,200 meters of runway at Yelahanka Air Force Station. The same group, called the Tornadoes, held the previous record of 56.