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Royal Enfield Himalayan Test Ride Review

Ride Date - 13 January 2018

By Ren Withnell

The Royal Enfield Himalayan in a motorcycle ShowroomPurposeful as opposed to pretty.

I've already declared my interest in the Himalayan - A Look At The Himalayan. While meeting with friends at Millenium Motorcycles one of the Himalayans was parked outside declaring itself to be a demonstrator and to ask inside for details. I did and I've ridden it. Here's my thoughts.

The kindly salesperson takes a moment to show me around the controls but she needn't have bothered - the switchgear looks like it was made in the same factory as Honda. There are no "modes", no "screen options" or any settings at all. If you like gadgets then you're already on the wrong bike. Well actually...maybe not? On the dash there's a peculiar little dial showing "NE". I'll keep an eye on this.

The engine starts easily and the noise from the motor reminds me not of Japanese sewing machines with delicately and precisely tuned exhaust notes. No, this makes me think of 1980's BMW boxers, Guzzis and even Eastern Bloc Urals and Cossacks. It's more hollow, metallic and mechanical. 

The lower part of the engine is big and bulky
It sounds old school and agricultural - but is it?

I set off and everything is exactly as it should be, I had expected it to feel a little unrefined and agricultural. While the engine noise is not familiar the operation of all the controls are smooth, easy, expected, predictable and friendly. The clutch engages like any other, the gearbox is an ideal balance between Honda's "Clunk but it's in there" and Suzuki's "Snick but did it engage?"

Through the housing estate I am immediately at home, I like this bike already.

At 191kg a lot of people have said that it's blooming heavy for a 410cc bike. It's only 5kg lighter than my CB500X and that's a lard ass. While this is scientifically correct it *feels* lighter, slimmer and more man-handle-able than my 500, it feels more like a solid 250. Around town it is a peach to ride with excellent balance, smooth controls and effective brakes.

The rear brake on the Himalayan is marked Byrbe
I have no idea who BYRBE are - but the brakes work just fine.

Out in the countryside - well - despite it being a dual purpose on-off roader at 60mph through some high speed bends it is a little less at home than my 500. I'm not scared or even concerned but it's not as planted and sure footed. In the real world you can't have everything, those fat road tyres on my 500 are better at high speeds but blooming useless on anything other than dry gravel. 

Nor is the power there. At lower speeds despite having more torque than Sharon's 250 is doesn't respond to the throttle sharply, it gains momentum rather than squirts you forwards. On the motorway 60mph is fine, 70 feels like we're pushing it a bit. The redline is a lowly 6,500 rpm and at 70 we're already around the 5,750 mark. 

I am not an off-roader, nor do I know of any tracks to ride the Himalayan along around here. The best I can do is potter across a pot-holed and gravel strewn car park while stood on the pegs. For myself at 5 feet 8 or so inches standing on the pegs is fine and I sense that it is happy on rough stuff, happier than my 500. It feels less twitchy and more at home on this kind of surface.

The peculiar dial on the clocks is a compass. "NE" is North East, "S" is South and you can work out the rest. I'm not at all convinced about it's accuracy though. There's also an ambient temperature guage on the dash. Today it's showing 19 degrees. If that's Fahrenheit then I ought to be hypothermic, if that's Celsius then I ought to be sweating. I'm not sure of the accuracy here too.

So what's my opinion?

It is a great bike and I like it a lot. It is easy to ride, as refined as any Japanese bike, it has good luggage potential, it's comfortable and I enjoyed riding it. But...

I am used to commuting and sometimes even touring on a 125. For my self riding along a motorway at 60mph is relaxing, pleasurable and serene. The thing is nearly all of the other motorcyclists I know would pull faces and grumble at this pace - Sharon included. While the Enfield is capable of 70mph and more it feel happiest at 60 or so. If speed is your thing then you're on the wrong bike.

This bike is ideal for proper, real exploring. It's best at going down that lane to see where it leads to and weaving around city traffic looking to find interesting markets, cafes and bazarres. It is ideal for riding along at sensible speeds taking in the scenery. As far as I'm concerned this a bike for adventure riders who want to see, explore, indulge and immerse themselves in a place and not whizz through it.

If I were stood in Ulaanbaatar with 12 months to spare and the opportunity to travel the Steppe, the 'Stans, the cities, the mountains, the countryside and the people then I would choose the Himalayan over my 500 for sure. I'm not quite so sure I'd swap my 500 for the Himalayan here in Blighty where motorways and tarmac are king, cities all look the same and dirt roads are mostly off limits.

Think old but very well maintained Land Rover Defender versus Kia Sportage.

All the above comes with one big proviso. The Enfield needs to prove itself to be both reliable and economical. 

We'd be happy to share your reviews on the Enfield or any other motorcycles on Bikes And Travels. Send them to ren@bikesandtravels.com

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Reader's Comments

Daf said :-
Wow. Interesting write-up; looks promising. I'm a bit horrified about the cruising speed and low redline. It sounds like they could have done with slightly taller gearing to absorb the torque from the long-stroke engine. I'm used to low redlines - I have a Harley which redlines about the 5500 rpm mark. But the gearing is tall enough to make it useful.

I wonder if a Himalayan 650 based on the new twin will be more applicable for as an adventure bike for Britain?
18/01/2018 13:32:25 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I have heard a rumour that the new 650 twin motor will be shoe-horned into the Himalayan.

I don't know how I feel about this. I personally object to the notion that we need big speed here in the UK or anywhere else but then having the 500 I also understand that it's nice to have. I guess if they stick the 650 motor in people can make their own choice.
18/01/2018 14:18:50 UTC
Pete J said :-
18/01/2018 15:27:03 UTC
said :-
The BYBRE brakes are the one that are fitted to the BMW G310R (also made in India) and I think that they are made in India by BREMBO.
19/01/2018 15:23:15 UTC
Bob said :-
I've just ridden one too!
I loved it - it was comfortable, flexible and smooth.
On the dual carriageway it was 60-65MPH as a cruising speed and it felt like it would do that all day. In traffic the engine made good torque for the traffic light drag strip, it was necessary to re-calibrate my brain a little because the rev range of the engine is so low. It'll thump along at under 3K RPM in top gear and accelerate smoothly from there.
The gearchange was good, suspension soft but not wallowing and the brakes were fine as they felt like they were in balance with the rest of the machine - it's a gentle bike and it likes to be ridden gently.
I thought the build quality looked good, in fact the only complaint I can raise is the the screen was a little too low and caused buffeting of my head.
All in I think it's stunning value for £4K and is on my list of bikes to consider next time.
19/01/2018 17:01:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Thanks for the info regarding BYBRE brakes - who ever you are.

Bob - I'm really glad you liked the bike! I was expecting you to have some firm words about the weight of the bike considering your recent love affair with the Kwakker 250. It is a fine thing to ride, everything looks, feels and works as it should.

I have my reservations regarding longevity but it may prove to be a "good un". Let's face it it's hardly in a stressed high state of tune. I'll be interested to see the fuel economy too.
20/01/2018 13:01:01 UTC
Mike said :-
I have been waiting for its release for a while. I took it out for a morning courtesy of qb motorcycles, the wife went pillion for a while and we were both really happy. Deposit down for an end of march delivery. This will be an ideal commuter and daytrip hack!

Demo ride on the himalayan
24/01/2018 20:42:17 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Great news Mike! I'd really like to hear how you get on with the bike particularly over the long term. It's one thing to ride a motorcycle around the local area for an hour it's another thing entirely to rack up miles.
25/01/2018 10:26:45 UTC
Bob said :-
Yes, please do let us know how you get on with it.
I have seen reports of engine troubles but I'm convinced that's down to owner abuse. The long stroke engine is a peach IMO, but I'm sure that if you took one and tought you'd sit on the motorway at over 5000RPM all day you'd be in for trouble, ride it how it wants to be ridden and I don't think there'll be any issues.
I really did enjoy my test ride on the Himalayan. I don't buy new bikes but I might end up with one of these in a couple of years.....
25/01/2018 11:41:33 UTC
David B said. said :-
Waited from last May 2017 when I took my EFI in for part exchange for a Himalayan and got it March 2018. Am I happy yes very much. I have run it in at below 4000 revs and had the first service at 3500mls. It felt very tight at first but as the miles piled up the engine felt very usable and free reving. The clutch and gear box are a solid shift but smooth in action but I find first gear slightly tall for town work. I find it very comfortable to ride with the soft seat and wide bars at the right height and the foot peg position makes the seating position very comfey for my 5ft 8in. I do find it a problem getting astride the bike with the ali panniers but I just get a foot on the left foot peg and swing my leg over and its totally stable on the side stand and a centre stand comes with the package and is very easy to roll the bike on.. I have used it on all types of roads including Motorways and have found it happy cruising down the Motorway at 65-70 and can overtake the lorries with no problem going up to 70-75. The handling is near as good as my CBF 1000 and have complete confidence swinging around wet roundabouts even with the on/off road tyres.
09/04/2018 16:36:59 UTC
David B said. said :-
Continued from above. Service should read 350 mls. I have now covered 580mls and nothing has come loose or fallen off. The bike is very stable at speed but the screen could be a little higher. My thoughts at the moment well worth the money but dont look at one if you want to tear around these are comfortable smooth running pleasurable bikes to ride and with 80 MPG what more could you want for £4199.OTR
09/04/2018 16:47:29 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
It is really really great to hear from owners and I'm glad your enjoying the Enfield. This could cause a shift in the whole market because the price is at the opposite end of the spectrum from BMW. Cheers.
09/04/2018 16:58:33 UTC
Rod said :-
Ren, I think this could be the competitor, not BMW.

Suzuki 250 V Strom.
09/04/2018 20:45:21 UTC
Henrik said :-
I agree so much with Rod :-)

Cool how the zuma-engine is used once again in thier 2 latest 2018 bikes, promissing for longivity in spares
10/04/2018 07:32:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I did not mean the BMW was a competitor - I mean that the Enfield is poles apart from the big BMWs. Adventure bikes have been getting bigger and more powerful and indeed more expensive. Then along comes Enfield with an less powerful and better priced machine. If the Enfield proves to be a big seller it will affect the whole market. Maybe we'll see fewer big sill models and more sensible real world models.

The Strom 250 and the Enfield - hmmmm. I see the Enfield as being more dual-sport and off road capable. I'd be interested to see what off road skills the Strom has.
10/04/2018 08:44:15 UTC
Rod said :-
Sorry Ren, I thought you were saying that with the lower price of the Enfield, the BMW riders would be looking at changing to an Enfield.

How many Adventure bike riders actually take their bikes off road?, and if they do how many use the full potential?
10/04/2018 10:12:54 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
It's another one of those personal things Rod. While I myself will take in a few farm tracks and the odd trail I'm certainly no bona fide off roader type. However I know quite a few adventure bike owners who do go quite seriously off road.

So as ever it'll be horses for courses.
10/04/2018 10:32:50 UTC
Henrik said :-
None of the new "adventures" are off-road, but some are very decent travel-machine, some with bigger tanks, and better position etc.

The only one that comes near something off-road is CRF250, and only very very partly.

Its all style and wannabe

DL250 strom and the Royal Enfield are 100 pct road-travellers also IMHO

Their weight versus power being much on par as far as I remember, so maybe an analogy is not that far out

Himalayan is not available directly in DK, some of the others in same range are though, and the pricing is terrible, like 70-80 pct more than the little v-strom, (being already to expensive imho).

I dont believe they will sell any Himalayan here, and thats likely why we dont see them at stock at all in the first place.

Not even the import believes in it, so to say
10/04/2018 10:46:08 UTC

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