Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

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Royal Enfield Himalayan Review

Post received 24 May 2020

By Crofty (aka Steve)

I bought my Himalayan new and kept it for about 18 months during which time I did about 10,000 miles. I went around the top of Scotland twice and a Lands End to JOG with Nathan's Garbage run. 

I enjoyed riding the bike. The low seat height made it easy to ride and the sedate performance didn't get you into too much trouble. The bike was cheap to run with mid 70s to the gallon. The front tyre and chain were still good after 10k so I have no reason to believe it would be hard on consumables. 

The Royal Enfield Himalayan in a field with large straw bales painted to look like Beano Characters

Services at 3000 miles made the bike for me inconvenient. Dropping the bike off to be left overnight to do the valve clearances every 3k meant I had to co-opt the wife to pick me up and drop me the next day or get the bus to and fro. With no courtesy bike available I did my own servicing.

I had my share of problems. 

Misting up clocks, more annoying than dangerous but often it became difficult to read the instruments. I had them apart numerous times to clean them and insert silicone sachets to absorb moisture, I eventually drilled holes in the casing to allow air to circulate but it never really went away. 

The timing chain runs on the left hand side of the block and the head at that point is secured by two 35mm M6 bolts. Many examples of oil leaks here, not enough to jeopardise the oil levels but just an annoying spray of oil over the engine. I eventually sorted it with slightly longer bolts and dowty washers.

After the first year and about 6 thousand miles the front brake began to seize. It became apparent when pushing the bike out of the garage, it felt like a puncture. You couldn't push the bike easily. I tried to clean the caliper in-situ to free it off but impossible so off it came.

Steve's bike on a lightly snow covered layby atop a hill in Scotland, looking very bleak
 
I tried to buy another from the dealers but no brake spares were available in the UK so I took the bike off the road till I could fix the problem. The dealer in Edinburgh wasn't interested because I was servicing the bike myself, fair enough. I bought a replacement caliper from India so that I could have a working spare. 

At 5k the back tyre needed replacing. I changed it to a Mitas 07, a tyre which I have used on other bikes and like. I couldn't get the tyre to seat in spite of using loads of tyre lube and 70 psi so I took it to a motorcycle tyre specialist. He gave me the wheel back and it looked fine. I had to deflate it to add some slime for the upcoming Garbage run and when it was deflated it became apparent that it was till hanging up on the rim. 

I changed to an Avon Distanzia and had the same problem and it eventually seated at over a 100 psi with a loud bang. Maybe I just had bad tyres but the thought of trying to fix punctures out on the road weighed heavily on my mind. 

This winter it was the turn of the rear caliper and I had to strip that one, by this time the front was getting sluggish and it was becoming likely that this might be a annual event. 

The final straw came when the bike wouldn't start and was just dead. The battery was fine, I went over the bike with the multi meter and everything seemed OK. Eventually a dealer on the forum said open the starter switch and spray with WD40, turns out it's common fault and maybe a poor switch design. It happened to me 3 times and you just never knew when it was going to fail, another potential nightmare of worry. 

Those are the problems I had, many on the RE forum had as many different ones, failing batteries, seized headsets etc.

They have a reputation as tough little bikes which I think stems from the fact that it might let you down but it will never leave you stranded, as you can always get it going assuming you have the knowledge to tackle all the little faults. In the end it just got too much work for me keeping it going. I got cold this year as I'm getting on a bit and just decided to change it out for a Honda scooter. 

Sorry if this reads like a list of faults, they have many good points. Cheap to purchase, very capable off road, you can drop them without too much going wrong. But as for me I'd had enough and as a friend of mine from Yorkshire says "it's a mending bike".  

Steve stands by his Enfield against a beautiful rolling hills backdrop


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Reader's Comments

Bogger said :-
Looks like I'll be giving one of these a miss then. Honda scooter eh. Feet forward is the way forward?

Bogger
05/06/2020 10:07:14 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Interesting. I had heard that Enfield's build quality / reliability problems were behind them but maybe not.
06/06/2020 10:06:36 UTC
Snod said :-
You lost me at 3K intervals for valve clearance checks. Ain't nobody got time fo' dat.
06/06/2020 12:06:55 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Thanks Crofty.
It sounds like it might be a while before I buy an RE.
WIGN would any engine require servicing to that extent at 3000 miles.
No wonder there's a lot of roadside mechanics in India.
Upt'North.
06/06/2020 01:34:32 UTC
nab301 said :-
The misting clocks does seem to be a problem when reading on dedicated forums . I have Japanese bikes with low
mileage recommended valve clearance checks but in general these can be extended. All the newer Japanese/ British /Italian bikes I have owned seem to have problems with brake calipers needing maintenance so i guess it's not just Enfield but in reality it's down to caliper manufacturers and the perception that bikers don't ride in wet/ winter conditions?
Nigel
06/06/2020 02:13:32 UTC
Henrik said :-
Thanks for the review Steve

I was close to get this bike, but went with an GW250 Zuma instadt, for exactly reasons like you described here

Every now and then I ask myself if I should try the RE insteadt, nice to be confirmed that to just avoid it makes sense

The Zuma has now done a milage compared to yours, with absolutely nothing to complain about, and no regrets

When worn out I might likely just replace with a DL250 ,... to continue same way with no problems
06/06/2020 03:13:44 UTC
Upt'North said :-
What is it about motorcycle brake calipers, I think they all stick.
Are cars any different? Perhaps you just never feel that drag in a four wheeled appliance.
I think I probably rode for no more than 4 or 5 wet hours all last year, but, you've guessed it, all three calipers required pre spring cleaning.
I cannot honestly remember the last time a car brake piston gave an issue.
I did go to town with them this spring so we'll see what they're like next year. Stuck solid probably.
Upt'North.

06/06/2020 04:31:50 UTC
crofty said :-
Thanks for the comments, hope it was of some help if your thinking of one. I wanted to keep it for years and do lots of touring on it. My last bike was a NC700X and i did 60,000 miles of touring on it in 6 years and i don,t ever recall looking at the calipers other than to change pads and brake fluid. I didn't run it over the winter to be fair.
I ran other Honda's over the winter though, a Transalp and a CRF250l and don,t recall having as any problems with brakes.
I think the RE Interceptor has better build quality,or perhaps should i say better choice of components. The first Himalayan the BS3 was truly horrendous with faults, so much so that RE rethought the whole bike with the BS4 which is the model most of us have here in the UK. However I think a few things slipped through but by that time RE were on a roll with the Interceptor & Continental GT.

06/06/2020 06:59:56 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Brakes - pfffft! The front Brembo on my SLR650 gave me nothing but headaches and hassle. Damn thing was seizing up the day after a rebuild and it would never bleed happily. The nasty, cheap, overly simple and slack tolerances of the Grimeca on the CLR125 City fly on the other hand could be ignored without issue permanently. The "Blue Spots" on the Fazer were finicky and needed regular care, the CBF125's Nissin is tolerable with some regular strip downs.

Car brakes are not as pretty Upt' (usually) but they live within the wheel which helps keep DIRT off, and brake dust on which seems to prove oddly advantageous. They're much larger and built to slightly less tolerances which as with the Grimeca above seems to help. Also the pistons usually have a full rubber covering so that keeps dirt out from between the piston and barrel and prevents the rusty piston issue.
06/06/2020 08:35:46 UTC
Bob said :-
Thanks for the honest appraisal.
Most of the faults you list sound typical of the result of under-development, which is not surprising since it's an all new platform for Royal Enfield.

The British winter has done for many a brake caliper on many a bike. Some have a reputation for sticking, the famous Blue Spots being prime candidates. I find in general the Brembos are best.
My KLX has Nissin and they're about middling for salt sensitivity, in winter after every ride I spray the calipers down with the hosepipe, I've done this for years and I very rarely need to rebuild a brake caliper.

My friend had an MT03 which regularly misted its clocks, a common fault on those bikes.

The 3K service interval wouldn't bother me, I change the oil on my KLX every 1000 anyway. Fortunately the valves only need a check every 12000, but they are shim under bucket so it's a lot of work if they need changing.

It reminds me a lot of the time I bought a nearly new Ural. It never actually left me stranded but it was just one-thing-after-another, constant niggles and in the end I'd had enough - pretty much as you had with the Himalayan.

Car brake calipers don't tend to seize because they have proper rubber gaiter seals on them, in the same way that car suspension units have rubber gaiter seals. Bikes used to have covered fork stanchions and early bike brake calipers had proper external piston seals - I remember changing them on a 70's Honda.

Fork stanchions became uncovered some time in the 80's because it looked cool and sporty, I don't know why the brake calipers lost their seals. Too many design decisions on bikes are taken on the basis of needing to look cool, rather than needing to be reliable and long lasting.

The first job I do on any bike I buy is to fit fork gaiters, but I can't do anything about the brake calipers.

07/06/2020 09:43:43 UTC
Upt'North. said :-
Bob, when you're right, you're right.
My 750f2 1978 vintage had piston boots, had that bike for about 15 years and never touched the calipers or pistons other than lubing the slide pins at pad change time. I wonder if with a lot of modern multi piston designs it would be difficult to find room for the boots. I can only remember seeing boots on the single piston sliding calipers.
I know someone will chime in to say the other fitments.
Upt'North.
07/06/2020 09:59:10 UTC
Womble said :-
Interesting bike report Ctofty and seems very consistent with what I have read elsewhere. The Himalayan is one of those bikes I would really like in my garage. But there is always that worry about the build quality. A couple of times now I've gone to the dealer with the aim of buying one but refused at the last hurdle ie putting my hard earned down on one. I've got 4 bikes at the moment and am trying to get down to just the one that will do everything I currently need from a bike but finding it a difficult process. But think maybe that the Himalayan is now off that list.
07/06/2020 01:00:29 UTC
Upt'North said :-
You all know in about 10 years time someone will chime in with, "I've had one of these for ten years and never laid a spanner on it".
Upt'North.
07/06/2020 01:32:09 UTC
nab301 said :-
For me, Brembo gold type bike calipers have always been good and Nissin type calipers have been bad , obviously some bikes have rear calipers mounted "upside down " under the disc and this can be a bad thing too , Suzuki Bandit , Guzzi Breva being two that I've owned.
I work in the automotive (cars) aftermarket parts area and we sell plenty of calipers and discs . I was only having a conversation with a garage owner recently and he agreed that in recent years Discs on cars have become consumables , whether it's pad material is harder on the discs or Disc material is poorer I'm not sure . 30yrs ago you would change pads , but rarely discs. We do get requests for calipers for some relatively new cars ( maybe 3yrs old ) and then older popular models maybe with malfunctioning electronic handbrake systems.
Guzzi underslung caliper in photo after a dry summer..
Posted Image
07/06/2020 02:02:33 UTC
Jim said :-
As I understand it when they stopped putting asbestos in brake pads the pads got harder, and so they made the steel in the discs a little softer. Certainly discs used to last a lot longer than they do now. It's rare I don't replace both.
08/06/2020 08:22:17 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Likewise Jim, can't remember the last time I didn't change pads and discs together on a car. My Pan still has its original fronts at 67,000 miles but the rear was replaced at 50,000 because of possible cracking issues. It gets hot back there and I had experienced rear brake failure.
Does anyone remember the "Good Old Days" when Japanese bikes came with very hard and shiny discs, they never wore out, you couldn't stop either but they never wore out. If there was any water on the disc, which obviously rarely happens in the UK (?!?), the disc would make a lovely sizzle noise with no accompanying braking effort. Sweet memories.
Upt'North.

08/06/2020 08:55:28 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
It's decades since asbestos was used in brake linings / discs. And generally my cars only need pads unless the disc has been scored due to a sticking caliper or similar. But I'm one of those folk who don't use the brakes too much....

Yes, early Japanese discs were horrific. But the one on my Commando wasn't much better in original form. If it was pouring down you'd apply the front brake - nothing would happen - so you'd pull it harder. By which time the water had been swept off and the brake came on and locked the wheel. The best discs in those days were cast iron but had the annoying tendency to go rusty.
08/06/2020 10:03:32 UTC
Bob said :-
I rode a CB200 once, it had a stainless front disc and cable operated brake caliper.
It didn't work in the dry, never mind in the wet!

To add to the role call of modern discs, I've just had to change both front and rear on one of my KLX250s at 30000 miles.
08/06/2020 10:55:53 UTC
ROD said :-
Dropped in to a local motorcycle shop yesterday, and had a close look at a Himalayan.
It looked very well thought out and well put together.
14/06/2020 08:06:49 UTC
Jack the Lad said :-
I had one of these for 2 years and 15000 miles without any of the problems mentioned in this test. It replaced an Enfield Bullet that did 30000 miles in the 4 years I had it.

I rode it in all weathers all year round, but didn't do the off road bit. A couple of warranty issues with a leaky rear brake master cylinder and a failed engine temp sensor, but it always got me home under its own steam.

3000 mile valve clearance checks were a nuisance, but I would have skipped every other one if I'd kept it after the warranty expired and just had it done at the 6000 mile service intervals.

Only sold it because my dodgy hips made it difficult to get on and off. I've got a scooter now, but might be tempted by the new Enfield Meteor 350.
17/11/2020 02:08:32 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Cheers Jack the Lad. I can understand perhaps checking the valves every 3k when the bike is new and everything is settling down but you're right, after the warranty and 10k miles every 6k should do the trick.

I'm seeing a lot of media attention to both the Enfield Meteor 350 and Honda's H'ness 350 too. What's not certain is if they are coming to the UK, which country are you in Jack? The Meteor has a fairly low seat and there's an even lower seat option which might make life easier on the dodgy hips. Mind you, is it worth it? There's some cracking scooters out there these days.
18/11/2020 09:07:09 UTC

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