FIRST RIDE: ROYAL ENFIELD HIMALAYAN
BY: FREDDY LEXX
PHOTOS BY: SIMON CUDBY
It’s a never-ending race of one-upmanship amongst motorcycle manufacturers with bigger, faster, and more capable adventure bikes ruling the roads. But what about folks who aren’t keen on doling upwards of $15,000 on a new ADV rig? Royal Enfield entices would-be adventurers with its simple, handsome, and affordable 2020 Himalayan, ringing in at $4749.
Named after the tallest and arguably most rugged mountain range, the Himalayan is a British designed, and Indian assembled light-duty dual-sport bike. It is powered by a simple 411cc air-cooled single and drinks fuel from a 3.96-gallon tank. Fuel-injection and electric-start make it easy to get rolling, even if treading in the oxygen-deprived mountains it’s coined after.
Power is delivered to a 17-inch spoked wheel through a five-speed transmission, manual clutch, and left-hand side-chain final drive. An aluminum skid plate shields the engine from harm when testing the limit of its 8.6-inch ground clearance.
With 24.5 claimed horsepower, the Enfield isn’t going to win any drag races, but that’s okay. If you’re fresh into a motorcycle-riding career or don’t desire the amusement park-like acceleration rush that many liquid-cooled motorcycles are capable of, the RE fits the bill.
What it does deliver is a mellow stream of propulsion netting friendly launches away from stoplights. Substantial vibration is felt through the controls— enough to cloud the vision of the rearview mirrors. The overall dynamic is more rudimentary feeling as to other name brand bikes. But then again, what name brand offers a new street-legal adventure bike for less than five grand, with a two-year warranty? Enough said.
The Himalayan is capable of freeway speeds, but we wouldn’t say quick-paced touring-style riding is its “happy place.” Instead, it is most comfortable cruising at moderate highway speeds. In a hurry? This isn’t the bike for you.
Compared to other contemporary bikes, at any price, the Enfield’s braking performance is crude and under-performing. A considerable tug of the brake lever is required to shed speed—strange considering the size of its 300mm front disc, twin-piston caliper, and typically higher-quality stainless steel brake hose plumbing. ABS takes the worry out of aggressive brake application with it mitigating wheel lockup no matter how hard the brake lever or pedal is yanked — a plus for novice riders. Furthermore, the rear ABS function can be disabled when riding off-road for improved control.
Sitting on the Himalayan reveals a motorcycle that will fit a range of riders, both short and tall. The rider seat height is reasonable (31.5in) and the slim powertrain makes for a narrow and easy-to- straddle bike. It weighs 439 pounds with a full tank of fuel. On the road, it feels lighter than its curb weight implies. The handlebar is a tad narrow, but its bend is suitable for a majority of riders and conditions. The windscreen does an adequate job of blocking wind and making for a more comfy ride.
The fork offers nearly eight inches of suspension travel, with just over seven inches available out back. The suspenders do a fine job of filtering bumps and generally work well on most surfaces. It is undoubtedly on the soft side, but that’s okay.
Rolling on a real dirt bike-sized 21-inch front wheel, the Himalayan is capable of treading beyond the pavement. The wheel size helps it climb over obstacles — the problem is it lacks the muscle to power through the rough stuff. But then again, if you’re seeking a friendly riding steed with mule-like capability, this Indian-made bike is up for the task.
The OE-fitted Pirelli MT60 tires get the job done and are well-matched to the RE’s capability. Of course, riders that want to travel well off the beaten path can fit a more aggressive front tire. However, matching rear tire options will be more difficult to source due to its road-oriented 17-inch wheel size (18-inch wheel fitment would expand off-road tire options).
Instrumentation is functional and has all the basics. However, the display appears a tad hokey-pokey versus the more slick-looking LCD and/or color displays used on other bikes. Still, we can’t knock it too hard based on its price.
In terms of affordability, you simply can’t beat what Royal Enfield offers with its Himalayan. It is a worthwhile option for casual riders looking to occasionally dab into the world of motorcycling, without much wallet risk. Full-time American riders, on the other hand, will likely bemoan its meager performance and rough around the edges build quality. But if you can live with those gripes, Royal Enfield has 120 dealerships in the US and Canada if you want to experience the nostalgic feel of an Enfield.