If you’ve just stepped into the world of off-road adventure riding, look no further than the Xpulse 200 and the Himalayan.
Today, the motorcycle market is full of ADVs. Adventure biking has become one of the most aspirational forms of riding, something that reflects in the fact that almost every manufacturer’s product portfolio seems incomplete without an ADV. I know many people who aren’t avid bikers, and yet they dream of an epic motorcycle journey. There is something simple, yet magnificent, about adventure riding, which motivates a lot of people towards adopting or at least experiencing this lifestyle.
Many a time, both new and seasoned ADV riders make the mistake of thinking that bigger is better. They invest in a massive motorcycle and then install all kinds of accessories – loading up the bike a bit too much. Now, riding a big heavy bike is no way to learn how to handle yourself on rough and uncertain terrain, and riding big bikes doesn’t necessarily make the experience more fun. If we’re talking about highway touring, then yes, comfort and power make all the difference. However, if you’re looking for a real off-road adventure, ask as many experts as you want, and you will get the same reply – smaller is always better.
Now, it’s true that the market is full of ADV motorcycles to choose from, but, since our focus is on those who are looking to just get into off-road riding, we will restrict ourselves to ADV bikes that are meant for beginners. And here there are two bikes in the Indian market that stand out, both in terms of price – they are the most affordable in the segment – and performance. In fact, these bikes have been made for the global market and not just for the Indian market. And both these machines have earned the reputation of being well built and highly capable ADVs.
Okay, let me first introduce the less expensive of the two – the Hero Xpulse 200. Now, it has just been launched in its BS6 variant. This little enduro can also be used for everyday commutes, which makes it perfect for almost any surface.
The second on our list is the all-mighty and highly popular Royal Enfield Himalayan, which literally needs no introduction. The great thing about these bikes is not just their capability and easy-riding dynamics but also their affordability. If you want to get into ADV riding, then proper riding gear is just as important as the machine. So, investing in smaller and cheaper motorcycles also allows you to save some money for good and appropriate riding gear as well.
The Xpulse gets a simple, yet very refined, 200cc single-cylinder engine, and, in its BS6 avatar, it also gets oil cooling. Its power is rated pretty low, at 18bhp and 16.5Nm of torque. Given its off-road purposes, it gets a 21-inch front tyre with spokes and 190mm of suspension travel. It also has excellent ground clearance of 220mm. It comes with a metal plate as a sump guard, a high front fender, and an enduro-styled seat. What is especially good about the Xpulse is that the chassis is strong and compact, and the bike weighs just 154kgs. This makes it very easy to manage in all conditions.
In the past, we have had opportunities to ride the bike on all kinds of surfaces, but, for this test, we decided to hit the beach and some muddy trails. You can literally throw this bike around without a care in the world, and if you happen to fall down, you can quite easily pick it up and start again – something that’s difficult to do on bigger bikes. Also, it saves you a lot of energy, allowing you to ride on bad roads for longer periods.
The Xpulse gets ABS only at the front, which means that you can play around with the rear and learn to slide – which is super fun on a light motorcycle. Even if you’re an absolute beginner, you can learn to be confident on this bike much faster, allowing you to have more control at higher speeds. Its power is manageable for everyone, and throttle inputs won’t scare you at all. The point I’m trying to make is that this bike will make you a fast learner, inspire more confidence about your riding skills, and make your learning experience more fun.
Sure, if you have to do some highway riding, you shouldn’t expect much at all, but once you find those dirt trails or rocky paths, you won’t have to think twice about flying over them. The age-old saying of riding – ‘It’s better to ride a small motorcycle fast than a big motorcycle slow’ – couldn’t have been truer in this case. In short, this little Hero will have you conquering rough terrain in no time.
The go-to Guy
The Himalayan has won the hearts and minds of all kinds of riders, including old-timers from the global ADV circuit. Although it’s not a small bike, as it weighs nearly 200 kilograms, it’s still a super comfortable and highly accessible machine for all kinds of riders. Taller riders will find the Himalayan more accommodating than the Xpulse, as its seat is lower, handlebar is wider, and positioning is higher and further away from you – making standing up on it much more enjoyable on bad roads.
The Himalayan’s engine is a 411cc single that offers just the right amount of power and torque for both off-road fun and highway cruising. It also gets the same off-road kit as other ADVs, such as a 21-inch front tyre with spokes, switchable dual-channel ABS, a high fender, luggage mounting racks, a metal sump guard, and knobby tyres. Suspension travel at the front is very impressive at 200mm, which is very practical because of its heavy weight. Its ground clearance is also 200mm.
The Himalayan was designed to be the perfect bike for Himalayan excursions, and that’s why it can handle serious off-road terrain very easily. The bike is very narrow, which allows you to grip the tank comfortably. Its suspension effortlessly absorbs everything that comes in your way. This bike is built like a tank, and with 32Nm of torque, it can climb over all kinds of surfaces.
In short, it’s the go-to bike for anyone looking to invest in a fully capable, well-built, easily fixable, ride-around-the-world motorcycle. The seating ergonomics are great for long hours of riding on the highway. The chassis and suspension are perfect for all kinds of terrain, and the simplicity of the engine makes it reliable and highly practical for all styles of riding.
Because both these bikes are affordable, easy to maintain, compact, and highly durable, they can also be used as everyday machines. In fact, both bikes, at the time of their launch, were presented as urban ADVs for the Indian market. In India, massive 1,200, or even 800cc, ADVs are not manageable for everyday use, and the prices for some of these bikes are beyond exorbitant.
The bottom line is that you can go on an adventure on any motorcycle. I have been going to Ladakh for years on an RE Bullet, have done a Rajasthan Tour on an Apache RTR 200, a US tour on a Harley Davidson, and have travelled through Europe on a sports bike. However, if you like to stay off-road as much as possible, or if you want to properly learn off-road riding, then it’s always better to stick to the basics, and you can’t learn the basics on anything better in India than these two motorcycles. So, skip the big and fancy ADVs and focus on the smaller underdogs for the most effective and fun learning experience.
- Hero Xpulse 200
- Royal Enfield Himalayan
Engine: 199.6cc / Single Cylinder / Oil-cooled
Power: 18bhp @ 8,500rpm
Torque: 16.45Nm @ 6,500rpm
Price: ₹1.12 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-factor: The only road-legal enduro motorcycle in the country.
• Light & easy to ride
• Priced to please
• Cramped riding position
• Not enough grunt
Engine: 411cc / Single-cylinder/ Air-cooled
Power: 24bhp @ 6,500rpm
Torque: 32Nm @ 4,500rpm
Price: ₹1.99 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-factor: A near perfect machine for a mix of urban, highway, and off-road riding.
• Great suspension
• Overall comfort
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