A breathtaking view of a valley with snow-capped mountains reaching for the sky lies ahead. The sunlight dances on the snow, casting a glow on the majestic Himalayas. I race towards this spectacle at speeds that would make one flinch – speeds that not only require a high calibre machine but also a touch of madness from the rider. At this moment, I seem to possess both. A quick glance at Google Maps on the instrument cluster tells me there is a sharp curve ahead. Another glance on the road tells me that missing the turn would lead to a one-on-one with the Almighty himself. I hit the brakes, visualise my lines, select the apex, while my mind echoes, ‘Out-in-out’, followed by a whispered reminder, ‘stick to your lane, moron.’ Adjusting my body position, I shift my bum, open the knees, and position my toes on the foot pegs – I’m ready to attack the corner. Oh boy, I slam the brakes hard, the suspension compresses violently while the nose of the motorcycle dives with a cry of mercy. It’s all or nothing, now! A couple of quick downshifts through the brand-new 6-speed gearbox engage Engine Braking. Leaning into the curve, I hit the apex and gently open the throttle to full. The valley resonates with the howl of the intake from the shiny new engine, building to a crescendo in symphony with the exhaust only to be abrupted by an upshift. And, as it turns out, my meeting with the maker of all is deferred to some other fateful day.
Did I just carve a corner on the Royal Enfield Himalayan?
Royal Enfield Himalayan Review: No More Excuses!
By now, you are most likely familiar with all there is to know about the Himalayan in terms of features, specifications, and intricate engineering details. So, here, I will focus on my personal experience of riding the new Himalayan, with the hope of offering you an insight into why it is the most impressive motorcycle I have ridden this year. A lot unfolded as I navigated one of the fastest corners I have taken on the partly constructed Himalayan roads. However, what didn’t occur was a doubt in my mind about the Himalayan’s capability of handling it. And that’s exactly what encapsulates the essence of the new Himalayan –Royal Enfield has pulled out all the stops to instil such confidence in the rider. This remarkable achievement is a result of a clean-slate approach, building a new motorcycle from the ground up, taking into account the feedback received over nearly a decade of the older Himalayan’s lifespan. During this time, the engineering prowess of the Indian automaker also evolved and matured, which is clearly evident. While there is always room for improvement and nothing in this world is perfect, the fact remains that the Himalayan is its best motorcycle yet.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Review: The Fountain of Youth
Royal Enfield’s biggest strength, and perhaps its biggest challenge too, lies in its decades-long history and established image. Even today, this legacy defines the essence of Royal Enfield motorcycles, like in the case of the Classic, the Bullet, and even the 650 twins. But the Himalayan is still in its early stages compared to some other nameplates in the company’s line-up and is still finding its way. Departing from the allure of retro charm, the yet-to-be-a-teenager has embraced a geeky personality, aspiring to be in the company of cool international offerings in the Indian market.
A dual overhead cam, liquid-cooling, forged piston, a semi-dry sump lubrication system, aluminium bore, ride-by-wire, twin-spar frame, upside-down forks, dual-channel rear-switchable ABS, a 310mm front disc, a 270mm rear disc, riding modes, and a fully-digital instrument cluster – all these elements combined in a package might not align with the conventional perception of a Royal Enfield offering. Yet, these features, among others, are incorporated into the new Himalayan. And the list doesn’t end there as it even features a larger 17-litre fuel tank, an instrument cluster with a full-screen Google Maps display with call and music controls, that can be managed through a five-way joystick on the left switch cluster. Although, using Google Maps on full screen drains your phone’s battery faster than an Indian paparazzi can mispronounce Zendaya.
The new Himalayan, then, is a modern Royal Enfield in terms of features and equipment, except for the oddly missing cruise control.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Review: The ‘Ready-to-Party’ Sherpa
Let’s get back to the riding experience. The motorcycle’s standout feature is undeniably its engine, and the most notable revelation that you get from riding it is that it’s a complete departure from your expectations. While it can leisurely putter around at low RPMs, especially under the 3000rpm mark, it’s not at its best in this range. It took me a while to grasp this nuance, for the bike doesn’t feel as eager at lower speeds. However, when you open that throttle, its transformation is nothing short of profound.
This engine likes to be revved and encourages you to do so with every upshift. Add to that its very capable chassis and suspension, and the result is a motorcycle that invites spirited riding, urging you to push it to the limits. The wide handlebar, the slender waist, and the confidence-inspiring brakes give enough feedback to engage in trail braking, execute an off-throttle dip mid-corner, and accelerate like a fugitive fleeing a crime scene. What’s more, the story doesn’t end even when the road does.
Standing up on the bike offers you great grip around the tank, without feeling unnatural. While some may feel that the Himalayan is top- and front-heavy, it’s precisely this characteristic that allows you to ride much faster than before in varied conditions. Standing up on the pegs while navigating off-road trails allows you to confidently load up the front, without worrying about the rear, which is also true for the tarmac. It’s for the simple reason that the constant feedback from the front which allows you to anticipate the motorcycle’s response to your inputs even before you execute them – a trait that is rare in modern bikes and especially in the case of adventure motorcycles.
And despite its cornering and off-roading capabilities, the Himalayan continues to retain its ability to seamlessly tour on highways. My only concern is that novice riders unaccustomed to riding big adventure motorcycles may find the bike to be intimidating, owing to its top-heavy nature. Imagine taking a slow U-turn and placing your foot incorrectly – the feeling of a top-heavy motorcycle tottering can be daunting enough to entertain the idea of simply letting it fall. So, be sure to undertake a thorough test ride to determine if you’re ready for it before going ahead with the purchase.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Review: Verdict
The new Himalayan is a step up in every aspect in comparison to its predecessor, so much so that it makes the Himalayan 411 feel ‘Classic’ (great variant idea, eh?). The Himalayan has evolved to become a truly global product, which has the potential to elevate Royal Enfield to the ranks of desirable international motorcycle manufacturers. While it has its imperfections – like the mirrors which still refuse to stay in place – they hardly detract from the fact that Royal Enfield has a clear winner on its hands. If you do happen to buy the new Himalayan, I hope you too get to ride it in the Himlayas, like I did.
- Royal Enfield Himalayan
Engine: 452cc / Single-Cylinder / DOHC /Liquid-Cooled
Transmission: 6-Speed with Slipper Clutch
Power: 39.5bhp @ 8000rpm
Torque: 40Nm @ 5500rpm
Price: ₹2.69 lakh (introductory, ex-showroom)
X-Factor: the only motorcycle you need in your garage
• The damn mirrors