A fresh take on the adventure bike concept
There was a time when adventure bikes referred to a lightweight motorcycle that could be used on or off the road, but over time, the adventure concept evolved to the techno-behemoths we know today like the BMW R1200GS, Ducati Multistrada 1200S and KTM 1290 Super Adventure. These bikes packed huge displacement motors and the latest motorcycle technologies like switchable power maps, electronic suspension, anti-lock braking system, traction-control, cruise control and even adaptive lighting, just to name a few. These technologies allow them to go faster, be safer and more comfortable for the type of adventure touring their owners would likely subject them to. But unfortunately, these technologies come at a steep price that makes the bikes quite prohibitive for the average-income adventure rider to afford. Ironically, these advancements in technology also make them very complex, not to mention very heavy for serious off-road use. No wonder most of these modern adventure bikes end up spending most, if not their entire existence, on hard tarmac. Thankfully, there are motorcycle manufacturers like Royal Enfield who recognized this trend and went about creating a basic adventure bike for the true adventure seekers. Enter the 2017 Royal Enfield Himalayan.
The Himalayan is Royal Enfield’s first foray into the now lucrative adventure bike segment. While their Bullet 500 and 350s are capable adventure bikes in their own right, the Himalayan is their first purpose-built adventure style motorcycle. The Himalayan was inspired by no less than the majestic mountain range it was named after which Royal Enfield wished its rider to conquer regardless of skill level. As such, the Himalayan was equipped with a newly developed unit-construction engine, or UCE, that displaces 410cc and churns out a respectable 24.5 bhp at 6,500 rpm and 23.60 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. While those figures don’t sound impressive on paper, especially when compared to other adventure bikes, it proved more than adequate to hustle the 182 kg. Himalayan up to speed in practice. More importantly, the new motor utilizes a single balance shaft to cancel out unwanted vibrations from the big thumper… well, at least most of it, and that makes this the smoothest Royal Enfield motorcycle engine, ever. The motor effectively transfers power to the rear wheel via a 5-speed constant-mesh transmission and to a chain final-drive. Clutch lever pull is also light, making it easy to operate in stop-and-go traffic.
What makes the Himalayan more interesting, however, is its rather unique styling. It may not appeal to everybody but it sure does stand out from other plastic-clad adventure bikes. My first impression when I first saw it was that it somehow bears a striking resemblance to the BMW R80GS of the 1980s, devoid of any unnecessary contraptions. Just a tubular frame and an exposed engine. But Royal Enfield somehow managed to inject a bucket full of character into the overall design. Their objective, after all, is accessible fun rather than spec-sheet dominance, and this is readily apparent when you swing a leg over the relatively low seat height of just 800mm that’s low enough for most vertically challenged riders like me. At 5 foot 7 inches, I can reach the ground with both feet planted firmly. This makes riding a whole lot easier in traffic and confidence inspiring out in the trails. The riding position is comfortable like that of a dual sport bike with a high mounted handlebar that’s optimized for riding while standing up for off-road or sitting down while on the highway. Up front, a quartet of round gauges show speed, tachometer, fuel gauge and an electronic compass. An inlaid LCD screen shows ambient temperature, gear position, odometer, tripmeter, digital clock, and periodic maintenance reminder. There’s even a small windscreen that does a good job of deflecting air over the rider while cruising. Below it is a solitary round headlight with a bright halogen bulb. All of these are mounted on a dedicated exoskeleton chassis attached to the frame and not on the front forks to reduce weight on the steering. This novel chassis also acts as a fuel tank protector as well as additional attachment points for a jerry can and or soft bags. As an introduction promo, local units will readily come with standard aluminum panniers.
On the road, the Himalayan rides and handles much like a Honda XR 200 dual-sport bike (and that’s a compliment) with significantly more poke, with the meat of the torque coming way before its 4,500 rpm peak. Helping soak up the bumps and potholes are a 41mm conventional front forks and rear mono shock suspension with a whopping 8.6 inches of travel front and rear. Braking duties are handled by front and rear disc brakes that are sufficiently effective for the lightweight Himalayan. Sorry, but there’s no ABS assist here. Thankfully, both brakes are easy to modulate to the point of locking up. Just be careful when applying brakes in loose or wet surfaces. During our limited time with the Himalayan, we were able to bring it to our favorite proving grounds in Infanta, Quezon and were delighted with the Himalayan’s on and off-road performance. I especially like the 21-inch front wheel’s ability to run over almost anything in its path, making you care less about running over rocks and even potholes.
The Himalayan may not appeal to experienced adventure riders accustomed to modern electronic rider aids and powerful motors, but its ruggedness and simplicity is proof that an adventure bike need not be big, heavy, intimidating, nor expensive to conquer mountains like the Himalayas (it already did). Priced at PhP 299,000, the Royal Enfield Himalayan is a fun and accessible adventure bike for budget conscious adventure seekers.
ENGINE TYPE: Air/oil-cooled, carbureted, single cylinder, sohc, 4 stroke
DISPLACEMENT: 411 cc
MAX. POWER: 24.5 bhp @ 6500 rpm
MAX. TORQUE: 23.60 lb ft @ 4000 rpm
SEAT HEIGHT: 800 mm
FUEL CAPACITY: 15 liters
DRY WEIGHT: 182 kg.
TOP SPEED: 140 km/h
PRICE: PhP 299,000
W2W EDITOR’s RATING: 9/10
+: Smooth, accessible and fun
-: Not EFI