Review: 2017 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Royal Enfield’s Himalayan is no doubt a winner in India but where does it fit in Australian? Review: Kris Hodgson, Images/Video Jeff Crow, Loz Blain
The Royal Enfield Himalayan is an interesting proposition, with the brand calling it an adventure tourer. I’d be more inclined to think of the bike as an adventure-commuter myself, as that’s where it makes most sense, but it comes down to your personal expectations.
The spec’s are not particularly impressive, except for having proper real ‘long travel’ suspension (200/180mm), with unusual old school styling (calling it classic may be a stretch) and an attractive price.
And yet I was incredibly impressed with this machine, particularly for the off-road/unsealed sections of our ride. Granted I’m no off-road whiz, so my expectations will probably be lower in that regard, but I’m always weighing ease of riding against performance.
Ergonomics for my 180cm are ideal. The seat height isn’t super low at 800mm and if you’ve got the bike on the centrestand and are on the shorter side it may be a bit of a challenge, however a sidestand is standard fitment.
I felt a little stretched towards the ‘bars for the first minute, before it became totally naturally and standing up on the off-road sections was pretty much perfect with the raised ‘bars and with the rubbers slipped off the ‘pegs.
There was some complaints about the seat and it did feel somewhat hard through the foam, but with that said over the two days I didn’t really experience any discomfort in the saddle, it was when I got off that I noticed I had a sore butt.
I’m on the lighter side, which may be what they based the design off from the Indian market, but another option for heavier riders will probably be required for the international market. I may also have just been lucky, the bike felt natural and fit like a glove, so it may just be one of those situations where you suit the bike perfectly, and don’t experience the woes of those with different measurements.
The long travel suspension is actually a standout. It’s not amazing in any way, it’s just good in every way. I’m on the lighter side at 70kg, but it handled the city, freeway and Great Ocean Road with ease, while off-road performance was similarly impressive.
The Ceat tyres had me a bit worried, and are tubed affairs, but again provided ample performance. Sure I locked the front in the wet coming to a stop at one point, but the overall grip along the Great Ocean Road was more than enough to match the bike’s performance. Granted these are thin tyres but the overall confidence I had, including in wet sections was a step up from a lot of other rubber I’ve seen on LAMS machines. Constantly getting my toes down was a bit of a surprise, especially since I had my feet tucked in.
Brakes are very simple, with the rear displaying good bite and the front having very gentle engagement but plenty of modulation. I could complain but as Chas Hern pointed out even changing the pads for more bite probably wouldn’t suit the machine. I imagine you’d need stickier rubber and possibly to stiffen the front forks if you went this route, and that would only serve to create problems that aren’t there.
It’s like a cruiser, you have an amount of braking power available, and you ride to that capability. Doing anything else would be stupid, and complaining about it is equally illogical.
Next year’s model comes with ABS and EFI and it’ll be interesting to see how they manage that, but the overall package with the 2017 model is just right…
It’s a capable road machine, that lends itself to commuting and your less sporty riding habits. Fuel economy is great and the lack of outright performance ensures a safe licence in nearly all situations. Back this up with credible fire trail and unsealed road performance, especially over the rougher and gravely sections, and you’re looking at the kind of machine that our grandfathers cut their teeth on.
Back when motorcycling was a legitimate and popular alternative to having a car, and had to perform the same duties in doing absolutely everything, including going for those group rides where you’d explore roads and trails that you definitely wouldn’t be that keen to take most modern bikes down.
I guess the attraction to me is that I can see the Himalayan being an option which would motivate me towards the kind of riding that a single sportsbike garage simply doesn’t allow. With a group of similarly minded mates it would be an absolute hoot.
I’m personally a little loathe to put too much emphasis on the touring claims, however that’s possibly my personal bias, as I’d prefer to see a little more performance, whereas for commuting and adventure it’s spot on. However if you’re idea of touring is staying relatively close to the speed limit and not doing excessively long days, then the Himalayan may well be ticking the right boxes.
The buy in is cheap and up-keep should be similarly low, and if Royal Enfield’s claims are true it would probably put many of the similarly outright priced machines to shame over the life of the vehicle in savings, service-wise.
Afterall these may be a significantly upspec model to that sold in India, but they know how to ensure the machines will last and be a good investment to people on extremely tight budgets. That’s how you end up producing 700,000 plus motorcycles in Chennai alone each year. Add the two-year Australian warranty and you’ve got the peace of mind to give the bike a try.
The machine I started the launch on had a problem blowing fuses, from what seemed like a pinched piece of wiring loom from the ignition, with the bike having had less than 100km on the clock prior to the launch. I swapped bikes with Chas Hern while he figured that out and rode the rest of the launch on the earliest model to arrive in Australia, with almost 3000km on the clock.
The bike was obviously a bit looser in the engine department, but apart from that and being mechanically a little louder there wasn’t a noticeable different between the machines.
I think it’s safe to say that these machines will age noticeably, but that’s true of most of the more affordable options that are not built in Japan, which these days is many of them. Everything is built to a price and there’s always a trade-off somewhere, with each manufacturer making different decisions on where that happens.
Naturally the event of the launch was part of the attraction with this machine, an aspect of it was about riding as a group, being a bit more adventurous and exploring areas that you generally wouldn’t choose to travel on most regular road bikes.
Granted I wouldn’t recommend the Himalayan to someone looking for a sporty first option, but if you want the ultimate all-rounder on a strict budget then this could well be the machine for you.
Strengths are being an overall well balanced package, the LS 410 engine is arguably Royal Enfield’s best performer in their range, despite the obvious limitations, brakes are well suited to the machine and for me comfort was good as was ergonomics.
Despite being a relatively heavy machine on paper it was easily handled, on and off road, including a few crazy off-road sections. The standard racks also offer good tie-down locations. The Ceat tyres are also surprisingly good all-rounders.
Weaknesses from others feedback as mentioned is that some found the seat uncomfortable, so a more padded option or an Airhawk is probably necessary and as mentioned top speed will be a limiting factor for highway overtaking.
Accessories also aren’t available yet, as Royal Enfield has taken over production due to being unhappy with the quality of the offerings from third parties they’ve used. Hard panniers will be available, and the range of accessories will grow. Tyres aren’t tubeless, and there was some spots of rust visible on some of the test machines. Build quality seemed on par for the price point.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2017 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Price: $6,990 On-Road
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited kilometre
Colours: Snow, Granite
Claimed power: 18kW[24hp]@6500rpm
Claimed torque: 32Nm@4000rpm
Wet weight: 182kg
Fuel capacity: 15L
Engine: ‘LS 410’ 411cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke, SOHC, carburettor
Gearbox: Five-speed, constant mesh
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Chassis: Half-duplex split cradle frame
Suspension: 41mm telescropic forks, 200mm travel, monoshock with linkage, 180mm travel
Brakes: Single front 300mm rotor, two-piston caliper, single 240mm rear rotor, single-piston caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Steel rims, 36 spoke wheels, Ceat Gripp-XL tyres, 90/90 – 21in, 120/90 – 17in
Seat height: 800mm
Overall height: 1360mm
Overall width: 840mm
Overall length: 2190mm
Instruments: Analogue speedo/tachometer, digital display and compass