The 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan has recently caught my eye. This is the first year it is for sale in Switzerland and at first glance it looks like Royal Enfield have listened to the market and built a bike that ADV riders want. The design is raw & utilitarian with no excess plastic fairings. It creates an impression you can take the bike in rough terrain and it is tough enough to handle it. It has good engine protection. The bottom of the engine and the oil sump is well protected by a sturdy engine guard. On paper the specs are good geometry, weight and dimensions.
So the question is “will the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan dominate the light adventure bike category in Europe and America?”. To save you the suspense my answer is no, well at least not now.
In another blog post I will show you some graphs comparing the bike to the Honda CRF 250 Rally, the BMW G 310 GS and the Honda CB500X, both the stock model and the Rally Raid Level 3 edition. The Himalayan comes out quite favourably in a number of areas, especially given the price! So where does the Himalayan fall down?
Where the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan falls down is top speed!! Struggling to achieve a top speed of 100km per hour (about 60 miles per hour) this bike cannot be ridden safely on the motorway. Given ADV riding in the USA and the EU usually consists of some hours on the motorway to get to your off road destination, this bike is almost useless for this purpose. The bike comes with good luggage racks, and it is possible to load it up for a long adventure, however, unless you live right next to the off road area you either have to travel the back roads, trailer the bike, or ride the motorway and hope no one hits you from behind or sit in the slip stream of slow moving truck traffic.
What I don’t understand, and I am looking to the Engineers or Mechanics here for answers, is how you can have a 411 CC engine that has a power output that matches, for example, the CRF 250 Rally at about 18kw. I owned the CRF 250 Rally during the 2017 season and it could sit quite comfortably on 120kph and on the flat ground with the throttle open you could travel at 130kph, keeping up with most traffic. Headwinds and hills brought the top speed down, but the highway was no problem. Royal Enfield have built a bike with 1.6 times the engine capacity but with a lower top speed. The next comment is a bit tongue in cheek, but you either need to be a bad engineer or a very good engineer to do this, thus Engineer and Mechanics can anyone explain what is going on here?
When you look at the Royal Enfield home market the bike makes perfect sense. Indian roads are not built for speed, nor for comfort. And if you look at some of the military roads in the North of India which are popular with tourists, these things don’t require a bike with speed, especially if you are picking your way through a washed out section of road with a vertigous drop off to one side.
I would like to believe that once you are offroad the bike will actually offer good performance. For example, the 21 inch front wheel is a proper offroad sized wheel. The ground clearance at 220mm is actually quite acceptable. Delivering torque at relatively low rpm might work quite well. The low seat height and excellent geometry for my 190cm frame (I can stand on the bike and don’t need handlebar risers). And as mentioned above, the standard protection seems to protect the bike quite well.
So here is my dilemma… to Himalaya or not Himalaya? I am thinking about getting one and giving it a spin this summer. I live on the border with the Alsace and it is a short ride on back roads to lots of nice trails. Anything further afield I can stick in the back of the Dodge Ram, or put on the trailer and hit the highway.
As it is a new entrant to the market I am interested to see if Royal Enfield have built a durable, quality bike that give the adventure rider the experiences we are are looking for. It is impossible to judge a bike by the specs on a website, the only way to really know the good, the bad and the ugly is to spend significant time in the saddle.
I have survey below. If I get one hundred “go buy the bike”, well I will go buy the bike.