2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan | First Ride Review

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Even with its 21-inch front wheel the Himalayan is quite nimble on the road, but its footpegs touch down easily in corners. Photos courtesy of Royal Enfield.

To understand the Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle, you need a little appreciation for the motorcycle market in India, where RE is based in Chennai. First, it’s ridiculously huge. More than a third of the country’s 1.3 billion inhabitants own a motorized two-wheeler, and the top-10 Indian motorcycle manufacturers bang out more than 1 million motorcycles per month. No horsepower wars there, though—of those million-plus, three-quarters are 150cc or smaller. Utility reigns supreme, and low cost, fuel efficiency and maneuverability sell far more bikes than power or luxury.

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Everything you need, nothing you don’t, with rugged styling and a low price tag as well.

Outside of the hirsute commute in Indian cities, literally hundreds of tour groups—including Royal Enfield’s own Rides program—make adventurous treks by motorcycle up into the Himalayas in the far north and Nepal next door, braving treacherous dirt roads, extreme temperatures and passes at more than 18,000 feet because…well, because it’s there. In the U.S., Royal Enfield’s Bullet and Classic 500s are considered quirky retro machines and would never be used as dual-sports. In India though, perhaps because the brand has been around longest, or perhaps because its two-valve, air-cooled singles and stone-simple chassis and running gear are easily repaired roadside, Royal Enfield 350 and 500 singles are by far the most popular bike for slowly but surely clawing and scratching up into the mountains. They don’t go fast…they just go.

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Tailsection easily accommodates hard bags like RE’s $729.95 aluminum pannier kit, which includes the mounts shown.

Once in danger of being sold off by its parent company Eicher Motors in the late ’90s, Royal Enfield is now on its way to becoming the world’s largest producer of middleweight motorcycles, growing 50 percent every year for the last six and opening new factories and technical development centers in India and the UK. In 2010 RE built and sold about 40,000 motorcycles; in 2018 that number will grow to at least 850,000. A pair of new 650 twins—the Interceptor and Continental GT—are coming to the U.S. lineup early next year, and RE says that more new engines and platforms will follow.

Read the Royal Enfield Story here

2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT and Interceptor | First Look Review

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Developed before the new twins, the 411cc single is Indian’s first new engine since the 1950s.

In that expansive environment, when some of the RE team noticed Bullet and Classic single owners modifying their bikes to better suit the rugged environment of the Himalayas, it was decided RE should build its own adventure bike, and the Himalayan was born. Originally designed just for India—with no pretense of competing with the likes of big, expensive ADV machines overseas—Royal Enfield North America (RENA) President Rod Copes nevertheless recognized the bike’s potential in our growing ADV bike market and convinced RE India to homologate the Himalayan for the U.S. Making the bike acceptable to our EPA and DOT with Keihin electronic fuel injection, different lighting and instruments, reflectors, etc., added a few pounds, but otherwise the compact bike is the same one taking riders over insane passes in the Himalayas like Rohtang and Thorong La.

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Instrumentation includes a tach and LCD display with tripmeters, temp, time and gear position, and there’s an analog fuel gauge and compass.

Even with these upgrades, the Himalayan is simple, fun and approachable, and its $4,499 price tag undercuts competition like the BMW G 310 GS (also made in India) and Kawasaki Versys-X 300 by as much as $1,200. With a claimed 24.5 horsepower at its redline of 6,500 rpm, the Himalayan’s SOHC, 2-valve 411cc single makes fewer ponies than those rev-happy bikes, but it was designed with a long stroke to crank out 26 lb-ft of torque, significantly more than the BMW or Kawi. This low-end grunt makes the 421-pound, fully gassed bike adept at climbing hills, churning up a rocky riverbed in a higher gear at low speed or squirting though traffic. Accessible screw-and-locknut valve adjusters simplify maintenance, and a gear-driven counterbalancer in the 5-speed LS 410 engine reduces vibes to just a mild pulse feel in the grips. Royal Enfield says its quality control issues of the past are under better control thanks to its new facilities in India, and because RENA makes a pre-delivery inspection of every bike at its PDI center in Texas before shipping them to dealers.

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Harris Performance in the UK developed the Himalayan’s half-duplex split-cradle frame.

UK-based Harris Performance, which designs and manufactures road and racing motorcycle chassis and components (and was recently acquired by Eicher Motors), developed the Himalayan’s half-duplex split-cradle steel frame, Royal Enfield’s first with linked single-shock rear suspension. In addition to carrying luggage in back and a generous load capacity, major goals were to have both a low enough seat that the average Asian rider could plant both feet on the ground and plenty of suspension travel. Even with its relatively low 31.5-inch seat height—which feels much lower when you straddle the bike because of its narrow side panels—there’s still 7.9 inches of travel in front and 7.1 rear, and a generous 9 inches of ground clearance. Seating is upright and relaxed, with a high, wide handlebar and lowish footpegs that drag easily in turns but make standing up quick and easy. Larger riders will probably find the seat overly soft and seating a bit cramped on the smaller-scale ADV bike, but at 5-feet, 10-inches it fit me just fine.

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Royal Enfield removed the lower of the bike’s two front fenders for our off-road foray.

Royal Enfield launched the Himalayan in Midlothian, Texas, at TexPlex, a 1,000-plus-acre facility with lots of adult toys like earthmovers, jet boats and MX tracks as well as a large off-road riding circuit that was a good test of the Himalayan’s dirt capabilities. First we made a 1-hour on-road ride on back roads, winding through bucolic countryside past horse farms and barns. For 411cc the Himalayan holds it own well, with enough power to accelerate quickly into top gear on the Interstate and merge with traffic up to about 75 mph, where it runs out of steam. At lower speeds there’s just enough power to make quick passes and out-gun traffic—the bike feels very similar power-wise to a mid-1970s Honda XL350, in fact, but far smoother, and the EFI gives it good throttle response and a claimed 70 mpg, for a range from its 4-gallon tank of more than 250 miles. It would be a stretch to tackle our 80-plus mph Interstates in the U.S. for very long, especially in high-volume areas like Southern California, but the bike is OK for jumping on and off them and cruising saner highways and backroads.

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Single front disc brake is just strong enough on-road and works well off. Aggressive Pirelli dual-sport knobbies handle the bike’s lower pavements speeds just fine and grip well off-road.

Suspension front and rear is made in India and is quite capable on-road and off, soaking up small bumps and big potholes without any drama and helping me ride the bike pretty quickly on the off-road course. Big G-outs would bottom the rear shock, but I couldn’t adjust the rear preload setting, which was only on the third of seven. Brakes are from ByBre, an Indian division of Brembo in Italy, and both the 300mm disc with 2-piston floating caliper up front and 240mm, 1-piston setup in back bite smoothly and strongly, with moderately high effort required in front typical of dual-sports. ABS is probably in our future since Europe and Australia already get it, but don’t look for traction control anytime soon. The Himalayan comes with excellent Pirelli MT 60 dual-sport tires that gripped both pavement and the near-perfect loamy soil (read: no sand) of the off-road course very well, and the 21-inch front wheel helps the bike roll over ruts and rocks and bite better in turns off-road. Overall this is a versatile, comfortable machine ready to take on mini adventures of any type or a short commute at street-legal speeds.

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Oil cooler for the air-cooled engine could use some crash guards….

The bike’s sturdy frame is designed to support hard bags in back, and along with an aluminum pannier kit, Royal Enfield will offer an aluminum handlebar, bar-end weights and an engine guard as accessories for the Himalayan when it hits RE’s 75 dealers in April. There’s a small amount of storage underneath the locking seat, the steel tank will easily hold a magnetic tank bag and a luggage rack is standard. I do wish the brake and clutch levers were adjustable, and the bike lacks hand guards, though the Himalayan does come with a robust skidplate, centerstand and both high and low front fenders, the latter of which can be easily removed. That flyscreen does a great job of protecting the rider’s upper body, too, and enhances comfort over time. Royal Enfield definitely did its ADV bike homework in designing the Himalayan for long rugged rides…or should I say much of its homework was done for it by the thousands of riders who have conquered the Himalayas on its motorcycles, and will now do so on this one.

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Maintaining a low seat height and reasonable leg room meant low footpegs, which drag early in corners, but the Himalayan still gets around bends pretty quickly.

It’s easy to poke fun at this no-frills motorcycle as being too slow, too small or too low-tech for the American rider. But take a look at the typical megabucks Euro or Japanese ADV slathered with electronics the average rider will never use or understand, that is often too tall and too heavy for him/her to ride off-road, never mind pick up, and the Himalayan starts to make a lot of sense. While you may not get there very fast, you are going to get there….

Rider’s Guide to New/Updated Street Motorcycles for 2018

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan
The Himalayan is not for everyone, but could be the answer for a lot of riders looking for a lower, lighter, simpler and less expensive ADV machine.

Mark’s Gear
Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2
Jacket: Joe Rocket Ballistic Adventure
Pants: Rev’It
Boots: Sidi Canyon Gore-Tex

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan Specs
Website: royalenfield.com/USA
Base Price: $4,499
Engine Type: Air-cooled, SOHC single, 2 valves
Bore x Stroke: 78.0mm x 86.0mm
Displacement: 411cc
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 58.0 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.5 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 31.5 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 421 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gals.
MPG: 86 octane min (high/avg/low) NA

SaveSaveSaveSave

12 COMMENTS

  1. I just can’t wrap my head around purchasing a RE on economic grounds. After all, anyone can buy a well maintained V-Strom or Versys or any number of similar bikes for the same amount of money. For my money, access to parts and service make the case for midsize lightly used Japanese “adventure” bikes. I’d have zero reluctance to buy a well maintained (farkled) V-Strom that has 40 000 miles on the odo. Because I don’t know what they’d be, I’d love to hear arguments contrary to this position.

    • The V-strom doesn’t really have the ground clearance, the underside protection, or the luggage capacity to do what this bike can do.
      This bike is made for tough slogs packed like a mule.
      Try that with a Vstrom and you’ll smash headpipes, puncture your oil filter, and end up walking home.

  2. Buying a good used bike is complex because you are never sure of what you are getting.
    Motorcycles live hard lives as they are run hard and sit unused a lot.
    My best advice is to buy one with obvious fault that you can fix.
    Mileage is obvious but not cheaply easily repaired. I’d suggest buying something with less than 20,000 miles so you can get some use of it.

    In general:
    New is better than used.
    Simple is better than complex
    Japanese bikes are hard to beat

  3. Walter – here you go:

    Seat heights
    – V-strom 650 – 32.8
    – V-strom 1000 – 33.5
    – Versys – 33.3

    Me – short inseam … therefore those are bikes I won’t even consider.

    Royal Enfield – 31.5 inches … now I’m in the market.

  4. This bike has a cool story behind it, but I don’t understand where fuel injection fits into “simple”. I have a KLR 650 and a Super Tenere both purchased new and both with over 30k on the clock. The carbed KLR always makes it home, but the injected Tenere has taken truck rides to repair stations several times (error codes, failed fuel pump relays, ecu problems, factory reflash etc.) Both good bikes, but if you really are going off the path, leave as much of the electrical junk out of the mix as possible. New (left over) KLRs can be had all day long for under $5500, lots of dealers, huge after market, huge community etc. I like the Himalaya a lot, but for me, it’s an answer to a question I didn’t ask. Having said that, I can’t wait to see one in the flesh!

  5. Bike looks good, love the profile. The price of the luggage seems high compared to the price of the bike. Just don’t believe the bike would stay together, reminds me of an AMF Harley. You would never get lost, just follow the trail of fallen off parts. The new 650 twin looks pretty good too, again with nice profile. But I hardly see any RE’s on the road, and the 500’s I’ve seen at the dealer had lousy paint + chrome and just looked cheap when you got up close. Rider should get the ADV 400 + the 650 twin as long termers and see if they hold up to everyday use and then report the findings to its readers.

  6. I got my deposit on one, why? Not the price! 9” ground clearance, 21” front tire, no ABS, no traction control, air oil cooled, and most importantly 31.5 seat height! Yes I would have liked a carb instead of EFI, no thanks to EPA.

  7. Good article and excellent comments. I am in the market in Canada and I have narrowed it down to Kawi
    KLX 250 new with EFI, or Honda CRF 250L used. Always good to have more competition. Better for the class
    and I will keep an open mind. I am old enough to remember when Japanese bikes were “suspect”. I am
    never an early adopter, but choices are always good for the consumer. Cam

  8. What I wanna know is – How does Greg D. feel about this bike? I’m a string bean, but a 6 footer. If Greg is comfortable enough on it, I’d strongly consider this for myself….

  9. I understand that this bike was first intended for India market but it’s too big by just 12 cc to be a candidate for the sub 400cc plating categories here in Canada QC . Lower registation tarif occurs when the bike get no more than 399cc in my province .

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here