Tuesday, March 6, 2018

What it's like to ride the Royal Enfield Himalayan

The Royal Enfield Himalayan adventure motorcycle in action.
It probably wasn't necessary to fall down in the mud and let the motorcycle fall on me to properly evaluate the new Royal Enfield Himalayan.

Royal Enfield's new adventure motorcycle, soon to be available in the U.S., was introduced to the press this week in Midlothian, Texas. Mud in this region isn't sticky. It's slippery.

That's my excuse.

The Himalayan saved me repeatedly, its advanced suspension and 21-inch front wheel cheerfully bounding from pot hole to deep rut. Its immense low-rpm torque accepted lugging that would have stalled another motorcycle, enabling me to keep going without fear of spinning the rear wheel.

But the muddy, twisting, deeply rutted off-road course finally overwhelmed my brain and I got enough things wrong at the same time to bring us down. The motorcycle didn't even stop running. It was nice to have help picking it up: it weighs 421 pounds.

I'm grateful to our Royal Enfield guides for taking care of me, and to fellow moto-journalists who graciously waited for me to catch up without complaining that I was holding back the pack.

I have all new respect for this breed of rider who hops on an unknown motorcycle and gives it a full work out on unfamiliar roads. Some of these guys spent the afternoon repeatedly wading Himalayans through a muddy creek bed (I skipped this fun, but they loved it).

On the road the Himalayan was a comfortable companion, revving out without distress to accelerate to freeway speeds. The front-and-rear disk brakes (no ABS) are immensely capable and reassuring with no bad habits.

And — miracle of miracles for this owner of an old iron barrel Bullet — the five-speed gearbox was perfection, offering the chosen gear with never a false neutral.

It's a long-stroke single, so where is the vibration? This is a brand new motor design, "only" 411cc and sophisticated enough to be called smooth. There are even billet handlebar weights to cut vibration through your hands.

Was it a totally positive experience? Well, I had some nits to pick.

For one, the dual seat is firmly divided into driver/passenger places. At five-feet-ten I felt a bit cramped not being able to slide back a little from my assigned spot in the front seat. Whether this bothers you or not is going to depend on your height.

An experienced Himalayan rider, a six-footer himself, explained that he bungy cords his jacket to the seat and sits on it, in effect creating a level dual seat for his comfort.

And secondly (this really is a nit) I found the handgrips a bit small. Something larger and cushier would give me more meat to get a grip on. The aftermarket will take care of this, I am sure.

The consensus of moto-journalists I talked to at the launch seemed to be that the Himalayan is a heck of a nice motorcycle, at a very nice price.

1 comment:

  1. Great first sentence. So glad you got to try it out.


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