The bottom line on the Royal Enfield Himalayan is it’s a good entry-level adventure bike for off-road and an average bike for on-road.
If you’re living outside of India, for a little extra, you’re much better off with the tried and tested Kawasaki KLE 650 (the fact that the U.S. Military have been using it for the past 30 years says something).
If you’re living in India, for the local price, the Himalayan is a good buy.
If you can wait though, 2017 will see the explosion of the adventure tourer class in India with the Honda XRE 300, KTM 390 Adventure, and more expensive BMW GS 310R and SWM Superdual T being introduced.
Update: 2 years after writing this post, I bought my own Royal Enfield Himalayan 2019 BS4 model. See my video review below.
My Experience with the Himalayan
Unlike most of the foreign reviews, I’ve lived with the Royal Enfield Himalayan. I’ve ridden it on-road around Delhi, off-road around villages in Haryana, and the real test: taken it 2,500 km across the Himalayas to some of the remotest parts of the earth where this very bike was tested. I know the Himalayan inside out.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Honest Specs
- Underpowered 411 cc, 24.5 bhp, single cylinder, 4 stroke, air-cooled motor.
- Good 21-inch front, 17-inch rear, tubed tyres.
- Average 300 mm dual pistol front and 240 mm single-piston rear disc breaks.
- Small 15 L gas tank.
- Light 191 kg kerb weight.
- High 200 mm front and 180 mm long travel shocks.
India: 170,000 INR (~$2650 USD)
Rest of World: ~$5900 USD
Why the price discrepancy? Shipping, taxes, and Western retail markups. Don’t bother trying to import one either, it’s a hassle, and the Indian versions don’t meet certain Western standards needed for registration.
The Himalayan features a durable chassis, long travel shocks, a low seat height (800 mm), high ground clearance (220 mm), an upright seating position, and an overall lightweight. This makes it an easy and smooth to ride bike off-road. With features like these, the Himalayan is a younger brother to the BMW R1200GS and Triumph Tiger 800 dual sports beasts.
Handling and ride comfort is good, although the Himalayan will leave you’ll be craving for more power while accelerating. It’s comfortable on and off-road and on long 400 km plus rides. While it’s impossible to be entirely comfortable on a 400 km 14-hour trip from Jammu to Srinagar, Kashmir along the long Mughal route, the Himalayan performed admirably. I enjoyed the slow ride on terrible roads on the Himalayan.
However, I wouldn’t claim it as the only bike you’ll need for on and off-road as Royal Enfield does. It’s not a good dual sport. On long rides on-road, as mentioned earlier, the lack of power is noticeable. It’ll slowly hit 100 kph and over that, and the bike lets you know it’s struggling. It, in my experience, tops out at 122 kph – depending on the weight of the rider.
Looks wise, the Himalayan is rugged, minimal, and lean. It’s a good-looking bike. It looks like an adventure bike. It looks exactly like it belongs off-road high up in the mountains.
Despite the Himalayan’s underpowered engine mileage is not what it should be. I was getting around 350 km per tank, 23 km per litre. The KTM Duke 390 gives the same mileage but with an engine with nearly double the power (42.90 bhp). You can fit Royal Enfield made 2 L jerry cans to the front frame for a little extra mileage, which you’ll definitely need if taking this bike to Leh, Ladakh, where on one stretch there’s no petrol station for 360 km.
On my 12-day off-road trip around the Himalayas in beautiful Kashmir, I had the following problems:
- The sari guard fell off. It simply shouldn’t be on this bike anyway, and it’s useless outside of India.
- The left rear indicator broke off from the inside.
- The front wheel rim suffered multiple dents (buckles), making for a bumpy ride back on-road.
- The tail light over the number plate is weak. It smashed off while I slowly reversed the bike back against a wall. It’d be better if it didn’t stick so far out.
- The motor struggled on high mountain passes. I’d barely hit 40 kph, and the bike would spit trying.
- The rearview mirrors are too close together for anyone over the average Indian height of 5’5″. Mirror extenders are needed.
- The gearbox is a little stiff.
The Bottom Line
The Himalayan will get better. Wait for future revisions if you really want a Royal Enfield Himalayan. For the Indian price of 1.7 Lakh, it’s a bargain, but at the Western price, it’s overpriced compared to others in its price bracket. At the moment, if you want a dual sports bike outside of India, test ride the Kawasaki KLR 650 alongside the Himalayan, the comparison between the two will be clear.
Bonus: My Opinion on Buying Royal Enfield Bikes Overseas
Royal Enfield is an Indian success story with Siddhartha Lal turning the company around to the point where there’s a waitlist for any of their bikes in India. Now, due to the large population in India and thanks to Lal, Royal Enfield sell more bikes per year than Harley Davidson!
But Royal Enfields are at their heart cheaply made bikes specifically for the very price-sensitive Indian market. When they’re imported to the West, they lose their competitive Indian pricing and fail to compete with other bikes available in their price bracket overseas.
If you want another opinion on this or any bikes for that matter, consult your local mechanic as I do before any purchase.