The Royal Enfield Himalayan was officially launched today with an ex-showroom Delhi price of 1.56 lacs, which is very impressive. Click here to read my personal ride review. Here are the on-road prices in almost all major cities, with Delhi missing since it appears RE has run into some trouble with the strict emission norms over there.
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There are many positives about the Royal Enfield Himalayan apart from the pricing:
- Bash-plate as standard, makes sense for something that’s supposed to stay mostly off-road
- 15 liter fuel tank, not too big like the Benelli 650GT’s 27 liter unit that fucks with handling, not too small like the 11 liter joke in the Duke that’s always running empty
- Information-rich console, the compass is a nice touch, so is the temperature gauge
- 10,000 kms service interval, great for lazy cunts like me who don’t want to care about their motorcycle at all
- 220 mm of ground clearance, I know how important that is after repeatedly scraping my Duke’s bottom that’s got 170mm of it
- A decent pillion seat. I don’t think it’s going to be overly comfortable, but my wife will take literally anything over the Duke
And there are some obvious negatives too:
- Carburettor on a so-called “adventure” bike is proper stupidity. Sure carbs can be fixed by hand against the specialist tools required for an EFI system, but it’s very rare for the fuel injection system to go kaput, which is why all the bloody cars have them. RE themselves claim the carb is setup to go only till 12,000 feet, and most of the interesting places in the Himalayas are way higher than that
- Lack of ABS is a downer, but I don’t mind it at that price point. What would be truly awesome is an ABS version at a slight premium, plus maybe EFI too?
- The general consensus about off-road wheels seems tilted towards spokes rather than alloys, but I don’t really understand that. Alloys have come a long way, and the advantage spokes used to have in terms of weight is no longer there. With the spokes that the Himalayan has, you get tube tires, and they suck, because punctures are a huge pain in the ass. The ease of use of an alloy and the extra safety nets it offers over a spoked rim are just too much to ignore
- 24.5 bhp is just not enough, and it appears that everyone agrees with it. Hopefully this is just an experiment by RE, and a bigger engine will come in the future
- The sweet spot for the Himalayan seems to be similar to that of a Bullet 350, which is something around the 80-90 kmph mark. Even if you ship your bike from Mumbai to Chandigarh, you still have to do roughly 1000 kms of highways in a standard Ladakh circuit, and the Himalayan won’t be much fun over there
- Why wasn’t the brilliant projector lamp from the Thunderbird series used in the Himalayan? The light from that thing is just so much better than any standard bulb, and you already have it in one of your bikes!
But the thing that I’m most interested in during the discussion that is this article, is what really is an adventure motorcycle?
The word “adventure” has become one of those bullshit phrases that marketing people manipulate to sell you stuff you don’t need and spend money you don’t have. “Adventure” has been nicely sprinkled all over the entire months of campaigns that Royal Enfield ran before launching the bike, and a lot of people seem to have bought into their ideology.
There is no such thing as an adventure motorcycle.
It doesn’t exist, because it simply can’t. Adventure is a state of mind, what is adventure for you might be daily routine for me. When a foreigner rides in India and encounters the cows, the jaywalkers and the asswads that we have everywhere, it’s an adventure for him. When I go to pick up groceries and an ox is auto-erotically asphyxiating itself in the middle of the road, it’s annoying.
BMW was probably the first one to use this marketing tactic with their morbidly obese bikes, because there’s no market in the motorcycling world for a fat tourer. The insanely successful R1200GS gives you an idea of how much money people have, and how easily they can let go of it on something that’s obviously idiotic.
But herein lies the problem, that’s their adventure. The idiocy is the fun, the sheer unreasonability of it is attractive.
There are other people who go in the opposite direction, like Ed March who has ridden his 90cc Honda across the face of this planet, while ridiculing the big adventure bikes every chance he gets. That’s his version of adventure, equally idiotic and unreasonable.
I’ve been doing some hard-core off-roading with my Duke 390 the past few months, does that mean I should start calling it an adventure motorcycle, rather than the street bike it so obviously is? Some guy put off-road tires on a Ducati Panigale and started sliding in the mud on it. Is it an adventure bike, rather than the track tool that it’s always been?
My point is that an “adventure” bike is an extremely loosely defined term, with its meaning based purely on the buyer’s perspective. Having said that, over the years a separate motorcycling segment has emerged, which is kinda analogous to the SUV department of cars. The requirement of this segment, which I shall call soft-roaders rather than “adventure” bikes, is as follows:
- Not too powerful, but enough to cross 120 kmph with ease
- Big ground clearance
- Long suspension travel
- Comfortable seating position
- As less electronics as possible, just EFI and ABS
- Knobby tires
- Cheap to own and easy to maintain
Soft-roaders differ from street bikes in the suspension, power, GC and comfort department. They are the exact opposite of track bikes in every department except weight. They differ from commuters in power, looks and ease of use. They differ from cruisers in GC, electronics and tires. They differ from proper off-roaders in terms of seat height, comfort, and cost. They differ from superbikes because they aren’t the same thing.
What I’ve done here is remove the vagueness of the term “adventure”, so now we can look a bit more closely and ask the most important question of all:
Is the Royal Enfield Himalayan a soft-roader?
At 182 kgs, it’s not exactly light. The fuel economy figures aren’t out yet. The engine doesn’t look like it’s good enough for 120+ kmph of easy riding. The ground clearance is spot on. Suspension looks good. Seating looks good. There’s no EFI, or ABS. The tires look good. And the verdict on reliability and cost of ownership is still out for judgement.
So it ticks 4 of the 10 boxes of a soft-roader, with 3 unknowns and 3 unticked ones. Hard to justify the hype then.
But don’t despair, because this is just the start. It’s quite surprising that Royal Enfield has become an innovator, bringing industry-first products to a thirsty market, but that’s a good thing. RE always had potential, and that’s one of the reasons why they always frustrated me, their apparent lack of giving a shit even with such a religious following was really irritating. You can tell that they are really trying hard by the bunch of accessories and whatnot that they’ve launched along with the Himalayan.
But the biggest reason why you shouldn’t despair is because pretty soon someone else is going to make a soft-roader that’ll be better than the Himalayan.
Now is the time to sit and wait, look for user reviews, test ride it, follow the threads that’ll pop up on Team-bhp. Royal Enfield is not a company known for doing things right, and they have launched what appears to be a completely new bike. A minimum of 6 months worth of real-world reviews is what I’d need for a proper opinion on the Royal Enfield Himalayan.