Himalayan Odyssey, Royal Enfield’s long standing annual ride to the Himalayan region of Ladakh has been about witnessing and traversing the vast landscapes up north. A large group of riders come together under the guidance of the company’s team which leads them through the ride astride Royal Enfield motorcycles.
The route of the ride meanders through all sorts of terrain, ranging from smooth tarmac, gravel, snow, water crossings, high altitude passes and chilling weather. Its a test for both the rider and the steed and it turns out to be quite enjoyable and satisfying.
This time, I went to the Himalayan Odyssey expecting to get a thorough experience the Royal Enfield Himalayan, the motorcycle which is the brand’s attempt at building a motorcycle which is your perfect companion for touring in the mountains. The motorcycle is marketed as a agile, light-weight, peppy, practical and solid motorcycle designed to ‘go with the flow’. Its not as powerful as touring motorcycles offered by some other brands, but its not heavy or technology loaded either.
But is it really good? Is it really something I would like to tour on? Here is my view on the same.
This is probably the most important aspect about Royal Enfield’s motorcycles as far as a usual customer is concerned. You need the motorcycle to have vintage look, a ‘bullet’ feel and the charm which the brand’s motorcycles have carried through the decades. This is probably the most important selling point for a majority of customers.
But the Himalayan has none of that. It doesn’t look like a typical Bullet. As I was posting updates of my ride on my instagram stream, some followers suggested that this motorcycle doesn’t deserve a space on my account @bulleteers as its not a bullet.
To appreciate the Himalayan, we have to get beyond this. Yes it looks different and thats the point. It designed to tour and to be practical and it the design helps you to enjoy the roads better, then its good. All Royal Enfield owners tinker their machines to add/remove things which make them better tourers. We all end up with ‘jugads’ which look odd, but work. Himalayan is supposed to be a factory built jugad. Something that works right out of the store. Here are some of the design points which help –
- The windscreen works well to keep the bugs, dirt off.
- The front rack is actually quite useful to store fuel and other stuff
- The tank is just perfect for offroad use
- The side panels are slim and dont obstruct while pushing the bike with the feet.
- The rear rail grab is good for securing small bags on the back seat
- There are no unneeded fancy items to add weight
The 410cc engine pumps out 24.5 bhp, which is lesser than the current 500 cc engines, but the primary difference is of the rpm at which is power is pumped at. The engine is noticeably smoother than my classic 500 and pulls better at lower gears. With the other enfields, pulling the motorcycle through off road sections and even traffic becomes bit of an issue.
The first time I got my hands on the Himalayan, I took it out for a short ride in Delhi through peak hours of traffic, and found it very convenient. The following days, I rode it Manali, then to Leh. Through various sorts of road I never experienced a problem with the engine, its power delivery, gearing, heat etc. The carburetor does sputter at higher rpm on high altitude roads. Like in the More Plains to Tanglang La stretch, the engine felt bit short on power. But other than that, I had no issues.
- The engine is smooth and power delivery is very nice.
- The engine heat is less even in traffic and off road
- It does well on the mountains and bad patches, taking on climbs easily
- It does have some problems in high altitude, similar to other Royal Enfield models
- Overall, quite satisfactory and better experience as compared to other RE engines
This is very important for a touring motorcycle. How it handles good and bad roads depends on its suspension, wheels, seating and other ergonomics. I think, on good tarmac the Himalayan does fine, but on the bad roads is where the it really outdoes every other motorcycle in its segment. Throughout the ride, every one of the riders eagerly waited for bad patches and these parts just flew by. I have used my Classic 500 on all sorts of bad roads, but this was a totally a different experience.
Standing up and riding comes naturally because of the design and the soft, deep suspension just swallows everything. Going up and coming down rough passes wasn’t considerably slower than it would have been on smooth tarmac. As I am not used to going fast on rough roads, it took some time for me to get used to it. But once I knew how to keep going, I just wanted more. And doesn’t happen on my Classic.
But, then there are some issues. The soft suspension means corners feel odd on smooth tarmac, the rear tyre doesn’t feel very good on tarmac either, especially when wet. The front wheel is large 21 inch size and does a great job in keeping the motorcycle stable. There where times when I went into really rough patches by mistake, but could easily keep balance.
- The machine feels light and is easily to balance on rough patches
- The rear tyre could be better on tarmac
- The suspension is great, takes in bumps of all sizes
Seating and Luggage
For short rides and off roading, the seating the perfect. Its slick, soft, low set and comfortable. However, for highway cruising, it can be altered a bit to make it better. The seating position is good and handle angle can be adjusted as needed. The narrow side panels help with making the seating comfortable. Pushing the motorcycle with legs is easy as compared to Classic or TB as the side panels on those are quite wide.
The rear end of the motorcycle is designed to fit panniers. Although, as with the fuel cans, the panniers are not yet available from Royal Enfield, which is strange too. Securing duffel sized bags to the rear seat is easy and so should be the panniers. Overall, I think the motorcycle is equipped to carry luggage for small and long rides easily.
Overall, I think for the price at which it is offered, the Himalayan is a good buy. Especially, if you are considering buying an Enfield, this is the best of the lot. If I had to buy a motorcycle for touring right now in this price range, this would be it.
I have not written about the long term items, like maintenance or other issues as I used the motorcycle for only 5 days and have written only what I learnt during that time.