Royal Enfield Himalayan

Bikes Culture

A Himalayan that proves biggest isn’t always best

The prospect of loading up a motorcycle and heading off to explore the world is something every bike has thought about at some point.

Seeing the world on two wheels is an entirely different experience than doing so by car. You’re exposed to the landscape rather than looking through a windscreen. Breathing in the air, savouring the smells, feeling your mouth dry out from the dust. It’s far more immersive.

Choosing what to ride on such an epic adventure isn’t quite so easy. The default choice for many would be the latest and greatest large capacity adventure bike. But one of the most famous names in motorcycling, Royal Enfield, offers an interesting alternative.

The Himalayan is the company’s latest adventure bike, but it is far simpler than what’s on offer from the Austrian, German or Italian brands. This is a 410cc single-cylinder thumper with basic suspension, a 21-inch front wheel and a digital compass on the instrument cluster. In an increasingly digitised world, the Himalayan in refreshingly analogue.

It’s as much function as form and was designed by the legendary Pierre Terblanche. It’s that simplicity of design that makes the Himalayan seem like the ideal bike to embark on a trans-continental odyssey.

You can kit it out with metal side cases and these feature additional eyelets on top for strapping on soft bags. Optional engine bars are a must, while the engine bash plate provides sufficient protection for any rocks being thrown up.

If you’re serious about seeing the world, then get off the motorways and stick to the back roads. These are the roads where you’ll discover the best scenery and find random but wonderful places to stop. Here you don’t need big 1,200-plus cc engines to have fun. The Himalayan’s meagre 24hp is sufficient to clip along at a healthy pace as you take it all in. Equally, it’ll still spin up the rear on a dirt trail when provoked if you want to have a bit more fun.

A decent 15-litre tank is plenty for the single-cylinder engine as it seems to sip fuel irrespective of riding style. The air-cooled engine has plenty of low-down torque, and a low first gear makes taking on trickier off-road sections easy, even for more novice riders.

Pop out the rubber inserts and you’ll get better purchase when standing up on the pegs. Both the gear shifter and rear brake lever are easily accessible, too. The latter gives a good amount of feedback, making it easier to control. Ground clearance isn’t massive when riding on more rugged terrain, but the 800mm seat height means the Himalayan is more manageable for most people than other taller adventure bikes.

With the right protection bars, and maybe some proper handguards in place, you needn’t be too precious about dropping in on a trail along the way. That blend of robust design and simplified technology means that you’re unlikely to need much more in the toolkit than a spanner and a puncture repair kit.

There’s a real honesty to the Royal Enfield Himalayan. For the faults I could point out, the amount of charm this bike has more than makes up for it. It’s only when you ride these simpler bikes that you start to realise that fancy electronic suspension and heated seats don’t add all that much to the sheer joy of just riding a bike to see the world.

Now get out and ride!