2024 Royal Enfield Himalayan review: Scaling new heights
Published on Nov 10, 2023 12:00:00 PM
17,930 ViewsFollow us on
Some motorcycles have lovely inception stories and the new Himalayan easily finds a place in this list. Hardly a year into the launch of the original Himalayan 411, a small group of engineers at Royal Enfield’s newly minted Technology Centre in the UK had a ‘what- if’ moment, and they stuck an unnamed rival’s liquid-cooled engine into a Himalayan chassis. They must have felt like they were onto something, because that led to the creation of a new one-off engine and a prototype frame made to house this motor. The rest is history, and six years (plus one pandemic) later, here we are – riding the most radically different motorcycle modern-day RE has ever made.
Royal Enfield Himalayan engine, performance
It all comes down to the new Sherpa 450 engine, which displaces 452cc, produces 40hp and 40Nm, and has so many firsts for a Royal Enfield. These include ride-by-wire, liquid cooling, double-overhead camshafts, an aluminium bore, a forged piston and it even has a slightly short-stroke layout. That’s right, with an 84mm bore and an 81.5mm stroke, the king of slow revving motors has gone in a whole new direction! It's a whole lot lighter too and even with its cooling and lubricating fluids, this engine weighs about 10kg less than the old LS 411 motor.
Predictably, the Sherpa 450 feels nothing like the conventional RE motor. It sounds very much like a modern engine with a quick idle and there is absolutely no thump here. But Royal Enfield hastens to point out that the torque curve has been painstakingly designed to retain the character of the existing Himalayan.
And sure enough, the torque curves we were shown revealed a fat and well-spread torque delivery: 90 percent of torque is available from just 3,000rpm and it peaks not a lot higher at 5,500rpm. When compared with the old Himalayan, the curve draws a similar shape but it gives you vastly more pull everywhere in the rev range – at least above 2,500rpm.
RE’s torque graph showed no data below that point, and on the road, the engine seemingly had very little shove there either. Now, it's important to consider that we were riding at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet and on non-stop inclines in the Himalayas. Altitude robs all combustion engines of power and this is sure to have an effect, but how much remains to be seen when we ride the bike back home. Still, I think it’s safe to say that this motor does not have that strong, off idle bottom-end of the 411. But, it's also safe to say that it absolutely thrashes it everywhere else.
For starters, while it doesn't surge ahead till about 3,000rpm, you can simply ease out the clutch at idle and the bike smoothly moves forward – even on mild inclines – without any throttle inputs. This should be helpful in dense, slow-moving traffic. Cross 3,000rpm and the pace steadily starts to pick up, but at 6,000rpm, you’re greeted by the most un-RE sort of surge that ends at the 8,500rpm redline. This is a bike that likes being revved and it eggs you on with an enjoyable intake growl coming from the repositioned airbox, which now resides under the fuel tank and just behind the headstock.
There is a duality to this motor: on one hand, it is perfectly happy to chill and trundle along at a gentle pace, but on the other, it's also very happy to play along if the need arises. As for power delivery, it doesn’t have the aggressiveness of the KTM motor and neither does it have that strong, sudden surge of low-end torque like you’ll get with the Triumph 400s. It’s basically a quick, but extremely friendly and predictable machine at all points.
There are two riding modes – Eco and Sport – and Eco kept cutting the power in the first four gears, so we didn’t really use it much in the mountains. Even in Sport mode, the throttle response is extremely smooth and easy to use. That being said, the throttle action is a little too mellow in the first few degrees of rotation. If you’re riding fast, (something the Himalayan is now very good at, both on- and off-road), you have to twist the throttle all the way open. It would be nicer to have a more direct acting throttle map and it's something Royal Enfield could do given that this bike already has Ride by Wire and riding modes.
Royal Enfield Himalayan highway cruising comfort
Claimed top speed is above 150kph, and while we couldn’t test that on these sorts of roads, what we could see was that the engine sat at 5,000rpm at 100kph in top gear. That suggests that a sustained cruising speed of 120kph or more should be quite possible, but it’s something we’ll be looking out for when we get to ride the bike at home base.
As for vibrations, yes they are present and you’ll feel them in different places at different points. The foot pegs themselves have a soft rubber that flexes when you stand on them to give you more grip off road, but you’ll have to unbolt the rubbers if you want to take them off. The foot peg mount themselves have vibration dampers, but they don’t feel squishy (which is a good thing) and so far, I think the refinement levels are good enough. Out here it really didn’t bother me, but again, we’ll see what it’s like on the highway when we can.
Finally, the six-speed gearbox is smooth and precise and the clutch feel is great. With a slip assist setup, the action is not very heavy either, and this is the nicest feeling clutch I’ve experienced on an RE so far.
Royal Enfield Himalayan weight, manageability
So that’s what the Sherpa 450 brings to the table and thus far, it has proven to be a good companion to what is the most impressive aspect of the new Himalayan – its chassis.
This is a brand new steel twin-spar frame and it uses the engine as a stressed member, removing the need for the lower cradle. The repositioned rear shock linkage has liberated even more ground clearance. Wheel sizes are still 21 inches at the front and 17 inches at the rear, but the rear tyre is now a wider 140 section radial. The suspension is also new, now with a chunky 43mm USD fork and the brakes are bigger at both ends as well, which is something the old Himalayan really needed.
Kerb weight is now 196kg, which is a little bit less than the old Himalayan, but 11kg and 19kg more than the Triumph Scrambler 400X and the KTM, respectively. Then again, this feels bigger than both those bikes, and that has its up and down sides. The positives are that the new 17-litre tank looks great, expands range and helps this feel like a sizeable motorcycle with a roomy riding position, no matter how tall you are. But this comes at the cost of the new Himalayan being a little less approachable than the bike it replaces. Standard seat height is now 825mm and this can be raised to 845mm via an easy adjustment mechanism below the seat.
For anyone over 5’8”, the seat height should be okay, but shorter riders will surely benefit from the low seat accessory, which reduces the height to 805mm by using thinner padding. The standard seats are quite comfy and hopefully this low seat will be as well.
Royal Enfield Himalayan handling
Once on the move, the new chassis is supremely impressive. The bike feels stable yet agile, and it was a huge surprise on some of the brilliantly smooth and winding roads after crossing the Atal tunnel. You can push the Himalayan hard around corners and it would always remain trustworthy without any signs of nervousness. So much so that you’ll almost never think about the big 21-inch front wheel and it's only when flicking it from side to side that you’ll realise the handlebar needs a little effort.
Overall, the on-road handling is genuinely fun and involving with plenty of cornering clearance and very good grip from the newly developed Ceat tyres. The upsized brakes are very good as well; not overtly sharp and sporty, but with more than enough performance and feel.
Best of all, the Himalayan manages to be this fun while also offering superb ride comfort and suspension composure. The suspension is neither very soft with exaggerated dive under braking nor is it very firm. What it does is simply eat through the sort of potholes that would have you wince on most other bikes. This is one of those bikes that you can peacefully ride down any sort of road without concern and that quality really shines off-road.
You can really ask quite a lot of this bike off-road. There’s now 230mm of ground clearance and 200mm of suspension travel at both ends, although it's the quality of the suspension control that really makes a difference. Big jumps are soaked in beautifully while the front wheel also takes large impacts really well. Hit something unexpected at speed and the long-feeling chassis (wheelbase is up by 40mm at 1,510mm) soaks it in remarkably well, which only encourages you to keep pushing.
For most average to above average skill sets, this bike will prove to be more than capable enough, but also very encouraging – I suspect only pro-level riders will push it to the point of wanting more from the chassis. If anything, I wish the engine had a little more low-down kick to be able to slide the rear more easily, but that is something we’ll give the bike the benefit of the doubt for now.
Royal Enfield Himalayan features, navigation
As for features, Royal Enfield has brought in a whole lot more tech, but also strived to keep things simple. There’s no traction control or quickshifter, but you can deactivate rear ABS in either mode if you like. The new 4-inch circular TFT dash is the star feature and it has a clean, easy to read format.
Royal Enfield’s incorporation of Google Maps into the display is a great thing for tourers and it's very nice to be able to see a full map on your display. This works via a dedicated mobile app, although streaming map data can drain your phone battery quite fast. For those who need it, there’s a 2A type charger on the handlebar. The display will also support things like call data and music, but the number of music apps supported is limited if you’re connecting via an iPhone.
At this point, you’re probably wondering about the wheels. Royal Enfield will, in fact, be the very first Indian manufacturer to offer cross-laced spoked wheels that support tubeless tyres. However, these rims are still awaiting BIS homologation, and are only available on the export-spec bikes for now. Hopefully, they will eventually be available in India, either on a top variant or as an accessory.
Royal Enfield Himalayan variants, build quality
Speaking of variants, there is only one fully specced bike for India and the only differences will be in the five different colour patterns. Quality levels in general are at the high standard Royal Enfield has been achieving of late, and this bike also has some nice details like the new forged side stand. Finish levels are good too, but when you examine the smaller details like the bolts and fasteners, it's not quite at the level of the new Triumphs.
There's also a big range of well designed accessories, including touring seats, hand guards, luggage, crash bars and more. Royal Enfield even has a cool looking Rally variant planned with a flat bench seat and a more racy-looking tail section, although you can’t buy these parts as accessories and you will have to spec the bike with them at the time of purchase through Royal Enfield's online MIY configurator.
Royal Enfield Himalayan verdict
The new Himalayan will replace the old one and that may upset some purists. In my opinion, Royal Enfield has had the greatest turnaround of any automotive manufacturer in the last decade, and they have absolutely earned the right to make modern and exciting motorcycles like this while still retaining their essence of ‘pure motorcycling’. For those who crave the old school RE experience, there’s still the Scram 411 and the J Series bikes, and they’re not going anywhere.
I thoroughly enjoyed riding this bike and I suspect many others will as well, both in India and overseas. There are still a couple of questions that remain, particularly about the low-end performance, and we’ll be able to answer them soon enough.
As for the price, RE will reveal it later this month at the MotoVerse festival in Goa. Until then, we can make a few safe assumptions. This bike cannot be more expensive than a 650cc parallel twin, so it will cost less than Rs 3 lakh. On the other hand, I doubt RE will go down to such aggressive pricing like we saw on the Triumph Speed 400. However, since the current Himalayan 411 costs between Rs 2.15 lakh-2.3 lakh, the new one shouldn’t be drastically more expensive either.
My guess is somewhere between Rs 2.50 lakh-2.70 lakh (ex-showroom). We shall see. But, as long as RE is sensible with the price, they have a winner on their hands.
Royal Enfield Bikes
Royal Enfield Himalayan 650
Expected Price : ₹ 4.00 - 4.09 lakh
Royal Enfield Shotgun 650
Expected Price : ₹ 3.00 - 3.50 lakh
Royal Enfield Classic 650
Expected Price : ₹ 3.40 - 3.60 lakh
Royal Enfield Scrambler 650
Expected Price : ₹ 32.00 - 3.50 lakh
Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650
₹ 4.16 - 4.51 lakh
Royal Enfield Continental GT 650
₹ 3.82 - 4.12 lakh
Royal Enfield Himalayan
₹ 2.28 - 3.41 lakh
Royal Enfield 2023 Bullet 350
₹ 2.04 - 2.62 lakh
Royal Enfield Classic 350 2021
₹ 2.16 - 2.61 lakh
Royal Enfield Hunter 350
₹ 1.77 - 1.99 lakh
Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
₹ 3.63 - 3.95 lakh
Royal Enfield Meteor 350
₹ 2.50 - 2.78 lakh
Royal Enfield Scram 411
₹ 2.47 lakh
Copyright (c) Autocar India. All rights reserved.