Royal Enfield have done little to keep their all-new Himalayan adventure bike away from curious eyes, but the firm has now blown its own cover fully, releasing first official details on the Royal Enfield website, and with company CEO Siddhartha ‘Sid’ Lal, writing a lengthy blog for the Times Of India about his experiences developing the new bike.
He told TOI, “The idea of the Royal Enfield Himalayan has been 60 years in the making. With an unbroken heritage of 115 years, Royal Enfield has been in India since 1955. The Bullet was first brought to India to be used by the Indian Army in the Himalayas, and its success in these tough terrains is the foundation of Royal Enfield's enduring relationship with adventurers in India."
Sadly, at least for the forseeable future, it seems highly unlikely that the Himalaya will make it to UK shores, as MCN believes the new model won't meet current new bike emissions legislation. But with Royal Enfield targeting total production of 500,000 per year motorcycle – across their whole range – the scope for the model in their domestc market is huge, not least because it will perfectly suit much of the country's rural infrastructure better than existing models in the range.
“I have been riding in the Himalayas for over twenty years now. It is the most gorgeous landscape - with miles of barren stretches of land, snow, daunting mountains and passes. My first long ride in the Himalayas was in 2010 when I was riding with my friends, and…our single biggest insight was that the best motorcycle for the Himalayas is not one that tries to dominate its landscape, but one that is able to go with its flow.
“Large adventure tourers that currently define this category, do not fare well in the Himalayas as they are very heavy, extremely complicated, and not really designed for this environment. They guzzle high octane fuel in a region where there are few petrol stations and the fuel is often adulterated; they come to a stop if there is an issue with their electronics - and unlike the European conditions that they are built for - there is no RAC or AA breakdown service in sight; if the motorcycle falls in deep slush, it takes three people to lift it. And anyways, most people who aren't 6 feet tall find these motorcycles very intimidating - so that rules out 99% of Indians!
“Given our collective learning and experiences of riding in the Himalayas, the idea of a purpose-built Royal Enfield for the region has been brewing in our heads for years. We started with a clean sheet of paper to build a motorcycle that was as comfortable fording a rocky river as it was to crunch hundreds of highway miles; substantial enough to hold its line in high cross winds, and to carry a pillion and lots of luggage, but light enough to pick it up when it falls; simple enough to mend a broken part yourself (as a result of that previous fall!) or to start even if the battery is dead (seriously, you can push start it and put on your headlamp even if the battery is missing!). It should be accessible for an average Indian to ride, yet have enough room for excellent ground clearance and long suspension travel; it should have good range, lots of available torque, be economical to run and own, and lots of fun to ride and to live with! Easy, isn't it?
"I rode the prototype extensively in the summer of 2014 at the Bruntingthorpe airfield and surrounding off-road tracks in the UK. While riding onto a steep muddy hill and going down its slope, the motorcycle gave me tremendous confidence with its gradability, high ground clearance and beefy suspension.
"In line with Royal Enfield's traditional long stroke engine characteristics, the all new engine delivers high torque and usable power at lower RPMs. This makes for smooth riding in higher gears at lower speeds, making it easy to climb hills, or to manoeuvre through traffic. Fewer moving parts with modern materials and aggregates means that the engine is low maintenance and very efficient, and can go 10,000 kilometres between oil change.
“Stripped of all non essential parts to keep it light and agile, the Himalayan is handsome in a naked and spartan way, as it exudes its purpose of adventure and exploration via every part and as a whole.
“Equipped with suitable tyres for off-road and on-road performance, the Himalayan has a 21-inch front wheel, high ground clearance and long suspension travel that helped us tremendously in traversing rocky river beds and craters on the road.
“Luggage has been designed integrally into the Himalayan, with hard and soft side pannier options, a rear carrier and innovative front jerry can mounts for extra fuel and water - which can be a life-saver in remote areas.
“An optimal seat height combined with ergonomic handlebar and footpegs position make for a comfortable upright riding posture, while the windscreen protects the rider from the elements. The low centralised mass of the engine and a slim long range petrol tank (15 litres) sculpted with knee recesses, allow for better stability and handling even while standing on the foot pegs while riding demanding mountain trails.
“Most recently, in January this year I took out the production ready Himalayan for a long 800 kilometres ride from Goa to Hampi and then to Bangalore. I rode largely on smaller back roads, and took the motorcycle on forest and off-road trails as well. I was riding 12 hours a day for two days and I realized that (despite my age!) I did not feel tired on the Himalayan.
“The Himalayan is the start of a new and very important chapter for Royal Enfield, and I believe for all those who long for a simple and capable go-anywhere motorcycle that enjoys adventure as much as you.”
You can read Lal's full blog on the Times of India website.
Royal Enfield has made a serious commitment to returning the brand – at least in part – to it’s homeland in recent years, with Lal spending an increasing amount of time in the UK, and the company’s buy-out of British engineering legends Harris Performance to play a key role in the development of new Royal Enfield models – as they did with the Continental GT, released in 2013.
Just this month, the firm awarded a £2.5million contract to construction firm Stepnell to commence work on the company’s new research and design centre in Leicestershire. Work is expected to start in March, with a completion target of November.