Okay, so where is it written that all adventure bikes have to be large, technically sophisticated, expensive beasts? Can’t we have simple, honest machines to ride across this wonderful country of ours? Yes, yes we can.
There’s plenty of interest in the breed even if the current crop of bikes aren’t exactly new. The ancient and beloved Kawasaki KLR650 has fueled more wicked adventures than tequila—for good reason. It’s durable, well known, and incredibly well supported. Same for the Suzuki DR650 and the Honda XR650L. Yamaha’s newer WR250 has a strong following as well, though this is more of a dirt bike than a lightweight adventure machine. And then there’s Honda’s punching-above-its-weight CRF250L Rally —a pint-sized adventure machine for around $6000.
Riding the Himalayan
You can add one more name to that list: the Royal Enfield Himalayan. Think of it as 411ccs of low-slung, easy-to-ride adventure machine. It’s simple, wonderfully simple. You know it’s simple when fuel injection is its most sophisticated technology. Under the fins are an air-cooled thumper with a long stroke for good midrange torque, plus two valves per cylinder for even more simplicity. True, the Himalayan isn’t overly powerful, with just more than 24 horsepower on tap. But it has plenty of torque for trails and enough punch to keep up with most highway traffic outside of Los Angeles or I-15 on the way into Idaho Falls, where everyone goes 100.
By nature, the Himalayan is mellow, with gentle midrange power, lots of flywheel, and progressive throttle response. All things you want for off-the-highway riding, whether you as a riders have been doing it for a long time or just starting.
Really, the Himalayan’s mission is to bring adventures to the masses, at an affordable price. The basic motorcycle sells for $4500. Weighing 420 pounds with a seat height of 31.5 inches makes the Himalayan shorter than a CRF250L Rally, but it’s also heavier and about as powerful.
Customizing The Royal Enfield Himalayan
Off road, the Himalayan is a willing partner at a sedate pace. Remember that the suspension travel is limited to keep the seat height reasonable but at least the suspension calibration is right for the mission. The bike feels stable and well damped on pavement and easily controllable off road as long as the terrain matches the bike. This is not a motorcycle for double-black-diamond kinds of single track. Considering these modest expectations, the Himalayan performs just as you’d expect and may actually be a blessing in disguise. So many riders push beyond their own limits on highly capable bikes, and that’s why you see so much broken orange plastic beside the trail. Dial the pace back to something like enjoying yourself and the Himalayan makes sense.
We wanted full hand guards but there’s not enough room for a full Barkbusters setup behind the stock fairing unless we wanted to cut the plastic or raise the handlebars more than the 20mm we die. So we went after the next best thing, using a bar-end set of backbones that we unceremoniously hacked off. This way we get protection from trees if not rain and snow. Plus this plastic-less configuration just looks right on the form-first Enfield.
Royal Enfield Himalayan Luggage Options
Naturally, we couldn’t leave the Himalayan alone once it rolled into our shop. But rather than pour on expensive components, we went light and cheap. The bike already comes with a cool rack set flanking the steel fuel tank, so we attached an SW-MOTECH DryBag 80 to one side and a pair of DrySpec Tool Tubes–one big and one small–to the other side. Just these items give you a place for tools and spare inner tubes and water/snacks.
For the main luggage, we used a combination of SW-MOTECH bags, including a DryBag 250 lashed to the left side, an SW-MOTECH Tentbag 2 across the seat, and a waterproof bag liner from the TRAX saddlebags under a cargo net out back. Just underneath that stack is a Rotopax 1-gallon fuel cell secured to the bike’s stock tubular top rack. Because the Himalayan is so new, rear side racks are scarce, so we modified tubular racks we found at the local hardware store. Their purpose is just to keep the bags out of the rear wheel.
For full camping cred, we threw a pair of PVC pipes on the right side that carry a shovel, a tree saw, and a hatchet. Good for the woods. Good for downtown Providence, too. Oh, In case you cut yourself with either of those, you’ll be glad we fitted the Oxford first-aid kit above the headlight.
We also tossed on a set of MITAS E-09 knobbies. The rear, a 130/80-17, is actually a plus-one size (same as for the KLR650, in fact), but the Himalayan is fine with it. These tires make the bike much more confident off road without harming street manners.
And because there’s no such thing as too much light, we mounted a set of Denali DR-1 LED auxiliary lights to angled mounts right off the headlight shell. These are simple angled mounts we spaced out from the headlight mounting ears. For the DIYers in the house, that’s a spacer with an 8mm inner diameter and a total height of 30mm.
When we were done modding and riding, we parked the Himalayan in our showroom and watched the reactions of our customers. If they’re any indication, the idea of a light, simple, honest motorcycle still has strong appeal. One can only hope the Himalayan will cause the Japanese manufacturers to reconsider updating their stalwart offerings in this attractive, less-than-full-size class of ADV machine.