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Riding the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan

When most of us think of Royal Enfield, we imagine the venerable single-cylinder, overhead-valve Bullet or Classic, somewhat quirky, retro-classic bikes with British roots in the 1950s. Those bikes are still staples in Royal Enfield's lineup, but the Indian company has been busy the past few years, remaking itself to take advantage of changing markets in the U.S. and its home country and staking its future on dominating the mid-capacity category.

2014 saw the introduction of the café racer Continental GT. RE India's first sporting single, it boasted a completely new chassis designed by Les Harris in England housing an enlarged, 535cc version of RE's familiar 500cc overhead valve single. Two years ago, RE pulled the wraps off the Himalayan, a completely new model sharing absolutely nothing with previous bikes other than its Royal Enfield badge, and this past March RE started shipping the new model to the U.S.

Aimed squarely at the growing "adventure" market, the Himalayan was designed to offer on- and offroad capability in a mid-sized package. Power comes from a new overhead cam (RE's first), fuel injected 411cc single. Rated at 24.5 horsepower, the unit construction engine features electronic ignition and a 5-speed transmission, with disc brakes front and rear.

A recent weekend aboard a Himalayan left impressions of a competent, well-sorted machine. Swinging a leg over the bike and settling in, the comfortable 31.5-inch seat height, which lets the average rider (I'm 5 feet 11 inches) plant their feet firmly on the ground, is immediately appreciated. The upright handlebar provides a classic and comfortable sit-up-and-beg riding position, and the ergonomics are excellent. Handlebar switchgear is simple and intuitive, and the instruments are easily deciphered. A large analog speedometer and smaller analog tachometer provide critical road and engine speed information. A digital panel in the lower third of the speedo shows total mileage and provides two resettable trip meters. It also shows ambient temperature, time and gear position, and there's a separate green neutral light in the panel between the speedo and tach. The cluster also features a fuel gauge and compass in the lower right hand corner. The compass on my bike was erratic, but as I later discovered that was likely due to me setting my tank bag with its magnetic holders on top of the cluster while refilling the tank, and it's easily reset.

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan

My test bike was equipped with a set of Nelson-Rigg waterproof saddlebags, and optional aluminum panniers are available. The saddlebags had me standing on the left footpeg to swing my leg over the saddle getting on and off, but the Himalayan's sturdy sidestand (it also has a centerstand) appears to have been made in anticipation of that minor bit of gymnastics.

Starting is a simple matter of turning the key and hitting the button, the engine firing immediately and settling into a steady idle. A cold idle lever next to the left grip keeps rpms up when it's cold, but it was unnecessary in the 50-70 degree F temps I rode in.

Given its relatively small engine displacement, I expected lackluster performance, but the counter-balanced 411cc single is a willing performer, endowed with a nice, broad torque curve that makes takeoffs effortless and provides enough grunt for low- and midspeed takeovers. I managed a top speed of 80mph, yet during a 15-mile stretch of Interstate the Himalayan cruised effortlessly at an indicated 70mph, the engine humming along smoothly and seemingly unstressed. The bike's sweet spot is in the 60-65mph range, the engine running at 4,000- 4,500rpm, which is right where it hits its peak torque of 24 ft/lb. Redline is 6,500rpm.

The 5-speed transmission works flawlessly, with clean, crisp shifts between every gear and no false neutrals, and the well-chosen gear ratios take good advantage of the engine's mid-range strength. Dropping from fifth to fourth at 60-65mph produced perfectly adequate power for passing slower vehicles on the Wisconsin back roads I rode for most of my time. Gas mileage was very good at 60mpg.

The twin discs pull the Himalayan down from speed easily, aided no doubt by the bike's relatively light weight (RE claims 401 pounds wet), but the front brake feels soft, requiring a bit more pull than expected. It all works fine, it's just missing the progressive braking feel I prefer.

Light and agile, the Himalayan is an easy handling bike. The wide bars give good leverage for initiating turns and the Pirelli MT60 tires stick well, rain or shine. A 35-mile ride in pouring rain was utterly without drama, the small windscreen reducing buffeting while also helping to keep my tank bag dry.

The suspension is low tech but works well, with almost 8 inches of travel up front and 7 inches at the rear, numbers that should make it a relatively capable performer in the dirt. I can't speak directly to the Himalayan's offroad prowess, as outside of a few miles of gravel road my ride didn't present any options for even light trail riding.

Priced at $4,495, the Himalayan represents fun, affordable motorcycling, and buyers are lining up. Bolstering RE's assessment of the market in the U.S. for a mid-capacity adventure bike, the third shipment of Himalayans is already sold out. Easy to ride and especially appealing to new riders eager to join the adventure category, it's a solid, nicely performing machine that can also satisfy old hands.

Honda Brings Back the Super Cub

honda super cub

It's official: Honda is bringing the new Honda Super Cub to the U.S. in 2019. Powered by the same air-cooled, 125cc overhead cam single used in the Grom, the new Super Cub C125 ABS is a visual direct descendent of the original Super Cub. First introduced in 1958, the Super Cub is the most popular motorcycle or motor vehicle of any kind in history, with production over the past 60 years totaling more than 100 million units built in 15 countries.

The importance of the Super Cub to Honda's fortunes can't be underestimated. An immediate success when it was brought to the U.S. in 1959, it was the little bike that could, inspiring the launch of Honda's famous "You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda" advertising campaign, which has been credited with helping shape American attitudes about motorcycling in the 1960s. As Honda's fortunes in the U.S. grew, however, the Cub became less important to its U.S. sales and it was dropped from the U.S. lineup after 1973.

While the new Super Cub shows its heritage well, it's a thoroughly modern machine. The Super Cub uses an electronic fob instead of a traditional key — complete with an alarm function — and standard features include a front disc brake with ABS, electronic ignition and digital fuel injection. The transmission is a 4-speed, with an automatic centrifugal clutch, just like the original. Honda has chosen to equip the new Super Cub with only a 1-gallon gas tank, which seems small on first blush but is probably more than adequate given the bike's 240-pound curb weight: if past Cubs are any indication, the new Super Cub should get 80-100mpg. Honda will offer the new Super Cub in a single color for 2019, Pearl Niltava Blue, but we'd expect to see that expanded if the bike performs well. List price is $3,599 and it comes with a 1-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

Norton Commando One-Piece Axles by Don Pender

norton commando axle

If you own a 1971-1974 Norton Commando and you've ever suffered a rear axle break where the main axle threads into the dummy axle at the brake drum you'll be interested in the one-piece axles from Don Pender. Made of stainless steel, they replace the stock two-piece setup, which has been known to fail in high-stress applications. Installed through the chain side, the brake drum can be left in place during wheel removal. One-piece axle at top. $70.

Team Obsolete Presents Historic Trophy for 2018 Classic TT

Renzo Pasolini Trophy

In an effort to inspire more genuine original motorcycles to return to the Isle of Man Classic TT, New York’s Team Obsolete has created the “Renzo Pasolini Trophy” to honor one of Italy's fiercest pilots. This is to be awarded annually to the top placing ORIGINAL Italian motorcycle in the Classic TT.

Tuner/collector Rob Iannucci, head of Team Obsolete, has created this trophy using four original pistons from Renzo Pasolini's Benelli 16-valve, seven-speed 350/four on which he placed 2nd in the 1968 Junior TT, behind Agostini’s MV “Triple.”

The Isle of Man's Classic TT is the premier Historic road racing event in the world. We are truly honored to support it.

Many thanks to our sponsors: AVON Tyres, Vanson Leathers and Redline Oils.

Yamaha XS650 Spoked Wheels by Revival Parts

spoked wheels 

Vintage Japanese parts specialists Revival Parts have created a spoked mod kit for Yamaha XS650s, including models with cast wheels. Made from 6061 aluminum billet, their just-announced rear wheel spoked hub accepts the stock XS650 rear axle, bearing, seals, spacers, drive sprocket and brake rotor. You can pick your rim width and diameter. Allows use of the original Yamaha caliper and stock location. No additional fabrication needed, although 1970-1977 models require a hub spacer. A front hub will also be available. No pricing as of yet.

Sport Chock by Baxley

sport chock

Made in Waverly, Alabama, the patented Baxley Sport Chock was designed to fit the front wheel of sport bikes and standard road bikes with 110-130mm 16- to 19-inch front tires. Powder coated for durability, it has non-skid end caps to keep it from sliding when used in the garage and it's pre-drilled for bolting down to a trailer floor. Just roll the front wheel in and your bike stays in place, with no tie-downs necessary in stationary settings. Available in five colors and comes with a lifetime warranty. $199.

Bonneville Boots by Bates Leathers

bonneville boots

With deep roots in the industry, the folks at Bates Leathers know how to make top-quality leather motorcycle riding gear, including boots. The new Bonneville features a Vibram Christy sole for ultimate durability on and off your bike, and sports extra leather on the toe for shifting. It comes standard with an extra 1/8th-inch insole for extra comfort, along with a standard insole and leather heel. Available with or without the Fast Lane patch on the ankle pad. Stock colors are black and chocolate brown. $270.