Riding the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus
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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.

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