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ADV LAUNCH | 2024 ROYAL ENFIELD HIMALAYAN 450 | Latest | News | Race Reports

Royal Enfield has upgraded the Himalayan with a new engine and improved reliability. Here’s our Aussie test on the Royal Enfield Himalayan 450.

Gazing out at the most soothing view in the Victorian High Country, I sat on the verandah of Craig’s Hut, and contemplated my two previous failed attempts to get here. Now I’m sitting in the warm morning sun on a clear cool autumn day, finding it difficult to not compare how it seemed so easy to put myself here with 16 other riders on the all new Himalayan 450.

Back in 2005 I was bored with riding my road bike fast and even adventure riding it. I even attempted Craigs Hut! But I wanted a bike that allowed me to turn off into hellish roads that took me to places that gave me shivers of excitement and stories for my grandkids. I had just started a new business, had my first child and had a big mortgage, it had to be cheap! So a few mates and I bought postie bikes.

I purposely bought a slow bike for a change of pace but right away started spending money to make it go faster and faster. We conquered the most difficult roads in Oz including the highest, Mt Pinnibar and seized it three times on the way up. If it had a funny name I went there, Mt Misery was miserable.

I rode them exclusively for five years but I forgot to spend money on the suspension. Then tragedy struck. Flying Doctors out the back o’ Bourke, four months without weight bearing on my leg, and 18 months before riding again and a solid vow to never again ride a bike with bad suspension. You can watch the feature length movie about it on YouTube, ‘Arrows of Fire’.

Why am I telling this tale of woe? Royal Enfield flew out the Chief of Design, Mark Wells, from the UK office to talk us through the monumental effort to build a cheap bike for the world but not cheapskate out of things like suspension, handling and reliability. Before 2015, Royal Enfield’s reputation for unreliability in India was widely known but they had the corresponding reputation for having a cheap but capable mechanic on every corner.

In 2016, after completely modernising the factory, they set their hopes on a new reputation via the all new Himalayan 411cc “for all roads for no roads” bike. It was a hit all over the world but with some minor flaws which they immediately started to rectify in this new Himalayan 450 model. I rode it a few times, totally forgettable in my opinion, but probably a lot better than a Postie!

ADB’s sister mag, AMCN, had a significant connection to the development with Road Editor Paul Young being the test pilot in Spain through the chassis development. He would do scary shit, such as load the bike up with panniers, get an ultra-brave pillion, put uneven pressures in the bald tyres, get it up to 120kph then give one handlebar a massive tug to initiate a death wobble and see if it dissipates or gets worse! Then repeat until it’s acceptably safe. I needed Youngy around in ’05 for my postie’s development.

The all new engine went through a similar development with hundreds of thousands of hours spend bench testing at full throttle! The Royal Enfield guys are serious about handling and reliability.

There are cues of the old 411cc in this bike with the front luggage racks making the cut. It’s a shame that the new tank is more modern looking as the old one was so simplistic, like an eight year old drew it.

Some compromises had to be made to achieve a complicated design brief where the seat had to stay low, but add ground clearance and increase suspension travel while keeping it narrow around the legs for a comfortable standing position. To put the air filter under the tank which impacted the fuel capacity the simple tank shape had to go. Suspension is always a compromise but Mark Wells said the 9KAUD price was achieved through volume, not by lowering quality. In India the price is only $2500 USD!

When we first hit the dirt, most of the riders immediately stood up. The design team certainly got the standing position right. It is as narrow as an enduro bike and I was comfortable riding it like an enduro bike with nothing stopping you leaning all the way forward for acceleration and back for braking. The locked in seat from the 411 thankfully was gone from the 450. It’s hard to get forward when seated but so are all ADV bikes.

There is a one piece tall enduro seat available for the ADB readers. Two of the issues I found on the bike involved the standing position and are easy fixes. The gear lever and brake pedal needed to be closer in to the engine. Going up steep hills or doing anything where you used the front of the footpegs, log jumping or just playing around, I would hit the brake and gear lever all the time.

I pushed the handling non-stop for the three days trying ABS both on and off. The neat Google Maps integration looked a bit fiddly to set up but owners will do it once. After that it’s a great option rather than a clunky proprietary map system.

From single track with over 30psi in the tyres to the huge high country rocky fire trails with 22psi, I could not get it to deflect or scare me in anyway. I bottomed it out, slid it out, front and rear, and held it flat out. To the edge of my ability I maxed it out in all but a few areas, such as carrying luggage.

After a blast up and down a thousand perfect asphalt corners to Mt Buller I can safely say it handles the asphalt very well, including the Indian designed and made tyres.

Sitting on the corners waiting for the other journos, I would drift back to my time on the posties. If I had only this bargain priced bike back then, my mangled leg probably wouldn’t scare kids down at the beach. What about now, would I buy one? Yeah I would. I’d love a $30+k ADV bike but I certainly don’t own one due to, um, I can’t afford one, but my mates and I could easily afford, and more importantly justify one of these each.

We could have travelled further, by taking highways to get to the good stuff quicker and still gone down all the snotty trails a postie can get down. It cruises well, with enough torque to deal with massive long asphalt hills without changing down a gear. With 120kph at 6000 revs, 140kph at 7000revs, redline at a bit over 8000, I saw 170kph a few times chasing the super-fast Chief of Design, so I guess 170 is inside the design brief!

This bike has won me over as I have a love for small capacity bikes and it performs and exceeds my expectations. Has it fallen short? Not anywhere considering the price and design brief, apart from what I mentioned already.

Could it be improved? Yeah. I chatted with Mark about a 650 version because I reckon Aussies will have an issue with a 450 sticker, unless they’re a new rider. We then discussed horsepower.

The new, 196kg wet, Himalayan has 40hp, the same as the 210kg KLR650 and the 166kg DR650 has 36hp! This Himalayan is so much better than those old tech bikes. If we printed horsepower stickers instead of capacity then Aussies would be all over this bike. As it has a catalytic converter, you could easily replace it with a slip on muffler and open up the airbox and get an extra 10hp, ahem, unofficially.

The day before riding the Himalayan I was riding the GasGas range on the VIP Experience. I thought it would taint my views but it only enhanced my respect because it performed flawlessly. I’m not saying it can compete with a GasGas obviously but the bike didn’t stop me from riding hard and smiling the whole time.

It wasn’t easy getting my opening shot at Craigs Hut. A clutch dump is required to pop the front and when it’s up I didn’t love the feeling of weight so high, nothing scary happened, but I didn’t exactly send it either.

After giving it a red hot test for three days there are some unknowns. How does it handle luggage, or two up? When the suspension settles in will it still be excellent despite no adjustment on the front and old school pre-load adjustment down the back?

We didn’t test any of the huge accessories range, but some riders tested the non-standard lower crash bars, which have a bit of a crumple zone built in. The upper crash bars are actually luggage racks and aren’t intended to protect the tank but obviously will in a light topple over. The biggest unknown, with this 450 ADV category heating up, is which one will ADB readers buy, or more importantly which can they justify?