Royal Enfield unleashes an all-new adventure bike and they’re the only one in the class! We went all the way to the Himalayas to ride the Royal Enfield Himalayan 450.
Forget what you think you know about Indian-made motorcycles. In fact, forget what you know about the old, 410cc Royal Enfield Himalayan. If no one told you Royal Enfield moved their manufacturing from England to India in 1955 you’d assume the all-new Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 was still being built in Redditch, Worcestershire. I travelled all the way to Manali in the Himalayas to get a peek of the 20224 Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 and the first time I laid eyes on it and straddle its seat while groping it’s handlebars, I was blown away with how well-put-together this model is.
Pumping out over 40hp through a six-speed gearbox, the new single-cylinder, 452cc, Sherpa 450 engine is Royal Enfield’s first liquid-cooled motor and is fed by EFI via a 42mm throttle body. The new motor is a DOHC layout with four-valves which utilises a ride-by-wire throttle with a lighter clutch pull than the previous model. Ride-by-wire means Rider Modes for the first time.
Two Ride Modes come standard on the Himalayan and are preprogramed with no ability to customise them. It also has switchable ABS via the two modes. A Performance Mode offers more power with ABS on both wheels or ABS off on the rear. Then there’s Eco Mode which cuts the power almost in half and offers the same ABS options as the Performance Mode. The new instrument panel is a four-inch diameter, circular LCD unit and features connectivity to the your smartphone along with full map navigation using Google Maps, as well as music and call management through the new joystick control on the left side of the handlebar. The new TFT dash also lets you track other things like motor performance.
Fortunately for us off-road types the wheel and tyre set remains the same as the old Himalayan with a 21-inch spoked wheel up front and a 17-inch unit out the back with a tyre sizing 90/90-21 in front and 140/80-17 in the rear. Royal Enfield will offer the Himalayan in a tubeless option which will obviously mean a different spoke setup.
Royal Enfield also did away with the old suspension and this iteration has a 43mm upside-down Showa fork for the first time but with no adjustment while a new preload-adjustable monoshock sits in the rear. This means suspension travel is up with 200mm of movement front and rear with ground clearance also up to 230mm, 30 mm more than the 200mm of the Himalayan 411.
Royal Enfield has boosted the brakes via a 320mm single disc, with dual piston up the front and a single-piston calliper hanging onto a 270mm disc at the rear. The footpegs have rubber inserts that can be removed for a more aggressive, dirtbike bite while a slightly wider handlebar gives it a more off-road feel. It also has a new, 17-litre fuel tank, new LED headlight, windscreen and integrated turn signal and brake light.
The seat on the Himalayan is now narrower and a split unit with the standard height set at 825mm. But that can be adjustable to 845mm via a clever bar riser under the seat which can be changed in 30 seconds. There is a low seat option which has the perch at 805mm which then can be raised to 825mm.
As for the other stuff, the main switch gear is on the left side with a joystick control to toggle through the TFT screen. It has a steel, twin spar frame that’s a stressed member, it comes standard with a rear rack and front crash bars, the air intake is located up high under the fuel tank which runs a paper filter, mechanical clutch and USB Type C charging port. It weighs 196kg wet, full of fuel and with 2.5 litres of oil in it and comes in five colour options – Hanle Black, Kamet White, Slate Himalayan Salt, Slate Poppy Blue and Kaza Brown.
Built for the Himalayas?
Anyone who’s been to the Himalayas will know how rugged they are. If the inclement weather and nasty dirt roads don’t kill you, the altitude will. The conditions provide the ultimate test for any machine and the Himalayan passed with flying colours.
The new 450cc motor is one-of-a-kind. There is no other 450cc adventure mill on the market and this one is a cracker. It packs so much more power than the previous model that it’s unfair to even compare. At 40hp, that’s just nine short of the 49hp the Kawasaki KX450 motocross bike puts out, a bike designed to huck triples and blast whoops.
Royal Enfield has been clever in where the power is distributed with a solid, torquey, low-end curve that doesn’t sign off thanks to a well-spaced gearbox. While I felt the gearing a touch tall for predominantly riding off-road (I’d suggest going up two teeth on the rear sprocket) and the gap between first and second quite a big jump in revs, the motor seemed to keep revving. There was useable, linear power in the bottom-, mid- and top-end. I hardly noticed a flat spot and that was at over 2500 metres above sea level! I could grovel up rocky climbs, like can be seen in these inset shots, and then stretch it out to 130km/h with a gear to spare.
While the new motor was the highlight and received the most improved award, the front-end wasn’t far behind. Being a dirt guy, I didn’t notice the front-end at the start of Day 1 when we were mostly riding bitumen. It wasn’t until we got into the fast dirt roads that I could fully appreciate the Showa fork, which is also a separate function unit (spring in one side).
I expected a very soft fork, like the old one, but the new 43mm legs are excellent for the intended use. For bashing over rocks on a fire road, deep pot holes, and erosion mounds, the fork was incredibly predictable. Being a Showa unit gave me so much more confidence to hit things at warp speed and I never ate the fork caps after a big hit. Heavier riders and those keen to strap some luggage on will still need to look at heavier springs though. We asked the Royal Enfield technicians what they offered in this department and officially there is no option to fit a heavier spring via Royal Enfield’s official channels but being a Showa unit you can rest assured, someone will make a heavier spring.
The new TFT screen and switch-block is a welcome addition to this new model. The previous cockpit was incredibly outdated so the new TFT screen is great to see. It is the only circular screen of its kind with Google Maps integrated into the system. You simply download the Royal Enfield app to your smartphone, then connect your phone to the motorcycle via WiFi.
Once you’re connected you will need to leave the app open to access the map on the TFT screen but it has a lock screen on the app so you can put it in your pocket and the buttons won’t get pressed accidentally. The downside to this is that the phone’s battery gets hammered, fortunately there’s the USB-C charging port on the handlebar to keep your phone powered.
The screen is bright and easy to read. The joystick-type toggle is easy to navigate through the options on the screen and music but it is a little close to the blinker which is the same joystick-type control so sometimes when I thought I was changing a track on my playlist I was actually putting the right hand blinker on. The other thing to be mindful of is that the app will not take GPX files for navigation and if you turn the bike off in an area without reception, you will need to get back into reception in order for the bike to reconnect with your phone.
As for all the other new stuff, its bang on. The seat is more comfortable and the bike feels more agile and racey. The rack at the back has plenty of tiedown points for gear and the screen up front pushed the wind up and over my 188cm frame without any wind-buffering. The brakes are incredibly strong and plenty big enough for the more powerful motor and the two different engine maps were worlds apart. I loved ABS off on the rear on the dirt and I appreciated the simplicity of the rider modes, with no traction control to worry about, just two different power modes and two different ABS options.
The bike we’ve all been waiting for
The all-new Himalayan is truly the bike all us off-road adventurers have been crying out for, for years. The 450cc capacity is the sweet spot for off-road adventurers and the Sherpa motor is fantastic. While a little cramped sitting down, it’s incredibly comfortable standing up and is crying out to be ridden like you stole it.
Nothing broke and nothing underperformed on this beast and while some might be asking for more features, at under $9000 the simplicity, durability, reliability and shredability of the Himalayan is unmatched. It has a monopoly of the 450cc adventure class meaning it truly is in a league of its own!