Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 first ride review | One bike to rule them all?
Royal Enfield has been a very strong pillar in the Indian motorcycle scene. With bikes like the Bullet 350 and then eventually the Classic 350 helping the brand come back to the forefront of the industry after being on the brink of shutting shop. After the success of the Classic 350 got RE, the company began to experiment with different formats and also expanded their RnD operations beyond just India. One product as a result of this expansion was the Himalayan 411 that launched in 2016. It was not perfect at launch but the intent of the bike and future revisions meant that it would soon become a global commercial success for the company. But, that bike, as nice as it was, had a few shortcomings. It was heavy, felt underpowered on the roads and was not the most sophisticated. All that is in the past now with the grand arrival of what Royal Enfield is calling the all-new Himalayan. A liquid-cooled engine, a modern chassis, modern electronics all in a lighter package. RE is ticking all the right boxes so far but does it have the same friendly, non-intimidating nature that made the OG Himalayan a runaway success? Cue the mind montage!
Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 design
Before I get into the design, let me clear out some doubts. The bike is called the all-new Himalayan or the Himalayan 450 not the 452 as the engine displacement would suggest and all the stickering on the bike (of which there aren’t many) just says Himalayan. The whole brief with the new Himalayan was to create a bike that is an evolution of the outgoing Himalayan, retaining all the core values and elements that made it so special. One glance at the new Himalayan and that is very apparent. You have a similar headlight with a windscreen on top and the rails around the fuel tank. But everything is modern now. The headlight unit is an LED one similar to that of the Super Meteor 650, But RE tells us that this design was originally intended for the Himalayan but since the cruiser launched first, we saw it there before. The high fender looks sharper and more like that of a motocross bike now. Behind which are the new Showa-sourced USD forks.
Then there is the new tank which looks significantly better than what the gazillion spy-shots we saw would suggest. It flows in its design that starts off as bulbous and tapers to a slim section that connects to the new seat. It also carries two extra litres of fuel for those longer hauls. The saddle is now taller by default at 825mm and can be adjusted to 845mm by simply moving to barrels under the seat. The vertically challenged among us can opt for a shorter 805mm-825mm seat that changes the profile of the seat without compromising on any of the suspension travel or ground clearance, of which there is more now than before. 230mm of ground clearance (+10mm than before) and 200mm wheel travel at both ends (front travel is the same, +20mm rear travel). The split seat setup is better padded than before and even after riding for over 130kms non-stop my butt showed no signs of fatigue. The entire design of the bike is more graceful now than the purpose-built, industrial design of the 411.
The rear section is also completely new with a new design for the grab rails and top rack, but that is not what stands out. RE has done away with a dedicated tail light and instead has integrated it into the turn signals, all of which are LED units now. While this doesn't seem the most ideal, it grows on you. Coming to the side profile of the Himmy, there’s the new liquid-cooled engine that takes centre stage, which looks lean and is canted forward a little to optimise the centre of gravity of the bike. The air intake is also higher up and closer to the engine which translates to higher water wading ability and nice intake whistle when you roll on the throttle. The exhaust, unlike what you’d expect from the company, is a sleek and rather compact unit. RE has achieved this design by making the cat-con larger which in turn manages the brunt of the silencing. Neat!
Saving the best for last, you have the all-new Tripper Dash navigation system which is a full TFT 4-inch circle screen that can display a full-map view sourced by Google Maps. The display is bright and easy to read and all the preset layouts are rider focused and show just the right amount of information. Full map view is accurate and the only downside is you need to mirror your phone and leave the screen on, which in turn drains your phone’s battery pretty fast. The work around is to use turn-by-turn navigation which works well too. You control the entire display with a mode button on the ride switch cube and a home button and joystick on the left switch cube. Overall fit and finish levels are pretty good and at par with what we’ve come to expect from modern Royal Enfields.
Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 engine and performance
Powering the new Himalayan is an all-new 452cc, liquid-cooled engine with dual overhead cam shafts and four valves. A properly modern engine christened the Sherpa 450. This is the first time Royal Enfield has ever implemented such a modern engine in any of its bikes and if this is a sign of things to come, I couldn’t be happier. The engine is good for 39.5bhp at 8000rpm and 40Nm of torque at 5500rpm. These numbers, while healthy, might sound a little alarming at first because the rpms at which the power and torque is coming in at, are quite high for the purpose of this motorcycle. What Royal Enfield has done is deploy a ride-by-wire system that has a very smooth and linear response and has also tuned the power band such that you get 90 per cent of peak torque as early as 3000rpm. And while the engine may not seem as tractor-like as the 411, it certainly is plenty tractable. The gearbox has six speeds and the ratios are spread out such that the first four are slightly shorter for better off-road ability under 3000rpm and the fifth and sixth gears are slightly taller for faster cruising. We were riding in Manali and rode all the way up to Rohtang. Which meant we were dealing with high-altitude and that meant a near 30 per cent loss of power. So a full verdict of what the new engine is like is something I can give you only when I ride the bike at sea level. That should be real soon. That being said, the engine certainly feels a lot more lively while retaining the friendly nature of the outgoing Himalayan. Even at altitude, we could touch speeds of 120kmph in fifth gear without much effort. So in theory, you should be able to settle in a comfortable cruise at around 100kmph in sixth gear without much strain or resistance. This will of course be confirmed when we get to spend more time with the bike.
Speaking of refinement, this is a relatively high-compression engine, so there is bound to be vibrations. But what Royal Enfield has done is put dampers in all the right places like the footpegs to dampen the amount of vibrations that the rider would feel. Some creep in every now and then but not annoyingly so. The gearbox feels tactile and smooth and is very responsive. That paired with the new slipper clutch makes for effortless shifting. In terms of riding off-road, the engine is a lot of fun for faster trails thanks to the newfound mid-range and top-end power. The slower stuff is also effortless but you do need to work the gearbox in the first three cogs a little more than you’d have to on the previous Himmy. Small price to pay for the extra dimension of performance this engine unlocks. We were riding in really cold weather and the engine stayed cool for the most part. Whether or not the same unstressed nature translates in city traffic and hotter ambient temperatures is another thing I’m looking forward to testing as soon as I get the bike here in Pune.
Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 chassis, ride and handling
The entire chassis setup on the Himalayan is all-new. There’s a new steel twin-spar frame that now uses the engine as a stressed member of the setup. The frame is suspended off of 43mm Showa cartridge style forks and a monoshock both of which offer 200mm of wheel travel. The rider sits a little taller now and the reach to the handlebar is a nice comfortable one for riders of most sizes. The taller seat height for the most part is a non-issue and that is primarily down to the narrow inseam which not only allows you to get your legs closer to the ground but also makes for the perfect perch to grip the bike when standing and riding. Being a rider on the taller side, I preferred riding in the 845mm seat height configuration. At 196kg, the bike has shed 3kg, but in the grand scheme of things that number is closer to 5kg considering the 2 extra litres of fuel that the bike carries. 196kg still makes for a heavy bike and you feel the heft when taking u-turns or moving the bike in a parking lot, but the second you set off, the weight just disappears.
One thing that really stood out to me me when I started riding the new Himalayan, is how good the ride quality is. The new suspension setup ensures that everything on the road is gobbled up with very little disturbance to the rider. The setup really feels like that of a bike two or three tiers above the bike. On the handling front, you still get a 21-inch front and a 17-inch rear which now wears a wider 140-section radial tyre. The bike is a far better handler than its predecessor. Take it to a set of twisties and you will be scraping foot pegs with a big grin on your face before you know it. All while feeling planted and confidence inspiring. Now you’d assume that after offering such a sorted ride experience on road, the suspension would feel compromised off-road right? Wrong. The same balanced and planted feel translates off-road as well and it really had all of us stunned. Now, I’m no off-road expert and neither am I a fan of falling 100 feet off a cliff where we were riding. But the setup ensured that I rode a lot faster than I ever would with the previous bike. Ruts, stones, gravel, the bike maintained composure throughout. Even the bespoke Ceat tyres worked rather well. Braking comes courtesy of a twin-piston ByBre calliper chomping on a larger 320mm disc upfront and a single-piston calliper mounted on a larger 270mm disc at the rear. Braking performance is ample and linear. The initial bite is not as sharp as a road bike but you don’t want a sharp brake setup off-road. What you get here is a setup that is balanced and works well both on and off-road.
Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 verdict
Now in typical RE fashion you have a plethora of GMA and MiY accessories to choose from. Almost double that of the previous bike. These include travel accessories, seats, handlebar risers, lights, protection and a lot more. There’s even a sort of rally kit with a single piece seat, cowls for the rear, a different engine guard setup and sadly only for international markets, an Arrow exhaust. RE also has tubeless spoked wheels ready but those won't be available at launch as they aren’t homologated for India yet.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 is a ‘HUGE’ step up over the outgoing bike and is definitely the sort of evolution we were hoping to see. A properly modern engine and chassis setup, all the capabilities of the previous bike plus so much more. All while staying friendly and easy to approach. The six-odd years that it has been in development for really show and this has the potential to be yet another global commercial success for Royal Enfield. We don’t know the prices yet, those will be announced at the Motoverse event in Goa later this month. But RE assures us that it will be competitively priced and won’t be as much of a step up as the bike itself is. My assumption is that the Himalayan 450 will be priced between ₹2.5-₹3 lakh based on the variant (colour scheme) you go for. But even if the prices are a little more than that, I feel that the bike will be a runaway success. As it should be.