Test riding the Royal Enfield Himalayan Fi

Updated: Mar 04, 2018, 11:05 IST | Anosh Khumbatta | Mumbai

We put the new fuel-injected Royal Enfield Himalayan through its paces, on the road and off it

Himalayan

Royal Enfield opened up the small adventure bike market with the launch of the Himalayan in 2016, giving us a motorcycle that wasn’t shy to leave the tarmac and take on the trails. While the elite could buy large, multi-cylinder adventure bikes for their travels, those were out of reach of most enthusiasts, and too big and heavy for any serious off-roading. Royal Enfield identified this niche and went ahead to fill this gap in the market. With its simple utilitarian design, absence of plastic, rugged build and wire-spoke wheels, the Himalayan was India’s only genuine small-capacity off-roader and has proved capable of tackling just about any terrain.

Instrument cluster still includes wander-friendly compass
Instrument cluster still includes wander-friendly compass

Now, for 2018, Royal Enfield have endowed the Himalayan with fuel injection, ensuring that it passes today’s stringent Euro IV norms while getting a little more refined in the process. The design remains unchanged. On closer inspection, you will find the handlebar, bar-end weights and fuel-tank lid have been blacked out, but misses the hazard light switch. The carburettor has been replaced by a throttle body and the assorted wiring and electrical connectors for the fuel injection system.

Removable rubber peg inserts for on- and off-road comfort
Removable rubber peg inserts for on- and off-road comfort

The bike ticked to life with a gentle dab of the starter button and it was immediately apparent that the engine felt a lot smoother than before. This is the same LS410, oil-cooled 411-cc single that was introduced with the previous Himalayan, but the shift to fuel injection seems to have done wonders for its refinement. The lumpiness that we felt at crawling speeds has vanished, and the unit seems to rev up more freely than before with ample torque available from low revs, well into the mid-range.

The 410-cc single feels more refined. Pics/Saurabh Botre
The 410-cc single feels more refined. Pics/Saurabh Botre

Our ride kicked off in the middle of Pune city and we were instantly reminded of the fact that tall and upright motorcycles offer a fantastic view over most cars. This, combined with the Himalayan’s easy manoeuvrability and ample steering lock, saw us filtering through traffic with ease, head and shoulders above most other vehicles on the road. Royal Enfield seems to have got the fuelling just right on their first attempt and this is apparent from the seamless throttle response throughout the rev range. The 41-mm fork and linkage-mounted monoshock have 200 and 180 millimetres of travel respectively, and smoothly dispatched potholes and speed-breakers without even needing to slow down.

We found the handlebar placement to be just right, and the reach to the bars was comfortable when seated, or when standing up on the pegs as we glided over rough patches. On the open road the Himalayan can cruise easily at 90-100 km/h before the vibes coming through the pegs, bars and seat become intrusive. The bike also handles better than expected on the road and holds its line through a curve impressively, despite the large front wheel.

We were soon on the outskirts of the city and turned on to a mud road that led us to acres of open space, criss-crossed by several dusty trails and interspersed with rocky bits, small hillocks and several jumps. Here, the Himalayan came into its own, and we were soon ripping up and down the trails kicking up a huge cloud of dust and the knobby Ceat tyres found grip in the loose dirt. The massive 21-inch front wheel made short work of large obstacles in our path, and when we caught air a couple of times, the cushy suspension ensured a comfortable landing. The brakes, with their lack of initial bite on the road, seemed better suited to the dirt and provided decent feedback without threatening to lock up, although we are somewhat disappointed that ABS is not included in this update.

After spending most of the day with the Himalayan on varied surfaces, we can safely say that this is one of the most versatile bikes available in the market today. It combines a comfy riding position and perfect ergos with decent on-road manners and excellent off-road ability, in a package that costs just less than Rs 2 lakh. It would make an excellent starter motorcycle for someone looking to get into trail or off-road riding, and is tough enough to take a few falls without sustaining any serious damage. The fuel injection system has worked well to smooth out the engine, but for a machine that weighs nearly 200 kilograms, 24.5 PS of peak power seems a little feeble. Although the bike pulls strongly through the mid-range, power starts dropping drastically as revs increase. We’d love to see a Himalayan with a more powerful mill sometime soon.

With a wide range of abilities and the adaptability to tame the worst terrain, the Royal Enfield Himalayan Fi is a worthy successor to the name, and continues to be the only budget-friendly adventure bike you can buy in India.

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