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ADV BikesDurability Test: Pushing the Limits of Royal Enfield’s Himalayan

Durability Test: Pushing the Limits of Royal Enfield’s Himalayan

 We put India's budget ADV to the test to see if it's up for serious adventures.

Published on 07.09.2018
Rock gardens, deep sand, hill climbs, single track - you name it. We didn't pull any punches testing the Himalayan.

With the skyrocketing price of extremely complex, extremely capable, extremely luxurious adventure bikes on the market, it seems that this unlikely bike from an unlikely manufacturer has come at just the right time. But, anyone can make a bike that talks the talk, but we wanted to see if the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan can walk the walk. We grabbed our usual check list of “adventure bike tests” and ran this Indian bike through the wringer.

The elephant in the room when talking about a $4,499 bike from a smaller manufacturer that isn’t from Europe or Japan, is durability. As motorcyclists, we’ve learned that when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. At some point or another, it would be safe to say that we’ve cheaped-out on a piece of gear, a part, or even a bike and have paid the price when that item underperformed or straight up broke. That being said, we are also optimistic and, sometimes masochistically, willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Offroad reliability
The Himalayan has an affordable price tag of $4,499 and comes with an impressive unlimited mileage 2 year warranty.

After Senior Editor Rob Dabney got back from the press introduction of the Himalayan he was impressed, or at least intrigued, enough to immediately ask Royal Enfield for a long term test unit. Once it was in the garage we prepared it for AltRider’s Taste Of Dakar and were on the road within the week. After that event, we also took it to our super secret off-road testing grounds in the San Bernardino Mountains and another full day of off-roading in the San Diego backcountry.

With all that riding combined, the Himalayan got a taste, or large helping rather, of a lot of gnarly off-road conditions. While we weren’t overly abusive (no ghost riding off cliffs or supercross size whoops) we didn’t pull any punches. This bike was ridden through some pretty sizable rock garden-like trails, up and down rugged jeep roads, through tight single track, and blasted down ledgy, uneven sand washes. Overall, we put thousands of miles on our Himalayan and here is our second look/off-road test/durability review, however you want to look at it.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Offroad reliability

Getting To Know The Engine

Just looking at the numbers you can tell that a 411cc motor putting out a claimed 24 horsepower is pretty detuned. This is not, nor does it claim to be, a performance-oriented powerplant. That being said, being a small-displacement, single cylinder that redlines at 6,500 RPM, the Himalayan is incapable of tearing itself apart. In the month or so that we had the bike, the oil level stayed consistent and we didn’t have any mechanical issues with the motor — and we were not nice to the machine.

At the Taste Of Dakar, we were ringing it out passing groups of riders on 650s, 1000s, and 1200s. You do have to ride it more like a 125 two-stroke, keeping the momentum up and not letting the RPMs drop too low. At the same event, we hit some deep sand and that’s where we ran into some issues. Being a five speed bike, the gaps in gears are very large. Trying to get through deep, soft sand required some paddling because the gear spacing between first and second is big. At that critical moment of gaining enough speed in first to click into second gear to get “on top” of the sand, second gear was too tall and the bike would bog. Either second gear being lower or five more horsepower would be very helpful. What would also be very helpful is a set of more off-road-oriented tires with some deeper knobs. The stock 70/30 Pirelli MT60s had their work cut out for them.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Offroad reliability

Other than sand, the other limitation would be hill climbs. With any machine, there is no replacement for displacement, as they say, and the Himalayan doesn’t really have the beans to rip up gnarly hills. If there is plenty of traction, we could click it down into first and crawl up some moderately steep inclines but anything that you need brute force to clear would be an issue.

We also spent some quality time on the the highway with the Himalayan. The bike’s low-revving motor will cruise at 80 mph without a lot of vibration. It wasn’t quite as smooth as a twin on the highway but it was probably the smoothest single we’ve ridden and comfortable enough for longer journeys. Large bar-end weights do a pretty good job of keeping the vibration away from the rider. Also, when facing a significant incline or headwind, the max speed can drop down to around 65 mph.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Highway reliability

Learning About The Suspension

Without a doubt, this is the best part of this bike. Well, there might be a little doubt because some would argue the overall look is the best part, but we digress. It actually has a good amount of wheel travel (7.9 inches in front and 7.1 in the rear) for a bike this size, yet it is non adjustable other than shock preload. The Himalayan is a great bike for riding washboard dirt roads. The fork made the washboard almost non-existent. Also hitting embedded rocks at speed was surprising, since, as long as they weren’t too big, the suspension soaked them up like if they weren’t even there.

The suspension is set up a little soft, yet it has a progressive feel which means you can take hits faster than you might think. We would put the Himalayan’s suspension performance below a pure dual sport bike like the WR250R or DR-Z400 but better than the 300cc adventure bikes we’ve ridden lately. Where you’ll find the limitation is when trying to charge through big whoops or g-outs. Everywhere else it works surprisingly well.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Offroad reliability

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Offroad reliability

Interestingly, if the ground clearance was a little better, the bike could use more of its available suspension travel. When it did bottom out, it was often the skid plate that hit the ground before going through the full suspension. Speaking of, we put some doozies into the stock skid plate and there are some serious dents but it is still holding strong. We are certainly happy the bike comes stock with some decent sump protection.

Getting A Handle On The Handling

The rider position of the Himalayan is unlike any other off-road-oriented bike we’ve ridden. The foot pegs, which are surprisingly large and with the rubber insert removed pretty grippy, are in a neutral position standing up. The bars are also good height riding standing up but they are pretty narrow, yet eventually you get used to the bars. In the seated position, the combination of a low seat, slightly forward pegs, and the narrow bars gives it sort of a chopper feel.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Offroad reliability

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle footpegs

The weight of the bike feels low making turning actually feel pretty good once you adjust your riding style to the bars. The front wheel can have a vague feeling when pushing the limit and it doesn’t give you much warning before it slides out. But with the low seat height, a quick dab corrects a front wash easily on the dirt.

Issues We Experienced

Honestly, all of the issues we had with the bike could simply be fixed with Loctite. The exhaust header and mid-pipe bolts started to back out and we tightened those up. Then both the shifter and brake pedal bolts also started backing out and we had to tighten those as well but we never lost any bolts. Once the midpipe came loose, it wasn’t super solid anymore after we re-tightened it and the muffler would wiggle around a bit when off-roading. The exhaust is only connected to the bike via the header bolts at the cylinder and at the end with a muffler support so there is a long stretch of material that can get jiggled with rigorous off-road riding, but it stayed connected and there were no exhaust leaks.

We pushed the Himalayan hard to test the limits of the machine and its reliability.

This is a good point to mention that the Himalayan has a pretty impressive warranty — 2 years, unlimited mileage. So if an owner had the issues we had and lost bolts or couldn’t fix the situation, they would just need to contact their dealer. Our suggestion to any prospective buyers out there is to get some Loctite and go through most of the bolts that have a potential to jiggle loose.

Finding Some Extras

No heated grips, electronic suspension, ride modes, or electronic preload adjustment – the Himalayan is a back-to-basics machine. What it does have that is pretty interesting is a digital compass on the dash but it could use some calibrating. Most of the time it was indicating where north actually was, but sometimes it would just momentarily spazz out and point in a random direction. Also, the seat is one of the most comfortable yet supportive seats we’ve come across on any bike, yet the peg-to-seat distance is pretty short and can make taller riders’ knees sore. We also like the little tail rack – it’s small but effective and offers many lashing options for straps.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Offroad reliability

The fuel gauge is very conservative. We got 45 miles out of it after the warning light and the needle was showing fully empty. Filling up the tank, it took only 3.5 gallons, which means it still had a half gallon in there or at least another 50 miles to go. So as far as range, it seems like it can do 200+ miles no problem.

Bottom line

We’ve thought a lot about the Royal Enfield Himalayan because it is just a different motorcycle from the typical adventure bike or dual sport we typically ride. With other bikes we may not be as forgiving about some of the shortcomings listed above, but for some reason with the Himalayan, we started viewing them as character traits. We weren’t bummed out by the lack of engine performance or loosening bolts. We saw them as the “nature of the machine” and accepted them, making them part of the uniqueness of the bike.

This bike has charm, it has a character to it that still puts a smile on our faces and makes us want to hop on it, ditch the office, and go explore the countryside on dirt roads. The Himalayan is void of pretension. It isn’t trying to sell you on the fact that it can do something it can’t. It is what it is and what you get for the price is more than you expect. The Himalayan has created a category of its own. A rugged, neo-retro, entry-level dual sport with real character and capability.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Offroad reliability

Overall, the Himalayan is a bike that many riders can enjoy but it’s an excellent bike for someone who wants to start riding dirt roads. Its low seat height, low center of gravity, and mellow power make it very non-intimidating and easy to ride. It also has enough road comfort to be a sweet commuter and to handle moderate-to-long stints on the pavement. And we can’t really oversell the bang-for-the-buck factor of the Royal Enfield Himalayan. The fact that a four and a half grand bike can go almost anywhere a 1200cc bike can, and some tighter, narrower trails a big bike can’t, is amazing. Let us not forget the famous motorcycle saying, “Its more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow.”

For more information on the Himalayan and where you can book a test drive, check out the Royal Enfield website.

Sean Klinger Author ProfileAbout the Author: With his sights set on doing what he loved for a living, Sean Klinger left college with a BA in Journalism and dirt bike in his truck. After five years at a dirt-only motorcycle magazine shooting, testing, writing, editing, and a little off-road racing, he has switched gears to bigger bikes and longer adventures. He’ll probably get lost a few times but he’ll always have fun doing it. Two wheels and adventure is all he needs. 

Author: Sean Klinger

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13 thoughts on “Durability Test: Pushing the Limits of Royal Enfield’s Himalayan

  1. Great review guys and glad you like the bike. I’m up to 9000 miles on my bike here in the UK, riding it across all terrains and I’ve found the same; lots of character, great suspension, all day comfortable and will happily take a beating. Too good to be true at the price point.

  2. Nice write up – I’ll call it a write up coz we keep wondering how much Royal Enfield pays for such “reviews” – meanwhile – here we have to deal with the chassis breaking on rides – the rear shock bottoming out due to a bush or bearing failure. The swing arm breaking after 2-3 rides on “no road” – for a bike made for the road and no road – its pretty delicate.

    The handle bar bearings jam after a couple of months – steering locks up…..

    Just a few life threatening issues with the bike which the company chooses to ignore….

    Other than that …. awesome bike….. could be the best ever by RE…. but ….

    Cheers!!

    • I follow the Indian forums closely and whilst there were some of the issues you mentioned in the very early days I’ve not seen anything of the like ever since the BS4 model appeared 18 months or so ago, and certainly not on the export bikes. Some of the problems you list – head bearings tightening up – are down to pre delivery inspection failings and are a simple fix, just needing re-torquing. I think the bike is sensitive to proper maintenance and set up. Mine’s been great and I concur with everything these guys have said, and I can guarantee that no one paid me to say.

  3. Great balanced review!! Got the new one here in the US and I love it! Have taken it offroad many times and it is so much fun to ride. Might get another one for my wife!!

  4. Excellent review. I feel sorry for the people who bought the 2016 version and experienced so many problems. Reminds me of the days when British manufacturers regularly released bikes with major flaws (Norton Commando Combat, BSA Bantam D14/4 to name a couple), then only fixed them after years of disappointing customers and ruining their own reputations. At least Enfield had the balls to call a halt to production for 8 months and (it seems) get them right. I have now done 1,100 miles on my Himalayan and love it. A couple of notes to add to yours: after two weeks on the Enfield I got back on my BMW F700GS (800 twin) and was shocked at how harsh and vibratory it felt – plus the clonky gearchange. Most importantly, it is not as much FUN as the Himalayan. And as your test suggests, the Himalayan is capable, comfortable and as tough as old army boots.
    If anyone is in the UK on August 4 & 5, I am one of the organisers of the Llangollen Motorcycle Festival in beautiful North Wales (www.llanbikefest.co.uk). Stop by for a chat!

  5. Very interesting review guys, thanks.
    I love “small” displacement ADV/dual sport bikes. I live in China and bought meself a local Shineray X5 which in Europe is known as Mash ADV 400.
    I mention it on;y because the specs are so similar to the himalayan. The weight, the power, the engine…its would seem that these bike are very similar.
    Would love to see yous test that Chinese bike out

    • Depends on the riding Jake. They are two very different bikes so it’s hard to compare. If you are a hard core dirt rider that mainly rides trails, the DR-Z400S is a better choice. But you’d have to heavily modify the DRZ to get it to be as versatile as the Himalayan for both off-road riding and long-range travel. The DRZ also costs $2,200 more before any mods! The Himalayan also has a cool factor about it that the DRZ can never touch. So it really depends on the style of riding you do and whether or not you are willing to drop a lot of time and money modifying a DRZ.

  6. Fair, competent review of the wee bike.., it does what it says on the tin…I bought mine in Jan 2018 and have “rag dolled” it hard., it’s taken the abuse well from MX tracks, river crossings even trials circuits…the wee bike has the last laugh…starting to walk past my KTMs (1290adv 690enduro) in favour of the Himalayan…

  7. Lets be up front and just say it….. Royal Enfield has created a world tourer in every sense of the word. I’d love to own this rig… and at this price point, it just may find its way into the stable.

  8. Hi mates
    My himmie is now 1100 k . and had new handguards and gps support .
    really nice and easy on road and simple off road Need some training as my other biek is a 500 SWM more enduro type.
    This him is a real genuine adv bike .
    And next big ride is along the black sea

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