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ADV RidesGetting High on the Royal Enfield Himalayan

Getting High on the Royal Enfield Himalayan

The Himalayan gets tested in the high-altitude conditions it was designed for.

Published on 10.19.2018
The idea was simple: What would it be like to ride the new Royal Enfield Himalayan up to the highest motorable road on the west coast to see how this versatile little bike performs in high-altitude terrain — the kind of environment it was designed for.

XLADV graciously invited ADV Pulse to attend the 7th annual High Sierra Ride in the Eastern Sierras of California. We saw it as an ideal opportunity to put the Himalayan through a proper test in the high-altitude, rocky conditions, as well as hang out and ride with some like-minded ADV riders over the 3-day weekend.

Escaping LA

I really had no idea what to expect from this bike on the highway. Especially knowing that the Himalayan was not designed for higher speeds common to the US interstate system, let alone how it would fare off-road… And with its 411cc single-cylinder engine, the Himalayan is 1/3 the displacement and has half the number of cylinders of the BMW R1200GS that I normally ride. I had almost 1000 miles of riding planned for the weekend ahead and I promised myself to give this bike a fair shake. So off we went…

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle
The Himalayan delivers 24.5 hp which propelled me to 84 mph for a fleeting moment.

Getting out of SoCal was pretty uneventful. I enjoyed how nimble the Himalayan is at city speeds and splitting freeway traffic. Once we got on the venerable CA-395 toward Mammoth is when things got interesting.


While cruising in the slow lane, out of nowhere, a Hyundai Elantra doing about 95 mph speared across my bow only inches from my front wheel in a late attempt to turn off an exit. Within all of 4 seconds, the Elantra went from nearly collecting me to being airborne into the dusty desert! Just imagine the family truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation…”Gee, Dad, you must’ve jumped this thing about fifty yards!”. Being a medic, it was at this point I forgot about almost being taken out and instinctively stopped to check on them. Luckily all the occupants of the car were fine but their rental car was in need of a tow — I might owe my life to the Himalayan’s lack of horsepower.

First Dirt Tracks – Reward Mine

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle

After that close call, we got off the pavement for the first time, heading to an abandoned gold and silver mine called The Reward Mine that Senior Editor, Rob Dabney knew about. The road going up to the mine was full of loose rocks and shale and certainly wasn’t suitable for passenger vehicles, unless it’s a rental car, then it’s probably fine. This was the first time we’d hit dirt this weekend, and within a couple of miles on the rough surface I noticed something wasn’t right… There was a slight vibration from the handlebars that wasn’t there before. I quickly diagnosed the vibration to be from a loose steering head bolt. It wasn’t in any danger of coming off, but it did require unpacking of the tools and some elbow grease to get it tight again. We took some additional time to do a quick once over for any other loose bolts before we set off again.

The entrance of the Reward Mine is large enough to drive in a full-sized 4×4, and continues for what seemed like miles through interconnected, winding levels. As we entered, the cool air of the mine was a refreshing change from the beating Sun.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle

I nervously proceeded ahead first into the darkness. I figured it would be a good test of the Himalaya’s headlight? We rode a good distance deeper and further down the dark mine until we got to a dead end. Without warning or missing a beat, Rob rode up the banked cave wall and quickly made a 180° turn then took off! Leaving me alone… In the dark…. At the bottom of a mine shaft…. I’m not prone to panic but it didn’t take long before a SERIOUS sense of ‘GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE’ came over me. By the single headlight of my Indian motorcycle I saw a sign on the cave wall reading 425’, indicating my surface depth. To say that that was a spooky feeling would be a big understatement, but I don’t want to be any more dramatic than I already am…

Once I snapped out of it, I decided to turn around and rush back to the literal light at the end of the tunnel. I obviously made it out alive or else you wouldn’t be reading this. But I will tell you that I thought I saw something in there. I was wearing a GoPro at the time and the video is still being analyzed, I may have captured it. That’s all I can say about that right now.

Our little jaunt to Reward Mine was a good shakedown ride for me to get familiar with the Himalayan off-road and soon we were back on to the CA-395 riding through small towns on the way up to Mammoth Lakes. We rolled into Brown’s Owens Campground, just in time to use the fading light to set up our tents and introduce ourselves to the other Adventure Riders already at the event. A delicious catered dinner was served fireside and all was well after the first day. Time for some much needed rest.

First Breath of Thin Air

Morning light came quickly along with the building banter of fellow riders through my thin tent walls. We grabbed a quick breakfast and GPS tracks, then headed out with a small but diverse group of riders on a hodgepodge of bikes. We took a long, switch-backed, rocky trail up to one of the many high peaks in the Mammoth area, to a unique view looking down upon Mono Lake from the vantage of 10,000’. It was beautiful.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle

The rest of the day we rode all over the Eastern Sierra Nevadas on some of the toughest trails I’ve been on in this area. The suspension on the Himalayan felt communicative and connected as it soaked up everything from rocks to ill-timed whoops. The bike handled it all with poise and a satisfying sound, not bottoming-out the suspension once. The stock skid plate took a beating though, yet kept all the vital parts protected. The frame is stiff and can handle full commitment riding, both on and off road without noticeable flex. Traction actually gets better when you sit down in the rough stuff. Fellow riders were impressed at what the little Himalayan could do compared to their sizable machines. For me it was a lot of fun and I really started to connect with this bike after realizing it was going to be able to get me anywhere I wanted to go.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle Review

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle

After a full day of riding, we headed back to camp just in time for dinner and to share a few stories, laughs and beers with some of the other participants. Tons of great products were raffled off with proceeds going to support Motorrad Angels’ successful efforts to provide clean water solutions to poor, and underdeveloped countries.

Only One Chance To Ride This High

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle
Yes it is possible to get the front wheel up on the Royal Enfield Himalayan!

On day three we were going up to some serious elevation, on roads that could be mistaken for the Himalayas themselves. We headed south from camp to White Mountain Road on a climb up to the White Mountain Research Center- Barcroft Station. At an elevation of 12,470’, it is the highest motorable road in California and it only opens one day of the year during Labor Day weekend.

On our way to the top, the transition from verdant and wooded mountains to the stark, moon-like landscape above the treeline is dramatic and sudden. Above the treeline, it’s grey and barren with barely any vegetation able to eek out an existence. Shale covered roads and copious dust make the dry, thin air even more difficult to breathe, but the Himalayan continues chugging away without protest, propelling us higher with every pop of the piston. Only a slight reduction of power at these elevations was noticeable, thanks to the fuel injection. It seemed to truly feel at home here.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle

After a few hours of riding, we finally reached Barcroft Station. We learned from a site spokesperson that they conduct long-term high-altitude physiological studies for UCLA as well as for pharmaceutical companies studying performance enhancing properties of training at elevation. The summit view from the test center is spectacular as it is stark. White Mountain Road actually continues past the research station up to 14,252 feet, which is said to be the highest motorable road in the US, but only researchers are allowed to go up there in a vehicle. You can hike it though, if your lungs don’t explode. We stayed about 20 minutes then began our descent back down the mountain and eventually back home.

Some Thoughts on the Himalayan

High-tech features like traction control and ABS are absent and frankly not necessary; if you did manage to spin-up the rear tire, I assure you it would be a welcome and intentional event. The engine delivers 24.5 hp which propelled me to 84 mph (unofficial) for a fleeting moment. When riding a smaller-displacement motorcycle like the Himalayan, momentum and wind efficiency is everything. You quickly learn to think in terms of maintaining and carrying as much drive as possible – drafting like a Nascar driver.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle

Don’t be mistaken in thinking what I’m describing was a negative for me – quite the opposite actually. The simplicity and limitations of the bike makes riding much more immersive. You feel like a huge success when you slowly overtake three vehicles going up hill using momentum gained for that very purpose from the long downhill preceding it.

There is one more important point about the Himalayan that must be mentioned… Its MSRP is only $4,499! And you also get a centerstand, skid plate, luggage rack and cool little compass on the dash at that price. It’s hard to be nothing but impressed with the value.

Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle
Looking down on Mono Lake from about 10,000 feet up.

Many of the bikes I rode beside this weekend were north of $18,000. The Himalayan makes it that much easier to get into the world of riding and exploring. I really enjoyed this bike and it truly reminded me of what I loved about riding when I first started. The Himalayan could be the bike that gets people to fall in love with motorcycling again, or it may very well be the reason people fall in love with riding in the first place.

Photos by Stephen Gregory and Rob Dabney

Author: Sharif Massoud

Sharif has been a 911 paramedic since 2001 and has worked for both Ventura and Los Angeles counties. As a paramedic, his duties have allowed him to work in an ambulance, SAR Helicopter and motorcycle detail. He is currently a sweep-rider and head paramedic for RawHyde Adventures, and is also a Clinical Instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Author: Sharif Massoud

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10 thoughts on “Getting High on the Royal Enfield Himalayan

  1. I recently returned from India where we rode the new Royal Enfield Himalayan over several major Himalayan passes; Rohtang Pass (13,058′), Nakeela (15,547′) LungalachaLa (16,598′), Taglangla (17,582′) and Khardungla (17,982′). Overall I was impressed with how well they handled and were rock solid for two weeks without any issues (bar the those that were self inflicted). You could tell the loss of power as you climbed which is easily expected, so a bit more shifting to keep it in the power band. The only downside I thought was the brakes. The rear was really grabby, and with the lightness of the bike tended to skid the rear easily. Overall I’d say for the price it’s a real bargain.

    • Quite an adventure you had there Bill! You rode that bike in the true conditions that it was designed. I’m glad to hear it performed performed predictably (for the most part).

      Did you document your adventure? Somewhere it can be seen?

  2. I like this little bike; I’d like to ride one. But to be honest. I wouldn’t trust it’s long-term reliability. I’ll stick with my Versys-X 300.

    • Hi Rob, yeah i too am curios how this bike would do as a long term beater. I suspect that it will have a lot to do with the upkeep of the owner…

  3. Three is a guy grom Europę who recently did a trip in indian mountains and posted his review on YT channel. Search for Motorcycle Adventure. Btw very useful informatorom.

  4. Excellent article Sharif, and it was a pleasure meeting you at XLADV. You can count yourself, my meeting you and talking about the bike, and your subsequent article for my friends recent purchase of a Himalayan. We will be taking it off-road for the first time tomorrow, pretty sure he loves it.


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