The Royal Enfield Twins are here at a killer price. They have everything going for them- looks, good manners and grace. I’m sorely tempted! Makes me look at the Himalayan in a new light…will it stay or will it go? Now how do I lay me hands on some extra bit of cash, so I can have the best of both worlds? 🙄
Last year, I drove on a very scenic route between my hometowns of Ranchi and Jamshedpur. I marvelled at newly laid roads and natural beauty en-route -see blog post motorcyling country
I vowed to return and explore the region on a motorcycle. This Diwali break, I teamed up with my cousin and uncle, both proud owners of the Triumph Bonneville Street Twin, and went off on a fantastic spree through beautiful heartland. My uncle, who owns a veritable stable of motorcycles and cars, had a spare bike at hand- one lovingly maintained, 6 year old, Honda CBR 250R. I happily agreed to use this ride, though I had my eyes set on the Twins. 🙂 We planned to head for Patratu Valley, supposed to be a motorcyclist’s dream, with the best set of twisties this side of the country. Our circuit for the day covered about 150kms- beyond the Valley, there were some nice reservoirs and forests to be explored.
We set off at about 7:30am from my uncle’s place, with the day dawning bright and sunny. Heading out of the city we encountered light traffic and were near the start of the valley in less than an hour. The first few kilometres into the valley are all about wide sweeping curves with very gentle gradient.
At the start of the famous twisties, we stopped for a breather to take in panoramic views of woodlands and Patratu Reservoir. With this becoming the new hotspot in the state, the area gets its fair share of tourists. Luckily most of them were still waking up at this hour, and we found the generally crowded spot devoid of shutter-mongers. We did however, find a romancing couple, cat-walking on the highway, posing for cameras of a professional crew. Apparently this latest trend in pre-wedding shoots, is big business in the state.
Later, we made a slow descent, stopping now and then to take in incredible vistas, that unfolded, with each bend of the road.
We had a long, leisurely breakfast at a roadside dhaba, near Patratu town. Egg bhurji, Plain rotis and aloo bhujia. A welcome change from the traditional fare of idli vada/ dosa down South. After breakfast, my cousin very generously traded his Street Twin for the CBR. I am seriously impressed with the motorcycle- but will go into detailed review in another post. We skipped the dam visit, as there was some construction activity near the entrance and a pile of tourist buses. From here the roads to and beyond Ramgarh, were a combination of two and four lanes with very good surface.
Well surfaced roads…
are a delight to ride on…
and a joy to capture.
Ramgarh town is an urban horror. Riding in straight and fast from these immaculate roads, we were soon in a quagmire of honking buses, bullock carts, bicycle rickshaws, wayward pedestrians, stray cattle and everything else a busy small town in India can throw at you. The roads in town are nothing to write home about it either. The upside though, was piloting the Street Twin through this mess. The bike is so easy to ride and handle, its hard to believe its a 900cc parallel twin. Of all the larger bikes I have ridden, this felt the friendliest and most accessible. The Royal Enfield Interceptor, may hold a lot of promise on the question of accessibility, but I will ride it to believe it. Until then I’m sold on the Bonnie. 🙂
Few miles after Ramgarh, near a settlement called Gola, we stopped for a cuppa at a dhaba aspiring to be a resort. Over tea we decided to check out Getalsud Dam and Reservoir nearby. Now the dam is an okay visit at best. However the road leading to the reservoir is a gem. Cutting straight through a large swathe of Sal trees, this road is spectacular- check out the photos.
Towards late noon- after a brief wander into the sal forest, we started for home. Lunch was a longer affair, complicated by the need to chase, capture, dress, cook and serve a free roaming country chicken (Or so the dhaba staff claimed). We called it a day at my uncle’s moto stable, piping hot tea in our hands, exchanging motorcycle tales, and making plans for the next ride.
I had not done much riding since my last trip to Horseley Hills. In fact, for most of June through to August, 2018, I hardly used the bike. So come September, on the day I welcomed the roaring forties, I planned to gift myself a short breakfast ride. My cousin decided to join me on his Himalayan.
We chose Kanakpura Road without debate, especially because it offers one beautiful back road after another, all the way until Mysore. The route map promised a fun circuit- rounding off to just under 100kms.
The ride was uneventful until the turnoff from NICE Corridor. Here we found a group of riders astride Royal Enfield Himalayans and Bullets. Decided to stick with them till our usual breakfast haunt at Harohalli. The day favoured us with cool weather- with hints of sunshine behind departing clouds. It felt good to be on the bike, after my three month hiatus. The riders were a civil lot, maintaining speed and line, and I soon relaxed into the pace of the ride.
After breakfast, we bid farewell to the pack and head towards Jigani through a back road that circles Bannerghatta National Park. Enroute, the country opens up with plenty of enticing dirt trails to wander off into. We spend a good part of the morning in this area, exploring a couple of trails. Not much luck sighting wildlife in the nature reserve, but enough spots to chill and revel in the scenery.
Around mid day, the promise of a birthday lunch and meeting up with family lured us back home. But it was a great start to my 40th, is what I say. 🙂
In spite of a ‘swearing in’ ceremony, where I resolved to keep the Himalayan as stock as possible, I’ve let customisation instincts get better of me. So like the C5, I’ve gone ahead and pushed the Himalayan down the weight reduction path. Allow me to explain. 😊
Last month, my bro-in-law and me rode up to Horseley Hills. On this ride, I loaded the bike with a top box, Studds side cases, a back pack, a trail bag, my camera bag and saddle bag stays. Halfway into the ride, three things happened.
1. At speeds above 100 kph there was a jarring vibration from the front visor.
2. On rough tarmac, broken surfaces, the rear mount and top box, although packed to the brim, rattled a lot.
3. We pulled into a restaurant parking lot, where while navigating a speed bump, I forgot to downshift. The bike stalled, halfway over the bump. Within seconds, the bike tilted over, the weight was too much, and I had to let go. It took some effort, from both of us, to pull it up again.
I also wanted to understand how the bike fares, loaded up in this fashion, on a ride. My learning was, a top box is a no no. Side mounted saddle bags or panniers are much better. A loaded top box on a loaded bike, affects handling only ever so slightly, but never eases up the feeling that you are dragging more weight.
Sometime around last year, another nagging thought had got me questioning a statement made by Royal Enfield CEO- Siddharth Lal. “The Himalayan is designed to be your only bike”. If this were my only bike, what would qualify to make the quintessential ‘do it all machine’, without looking like a large kitted to the brim caravan on two wheels.
I wanted a no frills work horse. A pack mule that does the job. Convenient for commuting and adequate for short tours. I should always be confident about handling it’s fully loaded weight on any terrain. The bike should retain its core character, and its puppy dog friendliness. What was absolutely essential for this purpose had to stay. The rest had to go. So, on a DIY weekend after the Horseley Hills ride, I got down to removing bits and bobs, which I figured, had no real functional purpose whatsoever. Here’s a summary of what I did.
The visor– After two years of use, I’m still not entirely convinced that the screen/ visor on the Himalayan, has any real use. The screen is not adjustable on the fly. It affects road edge visibility when dirty, and in my case, is worse because it’s completely blacked out. At speeds where it’s supposed to deflect wind from the rider, it shakes like a leaf. As for the looking good part, I have a concept sketch from Pierre Terblanche, for the Ducati inspired fairing for the Himalayan. The current visor looks nothing like it. Hence, in my opinion does not do justice there either. Time to get rid of it permanently.
Rear luggage mount (carrier)- This might be harder to justify, as this is a very handy accessory on the bike, which comes factory fitted. I removed it for two reasons. Reason no 1, is an instance, where the rear mount broke under very nominal weight of the top box. (RE_issues ). It put a big question mark on the quality of this part.
Reason no 2 revolved around the need for putting in a replacement carrier. It so happened that in the interim that I replaced the broken carrier, I started liking the clean, unhindered look of the tail light assembly. I decided to keep with the look. Mounting something like a backpack on the rear seat was taken care of by saddle stays.
Front fender- with the screen gone and the rear carrier gone, the bike started looking more scrambler, less adventure tourer. Now the Himalayan has a beak like front fender, fixed below the number plate mount. Ride the bike for a couple of days and you realise that this fender is a purely aesthetic device, sans function. The front mudguard on the tyre does its job perfectly. So the fender had to go. A couple of instagram posts convinced me that the bike would still look good.
In the near future, the plan is to get rid of the entire headlight frame and assembly, which is independent of the handlebar and front suspension, and make it a true scrambler. Until then, I’ll be happy with its current avatar. 😊
Got myself a brand new Bell Qualifyer helmet. Wifey and me just fell in love with the retro themed stripes. Already appreciating some of the finer detailing compared to the outgoing MT Axis, I have used for more than 2 years. Will poke in a review soon!
As my bro- in- law road trips somewhere Down Under, I use his CBR250R for my office commute, every other day. All my excitement about the free revving and smooth nature of the Himalayan’s engine disappeared once I started riding the CBR on a regular basis. The CBR 250 R is indeed a gem, and at the time of its launch in India, had few equals among bikes which could be used as Sport Tourers. It’s only real competition at the time was the Duke 200 and the Ninja 250. While the Ninja offered similar performance at almost double the price, the Duke 200 lacked the finesse and touring capability that the CBR offered.
So on this crotch rocket with a super smooth mill, all I’d want is a pair of handlebar raisers. I still find the ergonomics too committed for more than an hour’s commute, what with the stop and go traffic in Bangalore, giving you a stiff neck in just about 15 minutes.
I suppose the bikes couldn’t be more contrasting, even when compared on a simple office commute. On the Himalayan, you are perched high over everything else, and have to barely crane your neck to figure out an exit path between car rooftops. You feel exalted and mighty, capable of taking on both the traffic and broken road surfaces at full throttle.
On the CBR, you are crouched low and wary, watching out for gaps between careening cars, estimating closing distances, flicking the bike with your thighs and body weight, and admitting, grudgingly so, that you are actually going faster than you would dare on the Himalayan. That said, the CBR, being the more involving motorcycle, also therefore is the more demanding one. You need to be more careful, you need to maintain body posture, lean in and out in sync and always be super alert. Sums up to an hour, give or take, before you start asking for that all day comfort and rider friendliness of the Himalayan.
Still, until my brother in law returns and claims rightful ownership of his red and silver winger, I pause every morning before the household key bowl, jangling first the RE, then the Honda keys in hand, contemplating the hour’s commute ahead of me, and wonder if I should ride low and hard or tall and easy. 😊
A colleague at work let me take his friend’s Yamaha R3 for a short spin after our site visit, last week. Really loved the feel of the bike. Good throttle response and great ergonomics. Shame that it doesn’t have ABS, for this is a bike you would love to rip and roar to the redline, with abandon. Twin cylinder magic!
If sources are to believed, my Royal Enfield Himalayan has had a production run of less than a year. Production started in April 2016 and ended in Feb 2017. The second production cycle started after June 2017, with the machines hitting showrooms in September. But these machines had an EFI unit, with minor cosmetic updates. They also sported better components and are reported to have none of the issues which plagued carburreted machines like mine, produced before Feb 2017.
So, as I hit 10000 Kms in the running, and the EFI machines started showing up on the streets, I had a realisation. I was now part of a rare breed of Royal Enfield motorcyclists. We owned an adventure tourer which had been a market probing experiment for the vehicle manufacturer. Our numbers are in a few thousands, at the most, and we are scattered across the nation.
Looking back over one and a half years of ownership, here’s an executive summary of service updates, hates and likes.
The magneto coil- conked off after about a year and 5 months of ownership- replaced last month.
Oil cooler unit-upgraded with mesh at the 2nd Free Service
Carburettor changed after a year of use
Engine head assembly changed at the 2nd Free Service
Rocker arm replaced at first free service
Handlebar bent- replaced (at cost) at the 2nd Free Service
Carrier broken- replaced at the 2nd Free Service
Clutch assembly- I’m not quite sure what happened here but after the 2nd Service, it was butter smooth- I reckon it was replaced with the modified clutch assembly
I must add here that with the exception of the handlebar, all other updates were done free of cost. Would laud the mechs at my friendly neighbourhood RE service centre, for their prompt response on every occasion.
The first giveaway are the tyres. They are a brilliant fit for the bike and can take a whole lot of punishment. But, with almost all of my riding being tarmac focused, the rear tyre’s tread has worn out at 10500km. And that’s just half the life of an average motorcycle tyre.
I hate RE’s promises. The promos for the motorcycle feature the bike being ridden with many accessories- which the company claims, have been tested in harshest terrain. There are saddle bags and panniers, a handlebar cross bar, better integrated rear mount, fuel and water tanks and a completely different exhaust. Now none of these are easily available in any showroom in the city. I can live with foregoing most of the list, but the free-flow exhaust is a must have item. Anyone who has ridden the bike with the featured exhaust will tell you that the bike was designed with this exhaust in mind. My search continues…
Don’t know how many Himalayan owners will agree with me here, but it seems the cushioning on the seat also has a lifespan of about 10k. A couple of hours of spirited riding makes it impossible to continue sitting on the bike.
Lack of Power, no ABS. There’s no two ways about this- The bike just needs more power. I have replaced the stock filter with a BMC lifetime filter, and the performance is smoother, but there’s only so much you can do. ABS is sorely missed as well.
Tubeless Tyres. I understand that spoke rims take punishment better. And they prove to do so, on my Himalayan. But I’m also, almost always carrying a spare tube for that 21” front and 17” rear tyre- both uncommon sizes, not available readily.
It’s easy to love a lot of features on this bike, and in many ways it’s incredible value for money.
Touring friendliness: if you want a budget adventure tourer, love distance and don’t miss tarmac scorching performance, then this is the bike for you. It’s great for days spent in the saddle, and has room enough for all manner of luggage arrangements.
User friendliness: Pretty durned easy to ride, commute and tour on. Good for everyday riding.
Off-road: Arguably the bike’s best behaviour is when it’s ridden off road. It’s a hoot to ride on dirt trails. And standing on pegs on this bike for miles on end is my idea of Sunday fun.
No thump does not mean lack of grunt. The engine note, has character, and combined with a free revving motor, has a distinct sound, which I have come to love.
And finally, I feel, this is a bike to keep. It’s built to last, is technologically simple and will guarantee miles if you take care of it. Sometime in the near future, when a larger machine has taken pride of place, I will roll out my customised Himalayan for an afternoon ramble up the hill, and then finish off in the evening with some tinkering, some TLC and a well earned lager. 🙂