The Best Value Motorcycle For The Money?
After rolling into a gas station while out on a day ride, a young lady across the pump from me quipped, “That looks like fun. What kind of motorcycle is it?” I shared it was a Royal Enfield Himalayan, to which she jokingly replied, “Himalayan! It’s a long way from home!” When I told her a bit more about the bike, including what they sell for here in the States, she exclaimed, “Wow, now that’s a bike I would ride!” She thanked me then drove off in her SUV as I reflected on our brief conversation. It was living proof of what I think Royal Enfield is up to with this bike- a small, lightweight, simple, affordable, do-everything motorcycle for the masses. Could the Himalayan really be the best value ADV for the money? Maybe the best value motorcycle for the money?
First introduced back in 2016, the Royal Enfield Himalayan was originally the brain child of RE CEO Siddhartha Lal, then designed by former Ducati and Moto Guzzi developer Pierre Terblanche. The Himalayan is unlike anything else in the former British/now Indian brand’s lineup, which is comprised of variations on the longstanding and famous Bullet line, and most recently, the 650cc Twins, Continental GT and Interceptor, which we reviewed earlier this year. With its own proprietary engine, chassis, electronics, etc., the diminutive adventure touring bike has been a huge hit for Royal Enfield, even here in the U.S. of A., where we historically gravitate toward larger displacement cruisers and touring “land yachts.”
I was picking up their small but tough, gritty ADV motorcycle for a month of riding.
We had been offered this early-release 2021 model by our friends at Royal Enfield North America, Breeann Poland and JC Maldonado to ride and review, and we worked out the pickup to take place at Royal Enfield’s display during the Dixie Speedway round of American Flat Track Racing. This felt appropriate, since RE entered a race team this year in the AFT Production Twins class, actually winning the final race of the season with one of their 650 Interceptors. A tough, gritty race series, a tough, gritty team, and I was picking up their small but tough, gritty ADV motorcycle for a month of riding. Perfect.
I’ve not ridden many off-road, dual-sport, and “ADV” bikes since I was a lad, but as soon as I threw a leg over the Himalayan, I felt it fit me like a comfy pair of denims. I immediately had to take off for a ride. I’m all of 5’8”, just under the American male average of 5’9”, and found this bike the perfect dimensions for the national average and smaller. The rider triangle definitely suited me perfectly, I can attest.
Here’s some of the basic specs of the 2021 Himalayan, with our take on each-
It comes outfitted with a 411cc air cooled, SOHC single cylinder engine with EFI, the Himalayan being the only bike that’s powered by it in Royal Enfield’s lineup. That powerplant makes 24.5 hp at 6500 rpm, with 23.6 ft lbs torque at 4500 rpm. Not a barn burner or head snapper, but plenty for most riders in it’s apparent target demo (anyone under 5’9″) and for many ride/road scenarios. The Himalayan sports a 5-speed gearbox with extremely light and fluid clutch engagement, a chain final drive, a nice 31.5 seat height, and a 4 gallon fuel tank. At around 70-75 mpg claimed, that translates to about 260(+-) miles on a tank, depending on how ridden. Nice legs for the little machine. The wheelbase is 58 inches, the ground clearance 8.6 inches, and it wears a pair of Pirelli MT60 tubed adventure tires fore and aft on spoked rims.
The suspension is non-adjustable, which means with those semi-knobby tires, the Himalayan can feel a bit vague, but it glides through corners effortlessly, and absorbs abnormalities in pavement with ease. Curb weight is 439 lbs, but it doesn’t even feel like that. I may be just used to heavier bikes, but the Himalayan felt like a dirt bike from my adolescence in terms of weight and ease of maneuvering. And at $4999 MSRP here Stateside, with a 3-year warranty, the bike is hard to beat. Heck, you’ll pay more for less displacement with most Euro or Japanese bikes of similar class, which may have more in horsepower, but not in torque. The Himalayan is practically in its own class.
For 2021, Royal Enfield tweaked the Himalayan in several areas, not just in color/graphics options like many brands do year to year. The Himalayan now comes standard with switchable ABS riding on a 300mm disc with 2-pot floating caliper up front and a 240mm single pot out back, an improved rear brake actuation, a new kickstand design and function, and a redesign of the hazard switch on the right handlebar. Oh yeah, and more color/graphics options. Royal Enfield also offers a slate of accessories for the the Himalayan, such as engine guards, handgrip guards, hard panniers and mounting brackets and of course, farkles with the RE logo to festoon oil filler caps, brake filler caps, side covers, etc.
Interestingly, the back sides of the blackened tank protectors, which display the “Royal Enfield” name on either side, each have four threaded holes for something to screw into. Yet I found nothing in their accessories listing that looked designed to fit these. A friend who works at Cycle Gear suggested that they appear to serve as mounting brackets for tank side bags, and after a lengthy search, we found that GIVI apparently makes a set of soft luggage for the Himalayan tank rails. Mystery solved.
We rode the Himalayan across the month of October, in mostly pristine Autumn conditions here in the South. I spent most of my time with the Himalayan as a daily commuter, strapping and affixing bags to the bike and running errands with it, taking afternoon rides and day trips, and riding the bike on pavement, in gravel, dirt and grass. We only lacked riding it in the rain. I found the bike to be very capable in every scenario I rode it in. It doesn’t excel at any one task a rider asks of it, but the small motorbike does everything well.
Here’s a few observations after riding the Himalayan for a month. The bike is somewhat cold-natured at startup, even though it’s fuel injected. It coughs when first turning over, drags a bit at first, then settles into a nice idle as the single cylinder motor warms up. The left handlebar holds what appears to be a sliding choke lever as on the motorcycles of old, yet I couldn’t figure out its purpose and use, being EFI fed. Out on the open road, our Himalayan got a bit buzzy above 5000 rpm in all gears, and above 70 mph, the mirrors vibrated too much to be very useful, the fairing also emitting a slight vibration that was audible. I never really felt it pronounced in the grips, however. In the dash console, the ambient temperature indicator never displayed accurately, nor did the digital compass. The brakes are manufactured under the name ByBre, the Indian subsidiary of Brembo Brakes. They are adequate, although feel somewhat soft when pinched hard. Given how small the Himalayan is however, they get the job done.
I love the smooth and easy shifting in the Himalayan’s gearbox. The bike clicks up and down effortlessly through the cogs, with easy pull on the clutch lever. For such a small, inexpensive motorbike, Royal Enfield nailed the gearbox and clutch actuation. I found the seat surprisingly comfortable for a stocker, with easy key access on the left side to some minor storage underneath each pad, as well as a handy tool kit. The bottom engine guard pan is useful too, for those who will actually take the bike off road on occasion. The rear rack comes standard, and is well constructed/configured for multiple ways to strap down luggage, soft or hard. The single upswept pipe not only looks good with the black end cap, it sounds good too, for a small single thumper. It emits a nice throaty growl, and though aftermarket ones are available by several manufacturers, I honestly don’t think I’d change it. The 2021 Himalayan also sports a National Cycle wind screen, which was just tall enough to push wind to the upper part of my helmet and reduce wind buffet in a pocket over the tank to about chest level.
As I walk around the bike and observe it in my driveway, I swear it harkens back to the motorcycles Harley-Davidson produced for the U.S. military in the 1980s-90s, namely the MT500 and MT350. A very spartan, utilitarian, basic motorcycle, designed to go anywhere. And from what I’ve read of others around the world who ride and write about it, the Himalayan does just that. From the country roads of north Georgia USA, to the sands of sub-Sahara Africa, even the slopes around Mt. Everest, the Royal Enfield Himalayan appears to be the go-to, go-everywhere motorcycle many are gravitating toward. With all the high-tech specialization of motorcycles today, the widely varied categories of bikes that can be chosen from to suit one’s specific tastes, it’s refreshing to find a motorcycle that either defies categorization, or encompasses many of them, depending on how it’s looked upon.
I’ve really come to love this diminutive, lightweight, practical offering by Royal Enfield. It reminds me of the motorcycles from my youth- simple, basic, no-frills, easy to ride and easy to work on, back when bikes came with owners manuals that actually showed you things like how to adjust the valves, dial the idle, gap the plugs, etc., rather than warnings to not drink the battery acid. It vibrates some, is noisy, needs tightening and adjustments occasionally, and I’m fine with that. This bike’s lack of refinement appeals to me, gives me joy, makes me smile every time I take a ride on it. And really, isn’t that what motorcycles are supposed to do for us?
the best value adventure bike for the money
My conclusion? The Royal Enfield Himalayan may very well be not only the best value adventure bike for the money, but the best value all-purpose motorcycle for the money on the market. There’s a lot to love here for around 5 grand. Ours is going home soon, but the day is bright, sunny, and mild…I think it needs another ride. Or two.
*For more on the 2021 Royal Enfield Himalayan, click on the direct link here:
*Check out our video review below, with lots of ride footage!