Very recently I had the opportunity to throw a leg over the Royal Enfield Himalayan. This motorcycle seems to be Royal Enfields’ attempt to not so casually enter the world of the ADV Motorcycle market. The bike has created a flurry of hype, both positive and negative, which can leave those interested, frantically reading reviews coming from a myriad of sources. Personally, I feel like RE and RE riders have been part of the ADV motorcycle movement from the start, and this bike is a natural extension in the RE portfolio. RE riders seem to be some of the “original” riders, if you will. I spent a few weeks riding with THE ROAD STALLIONS which further proved to me that these bold riders have cut their teeth riding on some of the worlds toughest terrain upon machines which may seem like they are designed to do much less. Riders using simple machines with fierce hearts. Fearless in their destination objectives. As I like to say, “Steel Bikes and Iron Riders”.
On my second to last day in India, I actually got to throw a leg over the Himalayan and take her for a spin. At this point I had just finished a nearly 24,000 kilometer ride reaching the three corners of INDIA. In the NW I reached the town of Diskit near Leh, in the NE I rode through the beautiful Cherrapunji Valley, after which I rode south down the east coast to the southern tip of India arriving in Kanyakumari. Finally, I rode back up the west coast to Bombay. I rode this entire journey on my RE Machismo 500, so I was very accustomed to the riding position of that particular machine.
Getting on the Himalayan and having an upright seated position was a breath of fresh air. I felt nimble and ready for quick maneuvers should they be needed. In my short ride I also found standing on the bike quite comfortable. I was able to transfer weight and steer the bike with my feet, which is a ADV bike trademark. There are many other ways in which the Himalayan could possibly considered a superior riding experience than the older REs.
However, allow me to bring in a touch of honestly to the statements I’ve made about this bike. How does a 10 minute ride through the busy streets of Bombay equate to a 10,000 kilometer ADV ride to Leh and beyond…it doesn’t compare in the least. Any long distance rider will tell you the same thing. No seat will be forever comfortable. No handle bar will be perfect for every type of terrain. No foot peg positioning will be perfect for every cruise. That’s where the heart of exploration lives. It lives at the point between comfort and pain. Pushing the boundaries of your own personal comfort zone. Growing yourself and your perception. Realizing joy in a place you never thought you would be and feeling the value and sadness of completing a difficult journey. You take the bike, the bike does not take you.
This is not a look at specifications, nor a direct comparison to any high dollar ADV bike made by a company with a quarter century background in developing the perfect Dual Sport Motorcycle. I’m writing this to say one thing, “This bike is an opportunity”. When I arrived in Manali for the first time I was blow away. Blown away by the fact that people had been riding these “cruiser” style machines through this terrain. It was at that point I felt the true spirit of Royal Endfield. A never say die spirit knowing full well you would need to wrench on your bike at some point, because, “It’s an Endfield”…and that’s ok. It seemed like the bike walked this thin line of simplicity which provided a go-anywhere experience, while also allowing itself to be fixed on the side of the road with a wrench and a rock. For that reason, I’m happy that RE choose to keep the Himalayan relatively simple. Are there things I would change? Of course. But those things are more for comfort than functionality. Simple is good and there IS beauty in simplicity.
Somehow I feel there is a perception that exists where you can not attain your own personal victory unless you have some perfect tool. When in fact, all you need is an opportunity. For me a motorcycle is that opportunity. Yes, I feel like the Himalayan could be that opportunity. The fact is, you would take this machine to the ends of the earth, not the other way around. Along the way you will face hardship and struggle. Only through this struggle does the journey become valuable. If anyone could do it, why would you? If a perfect bike did exist, I dont want it. I just want my bike. One that I’ve become connected to through experience is that where the scratches are, there are stories.
For me the HYPE is the ADV which happens after planning up until the moment you return home. Its dirty hands from mid day maintenance and late arrivals. Its a feverish search for the unknown. Its sharing a conversation with someone in a place you never even intended on going to. I’m really happy for Royal Endfield making this jump into the ADV bike arena. In some ways the growth and evolution of RE helps keep ALL of their bikes on the road. Lets be honest, young and old they will all need parts. I would only ask one thing from the RE community. As the bikes become more and more comfort centric, please do not to loose that bold sense of exploration. Let your comfort be the fact that while everyone else sips coffee and talks about why their bike is the best, you’re wiping mud from your visor while the odometer continues to spin. Stay on the rough and rocky path. Stay fierce, stay dirty. Live life outside of your comfort zone. Choose destinations that challenge you both physically and mentally. Enjoy the struggle. Keep the Endfield spirit strong. ADV ON. I know you will.