Bike-scooters/ First-drive/ RE Himalayan 450 | The Mountain Child | First Ride Review

RE Himalayan 450 | The Mountain Child | First Ride Review

With the Himalayan 450, Royal Enfield has reached a new summit. Highest one it has ever reached in its lustrous as well as bleak history.

For

Performance , Suspension , Handling

Against

Joystick operations

Riding

Sherpa 450 - the climber!

Sherpa 450, that’s what RE is calling this spanking new powertrain which also marks a milestone in RE’s endeavours as a bikemaker because this is the first RE to feature liquid-cooling and DOHC configuration. The numbers are pretty impressive too! In full chatter, this engine belts out 40.4hp @ 8000rpm and 40nm @ 5500rpm. Almost 80% of the torque can be devoured from as low as 3000rpm, crucial bit for an ADV-tourer but does this engine justify the Sherpa moniker? For the uninitiated, Sherpas hail from Nepal and Tibet and are renowned for their sheer mountaineering skills.

Even before we thumbed the starter, RE was kind enough to let us know that because of the mighty altitude that we were at, we will be experiencing a performance drop of around 30%. The engine might be potent enough to churn out 40PS but during our ride, we could only tap around 28-30 horses. However, it was enough to lend the new Himalayan new found abilities in terms of outright performance. During our initial outing around Manali’s back roads, the Himalayan showed that it could have done with a little more low end grunt but things might improve once the engine gets more engine to breath. Uncanny how an engine and a human’s body can show similar traits up in the mountains. That being said, it doesn’t gasp for breath down there in the rev range, like the KTM 390 Adventure or the BMW G310 GS for instance. Things get a lot better when the tacho needle kisses the 3000rpm mark and after that, the Sherpa 450 puts up a show, climbing every summit assigned to it!

It keeps on pulling harder until it reaches right at the top of its rev ceiling, imitating traits of a true-blue Sherpa. The redline stands at 8,750rpm and the journey till there, is an event. The mid range grunt is addictive and the engine eggs you to give it some more beans. This hunger has transformed the Himalayan 450 into a different beast altogether, especially when you factor in the slightly lethargic 411. We managed to see 120kmph on the speedometer in the 5th gear. With one more gear to go and the engine still holding those speeds fairly easily at that altitude, respectable? You bet! Vibrations? They are a thing of RE’s bleak past because the new Sherpa 450 engine is one refined unit with vibrations only creeping in higher up in the rev range. While the overall tractability could have been slightly improved, the new Himalayan has certainly showcased that good things are coming for Royal Enfield. Moreover, the friendliness that was associated 411’s long stroke engine, is present here as well because at no point the new Himalayan would make your pants brown, despite going considerably fast. What also impressed us was the light clutch action and precise, buttery shifts from the 6-speed transmission.

Flowing with the Himalayas

During the Himalayan 450's first ride, it seemed like life came full circle to me because last year, during the same time, I was riding the Himalayan 411. The uncanny part? I was riding it extensively for the first time and on the same particular stretch which was curated for Himalayan 450's first ride. A perfect testbed? You bet! The stretch from Kaza to Manali would surpass the ethereal meaning of the word treacherous. Himalayan's tagline 'Built for all roads and no roads' came alive during our testing because on the first day, we rode till Tindi and back to Manali. This stretch included smooth, flowing asphalt with technical and sweeping curves as well. The backdrop couldn't have been more surreal and the motorcycle? Elevated all the emotions higher than the highest Himalayan peaks. Allow me to explain.

A sense of familiarity is bound to enchant your mind the moment you sit on the new Himalayan. But this statement is particularly reserved just for the rider's triangle because the cockpit view is pretty different! The cluttered, multi-dial layout of the previous Himalayan is now replaced with a new TFT instrument cluster, something which I have already raved about earlier. Then there's the bulbous fuel tank! One major change in ergonomics is seat height which has received a substantial bump and has gone up from 800mm to 825mm, which can be further adjusted to 845mm because of two adjustable levers placed beneath the rider's seat. Nifty! I'm 5'9 and during the first day, I was riding with 845mm seat height. On a few occassions, it did pose some problem for my stature but at 825mm, it was pretty much manageable with both of my feet touching the ground comfortably. Onwards to how it rides! 

When in attack mode, on asphalt, the 21-inch front wheel doesn't even feel like it measures 21 inches. Majorly because of the rigidity and confidence bestowed upon the new Himalayan by the folks at Showa who have supplied suspension components. I almost kissed the front USD forks, despite it being covered in a thick layer of dirt. Himalayan dirt. The new Himalayan 411 was sort of lethargic when it comes to riding dynamics but the new one? Oh, this lady can lean. You just need to trust the motorcycle, commit to it and watch it happen. It is not an absolute corner carver, in fact, far from it but given the chance, it wouldn't mind scraping its pegs. The on road dynamics also revealed the strong braking prowess, courtesy of a 320mm disc up front and a 270mm rear disc coupled with switchable ABS. The bite is strong and the feedback is plenty.

While its road dynamics certainly impressed, what left us spellbounded was its off-road capability. After scorching the tarmac, it was now time to hit the dirt and the Himalayan 450 showed how far it has evolved, while preserving the core ethos of 411. Last year, the 411 had me floored with its absorbing capabilities and how it made a novice off-roader like me, feel like Pol Tarres. The new one? It elevates things to a new level. While it preserves the same accessibility and friendly character, it outdoes the 411 with a pinch of sophistication. The suspension setup is downright brilliant. With 200mm of suspension travel at either ends and a mammoth ground clearance of 230mm, the Himalayan 450 rolled and flew over everything we threw at it. And it did all of it was so much finesse that you actually start believing it was destined to do that. 



TopGear Magazine July 2024