Those thumps could be heard a mile away, and it would mean that there was an engine pumping Royal Enfield coming to the neighborhood. That’s what we all grew up hearing. Only, this time the onlookers were curious to see a new mean looking machine.
As it neared it read ROYAL ENFIELD embossed on its skeletal frame and it must have tickled their curious minds but it did not have the thumping noise that was closely associated with a Royal Enfield bike. I was test riding the new Royal Enfield Himalayan BS4.
We (me & a friend) were covering a total distance of 250 km give and take, over the span of 13 hours with breaks, of course, taking the bike on good straight roads, bad curvy roads and off roads. Doing exactly what it was made for and testing its durability for regulars while we get a low down on its performance.
We started from Ernakulam and rode through Muvattupuzha, Thodupuzha on to Kulamavu in Idukki. Then retraced the route a bit, climbed onto the green meadows of Vagamon. From there we took the faster route to Pala, Vaikom and back to Ernakulam. Completing a circuit tour, touching three districts of Kerala in a day.
Before I rev the engines, let’s go back to where this bike comes from. India has been known for its variety of motorbikes for a long time, from the Hero Hondas to the Bajajs. But nothing really came under the genre of an adventure touring motorcycle until recent times. With hordes of people wanting to circuits in Ladakh, time was ripe and Royal Enfield, who is known for the famous Bullet brand of motorcycles launched this exciting new touring bike. Built it from the ground up and called it the Himalayan. A bike meant for “all roads and no roads” literally.
Yes, this bike is made thinking about the unforgiving terrains of the Himalayas where there are no roads to ride on for the most part. This also makes riding through some of the regular pot-holed city roads seem like a cake-walk for this bike and good roads like butter on a knife. You choose! By and large, roads in India are often considered as an off-road experience and the Himalayan fits right in.
Dawn was just breaking as we started our ride. We swiftly cruised through the city streets onto the outskirts and beyond the city of Ernakulam while the blue skies opened up. Within no time, we reached Muvattupuzha, a small town east of Kochi, 35 km away. While we stopped for chai, onlookers scrambled around the bike, mesmerized by its size and design. Everyone knows the Bullet but this was new in town. Somehow the Himalayan was quite photogenic with these surroundings.
It was no small bike in terms of size and the highly ergonomic feel reduces fatigue that you otherwise experience on other bikes. This includes its well-built suspension which keeps you grounded when the road gives way to bumps, humps, and potholes. Something that the Himalayan aced throughout our ride. From the rider’s perspective, the saddle rests comfortably on a mono-shock suspension that handles jerks and vibes efficiently while being seated and standing. It’s usually the pillion that bears the brunt of a long ride sitting at the back, but on the Himalayan, you can keep waiting for that “brace yourself” moment as you whizz through it at all times.
Across paddy fields, rubber and pepper plantations, beautiful lakes reflecting the lush green landscape, we rode for almost 86 km, climbing some of the smoothest curved roads and reached Kulamavu. But it had been all good roads until there. We decided to go off-road for a bit and test its mettle. Surprisingly this bike took it way too easily and came alive in those instances.
Midway pitstop in Vagamon
We stopped for a good heavy breakfast of hoppers in Idukki and continued on from there. The next 45 km of road was marred with scars from the lashing monsoons of south India and with a steep gradient. The roads were unapologetic. It was the perfect setting to test if the motorbike could take on steep roads, a pillion at the back and enough power to pull through. The bike picked up and responded well even with two people on board. The terrain changed, the air became slightly cooler, curvy hairpin roads were bordered by green tea plantations and the forested treeline covered the mountains. On reaching Vagamon, a hill station, we decided to pause the ride and enjoy the warm sunny views of the green-clad mountains for a bit.
A few good hours of rest and it was time to hit the road back again. We continued our descent and planned to reach home by sunset. This time the road was a mix of dirt tracks and tarmac in a not so great condition while the traffic was on the higher side.
Everywhere we stopped, there were a few folks enchanted by its tall, rugged design. It did drop a lot of eyebrows. Racing through time, we hit the last bit of road weaving and sifting through heavy traffic. The bike still running on its full tank of fuel I got refueled before the ride. Closer to home and 13 hours later, we felt like we could use some rest for our backs. Yet the Himalayan would fearlessly tread on given a chance and a thousand miles and an iron butt.
Riding the Himalayan gave a kick for us amateur riders making us spark our adventurous sides on a motorbike. A bike that takes you on long distances and short distances with ease. One thing for sure is that the Himalayan really makes you a much more confident rider on Indian roads. Making it easy for adventure tourers even if they are just getting out on their first ride. We could really go on for another 100 miles or more but that is for another day.
The real test will be riding this machine in the dirt tracks of the Himalayas exposed to the natural conditions that this bike was made and named after or an all India traverse. I’m kicked!!!
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If you are interested in more about the specifics then head on to what Indianomics has to say about the Himalayan.
Share your experience on the Himalayan in the comments below
*All views expressed here are my own. Unless otherwise stated all images are my own.
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Travel Blogger from Kochi, India. An inspired traveler, a travel writer, a photographer, an aspiring mountaineer, a positive thinker and a minimalist.