The Royal Enfield Himalayan has undoubtedly been a significant player in the adventure motorcycle market, mainly because of its rugged simplicity and affordability.
Now, the introduction of an all-new 450cc single-cylinder engine with water-cooling, ride-by-wire throttle, and double overhead camshafts – all firsts for the Indian manufacturer – represents a substantial advancement in terms of performance and technology. New features such as Showa suspension, riding modes, switchable ABS and a TFT dash with connectivity and navigation should also make the new Himalayan a more capable and versatile machine.
Despite this dramatic modernization of its much-loved workhorse, Enfield’s commitment to retaining the simplicity and reliability of the original, 2016-model remains high. Attracting new customers with better performance and modern technology was clearly deemed essential by the Indian manufacturer. So too was retaining the Himalayan's appeal to traditional customers, the majority of whom come from outside the European and North American markets.
Gallery: 2024 Royal Enfield Himalayan First Ride
It had to be tough, and the fact that Enfield chose the Himalayas as the venue for the new 450's press launch, demonstrates the company's confidence in the bike's capabilities in challenging terrain.
I flew all the way to the spectacular mountain range for 48 hours of crazy testing at 11,000 feet (and higher). Two days travelling, three planes and a scary taxi ride to get there: could the Himalayan live up to the name?
The introduction of a new 452cc single, the Sherpa 450, represents a significant milestone for Enfield.t introduces water-cooling, marking a departure from Enfield's traditional air-cooled designs, as well as ride-by-wire technology and a dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) configuration – all firsts for the manufacturer. The Sherpa 450 unit is also an impressive 10kg (about 22 pounds) lighter than the air-cooled engine it replaces.
In terms of performance, the 452cc single is on another street altogether, producing 40hp at 8,000 rpm and 40Nm/29.52lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm, and making a smoother, broader band of power. Some 90 percent of that peak torque is available from as low as 3,000rpm, ensuring that the bike generates plenty of grunt wherever it is in the rev range. And while the older engine is revved out by 5,000rpm, the 450 is still making good power at 5,500rpm.
The implementation of ride-by-wire throttle allows for the introduction of two riding modes, Performance and Eco. An increase in the fuel tank capacity, from 15 litres to 17 litres, provides an extended claimed range of 450km/280miles.
The India and UK-based design team has made several noteworthy changes to the bike's design, too. They moved the airbox to above the engine, which not only improves the bike's water-wading capabilities but also allows for a narrower seat that tapers toward the fuel tank. Attention has also been paid to the exhaust routing to ensure that the narrow end can doesn't interfere with the bike's functionality.
An extensive and dramatic two-day road test in the Himalayas demonstrated that Enfield has made significant improvements in the performance of the Sherpa 450 compared to its previous air-cooled engine. Despite challenging conditions at high altitudes and the challenge of one of the world's most dangerous roads, the 450 took on everything the mountains could throw at it.
A 65 percent increase in peak power has made perhaps the most noticeable difference. The new bike is keener and much more responsive when the throttle is opened. The new ride-by-wire fuelling system provides a smooth and manageable power delivery, especially at low-revs, when singles can feel particularly lumpy.
Moving Through Mountains
Threading the Himalayan between rocks and scree or maintaining traction in dirt-surfaced hairpins with no barrier between me and the valley some 3,000 feet below, was easy. The new engine offers a broad and usable spread of torque; so about 25 percent throttle drove it calmly up the mountainside without any drama at all.
While the altitude knocked power output by around 20 to 30 percent, there were still opportunities to experience the improved top-end power that the previous air-cooled engine lacked. The Sherpa 450 is more willing to rev, accelerating up to 70mph with comparative ease. This should enhance its appeal to customers outside India who crave more power.
The Himalayan’s newfound performance can't really be described as sprightly or thrilling, especially at altitude. Still, it does deliver a lovely slug of torque and fuss-free acceleration. At lower, more normal altitudes, it will perform even better, making every day overtaking and motorway cruising far more achievable. After all, keeping up with faster traffic on the outgoing Himalayan meant risking a dislocated wrist in a bid to squeeze out every last molecule of power.
The introduction of Eco and Performance riding modes is welcome, but the 450's power delivery is so user-friendly and unintimidating that it's hard to see who would benefit from the softer Eco option, other than riders transitioning from smaller-displacement motorcycles. Performance mode is likely to be the default preference for most.
The new Enfield Himalayan features a completely redesigned chassis and suspension setup, but retains the old bike's crucial and defining go-anywhere DNA. The 21-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear wheel combination are still present and correct, as well as the long-travel suspension and excellent ground clearance.
The non-adjustable 43mm Showa forks have 200mm (7.87 inches) of travel, which effortlessly absorbs rough terrain and provides a comfortable ride. At the rear, there is a new single shock with spring preload adjustment and, like the front, 200mm of travel, which is 20mm (about 0.8 inches) more than the older model. This setup results in an impressive 230mm (9-ish inches) of ground clearance, which is 10mm (about 0.4 inches) more than the air-cooled Himalayan.
While the new water-cooled engine has managed to shed some weight, the new bike is still relatively heavy at 196 kg (about 432 pounds). This weight is partly due to the addition of a larger fuel tank, bigger brakes, beefier forks and the new electronics. It's also partly because Enfield wanted to preserve the robustness of the older bike, particularly for its use in India, where it will be expected to handle a wide range of riding scenarios, including carrying multiple passengers plus luggage and livestock.
But nothing, not even potholes the size of a dining room table, fazed the chassis. The ride was smooth, the damping rates controlled and spot on for riding in mixed terrain.
While inconsistent road conditions limited the ability to push the bike's handling to the limit, initial impressions were positive. The CEAT Gripp tires handled the heart-stopping transformation from asphalt to moonscape without drama, although further testing with different road conditions may provide more insights into their performance. And, forgive me, but I didn’t want to test peg-scraping levels of lean on one of the most dangerous roads in the world.
Off-road, the Himalayan 450 excelled and, much like a trusty old Land Rover or army jeep, navigated calmly around and over obstacles without fuss or once losing traction. Stable, reassuring and, in this wild and at times scary riding environment, immensely reassuring, it just kept plodding along.
The switchable ABS, which is either road or off-road (where there is no ABS on the rear wheel), allows for enhanced control in varied conditions. ABS can’t be switched off entirely. Traction control isn’t available and wasn’t missed due to the bike's natural balance, perfectly metered low-end torque and excellent suspension, which enabled it to find traction and power – so long as it was dry and rocky (more off-road biased tires would be required for any serious mud adventures).
While some adjustments, like higher handlebars, could improve the bike's standing position (optional), the new Himalayan is as robust and reliable companion for explorers and adventure riders as the older bike.
The new braking system features Indian-made BYBRE calipers and represents another significant update. The front disc diameter has been increased from 300mm to 320mm, while the rear disc has also grown from 240mm to 270mm. The addition of ABS as standard, with the ability to switch to an off-road setting that deactivates the rear ABS, enhances the bike's versatile safety features.
These new brakes provide sufficient stopping power for the relatively heavy Himalayan. They're not exactly razor-sharp, but they do deliver progressive and smooth braking performance, making them well-suited for new riders and those exploring off-road terrain for the first time. In the Himalayas at least, the ABS system is not overly intrusive.
One potential drawback is that the standard brake levers are not adjustable. although optional levers are available. Comfort was excellent on our test, despite the challenges thrown at the suspension by Himalayan roads. There's a calmness to the way the 450 rides, one that makes many hours in the saddle possible without fatigue.
I should add, though, that riding conditions in the Himalayas are not overly similar to those in, say, California, so certain things like high-speed vibrations and wind protection remain relatively untested.
A new windscreen and improved performance, however, should make the Himalayan a more versatile and effective real-world tourer, allowing for higher sustained speeds, which is something that the old bike could only dream about. The absence of even optional cruise control is a missed opportunity, especially given the new ride-by-wire throttle technology. But I guess this comes down to price.
The full-color TFT display is a substantial upgrade over the older model. It's clear, functional and stylish – and offers up full map navigation, turn-by-turn directions and phone connectivity. While these features will be beneficial to some riders, they are limited by the need to keep your phone unlocked, which can drain its battery. Many may still prefer to use a traditional navigation system.
The USB charging point (near the bars) is useful, but comes with the inconvenience of having a cable connecting you to the bike if you keep your phone in a pocket, because there's nowhere to store your phone other than your pocket. [Maybe Enfield is assuming you’ll be using a vibration-damping phone mount of some kind on the handlebars anyway? - JJ]
The switchgear and the left bar's joystick are pleasingly simple, but not overly intuitive. Some functions, such as changing riding modes or disabling the rear ABS, cannot be adjusted on the move.
In the flesh, the new design of the Himalayan 450 makes the older 411 model appear dated. The neat headlight, integrated indicators and brake light, and the unique crash bars around the fuel tank, are cleverly designed and executed. The design department has clearly been working overtime. I like the new design, and a wide choice of colours and accessories allows easy personalization. Finally a Himalayan you can be proud to own – but what about the price?
Enfield's revamp of the Himalayan has clearly paid off and, based on two days of riding in high mountains, the new model appears to address the areas that needed upgrading while preserving the bike's rugged character. Significant performance enhancements plus improved handling and ride quality make it a more compelling and versatile go-anywhere, do-anything adventure motorcycle.
Crucially, the new Himalayan retains its durability and ability to keep going, no matter what, making it a dependable choice for adventure riders. Meanwhile, the aesthetic improvements give a more stylish and contemporary appearance, making it more appealing to riders outside the home market of India.
Comfort is excellent and the larger fuel tank capacity, updated instrumentation, and a wide range of accessories offer riders the opportunity to personalize their Himalayan for a variety of adventures.
The price point for the new Himalayan will be a crucial factor in its success, as the current bike is $5,449. Priced below $6,000, it's easy to see the new bike selling fast. Priced over $6,000 and closer to $7,000 (and thus more closely aligned on price with its competitors), it might lose some of the original Himalayan's budget-friendly appeal.
In summary, the new Himalayan seems to be a well-rounded and improved version of its predecessor, offering a unique blend of performance, style and durability. But its success here in the USA may largely depend on that still-to-be-announced price point.
Photography by Royal Enfield, Chippy Wood, Jason Critchell