Royal Enfield brought the affordable adventure touring motorcycle – the Himalayan 411 – in India in 2016. Since then, the fraternity has exploded and thousands of riders have traversed the country on this bike. However, a year later, in 2017, is when the company decided to start working on a newer Himalayan – the Himalayan 450. This motorcycle boasts several firsts for Royal Enfield.
Royal Enfield always likes to keep things simple when it comes to the overall styling of their motorcycles. With the new Himalayan, the brand has stuck to the rugged and versatile roots of the Himalayas. The design approach is unique, but it still borrows some cues from the 411, like the circular headlamp and the metal frame connecting the fuel tank to the headlamp unit.
The fascia has the most rugged touch – thanks to the presence of the 21-inch front wheel and a long beak. While the windscreen is average-sized, it still adds decent mass to the motorcycle. I spent much time appreciating the side profile of the bike. The giant fuel tank, exposed chassis tubes, compact exhaust, and the spoke wheels give a sense of largeness to the motorcycle. The rear of the Himalayan 452 has Hunter 350-design inspiration and it gets turn indicators with integrated brake lights.
The Himalayan 452 is the most modern motorcycle in Royal Enfield's line-up today, and that's because there are many modern equipments that have gone into making this ADV tourer long-distance-friendly. The highlight of this section is the 4-inch circular instrument cluster, which is a colour TFT. This console has been designed keeping long-distance and city riding in mind. Other than showing the usual ride details it also shows navigation, ambient temperature, and riding modes. Interestingly, this cluster can also show information in both analogue and digital format by pressing the mode button on the switch gear. All these selections must be done using a toggle and home buttons placed on the left side of the switchgear.
A total of four riding modes have been provided on the bike – Eco with ABS on, Eco with ABS off, Performance with ABS on, and Performance with ABS off. As the name suggests, Eco mode drops performance to provide accessible performance and better fuel efficiency, whereas Performance mode gives out all the 40bhp of power available. The ‘ABS off’ refers to the locking of the rear wheel and the enabling of some action-packed slides.
Besides these features, the Himalayan 452 gets ride-by-wire, hazard lights, adjustable seats, Type-C, and non-adjustable Showa front forks. Sadly, the knuckle guards don't come as standard, which is, to be honest, a poor call by Royal Enfield.
The Himalayan 450 gets a brand new 452cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine. This motor makes 40bhp at 8,000rpm and 40Nm at 5,500rpm. However, it could only produce around 28-29bhp due to the high altitude of the testing grounds. As a result of this, there were some performance limitations. The engine feels and sounds relatively smooth. Unlike the Himalayan 411, it doesn't have the crudeness, and the overall NVH is well under control.
Regarding the overall performance, the Himalayan 452 lacked that low-end performance character of the 411. Till 2,500rpm, the motorcycle feels a bit boring, but the Royal Enfield team assured us that the drop in performance is due to the altitude. At sea level, there's a strong torque surge post 1,500rpm. I barely used Eco mode because the performance is hugely subtle in the first four gears – suited only for city roads.
But Performance mode allowed me to do some good speeds –I was riding above 100kmph mostly, and to be honest, even at 120kmph, the Himalayan felt at home. The vibes are minimal, the overall comfort is at a reasonable level, and the motorcycle feels solid and smooth. I think 120kmph could be the bike's comfortable touring speed on Indian highways but we can confirm this only when we test it in Mumbai.
The Himalayan 411 has always been known to be extremely good off-road, but this time around, the new model performs exceedingly well on the road as well. The roads of the Himalayas allowed me to push this bike to its limits, and every single time, it put a big smile on my face. Even with that 21-inch front wheel, the bike went effortlessly through some of the fastest corners I've ever been on. The overall balance of the motorcycle is on point, bringing in a sense of confidence and stability. With these aspects in place, the new Himalayan 452 was scraping pegs – something I have never done on an ADV. A lot of the credit also goes to those new CEAT Gripp tyres. Even with a single-digit ambient temperature, the tyres were grippy and could let the rider push the bike a bit more. The routes closer to Atal Tunnel had a lot of bumpy corners, but the suspension was tuned so well that I could take these corners at high speeds. Some mid-corner changes were made, and the motorcycle performed with utmost confidence each time.
When it comes to off-roading, the Himalayan 452 has impressive specs. The ground clearance stands at 230mm and the front and rear forks have a travel of 200mm. There's a 21-inch front wheel with an option to choose a tubeless spoke (once approved) and a 17-inch at the back. All these aspects have made this ADV a serious off-roader. Be it small rocks or medium-sized boulders – the Himalayan crossed all of it quickly. In fact, the motorcycle is so well-engineered that even with hours of serious off-roading, it didn't do any unnecessary drama or feel unsettled.
The switchable ABS at the back gave me total control on off-road sections. I feel the brakes on the Himalayan needed a bit more work – both at the front and back. While there was minimal feel on the front while braking at high speeds, the rear brake lever had very little play. This resulted in unnecessary braking power at the rear. Plus, while riding using Enduro boots, the lack of decent play made me always hit the brakes unknowingly.
Should I buy one?
After testing it for almost 350km, it is clear that the new Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 has the potential to redefine the segment once again. This ADV checks all the right boxes. Firstly, it looks like a big bike, which ups the aspirational value. Then, there are the feature aspects – the TFT screen, Google maps, riding modes, and access to many body kits – that have made the motorcycle much more modern. The 450cc engine churns out good performance – on and off-road. Plus, on the highways, the Himalayan does 120kmph easily – something all of us have been waiting for from the Himalayan 411. The bike is agile on corners, can lean in quite a bit, and also adapts to quick direction change. Further, the off-road performance is awe-inspiring as it can take ruthless beatings. But a few things like the lack of knuckle guards, bite on the levers, and the absence of tubeless spoke wheels at the time of launch take some points away from this Royal Enfield. If Royal Enfield manages to price the new Himalayan below or around Rs. 3 lakh, on-road, this bike will make the most significant impact the Indian travel motorcycling segment has ever seen.
Photography by Kapil Angane