Want…but may not have? Royal Enfield does have U.S. distribution, but the just-announced Himalayan is making its debut only in India for now. Although it has a heritage that goes back to 1901 in the U.K., Royal Enfield today is a subsidiary of India’s Eicher, which makes trucks and buses. The company has inked a deal with Polaris, which helped develop the Himalayan’s very trick monoshock rear suspension, a first for R.E., plus its long-travel (7.9 inches) fork. Ground clearance is an impressive 8.6 inches, and the engine gets a steel cage for protection. There’s a 90/90-21 tire up front, and a 120/90-17 rear.
The engine is Royal Enfield’s new 410cc single, an undersquare four-stroke. With 25 horsepower, this carbureted air-cooled mill is not exactly a high-output powerplant, but it has good low-end pull (23 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm), perfect for grinding through traffic or negotiating tricky dirt trails.
All of this hews to Enfield’s legacy bike, the Bullet, which was first used by the Indian Army to patrol the Himalayas in the middle of the last century. A week ago, Siddhartha Lal, CEO of Royal Enfield, wrote about testing the new Enfield Himalayan in its element, and how the bike was invented, truly, for developing-world conditions. He said the bike should be “…light enough to pick it up when it falls; simple enough to mend a broken part yourself (as a result of that previous fall!) or to start even if the battery is dead (seriously, you can push start it and put on your headlamp even if the battery is missing!).”
To extend its already substantial 280-mile range, the Royal Enfield Himalayan has some high front bracketry that conceivably could be used to carry some extra fuel cans, and there’s also some tubular structure in back to support a pair of panniers. As Lal stressed, the Himalayan, which has a 4-gallon fuel tank, is designed to be especially balanced at low speeds and for lighter riders.
Don’t for a minute think Royal Enfield is some wee brand: The Indian company sold 450,000 bikes last year, nearly double its 2014 output. That’s good news, especially if it helps push the Himalayan to our shores.