In a world with hundreds of different models of motorcycles, very few stand out as being genuinely original—motorcycles that defy comparison and demand they define themselves. The 2022 Royal Enfield Himalayan is such a motorcycle. Marketed as a back-to-basics adventure bike, there’s a bit more to the Himalayan than that, and it’s a fascinating ride. Royal Enfield lightly updated the Himalayan this year, so we’ll also be addressing the changes.
The heart-and-soul of the Himalayan is its 411cc motor, and that hasn’t changed in 2022. It’s easy to peg the air-cooled, SOHC, two-valve motor as low-performance. It barely revs past 6500 rpm, and never cranks out as much as 25 horsepower. However, you have to ask yourself, is a tractor motor high-performance or low-performance? If you’re cranking out gobs of torque, that’s performance, and that’s what the Himalayan does. It pulls nearly 24 ft-lbs of torque at 4000 rpm, producing more torque over its entire operating rev range than the DOHC, 4-valve KTM 390 Adventure. Let the KTM rev and its horsepower will run it away from the Himalayan, but when it comes to grunt, the Royal Enfield mill is high-performance.
The torquey, slow-revving motor defines how the Himalayan operates. You aren’t going anywhere fast. You won’t be jumping the Himalayan, and you won’t be drifting it more than an inch or two in corners. There are no power modes, and you won’t be needing traction control or wheelie control. Riding the Himalayan successfully is about maximizing its positives and not forcing it into what might be your way of thinking. While that’s true of any motorcycle, it is vital on a motorcycle as idiosyncratic as the Himalayan.
Like a tractor, you can take it almost anywhere, as long as you aren’t in a hurry. The long-stroke motor’s power pulses are traction friendly, so you never worry about spinning up the rear tire. You point the Himalayan where you want to go, roll on the throttle, and let it work its magic, which it invariably does. Sure, with 8.6 inches of ground clearance, you won’t be taking it on nasty black diamond single-track trails. Remember, this is an adventure motorcycle, with a bit of the old boondocking style of the 1960s trail bikes—think of this as a big brother to the new Honda Trail 125. Patience and reasonable expectations will be rewarded, just as irrational exuberance results in punishment. As Dr. Suess enthused, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”
This year Royal Enfield swapped out Pirelli MT-60 tires for Ceat Gripp-XL rubber. Ceat is an Indian manufacturer that sells 165 million tires annually; naturally, Royal Enfield buys local. You might be skeptical about a highly regarded tire replaced by something from Ceat, and so were we. As it turns out, the Ceat tires work just fine. The Gripp-XL tires don’t have huge demands on them and found traction off-road in challenging conditions—rocky, silty, sandy, hardpack—and were completely predictable and usable on the pavement. Yes, the 21-inch front tire can get sketchy off-road—not unusual for a street-friendly ADV-design tread pattern, so you need to manage the front end. Curiously, Royal Enfield didn’t mention this change in its press release.
The Himalayan’s suspension works quite well off-road, and on. Royal Enfield engineers tuned the semi-adjustable suspension correctly for the lower speeds that the Himalayan encourages, and the action is decent and balanced. It’s soft, which has a couple of advantages. It takes the edge off the inevitable hits on rugged roads, and the softer suspension settings make it even easier for the 439-pound chassis to settle into the terrain for improved traction. Once you get to the pavement, the feeling is plush and welcome. The power delivery doesn’t incite hard riding in the twisties, so the soft suspension is not a liability.
Royal Enfield added ABS last year, and it’s semi-defeatable. The front and rear brakes are in line with the performance of the motor—yes, the motor is the Himalayan’s defining characteristic. A single 300mm disc with a two-piston caliper gets the job done, though a bit more engine compression braking would be welcome. The 240mm rear disc setup slows things down adequately, and with good feel. Switching off the rear-wheel ABS requires shutting off the motorcycle. Then, after switching it on, you have to press hard on a pain-inducing button on the combo LCD/analog dash, time it just right, and hope for the best. Sometimes it turns off the rear ABS, sometimes not. As it turns out, the ABS isn’t that intrusive, even off-pavement. So, I usually ended up not hassling with it. Still, this switching function needs improvement.
Speaking of the dash, Royal Enfield needs to pay attention to detail. There’s a seemingly non-functional Mode button on the dash. Also, the digital compass is notoriously unreliable—when I was heading due east, it claimed I was traveling southwest. A navigation feature like that either needs to work all the time or be retired—that’s a safety issue, as it could send someone in the wrong direction at the wrong time. Additionally, the clocks are hard to read, as the graphic designers won out of those interested in practicality—too many squares and red circles. Fit and finish are decent, though not up to mainstream Japanese or European standards. This is more of an issue, as the price of the Himalayan has climbed from a thrifty $4499 in 2018 to $5299 for 2022—a nearly 18 percent increase.
The 2022 Royal Enfield Himalayan gets a few successful updates to satisfy longer-distance riders. The windscreen is new and offers more protection. When you hit the Himalayan’s top speed of around 70 mph, you’ll notice the change. Fortunately, it doesn’t make the ride too hot at slower speeds. Additionally, the seat foam has been updated for more comfort, and it feels good. The step in the seat still hits your rear if you’re standing up while traversing rougher roads.
Royal Enfield made improvements to the rack system for both taller and shorter riders. The rear rack sits lower now, making it even easier to swing your leg over the bike while mounting. The seat height of 31.5 inches is low for an ADV motorcycle; it’s over two inches lower than the KTM 390 Adventure, for instance. Long-inseamed riders will appreciate the smaller front vertical racks on either side of the fuel tank. They could interfere with more forward knees in the past, and that’s much less likely now. The distinctive racks are still large enough to mount cargo-carrying products, such as the Giant Loop Possibles Pouch we recently reviewed. The Himalayan’s neutral ergonomics appeal to a broad range of riders.
The Himalayan also makes for a wonderfully unorthodox urban motorcycle. As long as you can live with the leisurely acceleration, the Himalayan will get you around town nicely. It’s still going to be quicker off the line than a small scooter, though not nearly as maneuverable. However, it’s a non-fatiguing ride that will work its way through traffic competently, and it gets around 60 mpg with a four-gallon fuel tank. Also, the racks add to its urban functionality. Importantly, when you pull up to the local craft coffee brewery, you’ll look impressively exotic.
Urban riders and rural runners alike will appreciate the Royal Enfield Trip Navigation pod on the dash. Download the Royal Enfield app onto your smartphone and pair your phone with the pod—we had easy success with this, and we all know how that can go. From there, select your route in Google Maps. The RE app will send the Google Maps info to the pod for turn-by-turn directions. We didn’t have much success with the device on the Royal Enfield Meteor, but it worked great on the Himalayan. It’s a handy little doodad.
Every ride on the 2022 Royal Enfield Himalayan feels like an adventure. Because of the unique experience it provides, you feel ready to tackle the road from Kishtwar to Keylong every time you press the start button. You also understand why a slow and steady motorcycle is preferred on those extreme routes. The Himalayan is incredibly forgiving to anyone aboard, and an extremely cordial mount for a new rider. This Royal Enfield isn’t for everyone—no motorcycle is—yet, it will be a valued partner for a rider with a matching frame of mind.
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends—the weekly Podcast brought to you by the editorial team at Ultimate Motorcycling.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
In this week’s first segment, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the much anticipated Yamaha MT-10 SP. That’s the model with the Ohlins semi-active suspension. It’s only been available in Europe for the last couple of years, but finally the good news is, that it’s coming to America. The big question is, whether the extra 3k you’re going to have to pony up for the Ohlins is actually worth it, or perhaps there’s just not that much improvement over the stock KYB suspension that has suited the Yamaha MT-10 so well until now?
In the second segment, Associate Editor Teejay Adams chats with Val Collins. Val grew up on motorcycles and learned to love speed, however her real love is Formula 1 tunnel-boat racing. These are the guys and gals that are strapped into a tiny cockpit and then hurtle down the straights at 120 mile per hour and pull 5G in the corners. We attended the recent season finale in Lake Havasu and watched our friend Mike Quindazzi try to take the win. Val chats with Teejay about her love for two-wheels and tunnel-boats. Yeah, it’s crazy stuff.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode and have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!