Just back from my first long ride on the REH; a chilly 130 miles up to Simon’s near Bromsgrove to get some work done while I’m away. After what feels like weeks of dawn-to-dusk clouds, I picked a bright sunny day with a very cold northwest headwind. Wiring up the heated jacket would have been too obvious; instead I settled for my old onesie which did pretty well considering it was 2-4°C. I did lessen the windchill by spinning off the M40 at Oxford onto the lovely A44 through the Cotswolds, instead of slabbing all the way up the M40/42/5. So a good road test: weaving across busy London, dual carriageway then motorway, A roads and finishing off on B and C roads. All that was missing was some piste. That will come later.
I have to say I am really quite impressed with the Him. Or should that be relief it’s not anywhere near half as crap as I feared. It starts from near freezing with a bit of cold-start lever and settles readily down to an efi-steady tickover; it manoeuvres through town easily, then spins up to an indicated 65mph with no effort and with what feels like a little in reserve.
Things may change but there’s something about the wide, 5-speed gear ratios allied with a long-stroke and low-compression motor which makes the Himalayan satisfying to ride not very fast. Maybe it’s the high torque-to-power ratio – an engine characteristic that’s always appealed to me but rare these days. You’re never in a rush to change up a gear to avoid annoying buzziness because there isn’t any. The speed range in each gear is broad so you can chug through villages without changing. It’s something I’ve not felt on a bike for years – a ride to Cornwall on an SR500 in 1980 comes to mind. And I suspect the weight with a low centre of gravity is a factor too, aiding the planted feeling. Whatever, it works for me for the moment.
In the city it felt manoeuvrable, slim and adequately responsive and on the motorway I didn’t feel unduly vulnerable. Once warmed up the fuelling feels spot on and the gearbox is fine as long as you don’t rush it. With long shadows all day, the country roads stayed wet with dew or melted frost, but the Pirelli MT60 tyres gave no moments. The brakes are OK for the speed potential, with one ‘ABS moment’ which unnerved the hard-braking car in front more than me.
The shock preload is on the lowest setting but suspension is firm and might even be classified as harsh. Better that than the opposite, although I presume it will soften up and eventually go off. I’m wondering if the YSS shock will even be needed for Morocco.
So, my first impressions pretty much match those of my short test ride a few months ago. Some of the negatives I’ve got used to or have proved not to be deal breakers.
End of February I look forward to picking up a much transformed machine, ready for the desert.
• Feels easy to ride and manoeuvre, despite the 194-kg kerb weight
• Low seat height (800mm; 31.5″)
• Indian build quality looks solid
• Torquey efi motor starts and fuels smoothly
• Pirelli MT60 tyres (as opposed to some obscure brand)
• Suspension surprisingly firm
• No vibration at up to 65-70
• Oxford grips pack out some heat
• It’s different!
• Soft seat foam (for my weight)
• Screen too small (for my height)
• LED display could be larger and tidier
Quick seat bodge
A 50-mile round trip to Crawley earlier on revealed the need for some urgent attention to the seat, just as I noted on the original test ride. The seat sets my back off, like the WR250 did two years ago. That led to months off games. Don’t want that again.
I couldn’t put my finger on what’s wrong but assume it’s a combination of dead upright seating position on to soft foam + cramped shuffle space due to the seat step + low seat height for my stature (too much knee bend).
Unlike the WR, the Him has loads of seat height to spare for my height, so the simplest fix is more padding. I snipped out a couple of layers of cheap 10mm closed-cell sleeping pad (‘karrimat’) kept in place by my Aerostich Sheepskin Saddle pad. You can buy something similar on ebay.uk for £22 but they look rather ‘nice-to-stroke’ furry rather than the tight, woolly curls of the Aeropad which is presumably what provides the required spring and ventilation. The foam sits against the bike’s grippy seat, and the underside of the Aero also has a non-slip texture (right).
Came the day I set off up the A44 and… for the 10-minutes of bodging the ride comfort was a slight improvement, but not night-and-day. I did the 3-hour run non-stop and didn’t feel crippled on arrival which must say something but I was too cold to feel anything much. Any height gain felt negligible but the step did feel a little reduced so I can move back a bit from time to time.
The cheapo foam I fitted was way too soft, but now the idea’s proven, I’ll find a firmer slab of foam, round it off to profile the seat, then fix the Aeropad down more securely with zip ties. The woollen pad looks nice but is of course prone to getting- and staying wet. I may replace it with the semi-fitted Cool Cover when it turns up.