Tag Archives: Enfield Himalayan

Olympus TG5 Tough – a great motorcycle travel camera

You’ll have read it again and again: the best camera is one you can whip out and shoot off in a jiffy. On a bike, that won’t be a bulky 3/4 mirrorless or DSLR stuck in the tankbag. It’ll be a back-up P&S in a quick-access chest pocket or mounted on your belt or daypack strap. The exposure of bike riding means it wants to be weatherproofed if it’s going to last, chiefly against dust, but if you can use it in the pouring rain, so much the better.
For this waterproof ‘diving’ P&S cameras with an enclosed lens are ideal. Rain, shine or sandstorm, you never have to worry about missing a shot or ruining the camera, and the sealed lens – tiny though it is – is protected. Over the years, along with lots of blurred rubbish, I’ve grabbed many great, one-handed shots while riding with such cameras. With it tethered to you (as right) or attached via a neck strap, just pull it out, switch it on (thin or finger-chopped gloves help), Point & Shoot. Switch off and re-pocket.
tg5I used Panasonic’s Lumix FT2 ‘wet’ cameras for 13 years or more, a simple, slim, one-handed, all-weather P&S which didn’t have to be mollycoddled. In 2011 we even used them to make a packrafting movie. Later models seemed to lose the functionality of the FT2 so as mine died or sank, I replaced them with used ebay cheapies until they got too hard to find.

Desert, pocket or sea, I’ve always liked the Lumix range’s preference for a wider 24mm-ish lens. Ridiculous zoom levels are far less important because with the tiny lens, picture quality dives. But after a really old FT1 burner unsurprisingly failed to survive a few minutes of snorkelling recently, I decided to try a used Olympus TG-5 (left) recommended by some paddleboarding bikers on one of my tours.
Ft7Commonly, the current Olympus TG-5 and Panasonic FT7 (right) get rated as the best waterproof cameras you can buy. But they seem expensive for what they are. And when you consider the tiny zoom lens tucked inside the inch-thick body you’d think you’re never going to get great shots, especially in low light or at full zoom.
Even then, my old FTs always needed to be tricked into slightly lower (correct) exposures by half-clicking on the sky, pulling down and composing the shot before clicking. lumixevcIt was only when I got a Lumix LX100 a few years back that I realised a: how handy an EV Comp dial (right) can be; I use it on almost every shot (usually to under-expose a bit) and b: how relatively crappy some of my FT pics were. My photos improved greatly with the LX and I used the FT less and less.
With all the essential controls – actual buttons and levers on the body, not buried in a digital menu – the compact LX was very nice to handle, but wasn’t really suited to ride-by one-handers or paddling. Like all such cameras with extending lenses, each time you turn it on the lens sucks in dust which eventually gets on the sensor and appears as marks or smudges on most lumixhooverimages. It drove some LX owner-reviewers nuts, though it’s far from unique to this model. You can’t easily reach the sensor as you can on a mirrorless camera, even if the marks can easily be erased in iPhoto. But here’s a great trick: zoom in and out as you hoover the lens via a bottle (left). It really works.
After a few years of mostly desert trips my LX dials got grittier and grittier, and the deployment of the lens and the zoom got slower and slower. Eventually, it needed a tug to extend fully and a push to retract. The 2018 LX100 II got some improvements, but sadly weather-sealing wasn’t one of them, so I flogged my crunchy LX before it seized completely and bought a similar-sized but weather-sealed Sony 6300 mirrorless (here’s a great list of similar cameras) which so far, I’ve hardly used.

lympusBack to the TG-5. Watching one of the vids below I learned an unmarked control dial in the same, top-right position can work as an EV Comp dial. That alone is worth the price of the camera. No more point to the sky to expose correctly.
Having even been inspired to RTFM, I now realise the TG-5 is actually much closer in quality to the LX than I realised, not least in terms of the staggering number of things it can do – most of which go way over my head.
For riding, you can easily screw on a clear filter over the lens window to stop it getting a scratch. It may not show up on photos, but a filter is easily wiped by a cuff or relaced for a few quid. To mount it you need the Olympus olyhoyaCLA-T01 adapter (£20; or a £6 JJC knock-off; right) to which you then screw in a regular 40.5mm filter: olyjjcUV, polarised, whatever (left). Add a piece of screen guard over the LCD and the Olympus Tough can now be treated Olympus Rough, with both screen guard and UV filter being inexpensively replaceable.
I used the TG for a month in Morocco on my Himalayan and again in November loved the Mr-Whippy-like accessibility. It too has a wide 24mm so you know you’ll shoot something, and closing the EV Comp down to -0.7 means great exposures. On very bright days -1.
It also has an easy to use custom self-timer, a blessing for us adventure-riding singletons. Normally I’ve had to settle for 3-shots-at-10 seconds, or simply shoot video and extract a cruddy still or a more complicated 4k. On the TG you press the sequential shooting dial and set: delay time, # of frames and shooting interval. With this I was able to grab some of the key riding shots which magazines require. Even my Sony hasn’t got as good timer options. At 4000px width resolution, that’s enough for a magazine full pager. And when shooting others, the 20fps burst speed is staggering. And all this without having to fuss about knocking the lens, dropping the camera or crap getting in it.
The battery is a slim 1270Ah which still did masses of shots – a week or more – and can be charged in olycharthe camera which means one less thing to carry. But for 20 quid I bought 3 clone batteries plus a travel-friendly USB- olymp(right) charger, which will work off a laptop, battery pack, USB wall plug or a solar panel. I’ve hardly used them.
I always use a tether while riding, but one time in Morocco the chunky red Olympus strap attached to the tether unknowingly came undone just as I chose to let it go… It should have dangled from my wrist but instead fell on the road at 30mph and tumbled along. I swung back expecting the worst but, apart from a small hole bashed through in one corner, it still worked fine! Its snorkelling days may be over before they began, but that was amazing. A bit of duct tape kept the dust out of the hole.
olycompOnce I’d have said GPS position, elevation and a compass in a camera were gimmicks. Now I’d admit they add some redundancy when a proper GPS unit goes flat. The Olympus accesses this data with a simple press of the Info button with the camera off (left). Up it comes for 10 secs, north by northwest. The TG-5 also takes great pictures.

tikEasy to turn on and zoom one-handed
EV Comp dial in the usual position
Battery charges in the camera
Spare 3rd-party batteries from £4; USB charger from £8
Good hand grip
Rated at 15m of water so ought to survive some splashes
Slim and light (260g with chunky wrist strap)
GPS, elevation, compass, and even a tracking app, with the camera off
Easy to access and configure custom self-timer
Red; easy to find on the river bed or roadside
Now discounted to <£300 new
cros A baffling new menu to master – sigh
LCD text is a bit small
Wrist strap undoes itself in the wind

 

Enfield Himalayan: 4000-mile review

Himalayan Index Page
Him4k - 9

In a line:
Didn’t miss a beat over a month; no one was more surprised than me.

• At £4000, with the stock equipment it’s a bargain
• Low, 800mm seat – at last a travel bike not limited to tall people
• Enfield build quality stood up to it
• Efi motor pulled smoothly up to 3000m (nearly 10,000′)
• Michelin Anakee Wilds (run tubeless) – great do-it-all tyres
• Low CoG and 21-″ front make it agile on the dirt
• Rear YSS shock showed up the rather harsh forks
• Yes it’s 190kg, but road and trail, it carries it well
• Subframe easily sturdy enough for RTW load carrying
• Economy went up and up: averaged 78 mpg (65 US; 27.6kpl; 3.62L/100k)
• 400km range from the 15-litre tank – about 250 miles
• Weak front brake on the road (fitting sintered pads is a fix)
• As a result, front ABS is a bit docile
• Stock seat foam way too mushy for my bulk
Tubliss core failed on the front; replaced with inner tube
Centre stand hangs low – but can be raised
• Valves need checking every 3000 miles (according to manual)
• Small digit dash data hard to read at a glance
• Compass always out
• Head bearings notchy at 4000 miles, despite regressing @ 1200 (replaced on warranty @ 5000)
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Review
Following a test ride, I bought my Himalayan just under 1000 miles old. Following the make-over detailed here (summarised in the image below) I picked it up in southern Spain with 1300 miles on the clock. So, like many of my crudely adapted project bikes, I’d barely ridden the thing or tested the modifications. With a Royal Enfield this did feel a bit more of a gamble than usual and, on collection near Malaga I was all prepared for the worst.

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Far from it. The Him started on the button, ticked-over like a diesel and after the ferry crossing and sailing the usual gale down the Atlantic coast, I arrived at a cushy hilltop lodge out of Asilah feeling moderately hopeful, while still braced for a kick in the nuts somewhere down the road.
Riding an untried, near-new machine, saddled with Enfield’s possibly outdated  reputation led to stressful days, waiting for something to play up, either with the bike or with my mods. But riding my first piste: the lovely Assif Melloul gorge route out of Anergui  inspired confidence. This was a great trail bike!

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Engine and transmission
Much is made of the 410LS’s meagre 24hp because we’re so used to bikes delivering over 100hp per litre. Don’t forget Honda’s CRF450L makes about the same. It’s when you combine it with the strapping 190-kilo wet weight you’d think it can’t possibly work. Yet it does – and in a way that you won’t find on a similar powered and much lighter 250 trail bike like the WR250R, KLX250S or CRF250L which I’ve also used in recent years, as well as a 310GS. I prefer riding the REH to all of them.
It must be down to the way the long-stroke, low compression, two-valve motor delivers it’s modest power, like something from the apogee of Brit biking half a century ago, but without a millstone for a flywheel it revs more freely. The Himalayan may have the power of a CRF250L, but it has the torque of an XR400: 32Nm at 4250rpm (1150 lower than the XR). Combined with counter balancer and unexpected refinement, despite wide gearing it’s a very satisfying bike to ride. It won’t hurl you from bend to bend, it just chugs along steadily but without the sensation that you’re missing out or grossly under-powered. The key is to maintain smooth momentum which is very much the riding style I aspire to. It’s an easy bike to enjoy on the empty roads and even emptier trails of southern Morocco. Duelling with congested traffic or tackling busy alpine passes may not be such fun.

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Until the end of my trip – by which time the valves were technically well overdue for adjustment – it started on the button without the ‘choke’, ticked over once warmed up (probably needs adjustment too) and fuelled cleanly up to 5000rpm and nearly 10,000 feet (3000m). A lot of it must be down to accepting the Himalayan for what it is, but there was never a moment on my ride when I thought ‘FFS! I wish this thing had more poke’. I tried some super grade fuel in Morocco but didn’t notice the difference that some claim (I know in the US fuel octane varies widely). However, once back on Spanish fuel, it did seem faster and smoother, or maybe I was just rushing for the finish line.
One thing the Trail Tech temperature sensor did highlight was how hot the engine runs – up to 240°C at higher revs with a load on. Note I say ‘hot’, not over-heating. On my bike it’s reading from the spark plug, about as hot as it gets in there. Running down hill it might drop to 160°C or so. Either way, especially with an air-cooled motor, it’s good to know how hard the engine is working an when it may be time to back off.
Oil consumption was zero up to a pre-emptive oil change at 3000 miles. Straight 50W Moroccan was all they had (a bit thicker; better for hot weather) and I had the feeling consumption increased briefly after that, maybe 200ml in 2000 miles, but then it stopped.
The gearbox is a lot less clunky than some. Originally, I thought first gear would be too tall off road (a common complaint) but, helped by the low-down torque, it’s well matched to the Himalayan’s modest trail biking abilities which are governed mainly by its weight. One time in deep soft sand, the gearing was too tall to move the bike forward –  the chain jumped on the front sprocket instead (see below). You can change up without, but I can’t break the habit of using the clutch when changing gear.
The chain had a hard time in Morocco: conditions too gritty to lube most of the time. On longer road stretches I hand-lubed with a toothbrush from small bottle of Tutoro oil. As a result I adjusted it three times in 4000 miles –  more than normal, even for a stock chain. Again, you have to assume the stock chain was chosen for its price, not quality, but with a bit more care and lube it should last 8000 miles.

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Suspension
Normally the suspension is where a budget bike shows its limits once pushed on rough roads, with heavy loads, or on the dirt. Plus I tend to leave my tyres at road pressures unless absolutely necessary, so as a result off-road the my suspension can feel a little harsher than it could be.
On the rear there’s only preload adjustment and nothing on the front, but the Himalayan surprised me with firm suspension. Before I realised this I’d fitted some inexpensive fork preload caps, (set at zero), and a YSS shock that had 1cm of length adjustment and 35 clicks of rebound damping. I had the YSS fitted on the settings out of the box (more here) which worked fine once loaded up and on the dirt. At one point in Morocco I screwed the rebound in 4 clicks (more rebound?) but can’t say I noticed any difference.
Overall, I suspect the stock shock (inset above) would have been OK, but you have to assume the YSS must be an improvement because there’s more adjustment and it’s red. It certainly felt better than a twice-as-expensive Wilbers on the XSR last year. Over the trip it loosened up a bit and bottomed out maybe once.
If anything the front forks are now shown up by the YSS. YSS do offer a fork kit but in the UK it’s £330 (though it seems you can buy springs plus the emulators for half that). Bottom line: no great need to meddle with the stock suspension for normal riding.

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Economy
It seems that even at a 1300 miles the air-cooled REH was still running in. As I added the miles the economy improved, eventually averaging 78.7mpg (27.8kpl; 65US). With the 15-litre tank that’s a potential range of just over 400km. Riding with some 310GSs for a week, my mpg was near identical to the more powerful and lighter BMWs. The gauge on the tank is pessimistic and the warning light plus a trip reset comes on with a good 100km left. Hot, cold, high, low the fueling itself was glitch-free. Fuel consumption data here.

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Comfort
Thanks to a counter-balanced and non-ginormous capacity, the REH is very smooth for a single. I did feel some tingling in my right hand after hours at the bars which could have been from over-gripping a heavy throttle. I’d have used my throttle handrest had I remembered it.
One of the best things about the Himalayan is the low seat of 800mm or 31.5 inches. At 6′ 1″, it’s actually a bit too low for me, especially once my mass sinks down through the soft foam, but at last there’s a travel bike which isn’t limited to tall people, while still having useful ground clearance.
I needed more height with firmer foam, inexpensively achieved with a couple of 20mm slabs under a Cool Cover. It enabled 500-km days with few stops, but on rough tracks still gave soreness, probably because I wasn’t standing up or letting the tyres down enough. I also thought the seat could do with levelling out to stop me sliding forward on the aerated Cool Cover.
My seat bodge was not a night-and-day transformation, but by the end of my trip it didn’t cause any discomfort over long days on the road. I’m less convinced now that I need to improve it some more.
The 50mm bar risers managed to not snag the screen on full lock and nearly reduced my stooping when standing up – another inch would have done it. I might have cured that stoop by removing the footrest rubbers, but to be honest I liked the comfort when standing (in ordinary slip-on boots). Otherwise, for wet conditions, consider fitting wider footrests if you’re off-roading. I hear that DR650 pegs nearly fit.

Him4k - 10
Some say it will clock 80 but I set myself a self-imposed cruising limit of around 65mph (where possible). At this speed the screen did a pretty good job, even with my wind-catching Bell Moto III helmet. Others claim the mirrors create turbulence and are better moved or changed. I suppose this is possible but it’s a new one on me. Let’s face it: it’s a motorbike out in the wind, not a space capsule. Some turbulence will be evident.

On the dirt
The Him took to the dirt so naturally, I didn’t even notice it at first. The key attributes must be the Michelin tyres, low seat and firm suspension. The 21-inch front wheel must help  too, as does the torquey motor, getting round the wide gearing. And the otherwise ordinary brakes are just right on the dirt.
The Him is a plodder, but then so am I. You won’t be pulling wheelies, launching of jumps or bouncing off berms. For that the bike is just too heavy and low-powered. It’s a travel bike, not a dirt bike and in all the miles I never ever had a sketchy moment on the dirt, nor wished the bike was something else.
I reached the Himalayan’s limit in the sandy gorge on Route MW6/7 in Western Sahara – same place I’d struggled with the WR two years earlier. This time I traced a better route along the valley but the flooded waterhole was now a dry mass of tracks in which the Himalayan would bog down for sure. I aired down, pushed around the side in first but stopped once I the chain jumped on the front sprocket from the strain: the torque had got the better of the weight and tall gearing. The Himalayan doesn’t have the agility or power to handle deep soft sand – for that you want an unloaded KTM 450.

Him4k - 4

Durability and problems
It’s a short list. Apart from what’s below, nothing broke or even came loose, but I’ve not seen the bike since I left it at Malaga. A closer inspection may reveal more.

Stock bike
• Head bearings got notchy by 4000 miles, despite regreasing
• Chain needed adjustment every 1000 miles
• Exhaust guards dented
My mods
• Tubliss core leaked around valve stem, then packed up
Michelin TPMS packed up – twice

Summary
The Himalayan is a rare type of all-road travel bike, one that not only looks fit for the job as many adv bikes do – but one that’s actually equipped for it and performs well, too. You might not think 24hp and 190 kilos (420 lbs) adds up, and for some it won’t. But for your £4000 or $4500 you get a lot of kit that’s no found on similar bikes. Don’t dismiss it as a shoddily assembled Asian cheapie or anything to do with the Bullets. The bike has caught on and in western markets the demand for the BS4 has outstripped importers’ expectations. If you’re curious like I was, try one. You might also be surprised.

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Tested: Michelin Anakee Wild review

Supplied free by Michelin for review

MichelinAnakeeWildMichelin’s Anakee Wild came HimBikespreadout in 2016, replacing the venerable T63 which we used on Desert Riders in 2003 (with similar patterned Mich Deserts on the rear).
Since then, adventure motorcycling – aka: touring on big trail bikes – has become a thing. The Wilds address the need to give heavier, more powerful machines some genuine off-road ability – or looks – without resorting to expensive competition tyres like the famous Dakar-inspired Michelin Desert.
I ran these Anakee Wilds tubeless in Morocco and Western Sahara on my Enfield Himalayan130/80-17 M/C 65R TL on the back on a wider, sealed Excel rim, and a 90/90-21 M/C 54R TL on the front, initially with a Tubliss core, then tubed. Both wheels were initially Slimed, too. Best price new in the UK is £85 for the rear and £66 for the front.
Unlike some new knobbly-ish tyres, on my Himalayan the Wilds rode and cornered normally from new, with no odd, K60-like squirming until bedded in. With the aid of Michelin’s new TPMS, I ran them at around 28 psi or 2 bar, dropping only a couple of pounds for long, multi-day off-road stages.

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Let’s face it, there’s no great mystery in tread patterns – you can see the Wilds will work well on loose surfaces, while the shallow knobs won’t flex disconcertingly on the road. The Himalayan may be heavy for what it is, but it hasn’t got the power to put these Anakees in a spin. On good mountain roads I pretty much forgot about the reduced contact surface of the knobs and was able to swing through the bends up to the point of grounding the centre stand or the soles of my boots. They never budged.
On the dirt it was the same feeling of reassurance tempered by a riding style aware of where I was (when riding alone). The Anakees never made any unpredictable moves, just bit down through the gravel and grit to help make the Enfield easy to manage.
Perhaps the tyres’ biggest test was having to ride 250 clicks on a flat front when the Tubliss core packed up irreparably in the desert. To be fair the punctured core helped keep the tyre on the rim, making straight-line riding easy. But to keep the tyre from over-heating I kept the speed down to 30mph. I’m not so sure a non-premium brand tyre would have survived such use so well. It also suggests that the firmer carcass of a TL tyre is more robust, even if it weighs substantially more than a tube type tyre. On a long rugged ride with a heavy, tubed bike like a one-litre Africa Twin, there may be something to be said for running a heavy TL tyre, even with inner tubes. The extra meat will provide added protection against flats.

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I did experience one flat on the front while running a cheap, paper-thin tube. I get the feeling a rocky off-road stage may have benefitted from slightly reduced tyre pressures to allow the tyre to form around the sharp stones, rather than press hard into them. It did seem to be a genuine puncture, not a result of hasty kerbside mounting (above), remnants of Slime or a duct tape rim liner. The rear also picked up a nail early on between the knobs, but I’ve left it there.
By the end of the 3,700-mile trip, the last week guiding a tour of mostly 310GSs, the back had 5mm in the centre of the tread and the front a few mils more. It suggests at least 5000 miles from a rear with about 30% off-road use. As the miles have passed it feels like the smooth, stable edge has come off the ride in corners – normal with any ¾ worn tyre I’ve found – but the front knobs have no evidence of vibration-inducing cupping. The Himalayan’s front brake hasn’t got the bite to achieve that. The Anakee Wild is a harder-wearing 60/40 tyre than the ubiquitous, soft and similarly all-road performing Conti TKC80.

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Himalayan: Out of the Western Sahara

Himalayan Index Page

dig treeWith back up from Mark in a 4×4 sat alongside Colin on a Nikon, we set off for the 1100-km ride from Assa through the Western Saharan interior to Dakhla via Smara and the Digtree (left), a fuel cache I had buried in 2015.

The fuel may have been getting a bit ripe by now, but all was going well until I hit irreparable tyre troubles just 100km from the Digtree. I limped back 250km to Layounne, got fixed up and, now out of time before I meet my tour group, we settled for a leisurely drive north up the windswept Atlantic coast. Not for the first time, my Sahara plans slipped through my fingers.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHooning about on a clay pan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe century-old Aéropostale base at Cape Juby (Tarfaya).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside the base.

him-capjubyCap Juby in its heyday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATojo wheels + jerries – the only windbreaks for miles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWatchtower on a berm just 50km from the Mauritanian border.

him-steamHot steam and rubber. Cleaning out the Slime.

him-sarawi‘Moto – Landrover – Layounne?’ I point to each and try and persuade a Saharawi to transport my bike to the coast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChurned up, sandy gorge at MW6 KM246. The Himalayan meets it’s limit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey like the word Sahara out here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossroads where MW6 joins MW7. Came from the left on the WR in 2017.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKhnifiss Bird Lagoon.

him-jerryTopping up for the day. A can will do me at least 500km.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADesert dawn near Gueltat Zemmour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Dakar Rally mound. Pushed up every kilometre or so as landmarks right along our route to the Digtree and beyond.

him-chatMost of the riding is easy, as above. But it only takes one lapse in concentration.

him-blissRemoving the punctured Tubliss core in Layounne.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAColourful beetle.

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Ex-Dakar track.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mouth of the Draa which rises near Ouarzazate in the High Atlas, but very rarely flows in its entirety the 1000-odd km to the ocean.

him-fbj-route.jpgOut of Tiznit we took an interesting track along the Oued Assaka to Fort Bou Serif ruins for a spot of lunch and some filming.

Himalayan: Impressions at the edge of the Sahara

Himalayan Index Page

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust got to the desert about a 1200 miles in. Two wheels on my wagon and the Himalayan still humming along. Hard to believe it hasn’t missed a beat running down from Malaga over the High Atlas and down here to the edge of the Sahara. The tension is unbearable!
Fuel economy has slowly improved and is now averaging 77mpg Imp (about 27.2kpl; 64.1 US). Bear in mind since leaving the autoroute from Tangier I rarely go over 60, where that’s possible. At yet at these modest speeds the REH is a very satisfying and undemanding ride. It’s an ideal low-profile machine for Morocco, if not so much the getting here. That’s because the seat still needs work; an easy enough fix.

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I’m really impressed how well this thing rides on the dry stony mountain tracks which sum up most of ‘mainland’ Morocco. It’s so effortless you don’t even notice at first. Can’t say the same of a 310GS which I’ve also ridden out here a lot: more concentration required on the dirt. The 310 motor and brakes are more suited to shredding tarmac canyons – another adventure-styled bike that’s not really an off-roader. The REH doesn’t look like anything you’d know – maybe a civil partnership of Rokon and MZ.
It must be down to the Him’s combination of low CoG, torquey, long-stroke motor, wide gearing and 21-inch front, plus on my bike, the Anakee Wilds and YSS shock which help make it one of the best bikes I’ve ridden in Morocco for years. On one epic high mountain day I even managed to zing the centre stand on the supermoto track they call the to Sidi Ouaziz.

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Brakes are fine on the dirt. The weak-on-road front is as you’d want; the back a tad sharp, but that’s normal, easy to manage and even useful.
To me the ABS is not an issue at the speeds either I or the bike can manage on the dirt. If it engages you probably need to slow down. Both wheels lock easily on really loose stuff before the ABS even reaches for the alarm clock. On the road I’m sure there will come a day when I welcome it.

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My proof-of-seat concept (2 x 20mm foam sandwich under a Cool Cover) is an improvement but not there yet. Two days over 400km more or less non-stop and I wonder if the foam slabs are crushed out already. It’s worse on rocky dirt where I tend to stand only when I must. The aerated Cool Cover may help, but it’s slippery and tends to slide me forward. Next version wants to be more level and maybe more foam.
I think what’s still a short distance between seat and footrest (for me) makes levering the body upwards harder that it would be on a KTM450 for example. Removing the footrest rubbers will add an inch more leverage while the 2-inch rise in the bars is nearly just right for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though I’m wearing a Bell Moto III I don’t find the buffeting from the short screen intrusive at 65 – my self-imposed max until I know better. It needs to be about 4 inches higher to push the wind over my head but I wonder if one of those air lip/dams might also help lift the airstream. I bought the MRA one but it was too wide to fit without drilling or other bodging. Of course on the dirt the screen is as unobtrusive as you want which is why a spoiler is a better idea than adding height.
The Enfield catches you out with firm stock suspension – the opposite of most of my recent bikes, especially the Jap ones. I bought a YSS shock and fork preloaders as soon as I got the bike, and the YSS shock works as well or better than the Hyperpro (XCo, WR), Tractive (CB500X) or Wilber (XSR700) I’ve run out here recently. All it needs is a pricey HPA to be truly useful, because adjusting preload will be a right  pain (unlike a 310GS, for example).
I suppose they’re now a bit shown up by the YSS shock, but road and trail the RWUp forks are just right for my sort of speeds and load. The preloaders are set on zero – rats! that’s ten quid down the drain.
Because my Anakees are knobbly I tend to leave them at road pressures on  the trail, which makes the suspension feel harsher than it is. I know dropping just a few pounds will make a difference, but I tend to endure rather than fiddle, until necessary. Fyi I’m 95kg (210lb) and my gear is probably another 20%.

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My tubeless tyres hadn’t lost any air on collection but the back (vulcanised band) lost a couple of pounds after a few days then settled down. The Tubliss front was doing the job until I saw a bit of Slime oozing from the red valve which means it’s getting past the 7-bar high-pressure core. I tried to top it up, but the crumby garage hose was split and purged more air than it put in. Don’t meddle until you must! Now I realise my pressure gauge doesn’t read to a lofty 7 bar (100 psi) and my Cycle Pump has no gauge. I pumped it up for 3 minutes which hopefully has got up to 7 bar until I find a better garage pump. I said this years ago when I fitted it on the GS500R:  Tubliss is a pain for overlanding rather than rec dirt biking. Or maybe I should have anticipated the need for a gauge that reads 7 bar +…
Out of Malaga the fully charged Michelin TPMS took many hours to pair up and show readings, but since was very handy in monitoring the experimental tubeless tyre pressures. Sadly, 10 days in it appears to have packed up – not even the battery level is indicated.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow I’ve refined the strapping, the slim Kriega OS20s throwovers sit tight and are easy and quick to access. Total demounting would be easier with the HDPE Kriega platform, but I just pull out the white liners if I need to strip the bike overnight (rare). Their slimness is a real benefit on some narrow and gnarly canyon tracks where catching the cliffside with metre+ wide alloy cabinets risks being ejected into the abyss.

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Even with bivouac camping gear (everything bar a tent) there’s no need for a tail pack because the nifty 6-litre Lomo bags either side of the tank take up the slack and help spread the load evenly. A very handy spot for gear and, with the Kriegas, a sacrificial crashbar for when that days comes.

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So, after 10 brilliant days in the mountains managing to dodge hail, bandits and lightning, all is good with the Himalayan and pretty good with my adaptions. It’s somewhat nerve-wracking but then it always is as I tend to come out here on a wing and a prayer with roughly adapted bikes I’ve barely used.
The XCountry came with the various lip-chewing issues of that series (but nothing went wrong) and the WR250R had dodgy fuel pump activity when hot (but with care got me round OK). Clapped-out Tornados only had age- or user-related issues. Even a Husky 650 Terra, a 701 and an F650GS loaner and 700GS rental with 100k did me a week. Only the Tenere 660Z CB500X and tasty XSR700 came with- and delivered absolutely no worries. You can’t pay enough for that (bodes well for the XT700, too. You can see where I’m going with this).
I met a gnarly KTM450 overlander carrying a spare injector, fuel pump and clutch. Me, I have spare underpants. In fact I brought two by mistake. One will have to go.

Time to see how the Himalayan manages several hundred miles of desert piste.

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Enfield Himalayan: desert ready

Himalayan Index Page
Supported byhimsupp

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s1nzmangrohimheadlyWhile I was dodging the winter under the shady mangroves of the Coromandel peninsula (right), Simon-with-a-workshop quietly worked on my Himalayan, like a gnome chipping away in a pink rock-salt mine. The long list included:

Bolt-ons

Move the Oxford heated grips control module to an accessible position and rewire it to the ignition, not the battery, as the original owner had done.

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Fitting ancillary leads off the battery for my heated jacket and Cycle Pump/battery optimiser.himleads
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Fitting a switch to kill all lights. Handy for battery saving as well as leaving the highway unnoticed for stealthy wild camping.

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Refitting the cheap LED headlamp which came with the bike. It’s the same one I put on my XScrambleR. Never rode that bike in the full dark but although it saves watts (or is it amps?), I suspect the LED lamp looks better than it shines.

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To monitor engine temperature a Trail Tech engine temperature sensor is more useful, accurate and quicker responding than relying on the stock ambient air temp sensor. At a cold start it will show ambient anyway, same as the stock in the dash, but once running, reading off the spark plug, the TTech soon shoots up. Even with the oil cooler and the ‘under piston oil sprays’ we read about, the low-tuned, air-cooled motor’s reading reaches a staggering 240°C at 65mph on the motorway, dropping to around 175°C in town. The spark plug is of course just about at the hottest point of an engine so basically it’s quite normal. ‘They all do that – sir‘.
Under the seat the Himalayan’s ambient air temperature sensor got relocated anyway to a position less affected by the motor’s downwind heat flow so it gives a truer ambient reading once on the move. It’s a common mod.
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Garmin Montana cradle fitted to left mirror stalk with RAM mounts and hardwired to the ignition.
I thought they’d not fit for want of cable slack, but I was wrong and the adjustable Rox Risers have raised the stock bars a healthy 50mm. It required releasing a clip off the braided ABS brake line under the tank somewhere, and the barely needed cold start cable was also on the limit. With the raised seat it’s now easy to stand up and to not stoop once I’m up there. Halleluia.

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My ancient Barkbuster Storms are now on their 7th outing since fitting to my XT660Z back in 2008. I should win some sort of recyclerecycling award. Simon had to make some simple mounts as for some reason, the curvy BTC 06 adaptors (right) which were recommended didn’t fit. Could be that a decade on, newer Barks have changed shape.
The Barks require the slightly adjustable  stock screen to be set fully forward, but riding back I can’t say the turbulence was any better or worse than in the original position. I think that at the speeds the REH can achieve, it’s all a bit academic. And as it is I’m sat on a motorbike out in the open air. There will be turbulence.

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Like so many bikes I’ve owned lately, I assumed the stock shock would be a budget keep-the-fender-off-the-wheel job, so I pre-emptively ordered the Thai-made YSS which took a himcoilfew weeks. Some reports claim the stocker is too harsh, others say too soft, others just right. On the road it didn’t feel too bad – perhaps the usual mix of over-sprung and under-damped. It weighs over 4.8kg and half appears to be coil-bound, but in fact there’s a couple of mm gap in the coils (left) which adds some progressiveness.
It would have been good to evaluate it properly, but the shiny red YSS is sat there like a cream cake on  cushion. Getting it fitted, I asked my LBS to check the linkage grease. Who knows if they did. I may also rivet on a flap to stop it getting plastered with crud spun off the back wheel.
The YSS is about a third lighter at 3.3kg, costs £290, is length adjustable by 10mm, has 35-click rebound damping and will work with an HPA which probably costs half as much as the shock. Out of the box rebound came at 20/35 clicks and with 12 threads exposed below the spring preload collar. Looks like a good place to start. On the short ride back from the LBS I did detect a little more compliance with small irregularities. Otherwise it felt the same. With most suspension upgrades, I’ve found you can’t tell much difference until road surfaces deteriorate or the speeds increase.

YSS fitting advice: The preload collar at the top of the YSS is now quite hard to access – removing the airbox lid on the LHS may help, as will a shorter, right-sized hex key, as opposed to the rod supplied. There is a tiny hex screw on the collar which locks it to the threads (hex key supplied). Either risk leaving it loose (collar may unwind), or make sure when fitting the shock that it’s in a position where you can get to and loosen it from the LHS – about ‘7 or 8 o’clock’ if 12 = forward. You will then probably need to wind or unwind the collar a full 360° to get the screw back in a lockable position.

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A tenner’s worth of Chinese fork preloaders were also fitted on the front but are currently set at zero. The stock spacer inside the top of the fork needed to be shortened.

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The steering head bearings got regreased. Along with swing-arm linkages, it’s a common precautionary requirement, and not just on inexpensive Indian bikes. My BMW XCountry’s head races were shot at just 6k.

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him-msgseatpadMy initial seat foam bodge proved to be poor, mostly because the foam I used had the springiness of Philadelphia cheese. A fellow Himaliste recommended some pre-cut stick-on foam seat pads on ebay (left; £15 each). At 20mm I bought two and rode home with them shoved under the Aero lambswool pad.

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With the yellow backing still on, it all slithered around a bit and after only 120 miles the butt was sore, but I can definitely see the potential in raising the seat height. And I do wonder if the old lambswool pad makes things worse.
Cool Covers sent me one of their durable aerated mesh seat covers to try. Like wool, the idea is that air circulation reduces heat and improves comfort, but with bike saddles, one man’s fur-lined throne is another man’s agony. Luckily, the Cool Cover just stretched over the two racing pads now glued to each other and the stock seat. The back edge of the top pad was crudely trimmed to level it off. In the picture below the seat looks like it’s sloping forward – not good – but it’s actually the taut cover over an air gap. The foam below is more level than it looks.

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Let’s hope it makes a difference but bike saddles are usually more miss than hit. Seat foam apart, the combination of seating position, bars, footrests and the presence of a screen all have an influence, but it’s also down to tank range – in other words how long you sit riding uninterrupted. My CRF250L should have been the usual agony, but because I could only do 120 miles before reaching for the fuel can, the 5 minutes it took to do that rejuvenated the cheeks. One of the worst saddles ever was the BMW F650GS, probably because it easily did 200 miles between fill ups. One of the best was my GS500R Overlander. I never worked out why.

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Wheels and Tubeless Tyres

wmwheelrimsNote: being a maddeningly illogical Imperial British standard, the ‘WM’ wheel rim width designation you commonly see (in the UK at least) doesn’t correlate with actual rim width in inches. But it is close – see table right. They say ‘MT’ is a modern, fully logical (but little seen) equivalent, where the MTxx number refers to the actual rim width in actual inches.
As confusingly, rim width in inches does not correlate with notional tyre width where, 
for example, a 120 section width (120mm; 4.7”) is converted to inches. But it is close-ish.
Stock REH rims are WM1 (MT1.85) on the front and WM3 (MT2.15 – need to check) on the back with a 120/90 17 tyre.
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To enable easy puncture repairs I wanted reliable tubeless wheels which meant sealing the spoked rims. Along the way I was happy to ditch the steel rims in the hope of saving unsprung weight which I keep going on about. A mate had given me some ageing 18 and 21 Tubliss. The back was a bit too old to risk; a BNIB front got fitted and Slimed with the new Michelin (left).
On the back, for the sake of simplicity I wanted an Excel 18-er with a new Tubliss (Tubliss don’t do 17 size). Then I was told max width for an 18-er Tubliss is 2.15” rim, like the stock, I think. The Anakee Wilds were recommended for a 2.5-inch rim. We’re talking a notional discrepancy of a third-of-an-inch here, but let’s try to do it by the book for once. Shame as an 18-er would have saved a couple of kilos in tyre and rim and greatly opened out the range of off-road tyres. But another problem is tubeless tyres (which do differ significantly from tube type) are rare in 18-inch size. Seventeen TL tyres are much more common.CWCAirtight
It wasn’t on their website but CWC’s brochure mentions an Airtight™ vulcanised spoke-sealing band (left). It’s similar to the Italian BARTubeless polymer sealing I had on the Rally Raid CB500X of a couple of years back (and which CWC also offer).
I’m always keen to try something new for my Ongoing Tubeless Saga, but not so fast, chum! CWC can only Airtight a 3-inch (WM5) or wider rim. Next problem: there were no 18-inch Excel rims in that width, so it was back to a 17-inch rim in WM5 to fit an Anakee Wild. Confused? So was I but we got there in the end.MichelinAnakeeWild
Tyres were always planned to be Michelin Anakee Wilds, one of the few do-it-all travel bike tyres I’ve not yet tried. On hearing about my plans Michelin kindly supplied them for free, along with a couple of back-up tubes which I hope I won’t need. Rear is a 130/80-17 M/C 65R TL. The front gets the larger 90/90-21 M/C 54R TL to balance the lift on the back. And it all comes with lashings of Slime.
Simon did some weighing before Sliming (add about 250g per wheel):

Stock front wheel with Pirelli MT60 90/90 + tube 13kg
Front wheel with 90/90 Anakee Wild + Tubliss 14kg
(Stock steel front rim 3.77kgsource)
Stock rear wheel with MT60 120/90 17 + tube 15kg
Airtight  Excel + Anakee Wild 130/80 17 TL 14kg
Stock steel rear WM3 rim 2.15 x 17 3.84kg (source)
Excel WM5 17 rim + Airtight band 3.5kg (acc. to CWC)
Michelin Anakee Wild 130/80 17  7.5kg
Pirelli MT60 120/90 17 + tube 6kg

tltwitSo, a kilo gained on the front due to Tubliss and heavier Wild tyre; a kilo lost on the back despite the wider Excel being barely lighter than the steel stocker. I wonder if there’s an error somewhere, considering the new Michelin is 1.5kg heavier than the stock MT60 and tube.
The whole ‘alloy is light’ thing can be a bit xsrbarof a myth until you get to the exotic stuff. Look at MTB frames or an old, two-ton Range Rover or handlebars (right). But, although it’s been decades since I’ve had wheel problems, I’m pretty sure the CWC-built Excel will be stronger than the steel stocker.
At 7.5kg, the TL Anakee on the back is hefty. I rationalise that the added mass is down to the tougher tubeless carcass. If it’s anything like the punctured Anakee or Tourance I rode on last November, it’ll be stiff enough to cautiously ride airless while staying on the rim until I reach a village tyre menders (right). Here are some more dims regarding 18 or 17-inch Anakee Wild tyres:

Anakee Wild 120/80-18 M/C 62S TT
Max sectional width 131mm, max diameter 663mm, weight 5kg,
Recommended rim width 2.75”
Anakee Wild 130/80-17 M/C 65R TL
Max sectional width 142mm, max diameter 654mm, weight 7.5kg (verified by SV), Recommended rim width 3.0”

Both will easily fit the width of the Himalayan’s swing arm, but at the front (back) of the swing arm, clearance gets down to less than an inch with the taller 18. A bit of chain wear and you’re good to go. On the front the mudguard now looks fairly close to the new Wild, so for mud clearance I’ll lift it a bit as mentioned below.
Riding back 120 miles, the fresh Anakees rode a lot more securely than some also-new K60s I’ve ridden with other bikes. No weirdness in bends and no vibration or noise (a common complaint) that I could tell.

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Michelin have just brought out a new TPMS and sent me one to try out. It will be particularly welcome for keeping tabs on my untried tubeless set up. The unit is USB rechargeable and sits magnetically in a stuck-on dish. So it’s easy to remove or nick, and might fall out on rough ground without an extra method of adhesion.
The read-out (psi or bar) flips every few seconds between front (as shown below) and rear. It’s interesting to note how pressure climbs by up to 20% as the tyre warms up.

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Fabrications and load carrying

Apart from some custom Bark mounts, all the Him needed made was a sand foot plate welded on the end of the sidestand.

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himreackAnd Simon managed to hand bend and bolt on a pair of very nice unbraced C-racks (as I’ve decided to call them). I’d originally bought the RE pannier rack from India for only £77 (right), but while cheap, the thing weighed over 5kg. You don’t need all that metal unless you’re running alloy cabinets.
Inset in the circle below, Simon pointed out a weak spot where the lower C-rack bolts to the pillion mount which is welded rather bolted to the subframe. But the unbraced rack has some give, plus the soft bags will also absorb impacts, so hopefully it will take quite a crash to break the mount. It actually wouldn’t be hard to brace from the upper curve of the C-rack to a point on the stock tail rack, just above the indicator.

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I forget that I’m an unsung Kriega Ambassador; they’ve just sent me a set of their new OS22 throwovers (below) to try out. I was a big fan of the ROVAFLEXOS32 on my WR250R a couple of years back. The OS22s feel very rugged and weight in at 2.5kg each. This time, to save weight I’ll fit them as throwovers without the platform, and use the tabs on the back to secure it to the C-rack with brilliant q/d RovaFlex cable ties (right).
himlomoThey’re the same size but 40mm slimmer than the 32s which looks quite a lot, but the slack will be taken up on the front by the 6-litre Lomo Crash Bags (left). kriega10drypackHopefully I can get away without my 30-L Ortlieb Travel Zip which can make getting on an off a chore. I have a 10L Kriega Drypack (right) knocking about if I need more capacity.krigos22No six-megaton bashplate you say? On the tracks I ride these days they’re more useful at keeping flying gravel from damaging the engine paint. When it gets that gnarly, I’m down to walking pace, ready to deploy outriggers. The new tyres and firmer shock have raised the clearance a bit so the tinny, stock bashplate (below) will do fine for the moment.

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Lifting the front mudguard tenmudlis a good idea now that the fatter 90/90 Anakee Wild is closer to the plastic. Right, one time on the Tenere in Morocco I rode onto recently rained on clay which jammed the front wheel solid. A right faff to clear with Moroccan farm workers milling around saying ‘Oi, you’re front wheel’s jammed, mate!’.
himudraiseOn the Him it’s easily done with slightly longer fork brace bolts (below) and some M6 spacers raising around 10mm, before the mudguard hits the downtube on full compression. It’s worth remembering these spacers (search ebay: ’15mm ø aluminum bushes M6 hole’; right) want to keep a broad contact between the brace and fork mounts as there’s some leverage stress here.

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So there it is. Just about all done in one fell swoop, as they say in Simon’s neighbourhood. Riding back to London, initially the Him felt a bit odd as modified bikes always do. The jacked up shock and new Michelins have given the bike an altered stance, but despite the sliding seat pads I soon settled back in to it.
It’s not fast, but somehow that’s not frustrating and I’ve yet to put my finger on exactly why. Am I still in the honeymoon period of enjoying the novelty and kidding myself it’s better than it is, as so many owners claim with their bikes? Or with the Himalayan, have Royal Enfield stumbled on some magical combination of looks, gearing, power delivery and value for money which, for the moment ay least, still makes this bike such an enjoyable ride?
It’s getting trucked to southern Spain shortly – a liaison stage to Morocco which I’ve done enough times already. We’ll see how I feel once the shine has worn off after a month on the trails and backroads of southern Morocco.

Himalayan Index Page
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Quick Spin: Enfield Himalayan

Update: I bought one: Enfield Himalayan Index Page 

Him - 16In the 1990s, long before retro-looking bikes became a thing, buying and running a locally built Enfield Bullet around the Indian subcontinent caught on with Western tourists. It was a proper adventure all right, tinged with a certain ‘open face and goggles’ romance.
Always sick; never terminal was how one early AMH contributor described running her Bullet around India and back to bullet-mechanicthe UK. It staggered home, but she sure met a lot of roadside mechanics along the way. Jacqui Furneaux is another intrepid Bulletriste, covering over 40,000 miles across the planet. At bike shows visitors literally get a kick out of trying to start her old bike.

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As a travel bike I can very much see the appeal of a low-revving, low consumption, low compression, low priced, low saddled plodder – now more than ever. But you want low maintenance on that list, too. With my desert riding background, reliability, economy, durability (and lately, comfort) have long trounced anything else.
Now, 30 years after taking a clapped-out Bullet up the Khyber became a travel biking niche, we’re told the Indian economy booms and RE are booming with it. It’s India, not China, who’s now the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer. Annually, 17.5m bikes (albeit mostly <125s) are sold there. In the US it’s just half a million, and on the home market RE sell more bikes in a year than all other manufactures can manage across Europe.

him-motorHim-spexReleased in 2016, the Himalayan was RE’s first stab at a do-it-all, adventure-styled machine. It wasn’t just yet another restyled spin-off from the Bullet range, but it did retain some of the Bullet’s better DNA, a 411-cc, long-stroke, two-valve single recalling a 1960s BSA thumper.
Unfortunately many found that the Himalayan’s first iteration – the BS3 carb model (reviewed here) paid a little too much homage to the slapdash nadir of the Brit bike industry. A litany of widely reported faults and failures saw production suspended, problems addressed and assembly workers spanked and retrained. In 2018 the BS4 version was released abroad, with some Western export markets (notably not Australia and NZ) getting fuel injection and in Europe, Euro 4-compliant motors come with the now-mandatory ABS.
The near-new bike I tried came from Hartgate in Mitcham. They’ve been around since before I started riding in the mid-70s, but these days sell only Chinese and Taiwanese 125s and scooters, plus Benellis and with a special part of their showroom designated for Enfields.

What they say
Royal Enfield’s most versatile motorcycle, able to take riders almost everywhere they want to go – on road or off-road. The only motorcycle you will ever need. The Himalayan combines outstanding versatility and all-day comfort for all rides. Long-travel suspension, natural upright riding position, a durable and torquey engine all add up to a comfortable ride for you, whether it’s on the highway, city streets, or remote mountain roads. The Himalayan is fit to be your only motorcycle.


In a line
Give it a look; it’s much better than you might expect.

• Feels easy to ride and manoeuvre, despite the 194-kg kerb weight
• Low seat height (800mm; 31.5″)
• Indian build quality looks solid
• Efi motor starts and fuels smoothly
• Great price
• Pirelli MT60 tyres (as opposed to some obscure brand)
• Suspension surprisingly firm
• Can’t verify economy yet, but 15-L tank should be good for 400km.
• Love the tank bars as supplementary baggage racks
• Comes with slim tail rack and centre stand

• Soft seat foam (for my weight)
• Feels like a tall first gear (for off-road)
• LCD display hard to read
• Screen a bit small (for my height)
• Front end felt a bit heavy (it is)
• 3000-miles valve checks
• Front brake lacks bite
• A bit cramped for me at 6’1″
• Low, 220-watt alternator output

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Review
Him - 20Pulling away from Hartgate’s, the seat was nice and low but felt way too soft. I could see it being agony in an hour or two, but I’ve had that on BMWs costing twice as much. At 6’1″ I was also a bit cramped between the stepped seat which angled me forward a little, and my knees are just an inch from the tank rack bars. Removing peg rubbers might provide more leg room and I’d have turned the bars back a tad. The gear change lever also felt too short for my size-11 Blunnies, but I soon adapted. The clutch was light, the gears clicked reassuringly and fuelling felt glitch-free. It’s an effortless bike to ride, with the power of a Jap 250 single or a Chinese Mash 400.

Him - 14It may only have the 24-hp of a 2nd-gen CRF250L, but on paper it puts out nearby 50% more torque at just 4250rpm, 2500rpm Him - 8lower than the Honda. Riding along the flat A24 towards Box Hill in 40- and a brief 60mph limit, I can’t say I noticed the torque, but the bike never felt under-powered or noticeably vibey.
Pulling away from lights, I did find myself consciously slipping the clutch to get over the tall first gear – or maybe to avoid stalling an unfamiliar bike. While you don’t want to sacrifice too much of the modest 82-mph top speed, for off-roading I’d consider dropping a tooth to 14T on the front.
Him - 15The front end felt oddly sluggish (maybe the tyre was soft, or you can feel those 194kgs?) and I was surprised to learn the rims are steel. To be expected on Bullets, but I didn’t think modern bikes use steel wheels any more. Minimising unsprung weight has a big effect on efficiency, acceleration and suspension. But then cheek-distorting acceleration isn’t really a Himalayan’s USP and perhaps the wheels’ flywheel effect helps maintain momentum once up to speed.
As had been widely reported, despite a steel braided line the front brake lacks bite (perhaps the ABS dulls response) while the rear may have a little too much, but up to a point the non-switchable (but probably disable-able) ABS ought to iron out ham-fisted braking. It didn’t engage in a bit of a panic when a car pulled out across a dual carriageway. Not had one of those in a while…

Him - 12Both for road riding and when manoeuvring it in the woodland mud for photos, I find it hard to believe it really weighs Him - 11194 kilos wet (it does). That weight is clearly set low which, along with the low seat, will make a big difference in control and confidence on rough terrain, as well as picking it up when the terrain gets the better of you. And yet you still get a reasonable 220mm (8.5″) of ground clearance which makes the Himalayan a rare and much sought-after thing: a functional trail bike for shorter legged riders who don’t want to have him-toolto settle for a TW200. I stood up on the pegs and – with the usual risers added under the narrow-ish bars – would find gripping the slim bike sustainable on the trail.
Him - 2The dash’s lit section usefully shows time of day; ambient temperature, then gear position, odo and trip metre (and average speed), plus ‘side stand down’. But apart from the gear position it’s too small and messy to easily read at a glance. Chances are, familiarity will improve reading skills.
To the right below the small rev counter (red-lined at 6500rpm) is the digital compass. It’s a compassgimmicky nod to the bike’s adventurous intent, but as many users have found, most of the time it’s way off. If ‘CA HO’ flash up, recalibrate the compass by pushing the bike in a circle four times while patting your head. It may have to be done fairly regularly so I’d sooner rely on the sun or of course, a GPS compass, if orientation is that important.
Talking of plugging in accessories, the Himalayan’s claimed 220w alternator output is  not so impressive when you need heated grips and a heated vest approaching the north face of Kanchenjunga. Fitting a switch to the always-on headlights may help, as well as fitting LED lighting.Him - 4
The fit and finish looked pretty good, but only time will tell how it all holds up. Zinc paint brushed over rusty headers looks clumsy. Welds (left) are robotic and if some of that near-200-kilo heft is in the subframe, that’s right where you want it for load-carrying duties off road.
By the book you need to dealer adjust  the valves every 3000 miles (only two and they’re easy screw and locknut jobs) to keep the two-year warranty running. Unless they’re made from the final remnants of 1970s monkey metal, it’s hard to think a low-revving bike like this needs the tappets done twice as frequently as recommended oil changes, but valves clearances tend to tighten not increase. Some say its a way of subsidising the low purchase price.
Unusually for an efi bike, there’s a cold-start lever on the left bar, and the air-an-oil cooled engine comes with a big oil cooler. Some say the ambient air temp tektempsensor under the seat could do with repositioning to give a truer reading away from the warmed up engine, but one thing I’d definitely add is an engine temp sensor, like the Trail Tech one off my WR250R, right.

Himalayan alternatives
aspecnoslevFor the money, spec and intended use, very little comes close to the Himalayan’s simple, agricultural charm. Comparing it with the BMW 310GS (right; also Indian built), Versys 300, Suzuki 250 V-Strom or Honda CRF250L misses the Himalayan’s distinctive sr400niche. Riders aren’t buying Hims solely by its displacement category, and to its credit the Himalayan isn’t a repurposed high-revving road bike motor slotted in an adv-styled bike. It was planned from the ground up ‘fit to be your only motorcycle.’ 
I’d say its low-seat and low rpm characteristics have more in common with Honda’s unfashionable but quietly popular mashadv1NC twins, Yamaha’s stillborn SR400 (left; dropped in 2017) or your Chinese-made Mash 400s and the like.
It’s closest true competitor is the now seemingly discontinued Mash 400 Adventure (right) / WK Trail 400, which used a 400cc Chinese Shineray engine based on the old Honda XBR500. You may find new, end-of-line Mash Advs in the UK for the same price as a Himalayan. The frames on these Chinese mini Advs are different from the many twin-shock road models, but the motor’s the same.

Conclusion
Him - 3All of an hour spent on the Himalayan pretty much matched what I’d read and seen, but not what I thought. Cynically, I assumed testers where being a bit soft on the old-style thumper, but after the ride I warmed to the concept too.
People will say ‘Just a bit more power and it would be perfect’ and my experience with similar-hp 250s, loaded up at modest altitudes can leave nothing in reserve at 50mph. Sure, you’re still moving forward, but on busier roads and steeper hills, that speed can make you feel vulnerable which induces fatigue over a long day. But out in the slower-paced AM Zone the Himalayan ought to slip right in. The added capacity over a typical Jap 250 only delivers more torque and less revviness which will certainly help on rough trails. Elsewhere, the hefty weight and low power may leave you struggling in headwinds and on long climbs.
Maybe it’s just nostalgia but I’ve had bikes like this in mind for years. Something like my old Triumph T140V or XT500. My GS500R project or more recently, XSR Scrambler were attempts to realise it, but despite weighing less than RE’s claim, the XSR sure didn’t feel lighter.
The Himalayan is the first mid-sized thumper that could fit the bill as a long-range travel Him - 6bike, much more than the variously badged Shineray 400cc equivalents mentioned above and of course, much more than the CRF450L. By now there’s enough Himalayan chat and know-how online,Him - 24 much of it in India.
Setting off for a long trip what would this bike actually need? Handguards, a bigger screen, a rack for panniers (£500 fitted; right). The upswept pipe might hamper an ideal pannier position low down (here’s one solution) but the  nifty tank racks mean less bulk at the back.
People looking for the ideal light weight, low-displacement travel bike are comparing it with BMW’s 310GS, but only because they’ve come out around the same time and are also Indian made. Knowing the 310 quite well now, as a travel bike I’d sooner get a Himalayan.
Jan 2019: I bought one.

Him - 22

See what RIDE mag made of it, what Nathan Millward thinks after 16,000 miles, and from Utah, eveRide’s blogging assessment as a dual sporter.