Tag Archives: YSS shock Himalayan

Enfield Himalayan: 4000-mile review

Himalayan Index Page
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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Riding an untried, near-new machine, saddled with Enfield’s possibly outdated  reputation led to stressful days, waiting for something to play up, either with the bike or with my mods.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.

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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.

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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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Adventurising the RE Himalayan

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For what you pay and compared to vaguely similar bikes, Royal Enfield’s 2018 BS4 Himalayan comes very well equipped: centre stand; small tail rack plus tank sideracks; small screen; 15-litre tank giving a 400-km range; a small bashplate plus suspension that need not be instantly written off.
Most of those items won’t need improving, but when did that ever stop anyone? Below, I throw out some ideas to help turn the Himalayan into a functional overlander. As with all my project bikes dating right back to the XT500 of 1982, I like to experiment with new stuff and new ways of doing things, much like Enfield’s Himalayan itself.
It’s all part of the adventure and if nothing else, it’s good for the book.

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Wheels & Tyres
Out of the showroom REH’s come shod with Brazilian Pirelli MT60s (right; mine stamped ‘2012’…). The spoked rims are steel: 21 front, 17 on the back. The Pirellis would have been OK for a regular Moroccan ride, but because I’ll be heading into the sands this time, tread becomes a little more critical. Below, some tyres of interestMotoz Tractionator Adventure; Anlas Capra X and Michelin Anakee Wild.

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One thing I’ve quickly discovered is that none of the above tyres come in the stock 120/90 17 size. The only similar tyre I know of is Mitas’ E-09 which I tried on the XR400 in Algeria; a great desert tyre. Generally 17s tend to be low profile tyres suited to bigger, more powerful machines, and 18s are for traditional dirt bikes with taller profiles giving more ‘suspension’ or ‘footprint’ at low pressures. The above trio come no smaller than 130/80 17. There’s probably only a few mil in it, but if possible I’d rather not go overboard with a ‘bigger-must-be-better’ rear tyre. Too much tyre will make the Him even more sluggish.
Swingarm space with the stock MT60s (left) shows plenty of room to the sides but about an inch at the front so for a replacement, actual dimensions may matter. The MT60 is 122mm wide and currently 93mm high from the edge of the rim. The swingarm gap will increase a little as the tyre wears and the chain stretches. Ratio-wise, 120 x 90% technically = 108mm tyre height, while 130 x 80% = only 104mm, so a 130 ought to have a lower profile or height. So even a 10mm wider 130/80 17 tyre will easily fit the Himalayan. Interestingly, an Anakee Wild 130/80-17 M/C 65R TL weighs nearly 50% more than a Wild in 120/80-18 M/C 62S TT (5kg). An  Anlas CapraX 130/80 B17 weighs 6.1kg. Motoz don’t know yet.
Fitting an 18-inch rim would greatly expand tyre choice at the slim 120/90-ish end. But with half an inch more radius in the rim, taller 18s could become a squeeze against the front of the swingarm unless a chain link is added to move the wheel back a bit.
An additional incentive to move to an 18 is a chance to replace the stock steel rim with an alloy rim which will be a bit lighter. Suspension and steering, as well as acceleration/braking all react more readily if the unsprung weight red, below – is kept to a minimum.

I read on the inter net that the effects of unsprung weight includes the rotational mass of the gyroscoping wheel, plus – at non-rallying speeds – the less critical up-and-down mass the suspension has to control (image below). Additional unsprung weight takes more power to turn that mass, more brakes to slow it and better suspension to control it. This mass can be reduced by considering tyre weight, not just the size, tread and price, going tubeless (eliminating heavy-duty inner tubes), as well as lighter rims, chain, rear sprocket materials; forks/swing arms and braking components. I’ve always thought this is a much overlooked area of weight saving on bikes, where changing a pipe is often used as an excuse to save weight. I remember the alloy front wheel on my XT660Z weighed a ton, partly because of the OTT twin discs when one good disc was all that was needed. Cheap stuff can be heavy, even in alloy.
The image below illustrates how much greater the reaction forces are with heavier wheels. Put another way, it’s why your trainers weigh only 320g. ‘Add lightness’ as the old racing adage goes.

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And if I’m messing about with rims it would be a shame not to go tubeless, for all the usual reasons. See the link, but basically it’s: DIY mastic as on my 660 Tenere, Outex tape (~£70, never tried), BARTubeless (~£320, as on the 500X RR) and Tubliss (~£180 a pair; as on my GS500R), or a suitable rim (rare/expensive).
If I go to an 18 I’m thinking of giving the 2nd generation Tubliss (right) another go as it’s an easy and inexpensive fit, but they only come in 21, 19 and 18 inch, not 17. Along with greater tyre choice and lighter alloy, that’s a third reason to convert the rear to an 18 inch rim.

Is this all going a bit far with a humble Himalayan, or making the most of its potential? Will I or the bike notice the difference of a lighter wheelset, once all the other junk is added? Unfortunately I don’t have enough time to get a solid riding impression of the stock bike before setting off.

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Load Carrying
One of the REH’s distinctive features are the tank racks which some mistake for tank protectors. They’ll do that too but to me they’re clearly a handy place to lash items or bags. The previous owner had a similar set-up using Kriega drypacks and helpfully wrapped the Royal Enfield badge in string to stop it getting worn away.

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Lomobags

Kriega is one way of doing it, so is Lomo who’ve sent me a pair of their PVC roll-top crash bar dry bags to try (£39 pair). At around 6 litres each they look ideally suited to the racks. I plan to mount them semi-permanently and will use Lomo’s same-sized orange ultralight dry bags (£3) to lift everything out easily when lodging. In the US the more boxy, 3L Rigg fender bags (right) look like a neat fit too.

Then, once I zip on my Giant Loop tank bag, most of my daytime needs will be in view and at arm’s reach, meaning what’s behind can be left strapped in place. It may even mean I can do without a daypack on my back, plus the crash bags will keep the wind and rain off my creaking knees.

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For the back an Enfield pannier rack is has just turned from India for under 80 quid. Looks like a hefty set up – it weighs over 5kg. You’ll find them sold on ebay, or at twice the price from UK sellers. I’ve not decided what bags I’ll use on the side. At the simplest I can just lash on a couple of rugged PVC dry bags, as I did with the Rally Raid 500X a couple of years back.

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And right at the back the narrow tail rack has taken my long-suffering Touratech tail bag – one of my all-time travel luggage favourites.
Having all these bags spread around the bike is handy for access, compartmentalisation and weight distribution but at, quite literally, the end of a day, it does mean more faffing about to get it all indoors when the parking is less than secure.

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Comfort: handlebars; screen; saddle
The bike came with Oxford heated grips – luvlay juvlay. My old Barkbuster Storms will also get their nth outing on an AMW project bike, but it looks like they’ll require BTC 06 curved adaptor clamps (right) to get under the brake lines and so on (they didn’t fit).

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Talking of which, with this ABS model (brake line goes under tank to the pump, not straight down to the wheel) I’m not sure there’s enough slack to get much more than an inch of lift on the bars, which means my 50mm Rox Risers may have to sit this one out (they didn’t). Non-ABS Hims ought not have this problem. As it is the stoop for me isn’t too bad and the general position is of course much better than the XSR. I only tend to stand when I must, but that’s partly because I rarely ride a bike where prolonged standing off road is comfortable. One way to dodge the stoop is to lower my height by removing footpeg rubbers. Wearing very thin socks also helps. Fyi: ABS switch hack.

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The screen is better than nothing and has a tiny bit of fore and aft adjustment. It’ll be all that’s needed off-road; less so for a long cross-country ride. You can get those clip-  or bolt-on deflectors like the adjustable MRA Xcreen (below right) which I had on a recent Tiger (we don’t talk about that bike) and which worked well for what it was. Or Hitchcocks Enfield specialists do a taller version, but only by 60cm. Changing a fixed screen is a gamble while others have found chopping it right down greatly reduces buffeting. Much depends on your helmet, height and attitude to discomfort. You’ll never get it right all the time and it’s all part of the biking experience, so unless you know what works for you, by far the best screen is something adjustable like the Xcreen or the Palmer I had on the CB-X.

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It doesn’t feel like the seat will sustain my post Xmas mass, sprung or otherwise, for more than an hour or two. Nothing new there.
I’m getting a mesh Cool Cover to test. One good thing with fitted covers like this, as opposed to airbag seat bags, is that you can securely stuff added padding underneath without having to do a reupholstery job. I’ve got an old Aerostich lambs wool seatpad (right) which used alone may have had it’s day, but under the Cool Cover may add a bit more cushioning.
One good thing on the REH is the two-part seat; it makes any foam-hacking job a bit less terminal. On the right: an excerpt of AMH7 – looks like doing a good DIY job gets complicated. Here’s a nice Seat Concepts job from the US.

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Suspension
I’ve often wondered how much more it costs in time and money to make stock suspension which works out of the crate. There must be no shortage of data and algorithms, so maybe it’s the time in fine tuning an individual model where the costs pile up. We’re so used to regular bikes coming with great engines which can sing and dance in four time zones, but have adequate suspension which presumably is expected to work for most riders at moderate speeds. Crank up the speed or reduce the surface quality and composure soon slips away as suspension travel gets eaten up, as I found on my CB500X and XSR700. But on my BMW XCountry I discovered what decent suspension actually meant: not that obvious on road, but a whole new world of control as dirt turns gnarly. Problem is that’ll be no change from €1000 and trip to Holland, please.

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Many reviews say the Himalayan’s suspension is pretty good for what it is, which is all the more surprising when you look at the seemingly spring-bound stock shock on the right. I read it’s not trying to be progressive but a dual rate spring and in fact there is a 2mm gap between the closely set coils.
Currently the only outfits offering shocks are Hyperpro (right; €500) and YSS (above left; made in Thailand). Unusually, both come with rebound damping but the YSS also has adjustable height and was just £270 from Wemoto on special. For that price it’ll be worth a shot and the option of dialling in a bit of extra height will be handy. As it is, the bike tends to sit a little too upright on the sidestand and adding a sandfoot won’t help. And also if I do go for an 18-inch rim where the tyre range is taller, a bit more space will be handy

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For the fork YSS also make a kit (above left) costing not much less than the shock. It includes valve emulators (available separately for around £80), something I’ve read of but never tried. For the moment there’s nothing to be lost by starting with some Chinese ebay fork pre-loaders (£10; left; as tried on the XSR). After that I may move up to a firmer K-Tech spring if they’ll make me one. Firmer springs may be enough to bring the front end back up if an 18-inch rear rim is fitted.

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Ancillaries
I’ll hard wire the trusty Montana in and fit a RAM mount on the bars. I’ll also add a PTO for the Powerlet heated vest and type pump. The claimed 220w alternator output is nothing special, but some wattage has been freed up with dinky LED indicators and there’s a spare LED headlamp which came with the bike. Otherwise I plan to add a switch so the lights aren’t on 24/7. There are times when you don’t want to be seen too easily.
Last but not least, the Trail Tech engine temperature gauge from last year’s XR will get wired on to some very hot part of the Enfield’s engine. With an oil and air-cooled motor, even a low output one like the REH, it’s all the more important know how hot things are getting down in the engine room.

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