SCAN through the comments section on any of our recent stories about adventure bikes – like the new Africa Twin or Triumph Tiger Explorer – and you’ll notice that there’s a vocal backlash against the complex technology being packed into the latest models.
It could be a valid point. The essence of a bike that’s going to be dragged through the mud, used, abused and expected to keep plugging on regardless can seem to be at odds with the technology-packed range-toppers that often wear the ‘adventure bike’ tag. Just as four-wheel-drive cars of yore – Spartan, rugged things like original Land Rovers and Jeeps – have given way to leather lined SUVs that go no further off-road than the spectator area for little Francesca’s pony trials, most of these modern adventure bikes are really destined, and intended, for an on-road life as luxury tourers.
Which is a round about way of bringing us to this, Royal Enfield’s forthcoming Himalayan, the first completely new model from the firm since time immemorial.
First published by Indian site AutoX (and subsequently claimed as a 'scoop' by an imaginative UK bike website) these pictures show a brace of near-production-spec Himalayans in their natural habitat: a muddy field somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
They are not the first spy shots we've seen of the Himalayan but it's looking a bit more complete than last time.
If you’re looking for semi-active suspension, double-clutch transmissions, cornering ABS and multiple riding modes, the Himalayan isn’t likely to be the machine for you. Powered by an air-cooled single, believed to be around 410cc and making about 28bhp, which is bolted to a simple steel frame, it’s not a high-performance machine. But it does look like an immensely practical one, with a design that values simplicity above all else.
Unlike current Royal Enfields, it’s not a retro bike. The engine might be simple and air-cooled (so there’s no risk of a holed radiator in the middle of the back of beyond), but it’s totally new. There’s a monoshock rear suspension for the first time on an Enfield and the styling makes no effort to mimic older bikes. It’s not clear if that styling is entirely the work of Pierre Terblanche, who now heads the firm’s design department, but it’s likely that he’s had a hand in it.
It looks immensely rugged, particularly when fitted with the luggage racks as seen here, which are clearly designed to allow bags to be strapped to the front as well as the back and probably double as crash protectors. It shouldn’t be too heavy, either.
In India, the bike is only expected to cost around £2,500. It’s likely to be at least £1,000 more than that as and when it reaches these shores, but even then will look like a bargain.
The Himalayan is one of at least three new Royal Enfield models expected next year using two new engine platforms, the other being a 750 twin.
Visordown recently reported that Royal Enfield was to open a new development facility in the UK and had recruited a number of big industry names including Pierre Terblanche. The firm also recently bought British chassis maker Harris Performance.