Celebrated for its robust simplicity, Royal Enfield’s 2020 Himalayan now benefits from ABS and fuel injection
Two years after Royal Enfield released its first-ever adventure bike, the Himalayan has received its first major update. Still every bit the humble, robust machine it’s always been, the big news is it now comes with Euro 4 compliance. And while that’s not a particularly significant upgrade by 2020 standards, by Himalayan standards – whose sincere simplicity is one of its most attractive features – it is rather significant.
As well as tighter emission controls, which is achieved in this case by the addition of electronic fuel injection, Euro 4 compliance also calls for the inclusion of ABS (on any road-going model over 250cc). But there’s a catch: you can’t turn it off on the Himalayan, and switchable ABS has become an expectation in the adventure segment where, in certain conditions or situations, the technology can sometimes hinder the rider more than it helps.
What’s permanent ABS like?
But after spending a couple of days on the updated bike in all sorts of conditions ranging from snotty, rocky hills through to fast, flowing tarmac, I learnt pretty quickly that in an application such as the Himalayan, not having a switchable anti-lock braking system doesn’t actually matter.
It’s a Bosch system, which adds all of the necessary confidence on the road, whether sealed or well-maintained gravel, and it’s really predicable in its activation. I stamped on the rear brake as I slowed on a gravel road, the rear wheel locked-up for a millisecond or two before the system intervened, keeping the wheel in motion before bringing me to a complete stop.
The system didn’t impede on the slow and technical descents on rocky surfaces, either. I wasn’t going quick, to be fair, and using a combination of first- or second-gear engine braking and front and rear brake, it rolled down even the steepest sections in a predictable and manageable way.
Admittedly, the stopping bit could have been far more efficient. Out on the road, even when using the front and rear brakes in unison and with decent force, the ByBre (Brembo’s Indian-based subsidiary) braking package lacks a bit of both feel and power. Okay, some of that is down to the test bike still being fairly new, but there’s plenty of room for improvement, even in this relatively low price point where the Himalayan falls.
And the fact that the ABS system adds an extra 9kg to the bike’s overall kerb weight, taking it to 191kg compared to the outgoing model’s 182kg, does nothing to improve the brake package’s effectiveness. But braking was the only place I could notice the extra heft.
Where can it take you?
In fact, its weight adds to its predictability in many ways, and predictability is something the bike has in spades. On lighter enduro bikes, for example, climbing steep and rocky ascents can sometimes be a flighty and high-revving affair. But in the Himalayan’s case, it’s merely a matter of holding a steady throttle and allowing the bike’s weight and low centre of gravity to coax the 21-inch wheel up and over whatever you point it at.
And while there’s nothing particularly glamorous or cutting-edge in the way it will get you there, its charm is its reliable tractability that means it’ll get you there every time, eventually. There’s good reason why a handful of riders have chosen the Himalayan to circumnavigate the country, there’s really nowhere it wouldn’t get to.
Tarmac touch down
Its 15-litre tank and new-for-2020 electronic fuel injection also makes for some decent range, too. Even when it was carburetor-fed, it could boast a frugal 3.6lt/100km so would-be owners can expect north of 300km between fuel stops.
The outgoing model was extremely cold-blooded, taking a couple of thumbs of the starter on a cold morning and a long time to warm up. The fuel injection improves this, of course, but the cold-blooded hallmarks remain, the new model isn’t always happy to idle if it isn’t completely up to operating temperature.
Its accessible 800mm seat height (and the bash plate fitted as standard) takes away any of the anxiety sometimes associated with go-anywhere riding. Its 220mm of ground clearance and 200mm/180mm of front and rear suspension travel was ample for the off-road stuff, but when the pace hotted up on the tarmac the Himalayan’s centrestand was the first thing to touch down, digging itself into the asphalt relatively early.
It’s not something I noticed as much on the first model and, considering the chassis and running gear are unchanged, that has to be down to the confidence dished out by this model’s Pirelli MT-60 tyres as opposed to the original model’s CEAT-branded hoops.
Despite the 90/90-21 dimensions of the front tyre, there’s plenty of feedback through the one-piece handlebar, allowing you to get the most out of the 24.5hp/32Nm single-cylinder engine through the tight and twisty roads. And the tall gearing means you don’t miss the sixth ratio on the five-speed gearbox, either.
The centrestand is handy, however, given that the sidestand is probably 20mm too long to allow you to park it wherever you stop without concern that it’ll topple over, and it’s not helped by the sag in the rear shock at rest. It’s a forgivable trait on the first model, but something that really should have been rectified by now. Though if you owned it, you’d shorten the sidestand and remove the centre-stand, increasing mid-corner ground clearance while also reducing weight.
How does it handle?
The no-name suspension package behaved intuitively in all conditions, but it was through the fast and twisty road sections, where the surface was really bumpy and we were left with little time to react, that the non-adjustable 41mm conventional fork and the monoshock, adjustable only for preload, really showed their mettle. Aided undoubtedly by the well-balanced chassis designed by Harris Performance, the suspension kept the 250kg bike-and-rider combo both plumb and planted.
The cockpit remains unchanged, but given it’s still the most modern-looking dash ever to come off Royal Enfield’s production line, why change it? It’s got all the information a bike like this needs in the form of a couple of trip metres, a clock, both fuel and engine temperature gauges, as well as an analogue tacho and speedo readout.
It even boats an analogue compass, which some would argue you don’t actually need, but it’s very much in line with the bike’s charming simplicity, so why not? The non-adjustable windshield is carried over, too. It’s optically accurate and – for my 165cm frame, at least – does a great job at all speeds.
The outgoing model carried a retail price of $5990 (plus on-road costs) with the 2020 model’s upgrades adding up to a $500 premium, taking the price to $6490 (plus on-road costs). Taking into account the improved fuel economy, the added peace of mind of ABS and the time you’ll save getting the thing warmed up on a winter’s morning, it represents pretty good value for money.
While Australia’s Royal Enfield importer Urban Moto doesn’t publish its sales figures, according to the organisation’s CEO Joseph Elasmar, Aussie dealerships can’t get enough to meet the high demand from Australian buyers, revealing he has recently purchased another shipment of the now-superseded carburetor models in a bid to meet demand from would-be owners.
It’s hardly surprising. Even a second-hand example of a modern electronic-laden European or Japanese-branded adventure bike would cost you well in excess of what a brand-new Himalayan would.
Yes, it’s low price is a product of its low-tech features, but its quality of finish is excellent, time has proven its reliability is comparable to anything twice its price and, while it won’t be particularly glamorous, I guarantee it’s capable of going anywhere you’ve got the courage to point it.
Words: Kellie Buckley