First up, I’m staying away from the word ‘purpose’.
Come on, who are we fooling? We Indians can do just about anything with the motorcycle we own, can’t we? I’ve seen photos of RC390 with luggage in Khardung La and I’ve also seen TVS Victor leaning into the curve unlike any other at Kari Motor Speedway. So then, do we need to specifically call out what our motorcycles are capable of and not capable of?
All of us want to believe that the motorcycles we own are the ones that accelerate the fastest, can be flicked crazily from one corner to another, and can take us anywhere we want to go with any hassles. We want it all, we want it in one, and we want it cheap but we want it to last.
Truth is, I’m not a big fan of RE motorcycles and neither do I attach any sort of value to which region in the world a motorcycle is made in. I absolutely abhor vibes and loud exhaust notes. While it’s true that a design & engine being around for a long time helps in more mechanics being available in far corners of the country to fix it, that’s not enough for me to compromise on so many things when I head out on a long ride. Having seen a few of my friends riding the Classics, I’d be paranoid to take one on the highway wondering when something may just fall off the RE due to its vibrations – once saw a friend’s gear level come off. Nonchalantly, he picked it up, fixed it back and started riding again. I can never be so forgiving of my motorcycles.
I’ve ridden Classic 500 around for a bit to know that it’s slightly uncomfortable in the city and I start yawning incessantly 60km into the ride no matter what time of the day I’m on the highway. I also can’t come to terms with the fact that the engine heat screwed up more some good formal & track pants of mine. Such a bummer!
When RE Himalayan spy shots came out, I was in the market for a good tourer and there was enough hype about how much research had gone into building this motorcycle. All I wanted was a mid-sized tourer that could take me comfortably to few really good places around the country. ‘Comfortably’ being the key term since I’m well past my heyday when my body could take anything I threw at it. With all the hype around, it was too hard to completely ignore the Himalayan.
Test ride: I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t like this motorcycle when I did the test ride. In fact, it was so good (except for the way it started & the below par brakes) that had I not owned a Versys, I would have probably booked the Himalayan. I would even go ahead and say that it felt so good, that you could pretty much remove the RE badge on it and put something like Hero or TVS on it and it would still sell like hot cakes. It didn’t feel like a typical RE but it was still very much the RE I expected it to be. Truth is, the build quality felt phenomenal & it fit in snug!
First ride: After my cousin bought a Himalayan, I had the chance to take it for a spin. Mind you, by then I had done over 4000km on my Versys and was super comfortable with riding tall & heavy motorcycles including Triumph Tiger 800. When I rode the Himalayan, it felt like like it had the perfect height & weight for riding. I felt so comfortable doing whatever I wanted to-standing and riding, slow speed riding, and the brilliant balance when turning the motorcycle. Again, it felt like the motorcycle was extremely well built.
Real ride: I had to do it. Spent a couple of days using and abusing the motorcycle. Riding over potholes and speed breakers without slowing down, just because I could. Revving really hard uphill with a pillion. Leaning a little on the blind curves and then going hard on the brakes to see if it can stop. The Himalayan did it all and didn’t seem to flinch even a bit. I swear, if I didn’t buy a Versys, I would have been really happy with a motorcycle like Himalayan.
Worth the ride? Now that I’m used to the luxuries of ABS, better wind protection, far more comfortable seats and riding more miles per hour, the Himalayan seems to be a slightly inferior ride. Versys as a benchmark is something I can’t take out of my mind. But, for anyone who hasn’t had such a comforting ride, Himalayan is the benchmark for comfort based on which the upcoming tourers/adv motorcycles (Kawasaki Versys-X 300, BMW G 310GS, & Suzuke Vstrom 250) will be judged on.
Then again, first version in a model in RE will have it’s flaws. I’ve heard a few including oil leaking from engine. Give it an upgrade with ABS (even a brake that works better) and a little more power (oh! please) for me to consider it as my second motorcycle. Until then, there is only one thing I’m clear about. If I ever go on a road trip around the Himalayas, it will be on the Himalayan; not on a Versys or any other Royal Enfield.