The Himalayas set the perfect scene for Royal Enfield to reveal the latest edition of their iconic adventure machine, the Himalayan 450. Somewhat of a rider heaven, location-wise, we were lucky enough to be there for the bike’s global launch.
Revealed to the media ahead of its official launch at the EICMA motorcycle show, we got our first taste of the new model at a specially designed and curated product immersion experience, set up at a purpose-built base camp in Manali.
There we would press the metal as it were, and learn about what makes up the Himalayan 450, as well as the thoughts and processes that have gone into bringing it to life, including the fact it’s been in development since 2016.
Listening to Royal Enfield supremo Sid Lal speak on the opening night, the key message was clear. The Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 was a bike built for the Himalayas, and designed to flow with the energy delivered by this very special motorcycling utopia.
It’s also clear from both Lal and the designers and engineers, that there’s a real passion and love across Royal Enfield, and that goes into their products. Visually, the Himalayan 450 sports clear upgrades over the outgoing model.
Among them are a 17-litre fuel tank, 21-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear, as well as a new Tripper navigation unit. There are new colour schemes too, including Kaza Brown, Slate Himalayan Salt, Slate Poppy Blue, Hanle Black, Kamet White.
The 452cc Sherpa power plant is a first for the brand and is the only mass produced liquid cooled engine in a Royal Enfield motorcycle. Producing 29.5kW and 40Nm of torque the Himalayan proved punchy and willing, even at higher altitudes.
Compared with the previous 411cc Himalayan, which produced 18kW and 32Nm of torque, the 450 is miles ahead in performance, and should do really well in Australian conditions, with improved power delivery at sea level.
Our initial ride would see us leaving our digs in Manali and twisting our way out of the city environment, through a stretch of tunnel, and into the foothills of the Himalayas. Ergonomically, the bike is a good fit, and feels comfortable from the get go.
It doesn’t feel cramped when sitting down, the foot pegs are well placed, and the speedo is in just the right spot for easy reference while riding. The only time that wasn’t the case was when standing up, off road, where we found ourselves reaching down for the bars.
Adjustable seat heights are a nice feature and sure to be a hit among taller and shorter riders alike. Our route was programmed into the new navigation setup, which can be managed using a smartphone, and provided clear directions that were easy to follow.
The TFT display does a good job of managing Tripper alongside speed functions at the same time, and it’s even possible to use Spotify and music streaming, with basic controls being driven from toggle switches on the handlebars.
Back to the important part of our test though; the ride. Our first destination was some 45-odd kilometres away, where we found a Royal Enfield shop, with the most beautiful mountain backdrop.
What stood out in that first ride, and across the entire test, was just how solid the front end of the 2024 Himalayan 450 is, and how good the chassis is. Obedient and dependable, the frame ensures the bike is well mannered as a complete package.
On the tarmac, the handling is predictable, even when scraping the foot pegs during some spirited riding. In the dirt, the front end handled water crossings, and rocky terrain and trails, with the trustworthiness of a mountain goat.
Speaking of the dusty stuff, after 120km of mostly sealed surfaces, we took to the dirt and rocks – in genuine postcard conditions. It have everything, from trails with steep drop offs on one side, to majestic blue rivers, rock cliffs and stone walls.
To call the view stunning would be an understatement. Through all of it though, the Himalayan 450 performed well. It’s no range topping adventure bike (nor is it meant to be), nor is it a full blown dirt bike, but it is impressively capable.
Up against the likes of CFMOTO’s new 450MT it should more than hold its own. The suspension was up to task, with a 43mm upside-down fork up front, offering 200mm of travel, with a linkage-type mono-shock on the rear (again with 200mm of travel).
With 230mm of ground clearance, the Himalayan 450 cements its off road credentials. From our mountain vista, we headed back to base camp through a flurry of scenery, cows, pedestrians, oncoming vehicles and changing road conditions.
Rested, mostly (there might have been a little Delhi belly going on – thank God for modern medicine), it was time for the second day of riding. Some more twisty roads, adorned in beautiful mountain scenery, awaited us.
From there, it was back in the dirt, and down some new mountainside trails. What day two proved for us was that we want more time with the Royal Enfield Himalayan 450. As Sid Lal had said on that very first night; “you’ll want to explore with it more”.
Marketing jargon aside, it truly is a bike that captures the soul of what it means to ride a motorcycle – the opportunity to get out on the open road, or dirt track, and have new adventures.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 is due to land in Australian dealerships toward the end of January next year, with pricing to be announced closer to its local arrival.
Our test bikes were provided by Royal Enfield as part of a global media launch. To find out more about the 2024 Royal Enfield Himalayan 450, contact your local Royal Enfield dealer. Pictures courtesy of Tom Fossati.