Buying your own new bike is an amazing feeling. You go through all the research, analyzing, fantasizing, compromising and then finally after all that, you zero in on the bike you probably had in mind in the first place. Even after a lot of opposition and listening to really bizarre reasons against the Himalayan, my heart was set. I just felt a connection with the bike and I won’t bore you with it again as I have already gone on about it here – Why The Himalayan Floats My Boat.
Buying the Himalayan was a surprisingly straight forward and pleasant experience as opposed to what I was led to believe. I bought it at Platiinum Showroom in Fatima Nagar and was taken care of very well by the staff as I went through my innumerable test drives and questionnaires before finally parting with my cash. With that done, the painful wait for the arrival on my own Himalayan began. I spent many a night fantasizing about all the rides I would do, how I would gently run-in the bike, which roads I would take it to and how I would find magical new roads leading to magical new places where I would – beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep – ‘who’s bloody honking?’ Oh damn, it’s the alarm; sigh. Back to reality!
Then the day came! I reached the showroom and saw my own Himalayan for the first time. It was surreal, I almost couldn’t see straight, maybe I got hypoglycemic and started seeing weird shapes! Oh wait! The shapes I was seeing were actually peeled off paint on the frame of the bike! I showed it to the showroom guys and thoroughly checked the bike for any scratches or signs that the bike had fallen or had been repaired. No sign of that and all else was completely perfect so I got those imperfectly painted spots retouched and took delivery of the bike.
First Date Night!
The ride back from the showroom is nothing much to talk about, you basically just ride like a newbie with a constipated face just trying not to crash! After wrapping up work at the clinic, it was time to head out and get to know my – errrm, my, errrm – “Growling Leopard? Sprinting Cheetah? White Panther?” Meh! I’am horrible at naming things as you can probably tell by my blog’s highly innovative name. So I’ll call it ‘the Himalayan’ for now, or may be forever!
I set off at about 9 pm hoping for some quiet roads and peaceful traffic to really bond with my machine. I thumbed the starter and it fired into life instantly. I let it warm up for about a minute and slowly headed out. I rode into the cool air of the night as the Himalayan just purred along responding very well to all my commands. The bike felt really light and maneuverable as I zipped along the city streets.
Slightly empty and open roads allowed me to rev the bike to 4000 RPM and go upto the advised 60 kmph. The Himalayan just zooms quite smoothly to that speed and feels quite fast. The engine is so much smoother and eager than any other Royal Enfield motor. Vibrations are very controlled and though you feel them on the handle and foot pegs as revs climb, they are not intruding and don’t shake your teeth out like other Royal Enfields. One thing you have to note though is that under 2000 rpm, the bike knocks like crazy and it is always advisable to keep the revs above 2500 rpm. That means shifting to first gear in traffic and speed breakers. You cannot just pull away in second at low speeds like you can on traditional push-rod RE engines.
I rode upto the Pune-Mumbai highway and on the way back had an amazing Shwarma and a lovely cheese cake to celebrate my new bike and returned home. I had a blast on the Himalayan for an hour and a half riding at fairly controlled speeds in city conditions and getting used to the bike. I was very impressed with the Himalayan’s performance, but the next morning was what I was waiting for. An early morning 120 km round trip to Panshet and the surrounding wilderness to actually test the Himalayan on open roads as well as off-road.
The Panshet Ride
I had set my mind to a 6 am start and I left perfectly on time at 7 am. The weather was perfect, cloudy and cool but no rain, which is good for your first long ride on a new bike. Very light traffic meant I cruised out of the city on Sinhagad road to Khadakwasla. A quick photo there and I continued on towards Panshet.
Panshet road is amazing with very good tarmac, brilliant views along the way, light traffic, good combination of straight sections, twists and turns as well as few mild elevations. The Himalayan is so much at home on these smaller country roads. You can cruise at 60 – 70 kmph extremely comfortably keeping the engine between the Himalayan’s sweet spot of 3000 – 4000 rpm and just lean smoothly into corners. The bike feels quite light on its feet and surprisingly agile. It has the perfect amount of power and linear torque curve so that you are never left craving for more power or ever overwhelmed by sudden burst of acceleration.
The Himalayan is a sweet handling machine. Unlike its awkward cousins it eagerly leans into corners, is quite stable mid-corner as well as extremely confidence inspiring as you power out. There is no hesitation and you don’t have to keep correcting the turn angle and feel unsure of whether the bike will make it to the other side or not. The bike feels very confident even if you have to brake mid-corner, though it is not advisable. Royal Enfield had done a miracle with the new Thunderbird as far as handling goes and the Himalayan takes it a step forward. The Continental GT was obviously a revelation, but it was a bike built to handle. The Himalayan is a tall adventure bike but still corners like dream.
Panshet arrived a lot sooner than I remember, in spite of riding at moderate speeds. That’s how much fun I was having on the Himalayan! I stopped for a tea break and I was swarmed by a group of people asking about the bike and all its features. Everyone seemed to love the bike and were very impressed with it. Kids seemed most excited by it’s ‘motocross’ look as they called it!
The Panshet-Lavasa road lay ahead. It is a pretty badly surfaced road with many places to go off-road and it’s one of my favourite roads to go exploring. I rode a couple of kilometers to test the suspension. I didn’t want to go too hard core yet as I didn’t want to stress the new bike. The Himalayan handled the rough stuff with aplomb. It is definitely sprung stiffer than other Royal Enfields and the ride did seem minutely harsher, but that meant more stability and control while going over bumps, ridges, stones and big pot holes. The ride actually improves as you speed up so you can always use the Himalayan’s stability to go faster on rough roads and stand up on the footpegs and zip along. It’s a lot of fun.
I turned off the main road to have a small ride up my favourite off-road section which leads to a waterfall, which was dry right now. This place has the works, sandy inclines, steep rocky downhill sections as well as a dry rocky river-bed which were all dealt with by the Himalayan with tremendous ease. It seemed too easy compared to my old Thunderbird. The Himalayan just rolls over obstacles and just keeps trucking over inclines or rocks without care. Though this was just a basic off-road section, I had a lot of fun; I never felt lack of grip or stability.
I turned back and again went off route again towards the river to do some runs on the sandy river bank. Here too the bike just rode along smoothly and I had a blast riding around in the dirt. The climb back to the road was quite steep, but the Himalayan simply walked over it without getting bogged down or losing momentum. The linear meaty power delivery comes very handy here.
With that I cruised back on the well paved road back to the city. The ride was short and simple but it had put a huge smile on my face. I also had got to grips with this incredible machine. The pleasure of riding your new bike on roads you love for the first time is quite special. This ride has given me a glimpse into the capabilities of the Himalayan and has left me excited for the rides to come. My brain is already working overtime planning routes, new destinations and places to explore. After a few more run-in friendly rides, I and my Himalayan will be ready to take on the wilderness of Maharashtra from sea to mountain peaks.
There is a lot of awesome stuff coming, so stay tuned to my blog and get ready to hear more stories as I discover the Western Ghats and a few days from now even the region this bike was built to take on – The Himalayas!