Royal Enfield is a two-wheeler manufacturer that doesn't need any introduction in the country. It isn't an exaggeration if one would say, "Look at any street in India and you will find at least three Royal Enfield's in a minute." The waiting period for Royal Enfield motorcycles averages eight months, and yet, that doesn't stop customers from booking them. In 2015, the company sold over 4.5 lakh motorcycles across the globe, and also announced its plan to produce up to 9 lakh motorcycles by the end of 2018. The company is also aiming to become a global leader in the mid-sized motorcycle segment.
When such a company gears up for the launch of a new motorcycle, the expectations are naturally high. However, despite the track record, the Himalayan adventure tourer will be a litmus test for the manufacturer. Here are the reasons:
Test the waters
Almost the entire range of Royal Enfield motorcycles are known as mile-munching cruisers. Be it the Classic range, Bullet range or Thunderbird range, Royal Enfield motorcycles are meant for long highway cruises and cross-country rides. This is the first time the Chennai-based manufacturer is taking a different route. The Himalayan is the first purpose-built motorcycle of the company in the adventure-touring segment, which has just barely grown out of infancy in the country. The main contenders in the segment are the Triumph Tiger range and Suzuki's V-Strom 1000. Both come with a higher displacement engine than the Himalayan. Hero came up with the Impulse a couple of year ago, but it didn't do well. Hence, the Himalayan has huge potential to be a game changer in the segment by being an affordable adventure-tourer.
All-new heart and cycle parts
The entire line of Royal Enfield motorcycles are powered by either a 350cc engine or a 500cc engine. The Continental GT uses the same 500cc engine bored out to 535cc. This is the first time in recent history Royal Enfield is coming up with an all-new engine. The Himalayan packs a 411cc oil-cooled single-cylinder engine tuned to dish out 24.5bhp at 6,500 rpm and 32Nm torque between 4,000 and 4,500 rpm, paired with five-speed transmission. The Himalayan sports overhead-cams as opposed to the traditional push-road architecture and also comes fitted with a counter-balancer to keep vibrations in check. A new double-cradle chassis, designed by Royal Enfield-owned Harris Performance, also features on the Himalayan. All these developments have yet to be tested and the bike will have to prove its mettle after the launch.
First touches of Terblanche
The Himalayan is the first new motorcycle from Royal Enfield after Pierre Terblanche came on board. The ace designer joined Royal Enfield after successful stints in leading motorcycle brands such as Ducati, Piaggio, Norton, with the latest being Confederate. The motorcycle unveiled in February ahead of the Auto Expo 2016 has a unique design language compared to other Royal Enfield offerings. Whether the new design is acceptable to customers remains to be seen.
It wasn't surprising when rumours of a new Royal Enfield motorcycle named the Himalayan surfaced online last year. Royal Enfield is a brand known for organising rides, and one of the famous ones is the Himalayan Odyssey, a fortnight-long trip to Ladakh. Royal Enfield has organised this ride more than a dozen times, and the idea of an adventure-tourer was hatched during one of these rides. Siddhartha Lal, MD and CEO of Eicher Motors, the parent company of Royal Enfield, has recently said the Himalayas have become the spiritual home of Royal Enfield. In fact, during the testing phase of the Himalayan, he took a ride to Ladakh. It is clear a lot of R&D has been done to develop the Himalayan to be not just as another motorcycle but a passionate product. The Himalayan is a major litmus test for Royal Enfield.
The ingredients seem to be ideal for the dish. However, the fate of the Himalayan now rests on its pricing. As is expected from Royal Enfield, the adventure-tourer is expected to be priced very competitively when launched March 16, which should hail a new era for the segment.