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Review: Is the Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 the ADV Unicorn?

Updated: Nov 29, 2023



The latest contender for the small-capacity adventure bike crown is Royal Enfield's all-new Himalayan 450. Redesigned from the ground up, has Royal Enfield delivered us an adventure-class unicorn? I took to the Himalayan foothills to find out.


Royal Enfield never planned to be a contender in the adventure motorcycle market. The brand's focus has always been on making tough reliable machines for the masses, and the flashy global adventure market wasn't really on their radar.


But they soon found out after the debut of the original Himalayan in 2016, you can never underestimate the power of the ADV market. Initially, the Himalayan was slated as an Indian market exclusive, but the brand quickly found itself snowed under with international demand for the ultra-accessible adventure bike. Fast forward seven years and Royal Enfield has just debuted its all-new Himalayan 450, which takes the idea of an accessible adventure bike to the next level, and this time has been designed as a global market machine from the outset.


This global market design really shows in the final product with the Himalayan 450 head and shoulders above its processor in terms of tech, build and design.



While you can visually draw lines between the first-generation Himalayan and the new 450, not a single bolt is shared between the two with Royal Enfield's tech centre in the UK performing a ground-up redesign for the new bike. The lighting is now all provided via LEDs with the brake light now integrated into the rear indicators, the 21-inch front and 17-inch spoked wheels move to tubeless for the global market (curiously India has yet to homologate tubeless wheels so our bikes on the launch were all rocking tube type wheels) and the old-school analogue dash has been replaced by a clever TFT unit that integrates Google Maps navigation.


As a result of the redesign work the team put in, many of the original Himalayan's shortcomings have also been rectified.



Starting with the engine, Royal Enfield's traditional long-stroke air-cooled engine has been chucked in the bin, with a brand new 452cc single-cylinder engine dubbed the Sherpa 450 taking its place. This new engine is a major departure from Royal Enfield's bread and butter and sees the introduction of water-cooling, a 6th gear, Diamond-Like Coatings on critical components, an aluminium barrel, dual overhead cams, and ride-by-ware just to name drop a few advancements.


With its compression ratio moving from the wheezy 8.5:1 of the Himalayan 411 to 11.5:1, the Himalayan 450 puts down a respectable 40hp at 8,000rpm and 40Nm of torque at 5,500rpm. It is down a little bit power-wise compared to its closest competitors – namely the KTM 390 Adventure and soon-to-be-released CFMOTO 450MT – but Royal Enfield never intended for it to be a high-performance world beater. The name of the game with the Himalayan is accessible adventure and the bike's power curve rams that home.



While it has a nice top-end charge, the Sherpa 450 engine develops solid torque in the lower half of the rev range and when compared to the 411 Himalayan makes a full 65% more peak power and 25% more torque. The old bike was a bit of an unassuming mountain goat, so naturally the new bike which weighs roughly the same is similar, just with a bit more fun injected.


While some riders have been hoping for a Himalayan 650 based around the brand’s air-cooled parallel-twin engine, the new Sherpa 450 is more than up for the job. In fact, the little 450 is just 7hp and 12Nm down on the twin, but is far more compact and has been designed from the ground up to help achieve a good balance between road and off-road riding.


We’ll definitely be seeing more of this engine platform in the future with RE Industrial Designer Ed Cobb going as far as picking journalist's brains on what we think it should go into next. My vote was for an even lighter dual sport machine, but I wouldn't be surprised if it slotted into a revamped Hunter or a new Scram 450 in the near future. You don't develop an engine these days for it to only be used in one bike after all.


The chassis is also completely new, with suspension duties now performed by a 43mm Showa SFF upside-down fork and a monoshock with preload adjustment at the rear. The suspension is surprisingly well planted, with the front end, in particular, feeling great amongst the twists and turns of the mountain roads as well as on rocky dirt sections. Travel is listed as 200mm at both ends, while ground clearance is a useful 230mm which we found to be plenty even when bouncing off rocky riverbeds above 10,000ft during the launch ride.



The frame, again, is all-new, and thanks to relocating the airbox from under the seat to under the fuel tank the bolt-on subframe has been dramatically narrowed compared to the old bike. This was one area where the old Himalayan fell flat on its face, with standing ergonomics in particular being quite poor. Thankfully, ergonomics is one of the areas the design team put a lot of effort into improving the second-generation Himalayan.


Don't worry about access for the airbox too, as it is just a couple of easily accessed bolts that need to be undone in order to lift off the 17-litre fuel tank (which is good for about 450km of range according to RE) and gain access should you need it. Again, Enfield designed the new Himalayan for practicality and accessibility, so you don't have to pull half the bike apart to get to service items. Service intervals, by the way, are set at 10,000km once the bike has passed its break-in period.



Seat height as standard is adjustable thanks to a factory-fitted adjustable seat that can move between 825mm and 845mm. Royal Enfield also has two optional seats, a low seat which moves between 805mm and 825mm along with a taller single-piece Rally seat which is part of the Rally Accessories package.


At launch, Royal Enfield will have 30 official accessories for the new Himalayan available ranging from touring essentials to crash protection and everything in between. The Rally kit, in particular, focuses the Himalayan 450 into a more dirt-oriented machine with its taller seat, raised and more forward set handlebars, slim rear cowling, engine-hugging lower crash bars and aluminium skid plate.



Royal Enfield doesn't seem to follow the tyre marks of other manufacturers, preferring to blaze their own trail whenever possible. This is pretty evident when it comes to the brand's new Tripper dash which uses Wifi to connect to your phone and display Google Maps directly onto the dash.



At 4-inches round, it isn't an overly massive display, but the team put in a lot of effort to ensure that everything you need to know is easily found with just a glance at the dash. According to the team behind the Tripper Dash, they went through 12 iterations before the final design was confirmed. It works well, and perhaps the smartest thing about it is that it can be updated over time via the Wifi connection - essentially future-proofing the dash for years to come.


There are a couple of tweaks to the setup Royal Enfield is already working on. Currently, while the dash itself can switch between a dark night mode and bright daytime mode, the Google Maps functionality does not so this is high on their list of future updates. Adventure riders are also big fans of sharing GPX files to explore new locations, and this is also something the Tripper team is looking at integrating into the dash in the future.


Now adventure and dual-sport riders have long clamoured for what has become known as the ADV Unicorn, a bike that brings good power and a lightweight build together in an accessible package for the masses. Few manufacturers have entertained the idea, but Royal Enfield may be the one of closest to achieving unicorn status with the Himalayan 450.



The Himalayan 450 easily ticks the boxes of accessibility, fun and ability to explore off-road. The one box that some will think it misses is the bike's weight, which comes in at 198kg wet. That is some 25kg heavier than the KTM 390 Adventure it hopes to steal sales from.


Specsheet rambling is all well and good, but how does it actually ride?


Being lucky enough to be one of only two Kiwis to score an invite to the world launch in Manali, India I was able to spend over 300kms riding the Himalayan 450 in its namesake mountains.


My first impressions were that Royal Enfield has really sorted the ergonomics out compared to the original Himalayan. You no longer struggle with standing on the pegs thanks to the new subframe design and the adjustable seat means you can tailor the reach to the pegs/ground to suit your own leg length.


Engine power feels good, however, riding above 10,000ft meant that we only got to experience about 2/3rds of what the Sherpa 450 has to offer due to the losses experienced by the reduced oxygen at such altitude. Instead of the full 40hp, we were told to expect around 28hp on our ride through the mountains.



If there was one thing that really stood out, it was the Himalayan's suspension. As the owner of a Honda CRF-Rally with its notoriously soft suspension, the Showa setup on the new Himalayan felt really good considering its lack of adjustment. It's still set up for a rider of about 70-80kg, but I didn't bottom out the fork in the dirt and with the rear shock's preload bumped up two notches thanks to the brilliant factory tool kit, I was able to dial out some of the bucking experienced when launching off bumps.


Royal Enfield's new Himalayan is a step forward into the modern world from the typically classically focused brand. Is it the adventure unicorn many have wanted? No, not quite. But what it is is a damn fine motorcycle for riders wanting to get out and explore instead of bash through the scenery as fast as they can.


To me, that's the joy of the new Himalayan. It's a bike for real adventure riders who want the pleasure of being out there and doing it rather than joining the eternal pissing contest at the pub urinal. Royal Enfield should be commended for keeping true to the Himalayan's roots.




2024 ROYAL ENFIELD HIMALAYAN 450 SPECS


TYPE | LIQUID-COOLED, SINGLE-CYLINDER, DOHC,4VALVES

BORE X STROKE | 84 MM X 81.5 MM

DISPLACEMENT | 452CC

COMPRESSION RATIO | 11.5:1

MAXIMUM POWER | 40.02PS @ 8000RPM

MAX TORQUE | 40NM @ 5500RPM

IDLE RPM | 1300 RPM

STARTING SYSTEM | ELECTRIC START

LUBRICATION | SEMI-DRY SUMP

ENGINE OIL GRADE | 10W40 AI SN, SAO MA2, SEMI SYNTHETIC

CLUTCH | WET MULTIPLATE, SLIP & ASSIST

GEARBOX | 6-SPEED

FUEL INJECTION | ELECTRONIC FUEL INJECTION, 42MM THROTTLE BODY, RIDE BY WIRE SYSTEM


CHASSIS &SUSPENSION

TYPE | STEEL, TWIN SPAR TUBULAR FRAME

FRONT SUSPENSION | UPSIDE-DOWN FORK, 43MM

FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL | 200MM

REAR SUSPENSION | LINKAGE TYPE MONO-SHOCK

REAR WHEEL TRAVEL | 200MM


WHEELBASE | 1510MM

GROUND CLEARANCE | 230MM

LENGTH | 2245MM

WIDTH | 852MM

HEIGHT | 1316MM

SEAT HEIGHT | 825MM (STANDARD SEAT ADJUSTABLE TO 845MM) 805MM (LOW SEAT ADJUSTABLE TO 825MM)

DRY WEIGHT | 181KG

KERB WEIGHT (90% FUEL + OIL) | 196KG

PAYLOAD WITH STANDARD EQUIPMENT | 198KG

FUEL CAPACITY | 17.0 LITRES


TYRES FRONT | 90/90-21

TYRES REAR | 140/80-17

BRAKES FRONT | HYDRAULIC DISC BRAKE, 320MM VENTILATED DISC, DOUBLE PISTON CALIPER

BRAKES REAR | HYDRAULIC DISC BRAKE, 270MM VENTILATED DISC, SINGLE-PISTON CALIPER

ABS | DUAL CHANNEL ABS, SWITCHABLE


ELECTRICAL SYSTEM | 12V

BATTERY | 12V, 8 AH

HEADLAMP | LED HEADLAMP

TAIL LAMP, TURN SIGNAL LAMP | INTEGRATED TURN AND TAIL LAMP, ALL LED

OTHER EQUIPMENT | RIDE MODES, USB TYPE C CHARGING POINT

CLUSTER | 4-INCH ROUND TFT DISPLAY WITH PHONE CONNECTIVITY, FULL MAP NAVIGATION (POWERED BY GOOGLE MAPS), MEDIA CONTROLS


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