Monday, March 21, 2016

We finally rode the Himalayan...

The rain was coming down in sheets. We have been riding in it for a few hours now but ​the last one had been pretty bad. All we wanted to do was stop ​,​wring out our gloves, dry out and get a hot chai. ​It had been a while since we had seen any one on this back road we were riding. ​When we eventually did stop​,​ we found out we had overshot the left turn we had to take by 18kms. A look at our soggy notes and map and a quick call to Harsh (who incidentally was playing photographer this day so was warm and toasty in a media car) to clear up our navigation issues and we were ready to get back on the bikes. The plan was to back track and hit the trail we missed. Turns out only 2 of us were up to the task​ as​ the rest wanted to take the brilliant tarmac back to base.

Ok before I get ahead of my self let me start at the beginning. A clutch of India’s most crazy motorcycle journalists and I​​  were invited by Royal Enfield to the British Summer Capital of India - Shimla​,​ to swing a leg over their new motorcycle ​- ​the Himalayan​. The idea was to​  spend the weekend riding around a few of the mountains it was named after.

Royal Enfield motorcycles have been exploring the Himalayan ranges ​ever ​since they first landed on our shores back in the day. The bikes​,​ as you can imagine​,​ we​re​ not well suited to handle such terrain and insane places​ that p​eople were ready to take these machines​ to.​ ​T​he fact that they were torquey, simple and built to last made these motorcycles the bike to ride in India if you were looking for some sort of ​an adventure. For years adventure seekers have been custom building their motorcycles to suit their needs for when they ride off into the Himalayan ranges. ​We at Helmet Stories more than a few in our stables. But finally the powers that be ​(​read-Sid Lal​)​ decided that it was about time that the company purpose built a motorcycle to take on the mountains. Hence, ​the Royal Enfield Him​a​layan.

At the heart of Himalayan is the new carbureted, 411cc, long stroke motor. This is Royal Enfields revolutionary new engine where they have used overhead cams instead of pushrods like in their old engine. It makes 24.5bhp and 32Nm of torque and it is happiest once you push it past 3000rpm. It is decently quick but I wish it had just a bit more Grrr. Sid Lal said the intention was not to make it savage but to keep it inviting for the new adventure enthusiasts.

Suspension wise ​-​ there is 200mm of travel up front and 180mm of travel at the rear. The suspension is totally at home when you start to bash about over bad roads ​and ​at no point did it bottom out on the hairy rocky bits(even with me on it). At higher speeds, it soaks up bumps impressively without throwing the bike off​.All in all its a pretty brilliant little motorcycle.

Ok, ​so back to the trail. Ouseph and I decided to back track. We had it on good word that is was totally worth it. The rain had slowed down to a slight drizzle and the cold and wet was not bothering us anymore. The trail was mostly hard packed mud with a  rivulet running down one side of the track. The trail started climbing over the mountain and through a forest and went from hard packed mud to slush to big puddles of water. We were having a blast so of course it started to rain again. By now Ouseph and I were way past caring ​as ​we followed the track throug​h​ a beautiful untouched forest and come out at a clearing on the other side​.​ ​When we had ​​stopped to take a shot ​-it suddenly hit me​-​ Holy shit​ this wasn't rain,​ it was snowing!!!

After a little jig we decided to keep moving. ​We rode on,​​ figuring we would ride out the storm as the road had to start descending soon and we would eventually leave the snow behind us. Instead ​,​the snow got heavier and thicker and the trail was showing no signs of hitting the main road or a highway. ​Not being the kinds to consider stopping or finding shelter​,​ we carried on enjoying the ride. Big flakes of snow covered our helmets and our visors​ but we were having a blast riding through all of it. The trail became a thick layer of white ​and ​not knowing what lay under it ​-​we pressed on and rode. For two hours we rode through this insane freak snow storm and that is when it hit me. The bike had never once questioned what we were doing. It was handling like a dream it was going where we wanted it to ​and ​the suspension was taking whatever was under that blanket of snow. Never once did we lose control and feel ​we ​were being idiotic. At one point​,​ in those two hours I hit a patch where the front slid and I thought it would go down but I caught it and carried on. The bike​,​ dare I say​,​ was cutting throughout this snow like a hot knife.

​It was only​ when we hit the highway eventually and got our chai and hot pakodas ​that we realised how insane this little 411cc motorcycle is! Of course it has bits we would change and fix​,​ and of course most of us would have loved a bit more grunt but as I see it Royal Enfield has been ballsey and it has worked.

As the snow thaws and riding season approaches we cant wait for our two bikes to be delivered as its TIME TO RIDE…

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