For more than a century, tens of thousands of people have made the annual pilgrimage to Milan for EICMA, the motorcycle trade show, where the first glimpse of each manufacturer’s all-new models can be seen. But in recent years, up to half a million people who walk into the trade halls have been left without seeing a single offering from certain manufacturers as financial constraints force them to tighten their purse strings. Royal Enfield is no such brand, and as the Indian company goes from strength to strength, this year’s visitors to Europe’s largest motorcycle show were in for a treat. Not only did Royal Enfield release their first-ever water-cooled engine in the all-new Himalayan, but stunned the crowds with an electric version of the same adventure bike, known as the Him-E, and both are ready to rewrite the rule book.
As the media and visitors of the world arrived for day one of EICMA, they were in for a serious lineup change, as for the first time in the show’s history, Royal Enfield was the opening act. The first official press conference of the event is a big deal, and normally the slot is reserved for the likes of Honda or Ducati. The big shift in proceedings also comes as the likes of BMW have stated they won’t be attending the major trade shows, opting instead to save money and deliver announcements via virtual unveilings. For 2023, the change from superbikes to adventure machines as the major attractions also continued, and the big star was the Royal Enfield Him-E.
Part of what makes this electric machine such a surprise is that not a single leak has managed to slip into the world’s media, despite the fact the bike has been undergoing testing on public roads for the past 18 months. That period of over a year also stumped the press, as it had been assumed that the first electric Enfields would be based on the technology of Stark. But RE only bought into the Spanish-based start-up ten months ago, and has clearly managed to develop an entirely new powertrain of their own, without anyone catching wind or a single stolen picture being splashed across social media.
Then there is the fact that the Him-E is not the usual sweet and simple design that we expect from Royal Enfield; in fact, it hosts some of the most trick components ever seen on an electric vehicle. The bike is a prototype, so how much of this tech will come to market is anyone’s guess, but serving as a test bed for the company shows there is a lot to be excited about for the future. A large part of the bike’s testing has been done in the spectacularly beautiful but ultra-challenging foothills of the Himalayas, and it appears the machine hasn’t skipped a beat.
The aluminium-cased battery pack dominates the central area of the machine and serves as a stressed member, with an entirely new chassis design that clamps down from above. This method of construction would easily allow RE to develop many models for various styles of riding on a common platform. The swingarm for this particular bike is long, just what you require in an Adventure bike for stability, and it’s a high-end piece that is made from aluminium to further reduce weight and improve feedback. Speaking of which, the rear shock is no $20 OEM cheapo; it’s a full electronically adjustable unit from Ohlins; yep, Royal Enfield isn’t mucking around.
The front suspension also comes from the Swedish masters of handling, with upside-down forks that are manually adjustable in absolutely every single way. The brakes are by Brembo, right down to using the Italian brand’s high-end master cylinders, and this was a cause for confusion for much of the media in attendance. Clearly, the clutch lever on the left of the bars is actually for the rear brake, but it had many believing it was, in fact, a clutch for a gearbox, with a foot pedal clearly visible. But Indian magazine editor Vinayak Badekar tells us this pedal will actually allow the rider to control engine braking and regen on the fly. And ECUMaster, a leader in four-wheel racing electronics, is onboard too, so while we have to wait for power figures and a possible release date, this e-Enfield has a lot to be excited about.
As does the all-new Himalayan, an upgrade to the highly successful adventure bike that has given the Indian powerhouse another string to their bow. But if the old model had one shortfall, it was power, and that has all been rectified with the newly developed ‘Sherpa 450’ engine. The new motor is the company’s first-ever water-cooled offering and even being a single cylinder, like the powerplant it replaces, horsepower is up from 18bhp to 39.5bhp; giddy up! To achieve this, the engine’s cooling is not the only change, with fresh internals designed to reduce friction and the stroke reduced to allow the engine to rev considerably higher.
The cylinder head is now a much more refined twin-cam, four-valve piece and the power is transmitted to the brand new six-speed gearbox via a slipper clutch. The electronics package gets a big boost too, with ride-by-wire and advanced fuel injection offering silky smooth power delivery and allowing for multiple rider modes.
There is also a new TFT circular colour dash that not only gives the rider endless information via a host of analogue and digital instrument displays but also features navigation and infotainment, built with the help of Google. The Indian powerhouse is taking the Himalayan line-up to all new heights, and here’s hoping we have our hands on each model soon for a full review.