Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 vs KTM Adventure 390 X: A Battle That Matters.

When the going gets tough the tough get going, but when it’s the toughest, which one should you pick to get going? these are the two most capable off-roaders in the entry-level performance bike segment, but what should be your pick, should you go for the new generation of Himalayan, the 450, with this new Sherpa engine and loads of tech unseen in any Royal Enfield? or does the King of the Hill, the 390 ADV make more sense?!

The 390 Adventure was the no-brainer option in the market for a while, essentially a Duke 390 that is adorned with longer off-road-ready suspension, increased ground clearance and reworked ergonomics. Which makes a lot of sense when you consider that the average Joe will use their ADV to tour at the max and that very few riders take these bikes out to do what their meant to do, but the 390 isn’t all show and no go in the off-road department. The 390 ADV was well acclaimed for its agility and light-footed nature and is still one of the top-selling bikes in its segment. Question is, does the Himalayan have enough to dethrone the 390? well, somewhat.

The adventure 390 X uses the underpinnings of the gen 2 KTM Duke 390 and I’ve got to say, its chassis and engine share very similar traits to its streets spec brother, it is light, agile, and a very engaging motorcycle to ride at the limit, on the road at low speeds the 390 really has the upper hand on the Himalayan when it comes to weight and centre of gravity, the Adventure X weighs in at just 177 kgs, this is more than manageable for most people and off road, its light on its toes demeanor makes the bike easy to chuck around and manipulate but one of the few things that could turn someone towards the Himalayan, is the state of tune on the ktm, yes it is a bit more tractable in the mid range compared to the Duke 390 but the engine is still at comfort high up in the rev range making the 390 quite a handful at full chat off road, another thing we noticed was that the abs on the 390 kicked in rather early on the rear wheel while the front provided for most of the stopping power for the motorcycle. All in all the Adventure 390x is a really good contender as a touring motorcycle however, it’s not perfect in the off-road department, which brings me to the Himalayan.

The Himalayan being a completely new motorcycle has a lot to be spoken about, there is a new 43 mm USD fork at the front of the new Himalayan and the suspension has been tuned by Showa. The suspension along with the tyres makes this a beast when you go off-road. You still get a 21-inch tyre at the front and a 17-inch at the rear, however, there is a radial tyre at the rear now. This makes the bike a lot more agile and confidence-inspiring on the road compared to the old 411. The chassis balance is supreme, making this munch any obstacle you throw at it, Royal Enfields were infamous for having weak brakes in the past. While that has changed for the better with the recent bikes, the Himalayan takes it to the next level. The front brake has good progression and enough stopping power. Out on the road, I relied heavily on the front brake to bring me down to a manageable speed as I slowed down to enter a tight hairpin. The rear brake also has a sharp bite, however, I did find that it is a bit too sharp. Even a relatively light tap on the brake lever can generate a lot of stopping force. Once you switch off the rear ABS, it becomes very easy to lock the rear wheel. So, the rear brake could do with a more gentle tuning.

While the clutch lever seemed to be pretty light to operate, I found the box to be rather clunky to use finding myself having to kick through gears with quite a bit of effort however, no sign of pseudo-neutrals in between gears. And then comes the performance of the new Sherpa 450, while I am super excited to see Royal Enfield enter a new era of tech I am afraid that they are still far from producing the level of refinement you would get from a bike from this segment in my opinion, while the engine did perform very well well in terms of numbers, I found it rather rough running and temperamental in some scenarios, trundling along traffic below 2500rpm, the engine tends to knock a bit, and riding the motorcycle above 5000 rpm invites an orchestra of vibrations through the tank the handlebars and the footpegs, giving you a rather small margin of rpm where the bike runs smoothly

In terms of my personal preference, I found the KTM to be the more comfortable bike to ride on the road, although it was not as balanced as the Himalayan in off-road conditions. The Himalayan performed exceptionally well on rough roads due to its supple and well-taught structure, but the new Sherpa engine had a rough demeanor that could be a real drawback on longer rides.

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Bhavneet Vaswani
Bhavneet Vaswani

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