Sorry Hari, but pitting the BMW G 310 GS against the Royal Enfield Himalayan makes absolutely no sense.” I said to our correspondent, Mr Hari Kudchadkar who is on an ADV high after his tour of the North East on the Royal Enfield Himalayan BS4. Hari you see is one of the new-born ADV aficionados, having been bitten by the off-road bug. Since then, he has been contemplating an entry-level ADV. In fact, all of us at the office have been eagerly waiting for the XPulse 200’s launch. However, Hari is a wealthy man and cares more about getting better at riding rather than writing that cheque. The Kawasaki XVersys 300 is very peaky for off-roading and is anyway best considered a sports tourer. That leaves us with only two options – Royal Enfield Himalayan and BMW G 310 GS. Which is the best starter pack for a noob? Time to answer your queries, dear Hari.
The BMW G 310 GS
The BMW G 310 GS has a lot to live up to, especially with that GS badge that has been revered all over the globe. I have also ridden its big brother this month, the R 1200 GS, and unfortunately, the BMW G 310 GS hasn’t lived up to expectations. And it all starts right there with the ergonomics. I feel at home on big ADVs, thanks to my wide frame and slender limbs. The BMW G 310 GS gets the same handlebar as seen on the R which is really low, especially when you’re standing. Even the brake pedal and toe shifter is placed way too inwards and obstructs the foot, especially if you’re a big foot like me. However, all the additional panels make the BMW G 310 GS look very handsome. It’s big, much bigger than the Royal Enfield Himalayan even and has a lot of road presence. In fact, you might be sold at the first look in the dealership itself.
The engine, as we all know now has been derived from a Husqvarna. It has sufficient bottom-end grunt but it really comes alive in the mid and high. Unfortunately, Hari needs all the punchy torque at the bottom, where the BMW G 310 GS really struggles, for him to be comfortable riding off-road. But when it comes to riding on the road, the BMW G 310 GS is actually a lot of fun. Wheelie-ing this machine is easy peasy, especially with that light-ish front end.
“Unfortunately, Hari needs all the punchy torque at the bottom, where the BMW G 310 GS really struggles, for him to be comfortable riding off-road”
However, the front end is also my biggest grouse. With an ultra soft suspension, the BMW G 310GS simply glides over everything in path, without letting you know. In fact it’s so soft that if you’re a female rider, you must strap on your sports bra if you don’t want men to ogle at you. Like man jewels hanging loose, the suspension makes the front end dive violently, when you brake hard. Would you want this when you’re standing Hari? I don’t think so. Even the headlamp shakes like my grandfather’s dentures, thus offering poor visibility at night.
We all know that the BMW G 310 R was the original baby Beemer and the first kid for BMW parents. Having spent almost a week with the BMW G 310 duo, the GS really felt like an afterthought. And that really is a big letdown, considering BMW’s engineering supremacy and adventure touring legacy. The BMW G 310 GS still makes for a great sports tourer but at that price point, you have so many other options that offer you almost everything the BMW G 310 GS does and then some more. This isn’t for you Hari.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan
The Royal Enfield Himalayan has come a long way since its troublesome childhood days. The BS4 was really a ‘proper’ upgrade and the product was finally up to the mark. I have even recommended to a few friends since then. And why not? The RE is simple and has an old-school charm. It still looks fresh and with its minimalistic approach, you are never worried about dropping it. And now we have the latest upgrade – the Royal Enfield Himalayan BS4 ABS.
“The Royal Enfield Himalayan is a complete natural and thanks to its tall handlebar and precisely set pegs, it’s actually fun to go round corners”
The cluster is one of the best units out there (to my eyes) with a nicely laid out design coupled with those analogue dials. The fuel gauge is still vague but these are the kind of quirks you always except from a Royal Enfield. Once you’re on the saddle, you’ll realise that you are seated lower; in fact you feel like seated ‘in’ the Royal Enfield Himalayan unlike ‘on’ the BMW G 310 GS. It all works very well when you stand on the pegs! The Royal Enfield Himalayan is a complete natural and thanks to its tall handlebar and precisely set pegs, it’s actually fun to go round corners. You can simply stand and ride it all day long, city by city, state by state or trail by trail, as you require.
However, on the road, the story is slightly different. The long stroke engine packs a lot of twist as soon as you leave the clutch. The RE moves like a hulk, but the power soon starts tapering off, by around 6000 revs. And this is exactly where the BMW G 310 GS comes into its own! The Royal Enfield Himalayan is thus great to cruise at speeds upto 110kmph, after which the engine begins its chatter via the tank and handlebars. The weight is pronounced when you show it a set of corners, especially the slow ones. The Royal Enfield Himalayan is long and is kinda lazy and takes its own time to tip into a corner. The soft-ish suspension makes it wobble and finding its limit is not a difficult task.
But the low down torque gives the Royal Enfield Himalayan an edge over theBMW G 310 GS. It is properly masochistic and loves to take a beating. You’ll love to slide and jump it through everything and she’ll always have your back. The long travel suspension has even more travel than the BMW G 310 GS by 20mm at the front and there’s so much more feedback that you always know what the wheel is doing. The 21-17-inch setup helps as well and even though the Royal Enfield Himalayan is heavier by 22kg, you always have it under control. The dual channel ABS in this latest update surely helps in making the Royal Enfield Himalayan stop sooner on road but you can’t switch it off, which means, riding off-road is always a two-step process (why RE,why!?). But then, the Royal Enfield Himalayan does what it says on the box. Go anywhere, go everywhere. It may not be a road-friendly machine but it ain’t bad at all. Show it a set of trails and you’ll end up grinning from ear to ear. Exactly what Hari wants!
“The dual-channel ABS in this latest update surely helps in making the Royal Enfield Himalayan stop sooner on road but you can’t switch it off, which means, riding off-road is always a two-step process”
Hop onto the saddle of the BMW G 310 GS after a short stint on the Royal Enfield Himalayan and you’ll notice the difference. The BMW feels almost a generation ahead with its brilliant fit and finish, quality of switchgear and modern gadgetary, including that tiny ABS toggle on the handlebar. It looks impeccably good and you will never leave the bike without taking a second glance. And of course, there’s that BMW badge that is sure to garner crowds. I wouldn’t say that it isn’t well engineered. But it just doesn’t go with the whole ADV puzzle. The saggy suspension really killed the deal for me on day one itself and I was expecting it to be great off-road. However, the suspension is content with filtering potholes but it also filters out all the feedback that you require, espeically when you’re on loose surfaces. And then there’s the pricing. At Rs 3.49 lakh, the BMW G 310 GS costs almost twice as much money as the Royal Enfield Himalayan! I wouldn’t recommend it to Hari, even though he sleeps on a pile of cash at home.
“At Rs 3.49 lakh, the BMW G 310 GS costs almost twice as much money as the Royal Enfield Himalayan”
The Royal Enfield Himalayan, on the other hand, is extremely charming and is instantly affable. So much so that I couldn’t let go of its keys even after spending one whole week with it. It may not be modern and still lacks finesse, the engine feels underpowered, it feels heavy when stationary and you have to live with the ABS all the time. But the moment you hit the trails, you forget everything. It’s got bucketloads of talents, be it the oodles of low-down torque, natural standing position or its ability to tackle the elements. But this was never going to be an apples to apples comparison.
Hari is on a lookout for a bike that initiates his passion for off-roading. And the Royal Enfield Himalayan surely delivers on that front. Especially when you show it a set of trails. The pricing, at Rs 1.79 lakh is definitely the icing on the cake, especially in this company. Go for it my dear Hari. And don’t forget to lend it to me on weekends!