Mucking about: Hero XPulse 200 vs Royal Enfield Himalayan
There's something about the ease with which adventure touring motorcycles' can go where most other forms of the motorcycle cannot, which makes them so interesting. But for the longest time, enthusiasts in the country yearned to see a manufacturer launch something small enough to hone one's off-roading skills on, not overly powerful and affordable too. And that's what the Royal Enfield Himalayan has turned out to be. An affordable, reasonably-sized adventure tourer you can take almost anywhere. Off-road riding fanatics also welcomed it as the long travel suspension, ground clearance, spoked wheels and 21 inch front wheel make it an Indian-made motorcycle you can take to an off-road trail straight out of the showroom.
The Hero XPulse 200 and Royal Enfield Himalayan are the two most affordable, 'true-blue' adventure touring motorcycles in the country
And three years after its debut we have the highly-anticipated Hero XPulse 200 enter the ring. We finally rode it a few months ago and unless you've been living under that proverbial rock, you know the XPulse has impressed immensely with its off-road abilities. Not to forget that CS Santosh has also helped Hero MotoCorp get the setup right, and a day of thrashing the XPulse at the Big Rock Moto Park had us experience its potential on dirt. And ever since I've had the question in my head will it better the Himalayan off-road?
With the monsoons having made a spectacular entry this year, it was time to hit some trails with the two. There's significant differences, like the fact that the XPulse 200's engine displacement and price are roughly half of the Himalayan's. So do they even match up to each other you might think? You will be surprised at how closely stacked the two are! Yes, the Himalayan is powered by a 411cc single cylinder engine as opposed to the 199.6cc mill powering the XPulse 200, but the XPulse has a far better power to weight ratio. The Hero engine offers 18.4PS as opposed to the Himalayan's 24.8PS, a 6.4PS deficit, but the XPulse 200 also weighs full 40kg lesser at 154kg kerb.
There are a lot of differences and similarities between the Hero XPulse 200 and Royal Enfield Himalayan, and both boast genuine trail and off-roading abilities
There's a lot of similarities in terms of hardware both use wire-spoked wheels including 21 inch fronts though the XPulse employs a bigger, 18 inch rim at the rear as opposed to the Himalayan's 17 incher. Incidentally both use the same dual-sport Ceat tyres of the same width. Suspension travel is similar too, with the XPulse boasting 190mm and 170mm (front and rear) while the Himalayan offers 10mm more at 200mm and 180mm. The Himalayan uses beefier, 41mm front forks though as opposed to the XPulse 200's 37mm forks. Ground clearance for both is identical at a very impressive 220mm, so there isn't a lot separating the two when it comes to bits that matter off-road. Both motorcycles use fuel injection though the XPulse 200 is on offer with a carburettor as well. Both engines are also mated to five-speed gearboxes. Enough with the data already, you must be saying?
On dirt the Himalayan does it all like a boss. For that matter, I recently rode the Himalayan for 10-odd days in some of the worst possible terrain, in the Mustang Valley in Nepal. The story will feature in OVERDRIVE's 21st anniversary issue (September 2019) but for now, just try searching riding to Mustang Valley on Google and you will realise it is referred to as one of the toughest motorcycle riding routes in the world. And the Himalayan passed that acid test with flying colours without a single breakdown, which speaks volumes about its abilities and reliability.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan has turned out to be uber-impressive when it comes to taking on the mucky-stuff
The XPulse 200 on the other hand allows more tomfoolery being lighter, nimbler and easier to throw around. And riding the XPulse again only helped me reiterate my impressions about its abilities and reliability. The XPulse 200 has been engineered to take on some serious battering and takes it all in its stride, without breaking into a sweat. In fact, despite the lower outputs the XPulse was keeping up with the Himalayan, which is impressive. Many might argue the XPulse feels a lot more plastic-y unlike the Himalayan that's akin to a solid lump of metal, but the XPulse holds its own. Suspension travel and ground clearances on both ensured ample ease of jumping, climbing up and down boulders without bottoming out or scraping anything.
21 inch front wheels on both offer ample confidence off-road, be it when riding fast through water or on slush. The XPulse is easier to change direction on the latter thanks to its lighter weight, while the Himalayan feels heavier. The XPulse is also easier to jump for the same reason, while the Himalayan calls for some effort. With nearly twice as much torque as the XPulse the Himalayan makes sliding on dirt far easier though, as the XPulse runs out of steam quickly, also thanks to its shorter first gear. Clamouring onto hills and mounds is easy on both as both feel confident going up inclines. The XPulse 200's shorter first gear helps it a wee bit more as does its more eager power delivery, though the Himalayan's torque helps.
The Hero XPulse 200's gearing is shorter, which helps on dirt, in conjunction with its light weight helps it make up for its lower torque output as compared to the Himalayan
What's more, the XPulse 200's brakes also feel sharper and slightly more reassuring than the Himalayan's, though the latter's brakes offer good retardation too. One important difference here is that the XPulse 200 uses a single channel ABS as opposed to the Himalayan's dual channel ABS. I personally liked the XPulse better as not having ABS on the rear wheel makes locking it to slide the rear easy, aided further by its light weight.
The Himalayan's riding position is better suited to riding off-road as its footpegs are slightly rearset and handlebar taller, making it easier to stand up and ride. The XPulse 200's footpegs are midset and handlebar shorter, resulting in a smaller rider triangle which makes it more cramped and less comfortable when standing up. In a nutshell, the Himalayan is immensely capable off-road, despite its heft, but the XPulse is pretty much up there. I've seen a lot of seasoned Himalayan riders look down upon the XPulse 200 as a wannabe trail bike, but truth be told, it boasts a lot of potential off-road. If the Himalayan impresses with its stability and poise, the XPulse 200 promises agility and niftiness over it.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan has established itself as a veritable off-road/trail machine over the past couple of years, but the Hero XPulse 200 has impressed us a lot too
The Himalayan's higher outputs make it easier to have fun, but its heft holds the bike back at times. And that's where the XPulse 200 nudges past. It feels as capable while feeling a lot lighter and as solidly built if not better. Its compactness and light weight also give it an edge as a learner-friendly machine and if I were a novice wanting to cut my teeth on the loose stuff, I'd pick the XPulse 200 over the Himalayan. Then there's the price gap which you just can't ignore. At Rs 1.31 lakh on-road Mumbai for the fuel injected version, the XPulse 200 costs a lakh lesser than the Himalayan that retails at Rs 2.24 lakh on-road. The carbureted XPulse 200 costs even lesser at Rs 1.22 lakh on road, which only makes it a sweeter deal. You could choose either motorcycle to go mud plugging to be honest as both promise huge dollops of fun. But as I found out towards the end of our ride and shoot when both bikes got stuck, getting the 194kg Himalayan unstuck from a marshland is far more difficult than pulling the XPulse 200 out. I guess, that makes it a bit more lucrative, especially if you get stuck trying to 'go anywhere'!
Also see: Hero XPulse 200 | First Ride Video Review