A couple of my friends have ridden their Himalayans in the Himalayas and are essentially confirming what I knew would happen to the Himalayan in the Himalayas. In their infinite wisdom, the folks at Royal Enfield decided to give the Himalayan a carburetor instead of a fuel injection system. That, in my opinion, is a cruel joke on customers paying around 1.8 lakhs for what Royal Enfield refers to as a “purpose built adventure tourer”.
The way an internal combustion engine works, air and fuel need to be mixed to an optimal ratio before the spark starts the combustion process in the cylinder of the engine. When you ride at high altitudes the air is thin and the air-fuel mixture becomes lean. The carburetor of a motorcycle is a mechanical part and is not smart enough to understand what’s going. It keeps adding the same amount of fuel no matter how much air gets sucked into the cylinder. As a result, combustion isn’t optimal and there is a significant loss of power. In extreme cases the engine can even die and refuse to start. The solution is to change the main jet of the carburetor by opening it up. For someone used to fiddling with his or her motorcycle, this will not be an extremely difficult thing to do, assuming they have the necessary jet with them. But for someone who wants to simply ride an allegedly “purpose built” motorcycle in the Himalayas its simply ridiculous to expect them to rejet their carburetor while riding up a high altitude mountain pass all loaded up.
On the other hand, a fuel injection system uses a computer and one or more sensors to figure out whats going on and automatically take corrective measures. To match the thin air at high altitudes the computer injects a lesser amount of fuel to maintain the optimal fuel-air ratio. As a result you see a decrease in power, but not to the extent that you may experience with a carburetor. Thanks to the computer, the engine definitely won’t die on you.
I faced this first hand while riding my Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 (running a carburetor) along the high mountain passes of Ladakh. I had to ride in low gear, keep the throttle twisted and ended up wasting a lot of fuel as the combustion was half ass. My engine coughed, spat, farted, shuddered and made all sorts of horrendous sounds as it struggled on. On the other hand, my friend riding a KTM Duke 390 using fuel injection was merrily racing up and down the mountains and didn’t experience any significant loss of power.
I’m not sure what exactly Royal Enfield means by “purpose built” when they refer to the Himalayan. If it means taking the motorcycle off-road to ride a trail around your home town, then maybe yes. But the Himalayan is definitely not purpose built for the Himalayas. Seems to me that whoever in Royal Enfield wrote the spec for this motorcycle didn’t know that they were going to call it the Himalayan.