Friday, December 10, 2021

(Fulfilled) Dreams of Touring on Two Wheels the Himalayan Way | Motourismo

by Toby Alberto

Traversing Marilaque in Rizal Province on the Royal Enfield Himalayan.


Golden and with Covid-19


2021 was quite a year for me. I turned 50 this year. I also caught THE dreaded bug in 2021 and, gratefully, I survived it. My turning 50 in March and me catching Covid happened quite simultaneously. Yes, I marked turning half a century feeling pretty sick and was in isolation. I know that I am still luckier than a lot of other folks who caught it (I’m alive, aren’t I? …and so is my family, thank God), but it still felt really terrible having to mark a life milestone and being bereft of the company of the people I love…or any company, for that matter. In the run up to it, I had a lot of plans in turning THE big 5-0. Among these plans was to have more adventures on two wheels!


Vespa kickoff


As you may have already read in my previous article, my riding fixation was also born “in the time of Covid.” A year ago (July 24, 2020, to be exact), I bought my first motorcycle, a Vespa, and I was hooked. And, as any eager hobbyist is wont to do, I researched, read, and YouTubed up on (nearly) all things two wheels. I decided that, despite protests from my core universe (aka family), adventures will be had, and these adventures will take me to places far and wide. 


The Vespa Merlot


Now, while the Vespa is a more than willing tool for the adventure job, it sort of falls short in the capability department. The first stumbling point of the Vespa is the expressway debacle. As a lot of you would know, the fastest routes out of the Metro (aka adventure!) are via the tollways north and south. While cars, trucks, and motorcycles with larger-displaced engines are expressway legal, the Vespa sadly is not.


Snug pair

 

I have also tested the Vespa’s adventure “mettle” on brief sojourns out of town, while it is certainly willing I would not push the little bugger further into potential trouble (for it and for me). While very urban capable, the Vespa as a long ride companion is not very feasible. A touring or adventure bike was deemed to be in order at this point.


Itchy Boots


In conducting some “research” on a prospective adventure machine, I turned to the internet. While there was a plethora of selections on motovlogs in the YouTube platform, none caught my attention as much as Itchy Boots – the online moto docu show by one Ms. Noraly Schoenmaker. 


My hero in her Itchy Boots and on her Royal Enfield Himalayan, Basanti.


Ms. Schoenmaker is a young Dutch lady who, in my opinion, is nuttier than a bag of trailmix! As one feature would describe the gist of her and her show: “Following her dream of traveling the world, Noraly Schoenmaker quit her job, sold all her possessions and hit the road solo on her trusty Royal Enfield Himalayan last December (2018).” If that does not scream commitment (in all senses of the word), I do not know what does. What stood out for me from what she was doing on her show was her weapon of choice: The Royal Enfield Himalayan. 


“Built for All Roads. Built for No Roads.”


Noraly’s first season (she’s had several since kicking off in 2018) had her buying an RE Himalayan in India, riding it through Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia. She shipped her Basanti (her nickname for her ride) to Oman, where she took off to take it all the way home to the Netherlands via some more parts of the Middle East, the “Stans” (Kazakh, Uzbeki, Kyrgys, …you get the idea), more of Eastern Europe and some parts of Western Europe. 


She logged approximately 60,000 kms through all of that riding on her bike. She did a summary episode where she highlighted the pros and cons of the bike. Part of the pros was that, throughout this long journey, she had only encountered two problems with her Himalayan: the first was a tire puncture, which could happen to anyone; and the second was a burnt clutch, which incident she claims to be her fault as she was stuck in some mud and she was convinced that the only way out was to rev herself on first gear free. And that was what I was intently watching on YouTube while in the midst of feverish delirium and between doses of Lianhua Qingwen. It became an epiphany (again!) of sorts. The next phase of my mid-life cri…este…adventure would involve the Royal Enfield Himalayan! 


Built for All Roads. Built for No Roads.


Now, I have always been attracted to the exterior aesthetics of the Himalayan. As many have described it before me, it has rugged, classic good looks and is mechanically simple. The simplicity of the Himalayan was its best attraction for me, over the brand “heritage” (Royal Enfield is touted to be the “oldest continuously-producing motorcycle brand in the world” (since 1901), the attractive price point, and the reputed “sturdiness.” 


I like that the motorcycle is “lacking” all the bells and whistles that accompany most modern bikes. This only means to me that, should a breakdown (inevitably) occur and wherever I may be when it happens, chances are quite high that the local mechanic would be able to fix the bike. Oh, and the bike having an engine displacement a smidge higher than the 400cc expressway legal minimum (the Himalayan carries 411ccs) was an added bonus (wink, wink).


Classic looks


Sealing the Deal


Another auspicious event prior to my date with the Royal Enfield Himalayan was bumping into an old school chum at the Ride Manila store in Makati. We had a brief chat outside the store, and I complimented the Himalayan he had at the time and sort of mentioned that I may be in the market for one. Turns out, that friend is none other than Jimmy Barinaga, the CEO of Hardcore Brothers (the exclusive distributor of Royal Enfield in the Philippines)! I was not even aware of this fact prior to us meeting! If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. 


I did a few road tests on several bikes and brands of the similar class as the Himalayan through the weeks that followed, and a short time before my birthday in March, I decided to get the Hima. But, as you already know, God had other plans for my birthday.


Hima


Fast forward to June 2021. Although I had my Covid “hiccup,” which delayed my decision to get the Himalayan, the itch to get one was certainly still there. And, as any 50-year old, red-blooded male would do, I went to get my Hima. 


Day 1: Happy Hima Day!


I picked the color “Snow White” (I know, not the most “macho” of color descriptions) simply because I liked how it looked and it was my homage to the first Itchy Boots bike, Basanti (they had the same color but are different models). I have given names to my other bikes. My first one was Lulu, a white Vespa which I have since sold to a friend. The next Vespa (a wine-colored LXV 150ie) I decided to call “Merlot.” The Enfield? For now the Hima will just be Hima.


Epilogue


It has been half a year since I got my Hima and it still puts a smile on my face. I’ve gone on several rides on it, mostly relatively longer ones (Laguna, Bataan, Zambales, Batangas, Cavite, Rizal, etc), as I have retained a Vespa to do the urban “chores.” So, what are my thoughts on it. The ride position and seat itself are comfortable. I like the upright seating, especially through heavy-ish traffic and long road cruises. 


Taal Lake and Volcano revisited by the LSGH 89 Riders


Except for a few glitchy shifts at times, the clutch and gearbox are relatively kind (perhaps the glitching is more courtesy of the rider and not the machine). Performance is borderline adequate. It is not frustratingly slow, as some others may describe it. It meets the legal speed limits and has a bit more on reserve for “just in case.” It gives off a very bohemian vibe – like a “I don’t care what you think of me, I just do my own thing” sort of jam. It is very relaxed, jazz-scat cool (whatever that means), and presents itself as itself. It does the job you expect of it and does not give a pretentious feel (whatever that means). 


Above all, the Himalayan is a lot of fun! It could be fun for anyone, if you just allow it to be so. 


Sulyap in San Pablo, Laguna



Mt. Samat Shrine


Enjoying my Hima adventure.

_________


Toby Alberto is a career bank officer with The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, but his real job is driver and cook for Mesdames Catherine and Audrey at Chez Alberto. 




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