What's more appealing than conceiving your own motorcycle rally, that takes the scenic route through Morocco and then riding it? The answer is not many things apart from maybe, taking an arguably underpowered bike, which you've modified yourself.
The bike you see here is a 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan.
The Barcelona-based workshop commissioned in-house mechanic Carles to modify a Royal Enfield Himalayan.
Carles was tasked with adapting the scrambler (Enfield's 2018 EFI model) with the intention of tackling the challenging 4,000km trip through the Altas Mountains and across the Moroccan desert. That's the route taken on its SCRAM Africa rally.
Why the Himalayan? Why indeed! Well, the bike was purpose-built by Royal Enfield to be ridden over broken roads and those areas, where the tarmac stops abruptly.
Coupled with that is the relatively lightweight nature of the Himalayan with circa 186kg kerb weight. Okay, lightweight at least in adventure bike terms.
ROYAL ENFIELD HIMALAYAN – THE PERFECT DONOR
“From the first time, we saw the Himalayan we thought that inside that bike there was a potential rally bike from the 80s”
The single-cylinder 411cc four-stroke, OHC engine makes just 24.5 hp and offers 23 ft-lb of torque which seemingly makes it underpowered.
With its comfortable upright riding position, manageable seat height and low tech, it's a good candidate for a custom adventure motorcycle.
Fuel saw that too. Since its release, the team's been eyeing up the Himalayan as the perfect donor bike, for adventure touring and pertinently to create an eighties-inspired rally vision.
Custom Royal Enfield Himalayan: Lightly Modified
And so the team set about making light modifications. To help achieve their vision, firstly the stock round headlight was swapped out for a vintage enduro mask. The distinctive rectangular shape of the lamp strongly signifies from which decade Fuel's Royal 400 takes its style cues.
More specifically, those style notes are from early eighties iterations of the Dakar Rally editions of the Yamaha XT 500 and Honda XL. The red, white tank livery of the Royal 400 is a subtle, yet knowing nod to the XT 500 in -particular.
Despite merely undertaking light modifications the changes have noticeably altered the lines and proportions of the Enfield, giving it a more assertive, classic, off-road bike stance. Tank protection bars on both sides have been removed, with one bar repurposed as a luggage rail, on the left-hand side of the bike.
Further luggage capacity has been added with the conversion of the seat to a single which increases available rack space. That's a functional feature that any adventurer will appreciate.
Notably, Fuel installed a digital ignition system to deal with those cold desert morning starts. Thoughtfully, the ignition switch is decidedly utilitarian, in the form of a toggle switch. Losing your keys in the desert is not an option.
An additional binary switch, created in the same vein offers switchable ABS, further highlighting the off-roading intentions of this machine.
FUEL Royal 400: Function Before Form
Though beautifully finished, a theme of ‘function before form' continues in the fitting of Tommaselli handlebars, equipped with protectors to spare the controls – should… or rather when the bars go sand-side down.
A minimalist Koso tachometer and purposeful Pirelli, MT 21 Rallycross tyres further accentuate the spartan aesthetic of this desert warrior. It's an adventure bike in the purest sense.
To improve fuelling efficiency and extract additional power from the Enfield single, the workshop installed a Powertronic ECU which offers adjustable fuel and ignition mapping.
Fuel Royal 400, Scram Africa 2019 Performance
Having returned safely back from an adventure of ultimately 3000km, Carles Vives, founder and Creative Director at Fuel, reflected that the Himalayan seems to have mostly, met the challenges of the environment without a breakdown in two weeks. And that was riding around “200km to 300km” each day, across “…all kind of surfaces includingstone tracks, mud, sand and broken roads at a very high temperatures”.
According to Vives, the bike has been “…a pleasure to ride for the comfort of the suspensions [sic] and its lightness”. Additionally, most of the time the lack of power wasn't noticeable except when ridden over sand or through the dunes and that's where the skill of the rider had to come into play, “…to avoid getting stuck”. On balance, Vives says, “…for the rest of the situations we didn’t feel we would need more power”.
The Pirelli MT 21 Rallycross tyres performed confidently off-road though were less practical on the asphalt, which is entirely excusable for a pure offroad tyre. More so, the tyres outlasted the duration of the trip.
That ‘toggleable' ABS switch was also incredibly useful, in tackling the varying terrain on and off-road.
Vives finished, with more than a hat tip to the manufacturer,“So we have been very impressed with this “little” bike in that extreme conditions.. [SIC] Hats off to Royal Enfield!”
Fuel 400, Custom Himalayan: Extreme Build?
By no stretch of the imagination is the Royal 400 an extreme build, however as an exercise in smart modification for a specific purpose, this retro adventure bike ticks the box.
The machine fits perfectly with Fuel's ethos of building “bikes to ride and enjoy”. Moreover, it highlights that you don't have to raid the bank, for a suitable bike to undertake an African desert adventure. You're dreaming of it right now, aren't you?