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Two single-cyl motorcycles with a large appetite for long-distance touring. Which one’s the better of the two? A 300-plus kilometre ride clears up the air.

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This sort of thing usually works, right? Similar motorcycles on paper, sort of closely matched on three or four parameters, they empty your wallet by roughly the same amount of money, you know, that sort of thing. Well, the Mahindra Mojo and the Royal Enfield Hialayan come pretty close to each other in this respect, except they seem to be completely different motorcycles in the real world, by perhaps a country mile or so. Take a good hard look at them, don’t you think so? No? May be you should go to an ophthalmologist then. Anyway, the thing about these two motorcycles is that their similarities overwhelm their differences, or so we believe. And we aren’t being silly about things like they both have two wheels and one engine. No. We’re talking about proper stuff, that makes sense, like they cost just under Rs 2 lakh, they make power around the mid-twenties, and similar amounts of torque, too. They even weigh pretty much the same. Come on, you have to see where this is going. Right?

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Flash value always pays, or does it? – Mahindra Mojo If you’ve followed the Mojo story, you are likely to have come of age. This motorcycle had a long journey to get from the drawing board to prototype and much longer to get into production after that. Mahindra laboured over the Mojo for years and every time the company thought it had it right, the game changed. The likes of the Honda CBR and the KTM Duke proved to be serious hurdles in Mahindra’s plans. They finally did launch it last year and they seem to be on their way. It doesn’t take much to realise the fact that the Mojo is a love-it-or-hate-it sort of motorcycle. Even when you lay eyes on it, there are several loud design cues, which catch your eye and demand a reaction. There are a fair number of people who love the ‘gold ribs’, the twin-headlamps and the twin-silencer, while there are almost an equal number who find it a tad bit tacky and would prefer things toned down a little. Either way, there is little doubt that it manages to look expensive and turn heads, even when it’s parked next to something like the Himalayan.

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Born in the mountains, built like one too – Royal Enfield Himalayan There had been murmurs about a new engine and an off-road motorcycle for years from the Chennai-based manufacturer, but they were always shrouded in enough mystery and never provided close enough details. That is till about a year ago, after which there were enough ‘leaked’ photos of the Himalayan to create an album that could outshine #petsofinstagram. Poorly kept secret or not, Royal Enfield sure built it up to a sort of crescendo where everyone was waiting with bated breath. So then, as most Royal Enfield’s go, the Himalayan is a looker and there is no divided opinion about this one. Everybody likes it, including the women and children, and people who have nothing to do with motorcycles. This is, despite the headlamp section, which looks odd at best. The tall stance, the beak at the front, the luggage racks and upswept exhaust all add functional elements which manage to enhance the visual appeal of the motorcycle as well.

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Engine and performance Both these motorcycles use single cylinder units, but that is about all that they have in common. While the Mojo uses a 295cc, liquid cooled block with double-overhead cams, the Himalayan uses a 411cc, oil-cooled unit with a single-overhead cam. These configurations reflect in the maximum power that the engines manage – 27bhp@8000 for the Mojo and 24bhp@6500 for the Himalayan. The difference in power may not be massive, but the way it is delivered to the real wheel is. The fact that the Mojo uses an extra-cog as well, making it a 6-speed transmission to the Himalayan’s five-speed, adds to the difference in character. Both engines make similar amounts of torque too, the Mojo managing 30Nm@5500, while the Himalayan makes 32Nm@4000-4500 revs. But, the little differences add up to make for a very different riding experience on the Mojo. You know from the get-go that this bike feels quicker and has a wider rev range to play with. The Himalayan runs out of steam by the time you close in on 6000rpm with some amount of vibration filtering through even before that.

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Ride and handling As you can tell, the Mojo uses an upside-down front fork set up, while the Himalayan sticks to regular telescopic front fork with lots of travel. Both, however, use a monoshock at the rear – a first in Mahindra’s short motorcycle history as well as a first for RE’s long-standing lineage. Ride quality on the Mojo is surprisingly good. It manages to keep the rider isolated from most road irregularities and remains composed even when the conditions become rough. The Himalayan on the other hand seems to have a firm edge to its ride, quite unlike what we expected from an enduro motorcycle. At urban speeds, the Himalayan communicates every sharp-edged pothole to the rider, while the Mojo manages to iron things out by a fair amount.

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However, show these bikes a twisty road and the Himalayan feels better of the two. It may be slow to turn in and change direction, thanks to the 21-inch front, but it remains neutral and is easy to predict around corners. The Mojo on the other hand feels very vague at the front and doesn’t seem to straighten up as nicely either. It lacks feel and is difficult to predict around corners and inspires no real confidence to ride hard. The Pirellis offer a helping hand here and keep things neat though. Flat out in a straight-line is where the Mojo can scare you as it tends to wags its rear-end as you approach its top speed of about 140kph. Certainly not a bike that likes to be thrashed around this one. The Himalayan, on the other hand, stays inside its abilities and does the basics right with no drama, despite the on-off road Ceat tyres, even when you get to its top whack of about 130kph.

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In the city At slow speeds, there isn’t much to complain with the Mojo. Gearshifts are slick and the clutch action is light. There is a slight bother with the way the engine knocks even around 2000rpm, which can be termed embarrassing at the very least. The front brakes don’t have the sort of bite you’d want from the 320mm disc and the rear one has too much and tends to lock up if you step on it too hard. Ride comfort, however, is pretty good and you can dart off the line every time the light turns green. Moreover, the twin exhausts sound pretty good at these low speeds. Absolute bottom-end performance on the Himalayan is slightly better and the 411cc motor pulls cleanly off the line. The clutch is slightly heavier and the gears are notchy, especially if you try to upshift at lower revs, but RE has at least managed to get rid the of false neutrals this time around. The big difference here is that when you sit in traffic, you always have the option of getting onto the dirty shoulder that no one else wants to use and be perfectly at ease making your way through it. Ride quality maintains a firm edge over every small pothole at urban speeds and that can be annoying.

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Out on the highway Relaxed cruising is what both these motorcycles excel at. Find a sweet spot and keep the motor turning over in top gear and they will go on till they run their tanks dry. No sweat. The Mojo is comfortable cruising around 110kph, in sixth gear, it can manage quick bursts past 120kph, and can carry on to better 140kph without much hassle. It also comes with a massive 21-litre tank, which means you can really go the distance – read over 500km – between tank ups, making it a pretty incredible mile-muncher. Out here, the Himalayan, too, will clock through the miles quite happily, however, you need to hover just around the triple-digit mark to keep it comfortable. On the odd occasion that you do need to push, the Himalayan too will crack 120kph, but unlike the Mojo, there isn’t much go after that and it will fizzle out around 130kph. The slightly smaller tank – 15-litres – gives it a shorter range of roughly 400km, which is reasonable enough.

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What are they good at? Relaxed highway cruises is what the Mahindra is best at. You can ride it for hours, if your cheeks can take it, and the 295cc motor won’t break a sweat. It not only manages to keep good pace on the highway, but maintains a comfortable ride as well. And if you aren’t pushing it hard, it manages to hold its line just fine, thanks to some superb grip from the Pirelli rubber. If the going gets really rough, the Mojo can carry on, allowing you to stand up and ride for short stretches. It’s low handlebar and chiselled tank does not make it ideal, but you can cope nonetheless. It manages to do everything well, but doesn’t really feel brilliant under any particular circumstance. The Himalayan was purpose-built though, to be an enduro motorcycle, which can cross all sorts of terrains. Its 21-inch front wheel and 17-inch real wheel ensures a setup that can tackle the harshest of terrains. Ergonomics are also pretty good for occasions when you need to stand up and ride. Controls fall easily to hand and it’s easy to grip the recesses on the tank. An upswept exhaust and bash-plate under the engine give you the ability to tackle a fair amount of rough stuff. RE has missed out on adding knuckle guards, which would’ve further added to its purpose and looked cool, too. While on the saddle, the handlebar feels a tad bit forward and the footpegs too far back. However, there is enough room to move around to try and find a more convenient stance.

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Bottomline It is a close call, this one. Both these motorcycles may be vastly different in character, but they manage to do a fair amount similarly. There is no doubt that the Himalayan has a clear advantage when it comes to off-road trails with its entire setup, but even on the road, it proves to be an able handler with the chassis working well, despite the slow change of direction. However, it is disappointing to see Royal Enfield put in so much time and effort in making a good motorcycle instead of a great one. It could have used better technology while developing the engine and it definitely needs more power. And then there’s the ride comfort that could’ve been sorted out better.

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The Mahindra, on the other hand, seem to have worked harder to put together a better motorcycle. The slight power advantage, better cruising ability, sorted out ride, all add up in favour of the Mojo. However, the chassis and suspension don’t make for an inspiring ride and the tendency of the rear brake to lock up is quite unnerving. The Mojo simply does not work as an enthusiasts motorcycle, something that plays a big role in this segment of motorcycles. It works well if you want to potter around and simply cruise along the highway. So, by the narrowest of margins, the Royal Enfield wins this round, simply because it puts a bigger smile on your face every time you take it out for a ride. Words and photos: Debabrata Sarkar

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Mahindra Mojo Engine: 295cc, single cylinder, liquid cooled, DOHC
Power: 27bhp@8000rpm
Torque: 30Nm@5500rpm
Suspension: Upside down forks (front), Monoshock (rear)
Brakes: 320mm disc (front), 240mm disc (rear)
Tyres: 110/70 R17 (front), 150/60 R17 (rear)
Fuel tank: 21l
Weight: 182kg

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Royal Enfield Himalayan Engine: 411cc, single cylinder, oil cooled, SOHC
Power: 24bhp@6500rpm
Torque: 32Nm@4000-4500rpm
Suspension: telescopic forks (front), Monoshock (rear)
Brakes: 300mm disc (front), 240mm disc (rear)
Tyres: 90/90 R21 (front), 120/90 R17 (rear)
Fuel tank: 15l
Weight: 182kg

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