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Words: Gary Inman

Photos: Braking Point Images

Gary Birtwistle’s sleek, monochromatic Himalayan 450 is the latest chapter in Royal Enfield’s love affair with flat track. The story starts in 2019 when the company previewed its Slide School programme at the annual Rider Mania festival in Goa, India. 

Royal Enfield brought Johnny Lewis on as a consultant for the flat track schools, launching the first ones in Bangalore, India, and at Johnny’s MotoAnatomy compound in Florida, USA.  The schools still use the same modified versions of the first generation Himalayan ‘411’, developed, in part, with one of their technical partners, S&S Cycle.

Within weeks of the Rider Mania launch, Royal Enfield presented their Twin FT Concept at the EICMA Show, Milan. The one-off went down a storm. In fact, it caused such interest that conversations about building a race bike to enter American Flat Track’s Production Twins class took place. Johnny Lewis was invited to England, rode the EICMA bike on a wet, concrete and tarmac airfield in winter, and gave an assessment. His feedback gave Royal Enfield's Customs and Racing department the confidence to go forward. The project was go.

Since then, the Twin FT racer has been in non-stop development, won races and then seen the class it was built for be scrapped. This forced Royal Enfield to choose between bowing out of pro flat track, or make their air-cooled twin jump up to the SuperTwins class to compete with the likes of the Indian FTR750.

Meanwhile, the Slide School project expanded to the UK, Italy, Netherlands, Thailand and elsewhere.

The UK Slide Schools are run by Gary Birtwistle’s Dirt Craft outfit, and he joined Royal Enfield as part of a two-rider team, competing in the UK DTRA series and select Euro events, on Harris-framed factory Twin FTs, very similar to the Johnny's Lewis's AFT bikes.

Additionally, there is the excellent Build.Train.Race women’s flat track (and more recently, road race) series' that use Royal Enfield INT650s to compete as a support class at American Flat Track races. That’s a very brief run-through of the company’s flat track activities. Royal Enfield really went for it, and Sideburn has covered it all.

And now this, the world’s first second-generation Himalayan flat tracker. Royal Enfield's, Adrian Sellers, says 'A big part of the job - and fun - here at Royal Enfield's Custom & Motorsport department is in pushing our motorcycles as far as they can go. So when the all new liquid-cooled Sherpa 450 motor came out in the Himalayan, we got started right away with seeing how far we could push it. Gary Birtwistle has been a great partner in helping us get the most out of the 650 Twin, and we're looking forward to seeing what he and our technical team can do with the 450 in this year's DTRA races.  Each race is an opportunity to learn, adjust and improve for the next.'


Developed by Royal Enfield’s UK Technical Centre in Leicestershire, with input from multiple UK champion, Birtwistle, the 450 racer uses a stock main frame with a framer-style monoshock swingarm (like the Goldammer NAF project). The geometry has been chosen to be close to that of a J&M/C&J-style Rotax framer, making it more compact than a 450 dirt bike-based DTX machine. It’s lower and shorter than the 450s it races against, and has an entirely different stance to the stock Himalayan 450. The swingarm was fabricated by Harris Performance, the famous chassis and race firm now wholly owned by Royal Enfield.

Suspension is supplied by UK-based Nitron. They supplied a fully-adjustable rear shock, and their TVT 43mm RWU forks. Wheels, brake rotor carrier and triple clamps are all from Lowery Racing in the US. The bodywork is a unique, carbon-fibre monocoque over a fuel cell. Bars are ProTaper dirt track bend, and the bike uses an AIM dash/datalogger. Many other components were designed in-house.

Royal Enfield wouldn’t share engine tuning details, but the bike is fitted with a one-off downpipe and Arrow silencer.

Gary and the 450 came fourth in his first UK DTRA National championship round, surpirising himself and Royale Enfield's technicians. He followed up with a sixth at the Greenfield TT, when the bike had a few teething issues. This Himalayan is only going to get faster.

Long may Royal Enfield’s love affair with flat track continue, because, right now the sport of flat track needs them, more than they need flat track.


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