The all-new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 Twin maintains its stylish heritage, while bringing a unique offering to modern motorcyclists looking for a cool cruise machine that offers a 21st-century escape on two wheels. The brand has managed to take the old British charm of its original 700 Interceptor, first introduced in 1960, and revive it; creating an ultra-capable, middleweight, street-orientated motorcycle for the modern day.
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When Royal Enfield revealed plans to launch a twin-cylinder 650cc road bike, it raised more than a few eyebrows, with the move representing a radical departure from the Indian company's repertoire. Their mantra was: build a single cylinder, relatively reliable and semi-comfortable motorcycle that will eventually get you where you want to go. The new Interceptor and its brother, the Continental GT, turns all of that on its head.
The design is still undoubtedly retro, but the core of the new direction is an entirely new 648cc air/oil cooled parallel twin engine with four valves per cylinder and a six-speed gearbox, specially designed in the UK by Harris Performance. The power plant is a unique style element of the overall design, but it also delivers 47hp at 7,250rpm and supplies a maximum of 52Nm torque at 5,250rpm. These numbers alone might not be very high, but the design team developed the engine to produce up to 80 per cent of the maximum available pulling power from as low as 2,500rpm. Royal Enfield says this enables the engine to deliver "smooth and rapid progress without the need for constant gear changes".
We quickly verified this fact by test driving the stylish roadster. The engine is not only responsive but it's a great joy to ride, with long, powerful uptakes between gears. It's somewhat surprising for a motorcycle that bears the Royal Enfield logo.
The power is transferred through a newly developed six-speed gearbox – a first for the brand – and delivers smoothly through gear changes. This is achieved in part by the assist feature on the slipper clutch, which makes pulling in the clutch lever a breeze. Partner that with a silky-smooth gearbox and the act of hitting the highway or curving through streets becomes a pleasure.
Classic and cool
Classic elements of the new motorcycle are maintained, such as its tubular cradle frame, 18-centimetre headlight, two-person seat and twin analog instruments, with the retro-style fuel tank sporting a Royal Enfield badge and Monza-style fuel cap. Aside from the style items, the bike offers some slightly underplayed modern motorcycle conveniences. But these aren't so obvious at first, because of the effort that's gone into keeping its pleasing aesthetic.
Case in point is the Bosch fuel injectors that appear at first glance to be a classic set of carburetors. Behind the scenes, an engine management system delivers top-notch power without feeling too modern. Rider comfort is achieved by a set of 41-millimetre forks with 110mm of travel, while the rear suspension is handled by a classic twin shock set up with five-stage preload adjustment. It gives a comfortable ride and provides ample high-speed cornering capacity. Braking, in turn, is handled by ByBre calipers that are managed by Bosch Dual-Managed ABS. This is another first for Royal Enfield and a welcome safety feature.
The entire package comes in at a curb weight of 202 kilograms, with a fuel capacity of 13.7 litres, giving ample range for exploring roads near and far. The 804mm seat height is both comfortable and elevating. While the stylish 46cm front and rear spoked wheels combo comes shod with "classic aesthetic" Pirelli Phantom Sportcomp tyres, which were specially developed for use with the models' suspension and chassis.
An accessible price point
Royal Enfield has given the Interceptor the appropriate amount of old-school charm, while not unnecessarily spending the budget on parts you'll most probably upgrade or customise later. Sure, the mirrors are plastic, but they do the job well, and you can always add a personal touch by improving them to your liking.
The switchgear is of the basic type, but the layout is intuitive and straightforward. It has everything you need to help you down the road without being distracted by myriad buttons. The bonus, of course, is that these cheaper parts make the Interceptor perfect for customisation at a price point that won't break your bike-build budget.
In many ways, Royal Enfield has managed to nail down something special with the new Interceptor. It's a genuinely uncomplicated motorcycle that is built for riding, outside the confines of all the technological wizardry that seems to crowd modern bikes of late. It also won't break the bank, which means that, for many people, the Interceptor won't be an investment to agonise over endlessly.
The platform oozes style already, and the experience is, in a word, fun. That is the whole point of being on a motorcycle, after all.