2019 Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 First Ride Review

Date posted on February 24, 2020
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The bike with British roots, Indian soul and a global reach.

Royal Enfield has been producing motorcycles since 1901 under Indian ownership since 1994.

It is one of the most successful stories in the world ­motorcycle history with the company producing only approximately 50, 000 bikes in 2010 to 890, 000 last year in 2018. This 2019, the figure may reach a million with the full year production of its amazing 650 twins that received great worldwide acceptance and recently won the 2019 Indian Motorcycle of the Year award.

Launched in 2018, the Interceptor and Continental GT 650cc twins are completely new motorcycles for the Royal Enfield brand. These are their first 650cc twin cylinder engines to be designed and produced by the brand in India, a big leap in terms of engineering and motorcycle dynamics.

While there’s an explosion in the retro bike market which happened in the last five years, Royal Enfield was already in the game for decades, selling only bikes very similar to what it was selling for decades which the market defines as classic. Their iconic Bullet model and other big displacement singles have been available since everybody can remember.

While “modern retro” is basically a mere styling exercise for the many brands who wanted to cash in on the sudden trend in the market, Royal Enfield’s standard Interceptor and Continental GT café racer twins are the real deal with brand heritage and relatively simple engineering. In addition, and more importantly unlike the other brands, the RE 650 twins are positioned to be more affordable bikes.

The single overhead cam (SOHC) 648cc air and oil-cooled vertical parallel twin has large cooling fins and twin stainless reverse megaphone exhausts. Although equipped with modern Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI), the airbox looks like from the carburetor models.

The 270-degree crank lets the engine emit a pleasing rumble that is smooth and comforting. Meanwhile, counter balancers produce good thrumming vibrations instead of irritating rattles. Royal Enfield claims this produces 47 horsepower, with 38 foot-pounds of torque. This is the sweetest and most desirable engine that the company has produced by far.

It is mated to a sweet shifting 6-speed gearbox withmassive chrome housing covers. Instead of a modern frame from a current model, the 650 twins feature a simple but well engineered double cradle steel frame that has little flex.

Suspension is conventional 41mm telescopic fork at the front while the rear is handled by dual piggyback shocks that are preload adjustable to accommodate riders of varying weights. The twin dial gauges on both twins consists of a dial speedometer on the left with digital inset screen show fuel level, trip and odometer readout, while the dial on the right is purely a tachometer.

Other classic cues are the laced wheels and tires that are 18 inches front and rear, the aforementioned twin exhausts, twin dial gauges, single round halogen headlamp and other chrome parts.

Royal Enfield had to give in to a few modern technologies in the name of safety, specifically the front and rear disc brakes and Dual Channel Bosch Antilock Braking System (ABS). However, there are no other electronic rider aids like traction control and power modes.

There are basically two 650 models; the upright Interceptor 650 which is aimed for all around riding and touring, and the Continental GT 650 aimed at the more sporty café racer crowd. They basically have the same engine, chassis and suspension components. The difference are the wide and high handlebars for the Interceptor and low clip-ons bars for the GT, flat two person comfortable bench seat for the Interceptor and a monoposto seat for the Continental GT, and lower foot controls for the Interceptor and a rearset for the GT for sporty cornering. The tanks are also different with the Continental having a slight curve to accommodate the knees when tucked in. Meanwhile, the Interceptor has a more tear drop tank shape.

Philippine Royal Enfield distributor Hardcore Brothers have been spreading the RE brand and lifestyle to discerning Filipinos. The 650cc twins have been an exciting addition to their line-up and did not have a problem with every single unit that it brings into the country.

The RE 650 twins are the most desirable yet affordable and stylish big bikes on the local market today. We have been given a chance to ride the Interceptor in the very attractive “Orange Crush” metallic color that makes it look like an even older bike. For us, the color is the best one for the Interceptor. Even with our brief time on the bike, we were able to tell why this bike is such a global success.

First standout features are the very noticeable engine refinement and the very low overall level of harness and vibration while riding which make the twins such a game-changer for the Royal Enfield brand. The engineers have done a great job in isolating the tiring vibration from the contact points like the handlebars, foot pegs and seat. Riders can now ride longer with a big smile on their faces.

The smooth and friendly engine response of the twin engine is sweet. It may not have the power but it has the massive charisma and character so appealing to riders. The handling is super easy and confidence-inspiring. This is down to the combination of the frame, suspension, tires and engine characteristics. Since you are not overwhelmed with trying to master a powerful machine, riding the twin actually makes it FUN! In fact, the Interceptor, with its more relaxed ergonomics, seems to be the perfect touring bike for you to ride for hours or days. Royal Enfield did an excellent job in making the twins look so cool and charming. It doesn’t pretend to be a modern-retro. It is, in fact, a brand new classic bike! Of course, nothing can stop the builders and owners craving for individuality from bolting, cutting, welding and painting to make the twins an extension of their personality. We respect that and Royal Enfield expects it from many of its buyers to customize it. However, we feel that Royal Enfield has done such an excellent job with the twins that unmolested examples will retain much of their values or maybe even be appreciated in ten years’ time.

The Royal Enfield Interceptor is one amazing bike for the price it asks from you. The performance is just at the right level of spirited and fun while the engine’s smoothness and characterful thrumming will make you reach for the keys and ride more.

Now, that’s how all motorcycles should make you feel!

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

Engine Type: Single overhead cam vertical twin
Displacement: 648 cc
Bore X Stroke: 78 mm x 67.8 mm
Fuel Management: Fuel Injection
Power: 47 horsepower @ 7,250 rpm
Torque: 38 foot/pounds @ 5,250 rpm
Transmission: Six gears, chain final drive
Front Suspension: 41 mm fork, 4.5 inches of travel
Rear Suspension: Twin coil over shocks, 3.5 inches of travel, preload adjustable
Front Brake: Single 320 mm disc with ABS
Rear Brake: Single 240 mm disc with ABS
Front/Rear Tires: 100/90-18; 130/70-18
Seat Height: 31.6 inches
Tank Capacity: 3.6 gallons

*This article was published in InsideRACING’s  Volume 17 Number 11 2019 issue.