Royal Enfield Interceptor 650: Easy riding across the Himalayas

Is the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 really nimble in the city, planted on the highways and agile on twisty roads?

By:Updated: Feb 01, 2021 8:06 AM

 

There is no doubt that the Interceptor 650 is the finest, most refined motorcycle made by Royal Enfield. But how good a machine is it to live with? How reliable is it? What problems you might possibly face riding it? Is it really ‘nimble in the city, planted on the highways and agile on the twisties’ as its brochure claims? I recently rode it across every district in Kumaon—from Nainital to Almora to Bageshwar to Pithoragarh to Champawat to Udham Singh Nagar—on tarmac, on gravel, on sand, on snow, and even crossed a few shallow streams, knowing fully well that the Interceptor isn’t a motorcycle made for all these terrains.

On tarmac: It’s possibly one of the easiest, and the safest, motorcycles to ride on open highways. It’s powerful enough to overtake long trailer trucks in seconds, brakes are brilliant, and you can comfortably ride over 200 km without taking a break (my test unit had the Touring Seat fitted). Even at speeds of constant 100 km/h, there are minimal vibrations from handlebars or seat or foot pegs. Although it’s technically a roadster motorcycle, it’s as good as any tourer (for a single person riding). I covered the 230-odd km Bareilly to Ghaziabad distance in just 3 hours (it’s a six-lane access controlled highway).

On gravel: While taking turns on gravelly roads, the tyres lost traction many times. One of the reasons may be that my test unit was fitted with Pirelli tyres, which while performed exceptionally well on tarmac, didn’t grip as well on gravel. Going forward, the Interceptor will come with Ceat Zoom Cruz tyres, which, the company says, have been specially developed to complement the chassis and suspension in all riding conditions.

On sand: In the Himalayas you find sand entering and exiting shallow streams (in case your travel takes you there). All motorcycles will struggle in soft sand; the Interceptor was no exception.

On snow: Riding on soft, inch-thick snow near Munsiyari was a revelation. It was either the tyres or the motorcycle’s weight that did the trick. In fact, on snow, the Interceptor rode as well as a Himalayan would.

Shallow streams: The streams I crossed were both narrow (20-odd feet wide) and shallow (no more than six inches of water). The 174mm ground clearance of the Interceptor ensured I didn’t get stuck.

Twisty roads

The Interceptor is in its element on twisty mountain roads. It’s got an excellent lean angle, exceptional shockers, perfect riding position, and never feels out of power while accelerating out of a corner. As the brochure claims, it’s nimble in the city (but you may get tired riding through traffic jams), planted on the highways (provided you are riding on smooth tarmac) and agile on twisty roads (anytime).

Areas of improvement

—At 202 kg (without fuel), the Interceptor 650 is too heavy. So riding it in stop-and-go traffic (where you have to constantly put your feet on the road to balance) can get tiring.
—The instrument cluster is way too basic. Agreed, it’s a retro design, but at least a clock and a gear-position indicator can make riding more convenient.
—Royal Enfield doesn’t offer genuine accessories (for the Interceptor 650) for carrying luggage for long rides, such as panniers, etc.

Specifications

Engine: 648cc twin-cylinder
Power: 47bhp
Torque: 52Nm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Front brake: 320mm disc
Rear brake: 240mm disc
Steering angle: 37.5 degrees
Ground clearance: 174mm
Seat height: 804mm (2.6 feet)
Fuel tank: 13.7 litres
Fuel efficiency: 30 km/l
Weight (without fuel): 202 kg
Price: Rs 2.78 lakh (ex-showroom)

The riding jacket

The Royal Enfield Nirvik riding jacket is what kept me safe, and comfortable, in the cold weather. In December, in north India, early morning/evening temperatures can plummet to sub-10 degree Celsius, and below freezing point in the Himalayas. Add to that the wind blast (you are riding, after all). The jacket has got a thermal layer inside, rain cover outside, ventilation areas for hot weather, and five big pockets for keeping phone and wallet, etc.

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