Besides the sheer massive number of motorcycles Royal Enfield retails every year around the world, the other most popular thing about it is the fact that it's the oldest motorcycle brand in the world to continuously remain in production. The first motorcycles that were shipped to India for the police and army were 800 units of RE's 350cc Bullet. The thing is that since 1955 to even until last year, Royal Enfield motorcycles had a similar appeal to them that they did back in the yesteryear, along with some newer iterations. But the major fan following for the brand comes from those who adore the torquey 350 and 500cc Classics and Bullets.
Granted that Royal Enfield had built itself a gargantuan fan base in India, but what about those who didn't as much adore the dug-a-dug-a-dug and classic styling of the Bullet? There is now a very simple and clear answer to this question - the newly-developed 650cc parallel twin.
While our Ed already had a go at the Interceptor 650 in a short ride on the scenic roads of Goa and came back mighty impressed, we had to find out more about Royal Enfield's venture into the parallel-twin middle-weight segment to figure what's it like to live with. So, I must mention that I had the Interceptor 650 with me for about a week and did some 600 km on it which includes office commutes, a small tour to Mathura and of course some joy rides around the city.
If a motorcycle can deliver well on all three parameters mentioned above, it is plausible to say that it is an all-rounder – a one-motorcycle-army if you will. The point is that Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 checks all the boxes.
Let's begin with the engine since it is the most impressive bit about the Interceptor 650. Developed in-house at Royal Enfield's UK tech centre, the 650cc parallel-twin has come decades after the manufacturer last produced a large displacement engine with more than one cylinder. Model K and KX came with V-twins in the 1930s.
The Interceptor 650's engine is super duper refined and vibrations are just not something to even think about in the lower rev range which means city riding is smooth as ever. It is only when you rev past the mid-range of rpms or speed past 110-120 km/h, vibrations creep in. Speaking of speed, the Interceptor 650 easily does 160 km/h and is capable of some more. Torque is spread well throughout the rev range, so while it is a fast motorcycle it has no trouble cruising at low speeds if you're in the mood for it.
Now that we've established that it can shift, how long can you spend on it considering that it should be used for long-distance touring? To answer that, I rode it to Mathura which is about 150 km. To say the least, I didn't feel the need to stop even for about a hundred km (I did, however, to click these pictures).
The suspension setup is soft and so is the seat – this combined with a relaxed riding stance that allows the back to remain upright makes for a great tourer. Now that we're talking about ride dynamics - love the brakes on this one. It is a substantially big bike which goes fast as well and it does so rather quickly, so it needs a good pair of disc brakes – and it does. What makes them even better is that the ABS works appropriately and isn't very aggressive.
The short tour I did on the Interceptor 650 also gave me a chance to do a fuel test run and the result was an impressive 28.5 kmpl. But it must be considered that this test is based on a 175 km run of which 35 km were in the city and 140 km were on highways. So, expect about 25 kmpl of fuel economy in real-world city usage which is a good number for a 650cc.
At high speeds and I am talking about 130-140 km/h and above, the Interceptor 650 suffers from a bit of a steering wobble. Moreover, while I think the Pirelli classic tread tyres look fantastic, they do feel a bit woody and you might only feel comfortable leaning into corners when you've ridden for about an hour and the tyre temperatures have come up.
Another aspect is the rider geometry. The Interceptor 650 competes with the likes of Triumph Street Twin which is far less affordable than it. While the two weigh about the same, I could see that it was easier handling the Street Twin than the Interceptor (and by handling I mean, pulling in and out of parking or doing u-turns or handling it while being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic). The difference is that of the geometry, of the rider triangle, of the placement of rider footpegs, of how the rider interacts with the bike.
The Interceptor 650 comes from the house of Royal Enfield and probably saw other of its 350cc and 500cc colleagues on the assembly line. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the 650cc roadster has little troubles that we're not a stranger to. The instrument cluster gets fogged up from the inside, the fuel gauge gets dangerously inaccurate at times, the clutch cable had shaken itself off a mounting and had started to burn because it touched the exhaust exit pipe (but a small fix mended the problem) – little troubles like these still exist.
But even so, when you're done taking a ride of this 650, you come home counting the reasons why you want one. And that is what makes the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 el brillianto! It truly is a masterpiece in Royal Enfield's product lineup. It doesn't matter the fuel gauge isn't accurate (who am I to complain? My bike doesn't even have one) because your interaction with the Interceptor will be an endearing one since the ride is just that impressive.
The Interceptor is everything we wanted from a Royal Enfield roadster with a belief that the manufacturer is capable of doing great things with motorcycle design and concept. It is so much of a better machine with better technology that renders it a modern classic and the exhaust note makes it classier than it already is. Buying one of these is a decision which, if you make, will be a darn good one you pat your back for.