RE 650 Twins

We ride the In­ter­cep­tor and Con­ti­nen­tal GT 650

Auto Today - - Dashboard - STORY BY Shub­habrata Mar­mar with in­puts from Rahul Ghosh

Royal En­field says it has been dreaming of this day for over 10 years and it’s been work­ing to­wards this ride for over four years. The 650cc twin-cylin­der was al­ways the first on the agenda of the brand-new Royal En­field UK Tech­ni­cal Cen­tre and now, it’s time to ride what they’ve made.

The Royal En­field boffins made two mo­tor­cy­cles. There will be more de­riv­a­tives but Eicher Mo­tors CEO Sid­dartha Lal was pretty clear that this en­gine was de­signed as a 650, not as a first in a fam­ily of smaller or larger en­gines. So that four-valves per cylin­der SOHC, air/oil-cooled, fuel-in­jected par­al­lel twin pow­ers both the In­ter­cep­tor and the Con­ti­nen­tal GT650.

It’s tuned to pro­duce as much of its torque as pos­si­ble, as early as pos­si­ble. So while peak torque is 52Nm at 5,250rpm, 80 per cent ar­rives at just 2,500rpm and the torque curve is flat till about 6,000rpm af­ter which it dips. Peak power is a mod­est 47PS at 7,250rpm. For a 650cc en­gine, these are mod­est num­bers. The Kawasaki 650 twin-cylin­der makes al­most 70PS if you com­pare.

But Royal En­field says it didn’t want to make a su­per-fast mo­tor­cy­cle as much as it wanted to make a sim­ple, sweet ma­chine that would al­low Royal En­field to reach out to all kinds of rid­ers, and keep a tight check on the pric­ing. In essence, the mo­tor­cy­cle wouldn’t present ei­ther per­for­mance, or size or even price as a rea­son for you to look past it au­to­mat­i­cally.


Sid­dartha Lal said, “Mo­tor­cy­cles are about feel and we wanted to fo­cus on that rather than spec­i­fi­ca­tion. And once we had the feel idea set, we wanted a price that would al­low us to reach out to rid­ers in vol­umes that the mid­dleweight mo­tor­cy­cle mar­ket al­ways seems to prom­ise but not de­liver.”

So the lay­out, tech­nol­ogy etc in the In­ter­cep­tor isn’t com­plex. But when you ride it, you see that it’s been tuned and de­vel­oped care­fully. The par­al­lel twin is, in any case, smoother than a sin­gle and Royal En­field added a coun­ter­bal­ancer to en­sure that there isn’t any vi­bra­tion to com­plain of. They also se­lected the 270° fir­ing or­der for the evoca­tive sound it brings to the ma­chine. Even on the stock ex­haust, the In­ter­cep­tor sounds lovely - there’s a rounded brap to the ex­haust, al­most a sweet rum­ble that sounds won­der­ful both at the traf­fic light and at speed. S&S, the Amer­i­can tun­ing firm, are mak­ing an af­ter­mar­ket ex­haust that makes for a very loud, very brappy In­ter­cep­tor.

This en­gine is mounted in a brand-new tubu­lar dou­ble cra­dle frame. The down­tubes are re­mov­able - it makes mount­ing the en­gine dur­ing pro­duc­tion eas­ier. The tram looks very sim­i­lar in de­sign to the 535 Con­ti­nen­tal GT but it shares noth­ing with it. The GT 650 has 41mm tele­scopic forks with no ad­justa­bil­ity and twin gas-charged shock ab­sorbers at the rear with preload ad­just­ment only. Brakes are ByBre units, a 320mm sin­gle disc in the front and a 240mm rear disc. Dual chan­nel ABS is stan­dard on all the 650cc mod­els.


The big ques­tion then is which one to buy? Well, the two bikes cater to two very dif­fer­ent gen­res of mo­tor­cy­cle and as a re­sult cater to dif­fer­ent au­di­ence. The Con­ti­nen­tal GT 650 to be­gin with comes with clas­sic café racer styling. It has got clip on bars, slightly rear set pegs and an over­all sportier rid­ing stance. The sim­ple twin pod in­stru­ment con­sole is also com­mon to both mo­tor­cy­cles. It in­cludes an ana­logue speedo and tacho along with a small dig­i­tal read­out for odo, trip and fuel lev­els. The 13.7 litre fuel tank looks su­per cool and the sin­gle seat with a bum stop again adds to the café racer de­sign. Astride, the Conti feels sportier and the mo­tor feels ul­tra smooth on start up. The mo­tor revs up all the way to up to 7,500rpm and even at those revs, the mo­tor is rel­a­tively calm. How­ever the sweet spot is much be­low the rev line and this is be­cause where the mo­tor makes all the power. How­ever hon­estly this is a Royal En­field which eas­ily ca­resses the ‘tonne’ mark and even at those speeds re­mains glued to the roads. The cor­ner­ing abil­i­ties are also com­mend­able and across all the twisties the Conti was rather fun to ride. The only cause of con­cern is the ride qual­ity which we felt was a bit stiff even by smooth Cal­i­for­nia road stan­dards. The spe­cially de­signed Pirelli tyres grip the road well and we even tried re­duc­ing tyre pres­sures in a bid to make it slightly softer. Do­ing that re­sulted in the bike feel­ing slightly twitchy around cor­ners.

The styling on the In­ter­cep­tor is a set of sim­ple, di­rect lines that cre­ate the im­pres­sion of a retro-flavoured road­ster. The part be­low

the top rail of the chas­sis is vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to the Con­ti­nen­tal GT. But the In­ter­cep­tor uses a dif­fer­ent sub­frame to mount the foot pegs, has taller han­dle­bars and of course, the 13.75 litre fuel tank with knee re­cesses. It looks pro­por­tion­ate, old-school and high qual­ity all at one glance. The only thing that looks odd, per­haps, is far the ex­haust cans stick out from the bike. They’re large be­cause of emis­sions re­quire­ments but from the rear, they add a cer­tain pe­riod-cor­rect flair to the oth­er­wise sim­ple, spar­tan rear-end.

Rid­ing along on Cal­i­for­nia roads, the In­ter­cep­tor en­gine isn’t dif­fer­ent in feel from the Con­ti­nen­tal GT 650. That means it runs smoothly and sweetly al­most to the red­line (7,250rpm). Torque is avail­able eas­ily from about 2,500rpm and rolling the throt­tle on be­tween 4,000 and 6,500rpm is a won­der­ful feel­ing of the mo­tor­cy­cle surg­ing for­ward. High­way cruis­ing at as high as 120kmph will be easy and calm on the In­ter­cep­tor. And the taller bars, bet­ter seat and more for­ward set foot pegs should make the In­ter­cep­tor a nice high­way bike - you will prob­a­bly want to add a screen of some sort, though.

In the cor­ners, the In­ter­cep­tor is trust­wor-

thy and doesn’t re­quire too much ef­fort even in tight switch­backs. Just like the en­gine, the frame of­fers a easy to use, friendly dy­nam­ics pack­age that most peo­ple will find un­chal­leng­ing to learn, or if you’re ex­pe­ri­enced, to ex­ploit. At se­ri­ously high speeds, cor­ner­ing past 120kmph, the In­ter­cep­tor did show a slight ten­dency to go into a weave. But it isn’t a se­ri­ous weave, nor is it per­sis­tent. And at lower speeds this isn’t an is­sue at all. Ride qual­ity is on the stiff side but the In­ter­cep­tor ab­sorbed most of what some­what bumpy Cal­i­for­nia roads threw up with­out no un­ex­pected be­hav­iour. The setup could have been softer but again, it’s bet­ter to ride it in In­dia be­fore form­ing a more de­fin­i­tive opin­ion on things like han­dling and ride. There cer­tainly are no sur­prises in store. And the grippy - if stiff feel­ing - Pirelli Phan­tom Sports-Comp tyres, run­ning with tubes on spoked alu­minium rims, com­ple­ment the dy­nam­ics well. The brakes are strong and have a well-judged brake force curve that will be easy to learn and use for all kinds of rid­ers.


1. Both mo­tor­cy­cles get 648cc, four­valves per cylin­der SOHC, air/oil-cooled, fuel-in­jected par­al­lel twin en­gine 2. The de­sign is quite con­tem­po­rary

1. Styling cre­ates the im­pres­sion of a retro-flavoured road­ster. 2. Gas-charged shock ab­sorbers come with preload ad­just­ment only. 3. Flyscreen will be avail­able as an op­tional ac­ces­sory

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