RE 650 Twins
We ride the Interceptor and Continental GT 650
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.
ROYAL ENFIELD SAYS IT DIDN’T WANT TO MAKE A SUPER-FAST MOTORCYCLE AS MUCH AS IT WANTED TO MAKE A SIMPLE, SWEET MACHINE TO REACH OUT TO MORE RIDERS
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.
S&S, THE AMERICAN TUNING FIRM, ARE MAKING AN AFTERMARKET EXHAUST THAT MAKES FOR A VERY LOUD, VERY BRAPPY INTERCEPTOR
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.
THE OBVIOUS NIGGLES ARE THAT THE RIDE SETUP FEELS A LITTLE STIFFER THAN EXPECTED
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