Meet the Chennai twins
It is no overstatement to say that the release of the new Royal Enfield 650 twin is the most anticipated milestone in the history of the company under its Indian ownership.
For after teasing everyone with the preview of the models at the Milan Show in late 2017, little was heard for almost a year. During that 12 months, changes were made, both internal and external, including a front end revision in the interests of better steering that was suggested by Chief Test Rider, Australian Paul Young, now resident at Enfield’s new Technical Centre in UK.
So now, finally, the 650s are in dealers’ showrooms across Australasia, where orders and deposits have been piling up. There are two distinct models, albeit built on a common platform that includes engine, frame, suspension, brakes and wheels, but with decidedly different characters. One is the Interceptor – reviving a famous name from the British Enfield days, and the other the GT, a café racer with all the requisite trappings.
The heart of it all is of course the new engine unit; a 270-degree vertical twin with single overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder, and oil/air cooling. RE says this cooling choice, rather than water, was made for “authenticity and simplicity”, in other words, it had to look right, and it does. Power is a claimed 35kW (47hp) at a leisurely 7,250 rpm, with 52Nm of torque at 5,250 rpm. It’s a low revving, smooth unit that has a glorious spread of power and a well-mapped injection set up via the Mikuni EFI. It will also cruise effortlessly at legal motorway limits, with more than adequate acceleration when required, in fact, the acceleration is quite spirited, given that this is ‘only’ a 650. Gearbox is the near-universal six-speeder, with a slipper clutch for smooth back changes.
Although similar to the Harrisdesigned frame that housed the 535cc Continental GT single, the new chassis is said to be 20% stiffer, with a 24º steering head angle and 106mm of rake. Like the engine characteristics, handling could best be described as fairly neutral, meaning that it does ‚
everything quite well and nothing wrong, but it steers extremely well. Suspension is by Gabriel and ABS brakes by ByBre, made by KBX in India and itself owned by Brembo. The single 320mm front disc with its twin-piston calliper has all the stopping power you’ll ever need, with Bosch ABS. Wheels are 18 inch front and rear, shod standard with Pirelli Phantom Sportcomp tyres which fit nicely with the retro theme and have plenty of grip.
Instrumentation is in keeping with the economical character, just a pair of analogue dials, the speedo incorporating an odometer and trip readout, plus a fuel gauge, while the tacho has a neutral light. Handlebar switches are simple as well, given they don’t have to accommodate controls for engine mapping and so on. There’s no gear indicator, nor clock. The build quality is exceptional, with deep lustrous chrome and flawless paintwork. Even though these bikes are bargain priced, there’s nothing to suggest short cuts; everything has been exceptionally well thought out and appointed.
So let’s look at the two versions, first the Interceptor. “Conventional” is the word that springs to mind, in the sense that RE has carefully followed the time-honoured traits of the traditional British twins, notably its own Interceptor which finished production in 1970. The seat is long, flat and a touch on the firm side, but well proportioned for both rider and pillion. Between your knees is a 13.7 litre fuel tank with a very smart Monza-style cap. Handlebars are a slight-rise style, with a bolt-on cross bar (why?). Out front are the twin instruments that are reasonably easy to read except in bright sun.
On the GT, the seat is either a dual style with a raised rear section, or an optional single seat, which leaves the rear mudguard and sub frame exposed. I’m not mad about that look and I think the dual seat is a better all-round bet without detracting from the café racer vibe. The fuel tank is slightly smaller capacity at 12.5 litres, and a more angular shape. The main difference to the rider is the ‘swan neck’ clip on handlebars which deliver a lower and more rearward set position, and the footrest/gear lever/brake lever relationship, which is around 100mm further back. Naturally this puts more weight on the front (and the wrists) and encourages greater use of the front tyre, which is achieved with no problems at all. Skimming through corners is quite a blast. At 790mm, the seat is 14mm lower than the Interceptor. The GT is listed at 198kg – 4 kg less than its brother, and most of this comes from the small tank and the absence of a centre stand (pity). Both models come in a choice of three colour schemes – Classic, Custom and Chrome, with individual pricing. The most you’ll pay is $9140 (plus ORC) for the GT with its chrome tank, and the cheapest is the Classic Interceptor (shown here) at $8440 plus ORC. And those prices include a three year warranty and 24 hour roadside assistance – even if you just run out of petrol – with 10,000km service intervals. It all adds up to a very affordable, practical and enjoyable package. As well as the bikes themselves, there is a genuine accessory range of around 50 items. RE is coy on whether there are even bigger engines planned, and for now I should think they will be happy to concentrate on meeting the considerable demand for this pair. They say they set out to achieve a motorcycle (or motorcycles) that would “rebuild the motorcycle culture – bringing in new riders and encouraging others to return”, and they differentiate the models by describing the GT as “thrilling, focussed and committed,” and the Interceptor as “lively and forgiving.”
Job done, I would say.
The GT650 with optional single seat.
The Interceptor 650 in Intense Orange. Photo: Jim Scaysbrook
Gabriel remote reservoir shocks.
320mm front disc and twinpiston calliper is powerful and progressive.
Interceptor seat – a little on the firm side.