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.

Old Bike Australasia - - SUITABLE PARTNERS - Test Jim Scaysbrook Pho­tos Ben Galli

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.

Tra­di­tional in­stru­men­ta­tion.

In­ter­cep­tor seat – a lit­tle on the firm side.

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