IT WAS LIKE AN INDIAN AUTO EXPO REVEAL! With space having run out, the adjacent Triumph stand was packed with journalists craning their necks for a glimpse of the proceedings. Photographers were standing on the pegs of Classic 350s of various hues peppered around on the stand to get a better vantage point to train their (long) lenses on Siddhartha Lal and Rudratej Singh conducting proceedings in the distance. All I could see were heads. The world’s press had descended in force for the reveal of Royal Enfield’s worst kept secret, the 650cc twins. The world’s press applauded when Siddhartha proudly announced, “We are the largest growing motorcycle manufacturer in the world”. The world’s press applauded harder when they heard the numbers, “We did 50,000 units in 2010. This year we will do 800,000.” Standing in the back, I was reminded of Eicher’s stock price that has soared by 1750 per cent (!) from the time I started writing about cars and bikes and I dutifully kick myself for not being able to see a gold mine even when it slaps me in the face. And the roof came down when, a cool video later, the wraps were taken off the Interceptor INT 650 and Continental GT 650. This, at a show, where 50 yards away was the new Tiger and 200 yards away was the Panigale V4.
So the Interceptor looks exactly like the millions of (deliberately?) leaked pictures but in final production form, all polished paint and gleaming chrome, it looks fantastic. Perfectly brand appropriate with the classic styling evoking a simpler time. And spilling out of the frame was Royal Enfield’s first new engine in, like, forever. An easy-going air-cooled engine (okay, oil-cooled to be precise) with fuel injection, overhead cams (no more pushrods! Yay!) and the ability to do the ton (100 miles an hour or 160kmph, which Royal Enfields could do back in the sixties but never since!). Of course final verdict will have to be reserved for when we get astride the bikes and we really, really hope that the quality is nothing like the Himalayan nightmare, but if I’ve learnt anything in my two decades of doing this, it is to spot a winner from ten yards away. The Interceptor is a winner. The Continental GT 650, I don’t know, but the Interceptor definitely. The only way they can screw it up is by pricing it all wrong but the sky rocketing price of parent Eicher’s shares, the fact that they’re adding a new dealer every two days, and that they’re doubling volumes every year, means that’s rather unlikely. Heck Sid has made the brand so cool I’ve just gone and bought myself a pair of Royal Enfield jeans and a decade after I moved on from getting my fingers dirty on a series of Bullet long-term bikes, I’m now really, really looking forward to riding a Royal Enfield all over again. ⌧