Pace and Grace

India Today - - LEISURE - —Harsh Man Rai

RE­CENTLY LAUNCHED in Goa, Royal En­field’s new 650 cc twin cylin­der mo­tor­cy­cles break the monotony of the six­ties’ throw­backs with a look that’s fresh, but com­pletely retro. True to the brand’s prom­ise of laid-back fun where ride is concerned, the bikes are greater than the sum that their mod­est specs would im­ply.

On the one hand is the In­ter­cep­tor 650, a hip homage to the ’60s’ road­sters, with an up­right rid­ing position, wide-braced han­dle­bars and a laid-back vibe that the com­pany tags as ‘easy got back’. The other is the racier, swoop­ier Con­ti­nen­tal GT 650 in­spired by the café-rac­ing ‘ton-up’ boys. It fea­tures a lean and sculpted tank, clipon bars, rearsets, solo seat and up­swept ex­hausts.

Both bikes use a new air- and oil-cooled SOHC, 648 cc, par­al­lel-twin en­gine. Boast­ing 47 horse­power and 52 Nm of torque, it’s sup­ported by a con­ven­tional steel dou­ble-down­tube cra­dle frame de­signed by renowned chas­sis builders Har­ris Per­for­mance. The 41 mm con­ven­tional fork-andtwin reser­voir-equipped shocks are from Gabriel, and the 18-inch spoked wheels and Pirelli Phan­tom Sportscomp tyres are vin­tage spec.

Thumb the starter and the char­ac­ter­is­tic twin­cylin­der rum­ble em­anates from the up­swept muf­flers. The clutch is light and easy and the six-speed gear­box snicks through shifts with nary a false neu­tral! A hand­ful of throt­tle and the 270 de­gree crank re­wards you with a punchy re­al­world mid-range, mak­ing over­tak­ing ef­fort­less—both in town and on the open road. Gobs of quick-revving torque make the en­gine fun to use, from just off idle to around 7,000 rpm, where it

be­gins to run out of breath. Vi­bra­tion is min­i­mal. The Gabriel fork and shocks keep the chas­sis sta­ble; it’s only at an ex­pert-level pace that the twin’s chas­sis be­gins to protest, but most rid­ers will never see that pace any­way.

For far too long, emo­tion has been Royal En­field’s strength and per­for­mance its weak­ness—the op­po­site of most mo­tor­cy­cle brands. But with per­for­mance and style in plenty at an un­be­liev­able price—not to men­tion a stun­ning three-year, 40,000 km war­ranty—th­ese gor­geous 650 cc twins will con­vert a lot of scep­tics and cyn­ics to the cult of Royal En­field.

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