Thursday, November 9, 2017

Why the new Royal Enfield 650 twins are so controversial

Royal Enfield's new twins: Interceptor 650, left, Continental GT 650 right.
Alternately overjoyed and outraged by the two twin-cylinder motorcycles Royal Enfield unveiled Tuesday, enthusiasts were, by Thursday, more reflective.

Royal Enfield showed motorcycles dubbed the Interceptor and the Continental GT, powered by a 650cc parallel twin. In name and looks they evoke the exciting times of the 1960s, when the British motorcycle industry was doing its best to impress the world with power, chrome and handling.

These were the British industry's finest hours. Also its final hours. The Royal Enfield brand only survived, in India, thanks to an earlier — OK, it was obsolete — design. Not the most exciting, most powerful or even cheapest motorcycle anywhere, the Bullet kept things rolling in India for 50 years.

In 2009 the Bullet was redesigned, becoming not much more powerful, but  more modern and reliable while retaining the outward appearance of a 1951 motorcycle. As such it has been an enormous success in India. That rich success gave Royal Enfield new factories. With a technical center established in the UK, Royal Enfield now has the resources to build any motorcycles it wants.

If something works for you, you tend to repeat it.

As a result, the new Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 are not the hell-for-leather screamers of the Suicide Club.

The new motor, with its short stroke, is probably economical to operate, and hopefully reliable. Siddhartha Lal said in an interview that it's a bit heavier than he might have liked, to make it look right. The motor's displacement and power tucks it neatly into the learner category in many countries, broadening its audience. And the new bikes have low seat heats, important to customers in India.

Summary: In looks and specification (air cooled! parallel twins!) the new Royal Enfields are true to their 100-year-heritage as Brit-style motorcycles. They are a tribute to a stirring time. They do keep the fire lit.

However, in operation the new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 twin and Continental GT 650 twin cafe racer must comfortably serve a mass audience with little patience for temperamental mechanical money pits. These are to be motor vehicles anyone can live with, not collectors items to be savored by an expert few.

When I wrote yesterday that The New Royal Enfield Twins Are Setting the World on Fire I meant that words are running as hot as the motorcycles.

However, this much is the same about almost every comment I've read online: even critics hope the new motorcycles succeed.

This even extends to Bunty, who in a comment Wednesday observed that the new Royal Enfields not only don't match the modern Asian motorcycles, they don't match the output of ancient British products like the humble BSA Thunderbolt 650.

Still, he wrote, in conclusion:

Bunty concedes that RE have produced a bike that will suit the new affluent Indian market and bravo to Siddhartha (despite the silly haircut) for that, but this 650 does not inspire this old codger. 'Deed not! 
A pretty bike no doubt .
I have loaded the disappointed pathetic weeping wretches that pass for me servants into the sidecar and we are orf to the Kickstarter's Arms for a pint o' Bathos Bitter.
A toast: 
The Interceptor Magna is dead!
Long live the Interceptor Minor!

Your servant,
Maj. Bunty Golightly
MBH, Defender of the Kickstart
Companion of the Royal Floatchamber
(Former chief test tickler for AMAL)


  1. Anonymous11/10/2017

    I'm glad I'm not the only one that thought 1/2 Mullet, 1/2 Lord knows what haircut was bizarre. Guess that style must be hot in India. Rather odd on the man.

    1. I won't be trying that style as I have no hair left. Whether Bunty has hair or not, I don't know.


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