Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Riding the new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

That's me, trying to look intrepid on the new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650.
Disclosure: Royal Enfield provided transportation, accommodation, food, entertainment and keepsakes to me at this product launch. The following opinions are my own.

The world's press rolled out of Santa Cruz, Calif. Monday morning, mounted on almost 100 of the new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650s and Continental GT 650s. So what did they think of the motorcycles?

One Colombian journalist thought he noticed a "lightness" in the front suspension of the Interceptor 650 that came on "at 105 miles per hours." His compatriot, riding the Continental GT 650, said he felt nothing like that, even at "110."

I leaned into the conversation to verify that they were talking about miles per hour, not kilometers per hour. They were.

Royal Enfield, of course, had cautioned us to obey California speed limits. But the moto journalists seemed to regard posted signs and placards are more just suggested starting points.

The Interceptor 650 at, yes, THAT Alice's restaurant.
The ride up here was twisty, no problem for the bike.
I'm enormously impressed by these guys (and two girls, in this group) who fly to a foreign city, get on an unfamiliar motorcycle, immediately head into traffic on a previously unseen road and take off running. Along with the professionals — including test riders with many miles on these bikes — they fling the motorcycles around as though they had been born on two wheels.

The group of riders I was with Monday included riders accustomed to riding on the other side of the street, and even a very game vintage rider accustomed to shifting on the other side of the motorcycle. Tellingly, I thought, he seemed to be having more fun than anyone.

I gather the new Interceptor 650 pleased him — and he owns not just one original Interceptor but "four or five, or maybe five-and-a-half.".

My opinions are suspect, as my only real familiarity with any other motorcycle is with my own 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet, a beast literally from another century. Of course I was impressed with the new Interceptor 650.

The Interceptor 650 visits Pescadero, Calif., a cool small town
just off the Pacific Coast Highway.
The gearbox never served up a false neutral. With six speeds, you never need to be "between gears" and that's probably because the motor is so uncomplaining. It just pulls, hungrily swallowing uphill stretches as though it has never had so much fun.

We were told the new 650 twins have a "slipper clutch" that makes moving off easier while protecting the motor from sudden jerks. Certainly the clutch was worry free for me. The brakes were superb, by my judgment. The Interceptor 650's mirrors are well positioned and large.

I thought the throttle return spring was too strong for my wrist, but other riders told me it's just typical. (Probably the throttle spring on my Bullet is just worn to the point I like it.) The gearshift lever is petite. Perhaps it should be larger for a more relaxed ride.

The Interceptor 650 twins have sturdy center stands, as Royal Enfields should.
The Interceptor 650s have center stands and my Interceptor 650 went up on its easily. The side kick stand has an ignition interlock; you can't start if the stand is down. But the motor will run with the bike on the center stand. I was told that the center stand would be an option on the Continental GT 650. The ones we saw in California did not have them.

No kick start levers on these bikes: it's the 21st Century. Yes, I had to ask where the starter button was. I also had to ask how to cancel the turn signals after use. The trick is to push in on the left/right lever. Duh.

The handlebars of the Interceptor are comfortably placed for me but they are well forward, based on where I wanted to sit, so they did bring me into a leaned-forward posture. One rider had his adjusted to suit him. I could sense no vibration through the handlebars.

Royal Enfield crew prepares Continental GT 650s for the press.
I hope to ride one of these today.
Mind you, these opinions come to you from probably the ride's slowest, most cautious rider. I'm not used to California's hills, not used to curves. I wasn't ahead of anybody but the "sweep" rider and the crash van (perhaps someone ought to think of a nicer name for that thing).

But the Interceptor 650 seemed flexible and patient enough to let me concentrate on the road while it provided everything else.

Where it began: Royal Enfield displayed an original 1960s VAX 700 twin at the press dinner.
This "desert sled" inspired Royal Enfield to make the 750 Interceptor roadster from 1962 to 1970.
Now, at last, there is the new Interceptor 650.


  1. Great write up David, wish I was there!

  2. What an honest and interesting write up. It's nice to let the readers know about your current ride, as it clearly shows what you are referencing against when you comment about something. Really neat writing.

  3. Thanks for this write up Dave. You obviously enjoyed yourself and the bike looks good. Let's hope they become as popular over here (UK) as the Triumph Bonnevilles have.

  4. Thanks for the great review, but!! Am curious, how does the seating stance make up for this speed? I have felt false gears in my electra 2007 so many times,still its worth the ride everyday. Hope this comes out brightly.

    1. Note that the rider claimed his GT went faster than the Interceptor. Rearsets and tucked-in posture make a difference. I suspect long straight downhill sections on Pacific Coast Highway contributed too. Tests done at sea level (literally) with a tail wind?

  5. Kevin Mahoney9/26/2018

    David and I would be both partners in the back of the pack - in fact I might be the one in the crash van.

  6. What kind of fuel economy On the 650 Dave?

  7. Royal Enfield claims 70 miles per gallon for these machines. I imagine, if you want that kind of fuel economy, you'd better remember to shift into sixth gear. I forgot, more than once.


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