Monday, September 24, 2018

The whys and hows of the new Royal Enfield 650 twins

New Interceptor 650 with original Interceptor in the background.
The new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, with the 1960s original in the background.
Disclosure: Royal Enfield provided transportation, accommodation, food, entertainment and keepsakes to me at this product launch. The following opinions are my own.

Careful, even cautious design, powered by enormous passion. That was the message Royal Enfield delivered to writers gathered in Santa Cruz, Calif. Sunday for the press launch of the new Royal Enfield 650 twin-cylinder motorcycles.

The Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 are new, modern, capable motorcycles with the style and spirit of the great Royal Enfields of the past, we were told.

Historian Gordon May stands with original Royal Enfield Interceptor motorcycle.
Author and historian Gordon May with an original 1960s Interceptor.
Historian Gordon May stood next to an original Royal Enfield Interceptor of the 1960s to explain the importance that motorcycling icon had in North America — especially in California.

California had the greatest number of registered motorcycles in America, at the time. It was a hotbed of the youth culture, surfing, hippies, bikers, desert racing. In 1960 Royal Enfield took its powerful but somewhat chubby home-market Constellation, stripped it down, gave it a scrambler look for California.

To Royal Enfield's surprise, the bike sold better with street equipment than without and, in 1962, the company introduced "a proper Interceptor," Gordon said. It was a "road scrambler" and America fell in love with it.

Original Royal Enfield Continental GT on display.
Fly screen, low bars and hump on the back defined this original 1966 Continental GT.
The original Continental GT 250 of 1964 was the inspiration for the Continental GT 650. The first "factory" cafe racer, this slim and sleek little motorcycle had been designed with the input of the factory apprentices.

They wanted low racing handlebars, a streamlined fly screen, and a hump on the back of the seat to complete the tucked-in look. The first production five-speed gearbox came with the package. This was the bike Britain liked.

Bulletin board covered with sticky notes and photos to inspire designers of the Royal Enfield 650 twins.
Bulletin board of past high points and possible future looks guided designers of the new bikes.
But Royal Enfield production in Britain ended in 1970 as the entire motorcycle industry there faded. Royal Enfield of India continued on for half a century, making its version of the Bullet — lately to roaring success in its home market.

Royal Enfield is on track to make not much short of a million motorcycles this year. It plans to make even more next year, with new factories in India and design centers in England and India.

Photo of girl in swimsuit sitting on motorcycle is labelled THIS!
Yes, THIS. Royal Enfield wanted to recapture spirit of the 1960s.
Its newest products will be the 650 twins, with the same new parallel twin motor and laser designed frame. Two different flavors of motorcycle — roadster and cafe racer — with the same baked in goodness. At least, that is the recipe.

And it has been carefully cooked up. We were told that Royal Enfield tested the motor with three different cranks, choosing the one that made the best sound and torque, the brand's signature characteristics.

Designers describe how clay mock up in foreground helps them.
Royal Enfield's Mark Wells, center, with clay mock-up of the new Continental GT 650.
Wells is Royal Enfield’s Head of Global Product Strategy and Industrial Design.
The new Royal Enfields could have been made even more powerful, with the accompanying penalty of weight and price, but the goal was to keep them accessible to customers. Not only within their price range, but within their comfort zone.

"A motorcycle is a personal product," Royal Enfield's Mark Wells told us. "You wrap your body around it."

Siddhartha Lal stands with frame of new Royal Enfield 650s.
Royal Enfield boss Siddhartha Lal tells the press about the laser focus
that accompanies laser design: accessibility.
Something as simple as keeping the frame slim so the rider can get his or her feet on the ground was not overlooked. Extra care was taken to make the parts in the rider's view — the top yoke for instance — convey an appearance of perceived quality.

We haven't yet been told what the new motorcycles will cost. But I liked this statement:

"It's no good making a motorcycle that everybody desires but nobody one can have."

T-shirt with artwork of man riding a Royal Enfield.
And not just new motorcycles. Royal Enfield plans to provide
the accessories, gear and fashions riders want.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9/25/2018

    I wish RE much success with their new Interceptor.
    Their next project should be a modernized version of the venerable KX V twin !


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