Friday, September 28, 2018

Which Royal Enfield 650 to choose: GT or Interceptor?

The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650, left, and Interceptor 650 on the beach in California.
Disclosure: Royal Enfield provided transportation, accommodation, food, entertainment and keepsakes to me at this product launch. The following opinions are my own.

Two motorcycles that share the same frame, motor, gearbox and tires ought to be a lot alike. Still, the new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 impressed me as very different motorcycles — and not just in looks.

The Interceptor 650 (officially the INT 650 in the United States) is a roadster with upright seating. The Continental GT is styled like a cafe racer, with rear-set foot controls and leaned-forward riding position.

Do you like the idea of a powerful yet manageable twin-cylinder motorcycle that's affordable, handles well, gets good gasoline mileage and has attractive styling?

Take your pick. Both will likely meet your needs.

But which one would I choose?

I'd pick the Interceptor 650 — and not just because its suggested retail price, announced Wednesday, is somewhat less than that of the Continental GT 650.

I rode both motorcycles this week at the press launch and I appreciate the basic goodness of their common-to-both flexible motor, six-speed gearbox and front-and-rear disc brakes with ABS.

Back-to-back rides over some of the same California coastal and mountain roads revealed some uncommon differences.

Naturally the Interceptor 650 gives me a look and riding posture similar to my own 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet. I'm comfortable on it.

Part of that comfort is in the seat of my pants. The Continental GT 650 seat felt narrower and harder — appropriate for a cafe racer but a factor for me. (My 1999 Bullet has the tractor-style sprung solo seat so I am used to riding in extreme comfort.)

The leaned-forward riding position on the Continental GT 650 is not extreme. My back and neck were fine with it, but after awhile my wrists did complain.

A more experienced rider told me that the normal fix for this is to pinch the cut-away cafe racer tank with your knees, supporting your body with your legs and taking the pressure off your arms.

He also pointed out that this may not work for you on this Royal Enfied. My knees contact the motorcycle just below the tank. There's not much there to pinch except perhaps the small grille on the back of each cylinder presumably intended to keep your legs away from the hot motor. A taller rider might fare better.

A minor problem affected me on both motorcycles, but perhaps a bit more with the GT's rear sets: The gearshift lever is small and doesn't stick out very far.

Unless I remembered to keep my foot tucked in I often shifted with only the edge of my boot. I experienced this as an "air shift." The motorcycle changed gears but without any pressure on my toes it was an unsatisfying sensation. Otherwise, this gearbox clicks as cleanly as your computer mouse.

Both motorcycles accelerate splendidly but the GT I rode seemed able to rocket ahead. Whether this was the benefit of my tucked-in posture or just the emotional effect of riding a "racer" I don't know. But it was exhilarating.

The Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 are expected to be at dealerships early in 2019. Unless the styling has your mind already made up, I'd advise trying them both on for size.

Although this Continental GT 650 video might decide matters for you before you get to the dealership.


  1. Anonymous10/02/2018

    Appreciate your reporting, as well as that of other journalists who attended this grand event. You mention that the GT "seemed able to rocket ahead" compared to the Interceptor. Given the two models use the same engine do you think the GT might be running either a smaller front counter-sprocket or a larger rear driven sprocket? One tooth less up front would make a palpable difference. Keep up the good work. BTW, I'll be ordering the INT 650.
    Best regards,
    J Ottie

    1. Glad you asked! It was emphasized to us that the two motorcycles are deliberately identical so far as possible, to keep costs affordable. The GT still seemed fast. Maybe the slightly leaned forward position caused that much less wind resistance. BUT another factor was the throttle return spring, I am sure. I struggled to keep the Interceptor throttle twisted as much as I wanted and had to abandon my preferred fingers-on-the-brake-lever hold on its throttle to turn it with my whole hand. The GT's throttle seemed less determined to close. No other rider I spoke to complained about this and if it does vary it probably varies by individual bikes, not between the two models. Or perhaps it was my imagination.


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