Sunday, June 2, 2019

Royal Enfield 650 twins take Milwaukee by storm

Rider stands with an orange Royal Enfield motorcycle.
John Donlon tries out a Royal Enfield INT650 twin and comes away impressed.
Motorcyclist and Royal Enfield enthusiast John Donlon went for a test ride and offered this report on Saturday's Royal Enfield Launch Tour event for the 650 twins in Milwaukee:

Weather was NOT on Royal Enfield's side today as a very nasty and gusty morning squall with rain and pea-size hail moved through Milwaukee.  It not only knocked the temperatures down about 20 degrees but it also managed to blow about half of Royal Enfield's display tents in or near Lake Michigan. That sent staffers scrambling to reclaim the tents and rebuild their display area.

The Interceptor — sorry INT650 — is every bit as good as previous reports across the motorcycle press indicate, maybe better. I went off on a half-hour group jaunt on an INT650 with Enrique, Royal Enfield staff rider, leading us through Milwaukee.

Riders mounted on motorcycles.
Old Third Ward streets offered challenges of their own.
(John Donlon Photo)
We covered roads of all types; from ancient industrial streets with streetcar rails still embedded in the pavement, through commercial avenues, many with roadwork being done, and out onto I-794 (a major Interstate bypass route through Milwaukee).

Mind you, all the riding was done on wet pavement with some rain still coming down. Steering control at low speeds is very nice and actually reminds me of steering bikes of far smaller capacity.

The INT650 was damn near perfect. Acceleration was more than adequate in all cases, especially getting onto I-794.

Yes, this machine IS Interstate highway worthy. Gearing seemed just fine getting getting up and down from highway speeds to city street speeds. The run-up from fourth to sixth gears on  I-794, even on that wet pavement, was positive, smooth and provided practically effortless acceleration to 70 mph. The bike's weight makes for a very stable platform with very little nagging vibration.

Busy scene around the event tents.
Royal Enfield squeezed demo rides in between rain showers.
(John Donlon Photo)
I have been riding for more than 50 years. This bike captures my "3Cs."

Control: I run the bike. It does not run me.

Confidence: Yes, I know I can pass that tractor-trailer at 65 mph and have enough power left  to put distance between me and it.

Cojones: 47 bhp combined with a six-speed gearbox is plenty for handling the Interstate Highway System.

Also, being in my late 60s with moderate arthritis in my left hip and both knees, this bike IS comfortable, so I won't be reaching for the Diclofenac when I get off it.

Both the INT650 and Continental 650 have spin-on oil filters and factory installed oil coolers. Royal Enfield offers a skid plate as an option to protect that front-mounted spin-on oil filter.

Worker wipes down a motorcycle.
Royal Enfields got a free wash, courtesy of the weather.
(John Donlon Photo)
I cannot stress how important that oil cooler is. All twins need them as they run hot. Royal Enfield  made the "rock catcher" oil cooler standard equipment on the 1970 Interceptor along with the skid plate. Many older riders remember the Lockhart oil coolers of the 1970s, that while ungainly by today's standards, did the job even if they creased the rear of front fenders.

Riding position is comfortable. While I complained about the hard seat on the bikes shown at the International Motorcycles Shows (like a Naugahyde-covered log) the seat on my bike was comfortable.

Handlebar position, while a tad low for my liking, was good enough and did not impede steering. The handlebar mirrors need to be mounted on off-set risers because the field of vision didn't clear my shoulders enough.

Fuel tank color scheme options for both the INT650 and Continental GT 650 are all very handsome. My preference is with the traditional Interceptor chrome tank. The Royal Enfield people said the chrome tank was not offered when the bike first appeared in the press because they had to perfect chrome quality before putting it out there. The chrome tank obviously costs more. But to the Royal Enfield purist, there just is no alternative.

Three Himalayans with riders.
There was plenty of interest in the Himalayan adventure motorcycle.
(John Donlon Photo)
Bottom line: Pony up the money and go buy a Royal Enfield twin NOW! Whether your taste is for the Interceptor or Continental; these machines are well-built, have the classic looks without the classic problems, provide a positive riding and maintenance experience and are priced well within most budgets.

My hat gets tipped to the Royal Enfield team in Milwaukee.These young people really had their act together especially in light of the atrocious weather.

Also, my comments really need to hit home with potential Royal Enfield dealers — those motorcycle retailers that are just sitting on the fence as to whether or not they can move those machines. My take is yep, they ARE competitive — go stock 'em now so people can see and buy them now.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

As an aside: there were a fair amount of riders testing the Himalayan. One fellow said it appeared to be an excellent machine for hunting trips and other forays into the boondocks. I see his point and perhaps Royal Enfield should see if Cabellas or other outdoors-themed  businesses would stock the Himalayan.

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