Royal Enfield's Interceptor INT 650 is a LAMS legal higher performance retro option from the Indian manufacturer, so what does $9,790 on road get you? Review: Kris Hodgson, Images: Kris Hodgson, Jeff Ware
I think it’s fair to say that the Royal Enfield twins – the Interceptor INT and Continental GT 650 – are bikes that many motorcyclists have been waiting for. Few bikes have made an impact in the press and on the streets like the 650s have since the press launch in Santa Cruz last September. The Interceptor was great over there, so how is it on our Aussie roads?
Check out Jeff’s review from the world launch:
Review: Royal Enfield Interceptor & Continental GT 650 Twins
With the new Interceptor INT 650 and Continental GT 650 Royal Enfield have taken the fight to the big International brands in motorcycling in a very targeted way, as both models are LAMS legal here in Australia and meet the A2 restriction in Europe.
For those after a classic style machine, but boasting modern production advantages, this makes for a great option, with that 35kW performance equating to what I consider that ideal ‘just enough’ tipping point, at which a motorcycle can offer good all-round performance for rider’s who don’t feel the need for 100 or 200hp, and when you’re looking at a retro machine like the Interceptor, you’re clearly not after superbike performance anyway.
Coming in just under the $10k mark ride away the Interceptor INT 650 also offers pretty exceptional value and is a bike to compare to the popular Yamaha MT-07 in some ways, not because they are competitors, but because they are exceptional options in this price range.
With the Interceptor that’s a full size, well powered retro machine with a surprisingly sporty edge, good finish quality, striking styling and old school exhaust note.
The Interceptor 650 is the more relaxed of the new Royal Enfield 650 twins, with taller ‘bars and a less aggressive overall ergonomic, thanks to those foot controls being further forward – which necessitates a shift linkage that was a little sloppy even though Jeff had shimmed it up to take out the free-play. I only had an occasional issue into neutral at a standstill with these corrections though, but it may give an impression that the gearbox/shift action isn’t the smoothest.
The overall build quality of the Interceptor is good, you’re not getting cheap plastics as this is a retro machine, with eye catching chrome exhausts, a solid no-nonsense engine exterior and an overall look and feel that is getting close to what the Japanese manufacturers offer. The switchblocks are a bit cheap and the indicators are retro but budget, which if they get damaged makes them an easy (and cheap) replacement. This isn’t unusual on bikes offering this kind of value of course…
The seat height at 804mm is also taller than some of the other learner machines I’ve tested, but jumping on board the Interceptor the bike feels compact compared to a full size modern day sportsbike or nakedbike. The seating position is upright, with wide tall scrambler chrome ‘bars, reasonable vision through the round mirrors and a well-padded seat. Dual clocks are traditional, but a hint of the modern is featured with the basic (odo, trip, fuel) LCD display embedded in one. Levers are non-adjustable, while footpegs are rubber mounted and rubber clad, making the ride smooth.
Judging by the amount of older riders coming up for a chat and showing plenty of interest, there’s definitely some boxes being ticked in this regard, with the Interceptor being mistaken for a restored classic machine on a number of occasions. That’s something you’ll often be asked about modern-retro machines from non-motorcyclists, but motorcyclists can generally pick out the modern retros from a mile off.
That’s not to rubbish the modern retro, but I think a real strength of the INT 650 (and the Continental GT 650) is they aren’t just a modern machine with retro styling. The retro theme goes a bit deeper – if not to the extremes of the Classic 500 – and the trade-offs that demands.
The ride is also a pleasant surprise on the Interceptor 650. Initial throttle opening is soft but responsive, with first gear being quite tall and not immediately feeling like you’re revving the bike to the moon and back if you hold that gear a bit longer. There’s a good spread of power throughout the entirety of the rev range, and unlike the Classic 500, there’s no point where I feel like the bike is signing off before I’m ready.
I thought there may be some comparison to the W800 I tested recently engine-wise, but there’s not. The Interceptor 650 and that Royal Enfield twin is smooth and characterful, but has a definite sporting edge over the W800. Obviously with just shy of 50hp there’s no superbike performance, but for a retro and learner machine there’s more than ample performance, including on the freeway where high speed overtakes couldn’t be easier, and when it comes to the twisties there’s the kind of easy going propulsion that’s both fun and satisfying.
Handling is on the sports side of relaxed, with the Pirelli Phantom rubber offering good grip on those spoked rims, with 18in wheels both front and rear and a tendency to track along road inconsistencies. I was actually expecting a relatively soft suspension set-up too, but was pleased to find that like the engine, the suspension has a noticeably sporty edge.
That taught suspension does mean a compromise to comfort when our Australian roads get really rough, however in suburban conditions I found it the setup compliant enough for general riding, with room to adjust the preload on the rear. The rear was also the area that stood out as getting harsh when the potholes really started kicking, however the bike remained stable even at speed over the bumps while leant over, even with the occasional wiggle through the ‘bars.
Brakes seem simple at a glance, but there’s deceptively powerful stopping power there, considering the basic master-cylinder and set-up, with a single front disc and Brembo caliper combo offering stop to match the go. There’s reasonable bite, but nothing overwhelming, and excessive force isn’t required at the lever. The rear Brembo also offers really good stopping power, so for maximum performance you’ll be making the most of both, and for around town riding you can heavily rely on the rear.
It’s a great all-round package as long as your expectations are in the right place, really. This certainly isn’t competition for something like the Z900RS and it’s a good step above the SR500, while offering a ‘new bike with three year warranty’ alternative to buying an old 600cc-ish machine and hoping the heavens align.
Sure for some people the challenge of an old (broken down) bike is part of the choice, but for others the Interceptor INT 650 is an ideal choice, if you want retro looks, great performance, a pretty hard to beat buy-in point and realistically a bike you could go out and scratch on, on the weekends, and comfortably and stylishly ride to work each day.
Obviously there’s no ride modes, no traction control and you’ll be running tubed tyres, but Royal Enfield have announced wheels for these models that will allow tubeless tyres, and to me at least, it feels like you’re looking in the wrong place if you want those electronics or feel like performance is lacking.
Plus being LAMS legal by default here (it is not a special model for us, it is a global model with zero changes in any Country), this just seems like a great beginner option to me, and will hopefully usher in more riders who like the retro theme, want something new, and also wanted the right bike to get started on. The Interceptor isn’t the cheapest option available by any means, but the value is pretty undeniable and for a discerning rider this may be just the motivation they need to get started – or return to – riding.
Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 Second Opinion – Sean Thoms
After riding the Royal Enfield Interceptor in a good mix of different environments I can honestly say that I’d buy one. A rash idea, unknowledgeable, clouded mind thought process? NO! The Harris Performance tuned frame, ex-Triumph engineers designing an engine that anyone can’t help but come away impressed. The way it handles you feel like they’ve done some kind of magic over the whole machine.
The value for money that this bike represents is huge. How does $9,790 ride away sound? Cheaper and more powerful than any in its class. Not cheap and nasty either. Others might have more torque, but not by much.
The riding triangle is a great place to be. Handlebars not too far away, ‘pegs low enough to be comfortable, tank shape that feels good between your knees. While riding faster I thought that the ‘bars wouldn’t feel right. They felt great. At the 2017 motorcycle show after siting on it I made a list of things I’d change. I wouldn’t now, they are great.
The first ride through the urban chaos of Sydney showed and highlighted the smooth throttle response, great for those just staring out. Low speed handling of a CT110, that’s a boon for filtering through traffic snarls that clog our city. Once at the front you will not be lacking for power to keep ahead of the traffic.
Brakes are fine, smooth feeling from the front lever. The six-speed gearbox shifted well enough to me; others preferred the direct shifting feel of the linkage-less Continental GT. Off the mean streets of Sydney and out on country roads the Interceptor is a real weapon. Normally on my Yamaha R6 the road feels like an unsealed dirt road, not so on this beauty.
That wheelbase and suspension absorbs all of those irregularities like they are not even there. “Was I on the same road?” “Did I have too much coffee this morning…?” The confidence that inspires will help make you a better rider. Can only imagine what it’d be like with some light suspension tuning.
The bike can easily maintain highway speeds. A small bikini fairing would be nice thing to have. I would not go for a large screen personally, don’t want to ruin those beautiful lines. Two up touring with your bestie wouldn’t be out of the picture. There are soft and hard pannier options, plus loads from other motorcycle specific sellers.
To me it has enough power to ride with your mates on the weekend, then ride home, get off and not call the chiropractor. The seat is good enough for everything except hardcore touring, a gel seat cushion would cure that. On my ride back to the City the bike and I became one. Corny I know, but it’s the truth. I wanted to ride it home and polish it clean, it rained during the ride. Pure motorcycling fun.
2019 ROYAL ENFIELD 650 INTERCEPTOR SPECIFICATIONS
Price: From $9,790 On-Road
Warranty: 3 year factory warranty & 3 year roadside assistance
Claimed power: 35kW [47hp]@7250rpm
Claimed torque: 52Nm [38ft-lbs]@5250rpm
Weight: 202kg wet
Fuel capacity: 13.7L
Engine: SOHC air-cooled 648cc parallel twin four-stroke, eight-valve, 78mm x 67.8mm bore x stroke, 9.5:1 compression, 270º firing order crankshaft, Bosch EMS/EFI
Gearbox: Six-speed constant mesh
Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper clutch, cable actuation
Frame: Double-cradle tuned tubular steel frame
Suspension: 41mm forks, 110mm travel, twin shock, 88mm travel, rear preload adjustment
Brakes: 320mm stainless steel floating rotor (f), ABS, two-piston sliding ByBre (By Brembo) caliper, sintered pads, Bosch ABS, conventional master-cylinder, 240mm rotor (r), ByBre caliper.
Wheels & Tyres: 36 spoke alloy rim 2.50 x 18in, 36 spoke alloy rim 3.50 x 18in, Pirelli Phantom 100/90-18, 130/70-18.
Seat height: 804mm
Ground clearance: 174mm
Overall width: 789mm
Overall Length: 2122mm
Overall height: 1165mm
Instruments: Dual clocks, tacho, speedo, dual trip, warning lights/fuel.
Electronics: Bosch Two-Channel ABS, Bosch EMS.