We Ride the Newest Twin By One Of The World’s Oldest Motorcycle Brands
Several years ago, an older riding buddy of mine named Carl endured the tragic death of his beloved wife, after a painful, protracted battle with cancer. Grief stricken yet wanting to make a fresh start, Carl sold his bike, his work truck (he’s a handyman by trade), his home, gave away many of his possessions, and said goodbye to his kids and grandkids. He boarded a flight for New Delhi, India to work for a missions organization that operates a number of orphanages in the city and region. He had supported this ministry financially for years, as they are known for rescuing children out of India’s notorious sex trafficking trade. And now he would work for them in person, maintaining each home’s utilities and buildings.
Carl had to use the ministry’s single van for all of his rounds between the dozen or so homes, and if the truck wasn’t available, he had to hail a cab, catch a (always overcrowded) bus or train, or hitchhike. Back home, one of our mutual riding buddies had the idea to take up a collection to buy Carl the best form of transportation for getting around in-country, and Carl’s life long passion- a motorcycle. We collected a total of $2500, wired it over for the ministry to purchase one with, and within a few weeks, Carl emailed us all a photo of his new ride-
a Royal Enfield Bullet 350.
I must admit, I teared up when I first saw the photo. Not ashamed, not gonna lie. It blessed me more than I can explain. This was more than transportation for Carl. It was heart-healing. And we had bought that for him. Dang, I still choke up when I think about it. If you’re a rider, you know what I mean.
Royal Enfield is among the largest motorcycle manufacturers on the planet, and one of the oldest. First launched in 1901 as Enfield Cycle Company of Redditch, Worcestershire, England, the company’s signature bike has been the legendary Bullet, the longest-enduring motorcycle design in history. Eventually establishing manufacturing in British Commonwealth India in 1955, Enfield partnered with Madras Motors to form Enfield India, building a 350cc Bullet for their market. Royal Enfield England folded up in 1967 as the British motorcycle industry began its slow painful death, but the brand thrived in its new home of Chennai, India. Interestingly, the brand has recently reopened a technology development facility back in “merry old England”, and RE designs and tests their bikes in the English Midlands. So in a sense, the brand has returned to it’s geographic roots in the British Isles.
Royal Enfields are sold across the globe now, and after three decades away, the brand is once again back on American shores (They last sold here from 1960-70). With iconic, classic UBM (ubiquitous British motorcycle) styling, simple mechanics, low price points, and a long storied history, Royal Enfield bikes hold a wide appeal to new as well as veteran riders, young and old, women and men. What’s not to love?
This, is one beautiful little bike.
We were granted the unique opportunity to receive and evaluate one of the company’s new 650 Twins, the INT650 Interceptor, as Enfields have traditionally been singles. They shipped us a brand new one (we love our job) with 3 miles on the ODO. With the promise that we’d break it in gently, and guard it with our lives, we set out to ride, photograph, study, and ultimately write about this little fun machine. We had it in the stable for three weeks, late January to mid February, which meant we had multiple scenarios to ride in- Southern sunshine, occasional warmth, interspersed with cold, grey, and rain. In other words, typical Deep South winter weather.
Here was our initial introduction of the motorcycle-
In between our typical Southern foul-weather winter (you know, flash floods, tornado warnings, electrical storms, interspersed with bright sunny days), we found stretches of fine conditions to take off on the INT650 for some enjoyable seat time. My friend and Road Dirt colleague Phil even took it for a spin one afternoon, quipping that given his 6’2” frame, he felt like a “gorilla on a minibike”, yet admittedly really enjoyed riding the diminutive bike. I however, felt perfectly at home on the Interceptor, finding the riding position similar in many respects to my own Triumph Bonneville 900 Street, as well as my father’s old Brit bikes from the 1960s-70s. So I had an affinity for the Enfield from the beginning.
Before sharing how the bike rides, I feel we should outline some of the noteworthy features of the Royal Enfield INT650. We first noted that the bike employs a chain final drive and 6-speed gearbox, with 6th acting somewhat as an overdrive. Each gear has a nice wide spread, with roll-on very smooth, and shifting solid yet light. The brakes are built by an Indian subsidiary of the famed Italian brand Brembo called ByBre (“By Brembo”), so the two-piston front/single piston rear, single caliper binders are quite solid. The front forks and rear gas shocks are manufactured by automotive giant Gabriel Suspension Systems, and even the very unobtrusive ABS system is by Bosch. Big names built in here.
The 18” spoked rims roll on Pirelli Phantom tubed tires. Which means a flat can be complicated. Yet the INT650 even comes with a legit toolkit! We found this by removing the right side panel (key entry, then pops out), with easy battery access right behind that inner panel. Very nice. Did we mention the attractive diamond stitch bench saddle? I’m telling ya, Royal Enfield is building great bikes with quality design and parts. This is a well-thought out motorcycle.
Lots of brand name quality, lots of fine engineering.
Popping up the kickstand, turning the key, and thumbing the starter, the INT650 barks to life, the 270 degree crank giving a pleasant old-style Brit bike “thumpa-thumpa” cadence. We love the sound these chrome trumpets emit, sounding almost aftermarket to us. The 31.6” seat height is slightly taller than my more low-slung Triumph Street Cup cafe racer stance, and I could mostly flat foot at stops. I say “mostly” because I found the peg/lever setups a little awkward. I had to put down boots between them, or behind the pegs. A move forward or back an inch of the peg/levers would remedy this. Phil however, never found it difficult, since he could plant firmly out beyond the setups.
Clicking into 1st, the clutch engagement is perfect, and the 650 pulls away briskly, no flat spots in acceleration. As I shift up through the gears, I find the acceleration strong for a small twin, not anemic at all. The bike isn’t a speed and acceleration demon, but it’s quite satisfying, again like the old Brit bikes I learned how to ride on. But of course, this isn’t a carbed fuel system, its EFI, and it is well-tuned, so throttle roll-on is robust and seamless.
I appreciate the upright seating position and handlebar reach. The rider triangle is comfortable, leaving me confidently in control. I’m not pulled forward sport-style, yet not feeling like I’m in a recliner position either. For me at 5’8”, the body position lends itself to admittedly getting a little “froggy” with the Interceptor, flicking it joyfully through corners and curves. Again, not aggressive power, yet it sure is fun to blast down undulating country roads on. And where we live, there’s an abundance of these. With a 3.6 gallon fuel tank, we found the range to be about 170-180 miles, an adequate distance. The weight comes in about 445 lbs, which is very easy to manage, at speed or slow maneuvering.
Here’s our impressions after riding it about halfway through our tenure with the Royal Enfield-
I swear, one of the days I just took off to ride the INT650 out on a long quiet stretch of road, and soon found America’s “Ventura Highway” running through my brain. Yes, that’s hokey, I know. And yes, it’s early February in north Georgia, not July in southern California. But this bike really evokes an earlier time in motorcycling, a 60s-70s vibe I’m old enough to remember and reminisce about. With all the modern tech Royal Enfield has built into this bike (and it’s sibling Continental GT), they’ve found a way to truly pay homage to the legendary British bikes of a half century ago.
Several times at fuel or refreshment stops, passersby came over to eyeball the bike, and ask about it- “I’ve never seen one of these up close before. What year is it? It’s new?? You’re $#!++ing me!” Young folks think it looks, in the words of one 20-something gal, “so like, retro cute!” Old(er) guys have quipped, “That reminds me of my old (Triumph, BSA, Norton, etc.) from back in the day,…” I love the reactions the bike calls forth. As it should.
I’m so glad Royal Enfield has come back stateside. It’s been too long. And their offerings of these two twins are coming at a great time to attract potential new riders, and possibly recall former riders back to the saddle. Their price point is perfect- this INT650 in jet black can be had for $5799, with two-tone and custom paint options ranging from $5999 to $6499. Seriously, you are getting a lot of bike for these affordable prices. Hmm, might be time to start pinching pennies here…
“Honey, can I have one? Please?”
We love this Royal Enfield INT650 Interceptor. We think you will too. Find a local dealership that carries RE (I believe their dealer network is up over 90 now in the U.S.), take a test ride, and if you’ve ever ridden old Brit bikes, you’ll feel the vibe we described. I understand RE offers a 3-year manufacturers warranty, as well as a 1-year roadside assistance guarantee.
Quality build, affordable fun, sizable warranty. All the more reasons to consider a Royal Enfield INT650 Interceptor, or it’s cafe’-cool sibling, the Continental GT.
Of course, RE carries a cool variety of 1930s-40s looking 500cc singles as well, most notably the legendary Bullet. They also have developed a fine lightweight 400cc ADV called the Himalayan, that’s getting great reviews too. Come to think of it, that would be fun one to evaluate as well (hint hint, Royal Enfield!).
Find the specs on both Twins, as well as these other offerings, right here-
*photos and footage by Rob & Phil
Couldn’t resist just a few more photos.