Dear Royal Enfield, what have you done with the Interceptor 650 & Continental GT 650?

Vir Nakai

Hi, my name is Vir Nakai and I am a Royal Enfield fanboy. It dates back to when I was a few years old, riding on the tank of my dad's Bullet 350. Obviously, that had some deep-seated effect on my mind that I couldn't shake. I finally got my own Royal Enfield Machismo 350 back in '98. It was red and chrome and it was the best thing since dial-up Internet(actually I don't think we had the internet in our home till much later). I loved the hell out of that motorcycle but honestly, it was plagued with problems.

Royal Enfield Continental GT and Royal Enfield Interceptor. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

Royal Enfield Continental GT and Royal Enfield Interceptor 650. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

Plagued maybe understating it but I was constantly in the workshop fixing issues I had never heard of - all my friends rode 100 cc and 125 cc reliable pocket rockets back then. I used to live in Chandigarh and it became a thing that my bike would never make it up that 90 km stretch of mountain road to Shimla. Once on the new Solan bypass all the oil spewed out of the bike for no good reason and we had to coast back to the closest mechanic, the other time the wiring loom melted itself to nothing and the bike went dead 20 kms from the town.

One night I told my parents I was spending the night at a friends place and that we would leave early in the morning for the mountains. We took off at 9 pm, the lights blew and we had to ride the whole way behind a truck using their lights to guide us to Shimla. But I loved that bike and all its faults, it was mine and nothing could change that.

The old Royal Enfield. Image: Vir Nakai

My old Royal Enfield. Image: Vir Nakai

For eight years I rode/pushed that bike everywhere but then I seemed to outgrow it and it found itself in the corner of the garage and the only smart thing to do was sell it. I sold it for Rs 25,000/- and started driving the old car that I inherited from the family. But nothing could fill the void left by the Royal Enfield. I yearned for a new motorcycle and I found myself at the Royal Enfield showroom buying a new Royal Enfield Thunderbird.

With the Thunderbird came a new set of challenges and trips to the mechanic. Yes the AVL engine was far more reliable than the old cast iron ones but there was always something to be done with the bike. Over the last few years, my garage has grown and has seen a few more Enfields in it. This includes the last of the 500 cc Cast Irons, the very awesome LB500, a newer Bullet 500, a Continental GT 535 and lastly the Himalayan. All these motorcycles have been ridden and ridden hard. Over countless mountain roads, throughout deep water crossings, dusty trails and boring straight highways all over our brilliant country. These bikes were my constant companions as I explored our beautiful country.

What am I rambling on about? I am getting at that Royal Enfield has always made great motorcycles but they really haven't evolved over the years. A change is a part here, a new gearbox there and maybe some new paint is what we would see from them. Five years ago the company dropped us the Continental GT 535 which they evolved from a slice of their history but yet the bike was still dated and old and really didn't catch the fancy of many. The Himalayan was super anticipated, "revolutionary" designed from the ground up and a step away from anything the company had ever done before but still it didn't get peoples pulse racing.

The Royal Enfield Interceptor and Royal Enfield Continental GT. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

The Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 and Royal Enfield Continental GT. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

But all that is about to change. No, actually it has changed. Not because I Vir Nakai fanboy of Royal Enfield says so. It's because Royal Enfield after four years of planning, creating and testing has just launched the Twin 650 cc engine in two Avatars. The Royal Enfield Interceptor and the new Royal Enfield Continental GT and I was lucky enough to be there to get to ride them for a short bit in Goa.

The Royal Enfield Interceptor and Royal Enfield Continental GT. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

The Royal Enfield Interceptor and Royal Enfield Continental GT. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

Walking up to the bikes straight off they look great! There is no doubt that the designers at Royal Enfield know how to make great classic-styled motorcycles with the right amounts of chrome and great-looking paint along with all the visual clues to their historic older motorcycles. Try posting a half decent picture of an Enfield on Instagram and see the kind of interaction you get. But then that has never been the problem people have had with the motorcycles.

Do they vibrate? Are they reliable? Are they efficient? How is it so well priced? You get to ride so many motorcycles have you been paid to say nice things about the bike? Should I buy one? Are just a few questions people ask me on a daily basis. So let's tackle them.

The Royal Enfield Interceptor. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

The Royal Enfield Interceptor. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

In the amount of time I spent with both the bikes I didn't feel any bad vibrations but only good ones. Speaking with more learned unbiased journalists who have spent more time with the bikes than I have assured me the same. There are none to be found on longer rides as well and even when the bike is powering down the highway at higher speeds.

The fact that Enfield gives a three-year warranty with the motorcycle says a lot. They say they have worked out the problems in the four years of development and fixed them before they launched the motorcycles. So I expect the new 650 cc twin engine will be reliable over and about the fact that is smooth and a dream to ride.

The Royal Enfield Continental GT. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

The Royal Enfield Continental GT. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

The company claims that the bikes will give about 23-26 km per litre depending on where you ride it. So it is pretty efficient if you do the math in the 650 category. But really, the only way to find out the price of owning it is once we ride the bikes for a while and drain the tank a couple of times. Also, things like service costs and availability of parts will only come to light once we start riding the bikes. But I have a feeling that Royal Enfield is ready for this challenge as well.

The Royal Enfield Interceptor. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

The Royal Enfield Interceptor. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

To keep the competition at bay I think Royal Enfield did a few things with the price that we have to love. They kept it in the range of some Indian 400s, while catering to the market looking to get into a 650 cc motorcycle range. So we may not get a mono-shock at the rear or upside down forks up front. They took a conscious decision to make the engine, oil and air-cooled. Also building them in India would make them cheaper to produce. But saying that, there are a lot of quality bits and bobs on the bike. I am sure all the competition is sitting in their boardrooms scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they are going to tackle this one.

The Royal Enfield Continental GT. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

The Royal Enfield Continental GT. Image: tech2/Vir Nakai

I wish they did pay me to say nice things about them because that is the dream. But no they don't! Also just because I am a fanboy doesn't make me only say good things. I think it makes me a better judge of the bike. For years before this, I would have looked at the bike and been like "yes, the bike is nice and has some problems but I'll get the bike and fix them my self and then the bike will be perfect". Today I am looking at the bikes and am thinking about insignificant things like "I don't like the colours,  the chrome ring around the instrument panel could have been black and maybe the Interceptor could have had a better fuel cap".

Yes. Because it's a no-brainer. A 650cc Royal Enfield like this at this price I mean come on!!! But don't take my word for it. Go to your nearest dealer sign up for a test ride. Ride it and call me and tell me what you think? Was I correct or was I correct?

I am not going to go on about how great the new bike is and how well they ride and how smooth the engine is. I am not going to go on about how I thought the new GT would have been a slapdash job over the Interceptor to make two bikes out of one.  But actually, they reworked all the seating and the reach and angle of the clip-on, how the new tank is actually shorter than the old one making the bike friendly and easier to ride over the old GT. So when you ride both the bikes they feel different and exciting. Of course its hard to tell lots of things from riding a bike after a few hours. I will spend more time in the saddle and will come back with a more extensive review on what it is to live with the motorcycles in the real world.

Recently I have been very vocal and been caught saying "Enough the next bike I buy is not going to be a Royal Enfield. The market is full of great motorcycles and its time to explore something new". Royal Enfield has just made me eat my words but it has made it hard to chew because I can't decide should I get an Interceptor or a Continental GT?

Did I hear someone say "both"?

Also See: Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 launched at Rs 2.5 lakh, Continental GT 650 at Rs 2.65 lakh, come with three-year warranty

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, Continental GT 650 prices leaked ahead of India launch

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