Every now and then a motorcycle comes along that’s just right. Looks right, sounds right and feels right. Not too powerful, too complex nor too expensive. A motorcycle that evokes the simple pleasure of riding for riding’s sake.
Well, make that two motorcycles.
Royal Enfield’s new 650 Twins share a rolling chassis, but each has a different personality and both are modern takes on legendary models from the company’s past. With upright seating and a relaxed style, the Interceptor takes its name from a model built for the American market in the 1960s, which was a lighter, higher-performance version of Royal Enfield’s vertical twin-powered Constellation. (Editor’s Note: Due to a trademark dispute, Royal Enfield changed the name to INT650.)
Like the original, the new INT650 has a wide handlebar, a teardrop tank, a bench seat and dual exhausts. Its fraternal twin is the Continental GT, a classic cafe racer with clip-ons, rear-set pegs, a sculpted tank and a solo humpback seat that replaces the 535cc single-powered model that’s been in Royal Enfield’s lineup since 2014. Both modern-day GTs were inspired by the 1965 Continental GT 250, Britain’s first production café racer and one of the fastest 250s of its day.
Royal Enfield’s Long History in Brief
At the 650 Twins press launch in Santa Cruz, California, I put more than 100 miles on each bike, the lone Yankee in a fast group of British and French riders. Although the INT650 better suited my size and disposition, both were easy and satisfying to ride, with a burbling sound from the exhaust, linear throttle response, intuitive handling and an assist-and-slipper clutch and a 6-speed gearbox that were so effortless to use that I never gave them a second thought. The view from the cockpit is straight out of the ’60s — round mirrors, twin analog gauges and an actual ignition key instead of one of them newfangled electronic fobs. Over the course of two days, we chased each other through the redwoods and up and down winding mountain roads like kids playing a game of tag. And when it was all said and done, Rider got test bikes of each model for further testing on home turf.
Related: 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan | First Ride Review
Designed from a clean sheet of paper, the INT650 and Continental GT are the first truly global models for Royal Enfield, which is on track to build nearly one million motorcycles next year, mostly for its home market in India. CEO Siddhartha Lal is a die-hard enthusiast; at the launch, he held his own when he joined our group for part of the GT test ride, entertaining us with the sound of the S&S pipes on his accessorized bike. Lal is also more hands-on that your typical chief executive. He was involved in every step of the development and testing of the Twins, and he personally performed the 1,000-point quality control inspection on one of the first bikes to roll off the production line.
“Royal Enfield has British roots, an Indian soul, and a global approach,” said Lal, addressing more than 100 moto-journalists from around the world at the Twins launch. “We make motorcycles that we really want to ride. We want to bring back romance and fun to motorcycling with classic, characterful, uncomplicated but engaging motorcycles that work in everyday conditions—on twisty roads, on highways, on city roads. We made the Twins for people around the world who appreciate these values.”
Amen to that.
At the heart is an all-new air/oil-cooled, 648cc parallel-Twin with large cooling fins and hand-polished aluminum covers that give it a period look. A single overhead cam actuates four valves per cylinder, and the valves have screw-and-locknut adjusters. Thanks to a single-piece forged, counterbalanced crankshaft with a 270-degree firing interval, the Twin revs up smoothly and emits a pleasant, rumbling exhaust note. The engine happily burns regular fuel, with a mild 9.5:1 compression ratio and Bosch fuel injection and engine management to keep everything running like clockwork. Designed for a broad range of riders, the engine feels understressed and churns out user-friendly power and a broad spread of torque. Claimed output is 47 horsepower at 7,250 rpm (redline is 7,500) and 38 lb-ft of torque at 5,250 rpm, enough oomph to make both bikes entertaining yet nonthreatening.
Designed in conjunction with chassis specialists Harris Performance, the Twins share a tubular-steel double cradle frame that contributes to their no-nonsense styling and provides hammer-like durability. A short wheelbase, sharp steering geometry, narrow tires and modest weight (473 pounds for the INT650, 461 for the GT) bestow the Twins with effortless maneuverability, yet when tucked in and going for the ton, they’re reassuringly stable. Built to meet aggressive price targets, certain concessions had to be made, such as non-adjustable levers, fenders made of plastic instead of metal and suspension adjustment limited to five steps of preload on the dual rear shocks. But by no means do these bikes feel cheap. Even when ridden aggressively with my 200-plus pounds in the saddle, front and rear damping is quite good with no harshness, wallowing or pogoing. Single-disc brakes front and rear with calipers made by Bybre (a subsidiary of Brembo) provide sufficient braking power, certainly enough for these bikes’ weight and slender Pirelli Phantom Sportcomp tires, and Bosch 2-channel ABS is standard on both models.
Comfort is about what you’d expect on bikes such as these. The Interceptor’s higher handlebar, midmount footpegs and wider, longer seat offers a relaxed, eyes-up riding position. The Continental GT’s lower clip-on handlebars, higher rear-set pegs and narrow solo seat put more weight on the wrists and arch in the back — sporty but not overly aggressive or stretched-out. Both bikes have chain final drive and 18-inch spoked wheels with tube-type tires, but only the INT650 has a centerstand.
After years of selling its 350cc and 500cc Bullets and Classics–three million in India alone–and adding the affordable Himalayan adventure bike to its lineup, Royal Enfield has positioned itself to be a major player in the middleweight segment. The new 650 Twins have a real magnetism, especially when admired up close and even more so when ridden. They’re the genuine article and they’re a real value, with a base price of $5,799 for the Interceptor and $5,999 for the Continental GT, which includes a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty with free roadside assistance. For that price, I’d gladly park one of each in my garage.
Related: Rider’s Guide to New/Updated Street Motorcycles for 2019
2019 Royal Enfield INT650 / Continental GT Specs
Base Price: $5,799 / $5,999
Warranty: 3 yrs., unltd. miles
Type: Air/oil-cooled, transverse parallel-Twin
Bore x Stroke: 78.0 x 67.8mm
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: NA miles
Fuel Delivery: EFI
Lubrication System: NA
Transmission: 6-speed, cable actuated assist-and-slipper wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Charging Output: NA
Frame: Tubular-steel double-cradle w/ steel box-section swingarm
Wheelbase: 55.1 in.
Rake/Trail: 24 degrees/4.2 in.
Seat Height: 31.6 in. / 31.1 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm stanchions, no adj., 4.5-in. travel
Rear: Dual shocks, adj. for spring preload, 3.5-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 320mm disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper & ABS
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ 1-piston pin-slide caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Spoked, 2.5 x 18 in.
Rear: Spoked, 3.5 x 18 in.
Tires, Front: Tube-type, 100/90-18
Rear: Tube-type, 130/70-18
Wet Weight: 473 / 461 lbs.
Load Capacity: 402 / 414 lbs.
GVWR: 875 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.6 / 3.3 gals.
MPG: 87 PON min., 50.8 (avg)
Estimated Range: 183 / 168 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 3,900
Thanks for the writeup on these two 650 parallel twins. I’m 65 and started riding at 8, so these appeal to my gezzerish self.
I’m 70 and my story’s the same. Had a ’62 (I think) Matchless G-12 when I was 15. Started riding at about 7 on a Velo Solex provided by my grandmother.
similar. Started with parallel twins (Honda 350 and 450, RE 700 and 750, 3 Norton 750s) then switched to Moto Guzzis in the late 70’s. Like the new RE but wonder if i shouldn’t get a Street Twin (Only Triumph i’ve owned was a Spitfire MkIII)
I would truly be interested in the INT 650 if it was water cooled. Therefore it’s the Triumph Bonneville T100 for me.
I am about to test ride a T100 and INT650 back to back. I wonder if the $3k price difference is going to put the T100 back in the showroom.
It did for me! Less weight and better looks in my opinion. Put the fun back into riding (not that I don’t love every ride I ever took in 53 years of riding.
Water-cooling is what is currently keeping me from buying the Bonne. I have never owned a water-cooled bike in 43 years, and I don’t want to start now. I consider it to be unnecessary complication and weight, on a bike that is not designed nor intended to wring every last HP out.
I ride a 2014 Continental GT that I absolutely love and I came off an Aprilia to the Royal Enfield.
that being said I love my bike and would never give it up but there might be room for one more.
Cant wait to test ride it.
That Interceptors is one fine-looking motorcycle.
I’m in Love.
Carl in Detroit.
Royal Enfield addict.
As a former owner of a Yamaha XS650F, I’m glad to see another middle-weight machine suitable for whole day or weekend rides. I prefer retro styling to some of the strange looking new style bikes. If the performance is similar to my old bike, I’d be satisfied. The Yamaha could get on the highway easily (rated at 0-60 mph as 5.8 seconds–OK for 1979!) and cruise all day at 75 mph. I had that bike for many years. Highway comfort, good fuel mileage (no looking for gas stations all the time) and adequate handling are the most important things to me. Add a low padded backrest to make my wife feel secure and we’re on the road.
If Royal Enfield develops a decent dealer network and the bike proves to be reliable, then they’ve got a buyer.
I’ve had three XS650’s over the years. I loved them, but no comparison to my INT650. Especially if you want to look at the bike in the garage with a cool one or want to ride it. More power, smoother, better suspension and brakes, sound, etc. I added the S&S silencers and what a great sound. I have a BMW R1200RS and the RE650 in the garage-never quite sure which one to ride!
What about a 650 Himalayan!
Pretty cool, pretty cool. If I were in the market for a basic yet iconic bike, these would be on the list.
One of the first things I notice about any motorcycle these days is the exhaust system. Most these days look like they were styled by a Star Wars fan. These Enfields along with the Bonnevilles look like a MC should.
Having not owned a bike for 35 years (my last was a Norton Commando), I’ve been considering riding again. This Enfield looks interesting, especially if a decent 750 bore kit becomes available 😀
They are available S & S makes a 750 and a 853cc kit.
These bikes really look good and looking to be the next dealer. The prices are as low and reasonable as anything I have seen and the warranty is great.
They’ve captured the correct 1960’s look and from the road tests I’ve read to day, I think RE may be on to a winner.
The Interceptor would make a great daily commuter if they offered a few optional add-ons such as heated grips, rear-rack with a top-box and a full-size windshield to block rain/cold. I have my 2012 Honda CBR 250R-ABS fitted as such but it’s getting long in the tooth with over 30k commuter miles. I’d love to get this as my next commuter bike.
Great looking bikes! They remind me of those that I rode in the ’50s & ’60s BUT with better fueling, better ignition, better lighting and better brakes. What’s not to love??
When word of a new RE Interceptor first came out, I wished RE would come to their senses and release it in a 750 (or even 850). We all know now that we are getting a 650. But reading between the lines as more info comes out, I realized that the bike is being offered initially as a 650 and at this unusually low price point to get people riding Royal Enfields. After they get the bike established, we will see a more expensive 750 (Thruxton) performance model and certainly a street scrambler. Recall that in 2001, the new Bonneville came out with 790 cc displacement. a year or so later we saw the more expensive T100 with the 865 cc engine that would eventually appear in all the Bonnevilles. Royal Enfield is wisely following the successful Triumph playbook. But they need to finally get these bikes to the dealers in America while there are a lot of us old enthusiasts still buying motorcycles and riding them.
I like what I see in the 650 twins. I see a big bore kit along with bigger displacement twins coming down the road. I am certainly planning to buy one when I get the chance – it’d be the first new vehicle I have ever bought.
I’m putting down a deposit on one in glitter and dust (chrome) tomorrow. It’ll look great next to the ’69 Interceptor II that I just acquired! Thanks for the great review.
I want to give this bike serious consideration; however with a 28′ ” inseam it is disappointingly tall for me. Not unrideable, but after 30 yrs of riding I really like to get more than my tip toes on the ground.
I’ve seen a couple of reviews here in the uk by guys who, like me, are only 5’6″ they both said that they could get their feet flat on the ground on both bikes (the interceptor is slightly taller but the seat is narrower. I think that we’ll be fine.
Remember…28″ is UNLOADED seat height. A better indicator would be “unloaded” and “loaded – 165 lbs” (with disclaimer of mid or full preload). Depending on your inseam and weight, the bike will probably fit you. Check it out at the dealer.
Good point Mike!
I was able to demo a GT at the local Harley Dealership here in Oregon. Coming from a Yamy FJR I can tell you the engine, for a 650, was very sweet, smooth and torquee (is that a word) . The sound of the bike, engine whine and exhaust note are also very cool and made the bike that much more fun to ride. The transmission was superb. Easier to shift than my FJR with no false neutrals. Mirrors were junk and would need to be replaced. I thought the switch gear was a step below Japanese bike standards, but functioned just fine. The dealer added destination and setup fees, the “OTD” price totaling 7.4K, a price point that seems to be high. I could buy a two yr old Triumph Street Twin or 2018 Vstrom for the same price, both bikes with proven reliability. So the price point, here in the PNW makes the purchase decision a little harder.
I found a bike at a Triumph dealership up in Seattle that’s priced below 6K.
No torquee is not a word! Torquey however, is!
Brought up on 500 and 650 BSA twins, every model up to a brand new Rocket Gold Star, they look to be back to what many Moto cyclists will want. Especially us more mature ones, we have had our super sports triples and fours, two and four strokes. Now perhaps time to get back to a 650 twin, just the right amount of power and torque, better reliability etc. , than what we had in the sixties and seventies ?. Good luck Royal Enfield, stay with what you do best. Looked at your factory videos, very up to date and super modern production lines, mostly hand built. Brian WILLIAMSON.
I have had big bikes for a long time. Currently have two Harleys and a T120 Bonneville. Just got a RE interceptor. Why, cause it’s so retro, I guess. I’m 71 years old, 185 lbs Lb6 ft 1 in. After 400 miles I love this bike. It fits me, looks good, sounds good, handles very well. It makes my Triumph seem heavy, which it is not. Very fun to ride. Enfield is in the process of establishing dealerships in the U.S. I have 3 in a 75 mile radius. Check out all the You Tube videos. It’s Feb. now and I’m looking forward to warm weather riding. I bet this turns into my favorite bike. Time will tell.
Own Interceptor 650! Gobs of fun! That motor. Fun at any speed and it has a gobs of it. Price point is amazing. Ride it every day . Cruise at 80 no problem. Top speed is 105 laying on tank. Looove it!
I’ve got a silver one coming! REALLY looking forward to having fuel injection for once (at least since I stupidly got rid or my 02 Speed Triple). This will become my everyday possible rider
I have to laugh a bit at all these comments suggesting that a 650cc is somehow a small bike. My, how times have changed. Back in 1972, my father rode from Vancouver to Halifax on a Yamaha 175cc, with camping gear. Granted, today’s freeways are a lot busier and faster, but people are still going on great treks around the world on 125s and scooters.
I am a proud owner of the int650. I got the s&s pipes and when you take out the baffles it sounds INCREDIBLE. I just ordered the 750 bore kit and I think that is going to be the money shot.
[…] Every now and then a motorcycle comes along that’s just right. Looks right, sounds right and feels right. Not too powerful, too complex nor too expensive. A motorcycle that evokes the simple pleasure of riding for riding’s sake – ridermagazine.com […]
I’ve had my Ravishing Red Interceptor for three months now and could NOT be happier. I was out the door for 6K including two matching helmets. So much low end torque makes me grin like an idiot. I have no negative issues to report with the suspension or the brakes. I love having the sixth gear…kind of like overdrive!
Due to strong business demands, I have less than 500 miles on it, but am loving my 12th motorcycle, and most evenings, you can find me in the garage, just staring at it.
Now have 3,100 miles on my Interceptor w/ S&S pipes and air cleaner. I re-read all the comments above (including mine) and nothings has changed. It’s still the funnest bike I’ve ever owned. That “little” 650 motor and tranny are just a hoot. I love the torque at all RPM’s. And I Continue to walk out at night to the garage when I can’t sleep just to look at it. Personally I can’t see increasing the motor size; I’ve got a couple 100+ horsepower bikes if I want to Go Fast; the RE fits that perfect around town, back country two-lane road genre here in the Central Rockies. The 18″ wheels give it an edge up on gravel roads over my 17″ wheeled bikes too. My only little gripe is the kickstand it too short and thus the bike leans over too far (a concern on hot tarmac). I love it.
Is the gear change on the left or right?
It’s on the lefthand side.
I’d be very interested if they made one of these 650s in a scrambler with high pipes,skid plate,braced handle bar,semi knobby tires etc,something along the lines of the old Honda CL-450.
Best looking retro made. I was very impressed with a test ride. I thought it was the smoothest bike I have ridden next to my 6cyl Wing. My biggest gripe is it should have been a 750 with 60 hp. Lighter would also be nice. Still, I’m really tempted to add one to my stable just because it is the distilled essence of the joy of being on two wheels.
One of 5 bikes that l own including a Street Twin
Both bikes are similar in many ways. Triumph is not worth 30% more in my opinion. Both are built in Asia to a high standard. Great after market parts are very cheap and available from India directly. I have new Slip Ons, leather comfort seat, heated grips, windscreen, and skid plate that cost less than $500 total.