Rode the Twins
Vijay Krishnan Mar 20, 2019
Royal Enfield are experiencing a massive growth spurt these days and this is showcased by the all new parallel twin power plant and two new subsequent motorcycles, the Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 Twin. Although they have hit puberty very late, they have in fact, made good use of the income from their enviable sales, by taking the brand up a couple of notches and stepping up development of new platforms.
The introduction of the two motorcycles can be stated as a sign of things to come then, with Royal Enfield pulling all the stops and resurrecting a couple of their legendary motorcycles in their modern avatar.
I recently got the keys to the new twins from Royal Enfield. After really working the Interceptor and Continental GT 650 through some nice stretch of roads, I formed my opinions on the two and wrote a blog.
RE Continental GT 650 Twin
I was raring to have a go in the new Continental GT 650 as I have always been a sucker for cafe racers. And for this simple reason I picked it first.
I was so in love with the old GT 535, mainly because of how good it looked on the outside. The 535 GT was one of those bikes you could turn into a living room art piece. It was hopelessly gorgeous. Sadly though, the bike never came good as it looks promised and this was mainly due to its underwhelming engine. It was the single most weakest part in an otherwise fantastic fun machine. It shook and rattled at high speeds and killed your erection when you opened the throttle after cutting a corner.
Naturally, I went into the test being a bit sceptical about the new motorcycle. The setting for the test was some really neat roads around Udaipur that were a combination of some off-roading, some twisty bits and a straight dash on the brilliant highways of Rajasthan. The stage was set and I was off on my quest to find some clarity in a huge dust cloud of hype surrounding these motorcycles.
And straight from the off, I was surprised to see how nimble the motorcycle was. Despite adding a cylinder and then some to the old GT 535, the bike felt light and flickable. The first kilometre or so of unpaved rocky roads made it a baptism of fire for the new bike. Remarkably though, even after being much stiffer than the Interceptor, the GT handled the bad roads pretty decently and soaked up the bumps without crushing my spine. The tyres and ABS also did their job by keeping the uphill climb on these roads rid of drama.
These roads eventually opened up to the twisty bits and the bike slingshot forward in a wave of torque at the first proper twist of the throttle. I quickly realised that Royal Enfield are not mucking about from the way the bike rode. It was no longer a vibrating mess, rather a rigid and agile machine that was intended to just carve up winding roads like the one we were on. The bike had a wonderful frame on which everything was bolted on tight as a drum. It gives you immense confidence to lean harder in each corner and then serves up cartloads of power to blast you to the next.
The curves gave way to the glorious highway roads and this gave me the ideal opportunity to just hunker down and go full monty on the throttle. This was the true test for the new motor and it came up top trumps as I was soon going at triple digit speeds without even breaking a sweat. The extra gear and balancer shaft ensured that the bike had long legs and that it could sit comfortably at 120 kph all day long. And when it came to the matter of shaving off the speed, it did that brilliantly courtesy of the largest brake ever to be fitted on any Royal Enfield.
The more time I spent riding the GT, the more I was being impressed. Equally, this gave me ample time to start noticing the bad bits, chief among which was the riding comfort. The clip on bars and rigid seats meant I was itching for a break soon. This is however, a given when you are infact dealing with a thoroughbred cafe racer. Apart from this, the only real issue I had with the bike (both to be exact) was the fact that it had many parts from RE’s common parts bin slapped on it.
The list included most of the switchgear, mirrors lifted from the Classic and halogen bulbs for the lights and indicators. But I am not complaining again, as these are but mere specks in a galaxy of brilliance. RE have justified skimping out on higher quality switchgear and electronics by providing a fantastic drivetrain that belts out some serious grunt at a mouthwatering price, giving Triumph and Harley-Davidson all kinds of headaches in the process.
RE Interceptor 650
The Interceptor is the spiritual successor of the Interceptor from the 60’s that found such a cult following in laid back California with its beaches, surfing and hot rodding culture. The Interceptor 650 then, is in a way, the true heir to the new parallel twin unit as the original iteration had the same layout and similar displacement. Even the lines and ergonomics of the new motorcycle attempts to stay true to the original. This includes the old school badge on the tank with the modern font.
The Interceptor comes with basically the same guts as the Continental GT 650, sharing everything except the suspension tuning, with the GT having a stiffer set up to devour those curvy roads. Now where two differs is in the feel, due to variation in paint jobs and shape of the fuel tank, but mostly due to different riding positions. So, while the gorgeous Conti comes with an aggressive stance with its low set clip ons, rear set foot pegs and the typical cafe racer saddle, the Interceptor comes with a sensible and more relaxed riding position akin to that on the legendary Interceptor from the 60’s.
I rode the Interceptor on the highways once I got back in Delhi and was immediately in love! The motorcycle had the best bits from the Conti, which were the chassis and drivetrain and did away with the few niggles that would refrain us from getting one. Although it had a different feel to it while riding, it gave you tons of fun and all this, without stressing you a bit.
Now where the Continental GT comes up short, the Interceptor triumphs. It sort of hits a sweet spot in terms of its rider ergonomics, serving up a comfortable yet sporty riding position. The seat is moulded in a way as to accommodate some hard lean ins and the raised handlebars mean that you are in no way stressed after hours of riding. This makes for an overall tasty package. Spending more time on the saddle gave me a good sense of what this motorcycle was all about. Where the Conti was all about carrying over the essence of what a true Cafe Racer should be like, the Interceptor calls upon the spirit of its 60’s ancestor and gives you tons of fun. It put a smile on my face as I walked up to it for the first time and made sure I had it when I walked away after riding it. It comes over as one of those motorcycles that makes you forget about all the ruckus and makes sure you are focussed on only one sole thing, just having a good ol’ time.
Here is to sum it up -
Nothing much to say here actually, with both motorcycles having the same engine and drivetrain. They make identical figures of power and torque.
The Interceptor is available with six paint schemes, including the launch spec Orange Crush. Others include Ravishing Red, Silver Spectre, Mark Three, Baker Express and our personal favourite, Glitter and Dust.
The Continental Gt 650 meanwhile, comes with 5, including the launch spec Ice Queen. Others include Ventura Blue, Dr. Mayhem, Black Magic and our candidate for sell out paint scheme, Mister Clean.
Both bikes are very attractively priced, with the Continental GT Being the slightly expensive option. One faces a simple decision here, cafe racer or roadster motorcycle, each coming with its own price tag.
To summarise, here is our conclusion:
You should go for the Interceptor 650 Twin if :-
- You would want to go touring in any capacity.
- You want to save money and use it to accessorise the motorcycle.
- You have a girlfriend or a pillion rider of any sorts.
- You want more practicality and daily usability.
- You want to stand a better chance for mom’s approval.
- You are a fanboy of the whole 60’s California vibe.
You should go for the Continental GT 650 Twin if :-
- You want to turn more heads.
- You love riding solo.
- You want a cool motorcycle/drawing room art work.
- You want to feel like a Ton Up boy!
- You are into leaning the bike around corners.
Which of the Twins would you pick and why? Join the discussion.
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