Following my preliminary evaluation of the Royal Enfield INT650 in August of 2020, I did what most journalists ought to by no means do, at the least for these on a finances: I put one within the storage on a everlasting foundation. That’s usually a nasty concept as a result of it appears there’s at all times one thing higher across the subsequent bend within the bike market. However towards the percentages, I believe I made the proper name this time.
Proudly owning that factor you simply evaluated could be a lure for these of us that evaluation bikes, cars and associated tech objects because the storage fills with toys whereas our meager financial institution accounts drain away. However in fact, regardless of reviewing an extended record of bikes over the past 12 months (or so), solely the INT650 resulted in an effort to provide a evaluation machine a everlasting dwelling, so robust was my response. And a year-plus later, the allure of the INT650 continues unabated.
I hoped to publish this story final 12 months after a real calendar 12 months of driving the INT650 and my different evaluation bikes, however as everyone knows, issues occurred. Like many individuals, I hunkered down with my household for the pandemic, particularly after my partner, a well being care employee, fell in poor health from Covid. She has since recovered, however it took practically a 12 months, and a few signs stay. Then, I suffered a number of extreme accidents in a non-motorcycle crash that stored me out of the saddle for over 5 months. So in precise driving time… it’s been a few 12 months.
That Particular One thing
I used to be initially skeptical of the brand new 650 P-Twins from Royal Enfield, a model that started life in Britain as Enfield again on the flip of the twentieth century, and after folding within the U.Ok. in 1967, it carried on in India, the place they primarily continued to assemble the identical bikes, practically unchanged, for many years.
Like some type of fashionable time machines, Royal Enfield’s iconic Bullet and different fashions have been barely modified from 12 months to 12 months after which decade to decade, probably as a result of it wasn’t like numerous modifications or updates have been actually wanted. The Enfield Bullet was (and is) the Jeep of India, its reliable, over-built 350 and 500cc air-cooled single cylinder engines pok-pok-poking across the vast country’s countrysides and cities, the place each half was well-known, simply sourced and spares are plentiful. For a lot of in India, the Enfield Bullet is bike faith, a lot as Harley-Davidson cruisers are within the U.S. I had questions in regards to the bike long-term: Would the INT650 be dependable? Rideable? Even relatable for this American proprietor? The primary factor I cherished about classic bikes I owned prior to now was driving them, not burning countless hours engaged on them. However my evaluation bike appeared like a sweetheart, so I took an opportunity.
Change is inevitable, even for an establishment like Royal Enfield. Because the twenty first century approached, the bike maker was purchased up by the Eicher Group, a big agricultural tools maker with enlargement plans for the Royal Enfield model, and the powers that be started to modernize manufacturing with options like gas injection, disc brakes and different fashionable touches. However on stability, the Bullet remained the Bullet. Then, Royal Enfield was found (or rediscovered) by the broader world as Eicher started to develop worldwide markets, particularly because the new bikes may now cross worldwide emissions and security laws. Riders in search of a easy, inexpensive, non-threatening bike with simple retro fashion started to snap them up, and Royal Enfield, flush with Eicher’s backing, purchased iconic frame-maker Harris Performance and started to take a look at new mannequin designs, together with a quicker, sportier parallel twin primarily based on RE’s stylish 1960’s hot rod, the twin-cylinder Interceptor. In 2017, the INT650 – or Interceptor 650 exterior the U.S. market – debuted, joined by the mechanically similar however extra cafe-styled 650 GT.
I love classic bikes, as they’re time machines of types to a less complicated kind of driving with out computer-aided something, however they’re additionally “classic” relating to barely-there drum brakes, suspect electrics, unreliable reliability and upkeep requiring encyclopedic ranges of arcane information. Stuff breaks on previous bikes – a lot. And efficiency pales in comparison with fashionable bikes, though I’m OK with that. However the brand new INT650 immediately appeared to meet a fantasy product area of interest I noticed hardly ever addressed by most different fashionable bike makers: A really vintage-style bike blended with fashionable applied sciences that was snug, dependable, inexpensive and, in fact, not from a serious world-dominating bike maker. On my first experience aboard the INT650 I acquired, I used to be completely smitten. What magic was this?
The 445-pound Interceptor/INT650 options an air-cooled 647cc parallel twin that pays homage to its namesake, however can be strongly harking back to the BSAs, Nortons and Triumphs of the period. And whereas Triumph has punched out their fashionable P-Twin classics to 900cc and extra, Royal Enfield caught with the old-school 650cc displacement, which was thought of a severe “massive bike” again within the day. Now, it’s a superb starter dimension for a lot of riders, or a just-right displacement for classic bike lovers like myself. Quick? The INT650 received’t embarrass any fashionable sportbikes by way of efficiency, however that’s not the purpose, after all, despite the fact that twisting the throttle to the cease does lead to grin-inducing acceleration. And like these previous classic bikes I really like a lot, the INT650 is a really mechanical bike. In an period of electrification (and I personal an electrical automotive), the INT650’s motor is a syncopated cacophony of ticks, tocks and different joyful noises, however it’s additionally a easy runner because of some fashionable counter-balancing know-how.
Enfield has seen match to provide 47-horsepower twin within the INT650 a lumpy 270-degree firing order for a sonorous soundtrack (particularly with some aftermarket pipes), and added such fashionable niceties as a six-speed gearbox, an oil cooler, a slipper clutch and gas injection. But it nonetheless seems to be as retro as ever, with twin rear shocks, a black tube-section cradle body, and the right seat/tank line entrance to again. A spherical headlight, braced motocross-style chrome handlebars and good previous spherical, analog clocks (pushed by digital information) full the look. Together with my long-departed Norton Commando and Honda CB400F, it’s one of the best wanting bike I’ve ever owned. All over the place I’m going, this trendy bike will get consideration.
However I don’t experience it for that focus, though it’s a pleasant bonus. I really like my time within the saddle of INT650 as a result of it’s simply plain enjoyable to experience, and with some key equipment, it’s even enjoyable to experience an extended methods. On the town, the clutch is easy in metropolis site visitors, making stoplight takeoffs straightforward. The INT650 is comparatively svelte and slices by site visitors. The only entrance Brembo “ByBre” disc brake is massive, highly effective and supplies good suggestions, with one other disc out again, each with ABS. Thanks to border design influenced by Harris Efficiency, the INT650 has what I take into account glorious street manners, even when issues get curvy.
Once more, this isn’t some full-bore monitor bike, however get it on a twisty street and it’s surprisingly agile and enjoyable. The rear shocks are adjustable for preload whereas the entrance finish has no adjustability, however it tracks and turns with specific confidence as arrange by the manufacturing facility. I can actually scrape the pegs if I get actually aggressive, however I’ve discovered that my most pleasant rides on the again roads are when the bike is flowing by the corners, the engine within the meat of its powerband, singing a staccato mechanical aria as I energy out of turns full throttle after which rev match for the downshift heading into the subsequent nook. On the boil, the INT650 engages all of your abilities and senses, identical to my classic bikes used to do. It’s only a higher (and safer) general expertise.
And that’s the fantastic thing about a 650cc engine not tuned for the moon: Twisting the grip to the cease leads to satisfying noise and acceleration, however it doesn’t attempt to launch you into orbit like so many bikes do at this time. There are every kind of “efficiency” metrics we decide bikes by, however actually, how a lot it may terrify you isn’t one of the best cause to purchase a specific mannequin. Ridden foolishly, the INT650 can actually get you into bother, however to me it’s extra like a loyal driving coach, pushing me to hold only a bit extra pace, smoothness, and confidence by the subsequent part of bends.
Get Outta City
It doesn’t matter what bike I’ve, I at all times prefer to see what sort of long-distance functionality it possesses, and in 2021 I kitted out the INT650 with a number of touring togs, together with some crash/freeway bars, a firmer Royal Enfield touring seat (fortunately similar in look to the inventory seat), adjustable mirrors, saddlebags, a small fly display and some different bits. General, the looks of the INT650 stayed the identical, and I mounted an extended, multi-day journey on the bike out to Jap Oregon.
With its pure seating place, flat bars and keen motor, the INT650 was a succesful, snug touring platform. On the open street, the six-speed transmission is well-spaced and correctly geared for tooling down the open street at authorized speeds plus a bit extra. The three.6-gallon fuel tank has simply sufficient vary, as fuel stops have been a superb probability to stretch after two hours and alter at pace throughout Oregon’s wilder areas. Whereas I’ve owned and ridden many luxurious touring bikes, I favor a way more “fundamental” method alongside the traces of the late Ted Simon on his Triumph as he circled the globe within the Seventies. With the rise of recent journey bikes, an analogous journey appears virtually straightforward (it’s not), but when somebody urged (and financed) a ‘round-the-world expedition on some INT650’s, I’d not hesitate. Luxurious? No. Succesful? Undoubtedly.
Issues I’ve encountered? None, actually, exterior of a balky starter button that also labored with a second or third push. It was changed underneath guarantee once I introduced the INT650 in for its preliminary post-break-in tuneup, which consisted of a valve adjustment and another checks for about $450. In any other case, not a single hiccup and the paint, shiny surfaces and different working gear seems to be and works pretty much as good at this time because it all did when it arrived.
It’s mid-March in Portland as I write this, and the climate has been stereotypical of Oregon since November: rain, fog, some snow, darkish at 5pm. However there’s a brief window of dry, sunny days with temperatures within the 40s and 50s developing, and I’m wanting ahead to slipping the INT650 out from underneath its bike cowl and waking it from its winter slumber. I could experience it throughout city to a favourite restaurant or to see my dad and mom. Or I could loop round Marine Drive alongside the Columbia River, after which jump over to the twisting Columbia River Historic Freeway to soak up Multnomah Falls because it gushes with winter runoff. It doesn’t actually matter the place I’m going (so long as I’m pretty heat that’s) as I do know I’ll be smiling because the INT650 ticks down the street, a cadent burble trailing behind me as I search for an excuse to open the throttle.
A Enjoyable Future
It’s uncommon to discover a materials object in our retail-cycle fashionable world that constantly brings pleasure, and I’m completely satisfied to have discovered one within the INT650. I began driving bikes many years in the past for the enjoyable of it, and the Royal Enfield INT650 brings me again to that easy, chic feeling of contentment on each experience, blended with a bit of pleasure and satisfaction. It comprehend it goes towards the grain to say I discovered my “dream bike” for $6,000, however bike riders comprehend it’s not about how a lot you spend on the bike, it’s extra about the way it matches you, mentally maybe greater than bodily. On the Royal Enfield INT650, I really feel the enjoyable of driving come by loud and clear, and I’m wanting ahead to many extra rides on my dream bike for a few years to return.
For 2022, the Royal Enfield INT650 returns comparatively unchanged, with small updates and a few new coloration to select from.