September 08, 2021 By Maynard Marcelo Photos by Randy R. Silva-Netto

Bike Review: Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650

Royal Enfield is definitely on a roll. Make that a big time roll. After the successful Himalayan, the company recently introduced to the Philippine market the new 650cc twins; namely the Interceptor 650 twin and the GT Continental 650 twin. These bikes are getting rave reviews from the international motoring press lately. We first saw the two bikes at the EICMA 2018 in Milan, Italy last November and we can’t wait for it to arrive on our shores ever since. Last March 9, 2019, Royal Enfield Pilipinas launched the highly anticipated 650 Twins during the RidePH Cafe event held at the Metrotent in Ortigas, Pasig City. A few days later, we finally got our hands on the two bikes. But first, a brief history of the company.

Royal Enfield has been manufacturing motorcycles since 1901, effectively making them one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in the world. The company was founded in Redditch, UK in 1891 when founders R.W. Smith and Albert Eadie took over the Townsend Cycle Company. Soon after, they started supplying precision machine parts to the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, Middlesex. Their undertaking is renamed the Enfield Manufacturing Company Limited. In 1893, the company was renamed to Royal Enfield, with the word “Royal” lifted from the Royal Small Arms Company. The trademark ‘Made Like a Gun’ was introduced. 

Royal Enfield introduced the first Interceptor 700 in 1960. It was a modified version of the 692cc Constellation model. In 1962, the Interceptor 750 was introduced known as the Series 1 Interceptor powered by a 736cc parallel twin cylinder engine. This was followed by the Series 1A and Series 2 Interceptor until production stopped in 1970 after the company experienced financial difficulties.

The British Royal Enfield was dissolved in 1971. Thankfully, the Chennai based Enfield of India established in 1955 between Royal Enfield and Madras Motors, is doing very well. Enfield of India continued building the “Bullet” long after the Redditch, Worcestershire-based company was closed. Today Royal Enfield produces the Bullet 350, four variants of the Bullet Classic, Rumbler 500, Continental GT 535 Cafe Racer, Himalayan, and now the Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 Twin. 

Both the Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 Twin are powered by the all-new SOHC fuel-injected 648cc air/oil-cooled, 8 valve, parallel twin motor. Don’t be fooled by its old-school appearance, because underneath those sculpted and polished engine cases is a modern powerhouse that Royal Enfield claims already meets the stringent Euro 5 standards. It also features a forged 270-degree crossplane crankshaft that gives it the same syncopated exhaust note like a Ducati L-twin and Yamaha MT-07 parallel twin.

Other modern features incorporated on the motor are a slipper clutch and a 6-speed transmission designed specifically for the 650 Twins. The fuel injection and ABS is controlled by a Bosch ECU, and to eliminate unwanted vibrations, the motor has a gear-driven balance shaft ahead of the crankshaft. As a result, the engine is so smooth it is bolted directly to the double-downtube cradle frame for added rigidity. The Interceptor and the GT share exactly the same frame designed and developed by Harris Performance, the renowned UK frame constructor company that Royal Enfield bought in 2015. 

Press the starter button and you are immediately greeted by a sweet, melodious rumble from the two chrome finished upswept mufflers. Throttle response is smooth. Give it a handful of throttle and the tachometer quickly races to its 7500 rpm redline. While claimed power output for the 648cc twin is a modest 47 hp at 7250 rpm and 38 lb-ft of torque at 5250 rpm, what’s remarkable about the motor is how it dispenses its power.

There’s a widespread torque and midrange power in every gear; there’s really no reason to go beyond 7000rpm where the power noticeably tapers off. You could short shift to a higher gear and let the flat torque curve bring you up to speed real quick. Vibration is minimal approaching redline; they hardly blur the rearview mirrors. Clutch pull is light and the 6-speed transmission smooth and precise, with well spaced gearing to maximize the torque rich characteristic of the motor. On the open highway and a clear stretch of road, a 180 km/h top speed is easily attainable.   

Overall build quality of Royal Enfield bikes has improved a lot lately, and it’s quite noticeable on these two 650 Twins. You could tell that Royal Enfield poured a lot of thought into their design. If you look at the rear fender, it is designed in such a way that you could simply unscrew the lower plastic part for a cleaner and custom look. No chopping needed.

The analog gauges also have a quality look and feel to them. Other aspects about the 650 Twins that we love are the supple yet sporty suspension that provide a smooth ride over rotten pavement. The non-adjustable forks and twin rear shock absorbers supplied by Gabriel have fairly soft spring and damper rates that do an admirable job of keeping the chassis stable and true even when confronted by mid-corner bumps that would have most stiffly sprung sportbikes running wide. The rear shock absorbers have spring preload adjustments to compensate for additional weight when carrying a pillion.  

The stock Pirelli Phantom SportComps may not appear grippy, especially with their retro-looking tread pattern, but they actually provide excellent traction in a variety of riding conditions. And despite their relatively skinny 18-inch wheels, handling is delightfully neutral and quite predictable. The downside of these tires, however, is that they still require inner tubes and if you’ve been riding long enough, you know that fixing a puncture on inner tubes could be troublesome. Especially when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Providing stopping power on the front is a 320mm disc with a 2-piston ByBre (made by Brembo) floating caliper and 240mm disc on the rear with a 1-piston ByBre floating caliper. Both ends are controlled by the latest Bosch ABS that provide enough feel and feedback for experienced riders while not being overly powerful for novice riders hands. 

Ride wise, it’s amazing how two mechanically identical bikes can feel very different by simply changing the rider ergonomics. You see, while both bikes share the same sporty steering geometry of 24-degree rake and 106mm of trail, the Continental GT 650 Twin, in my opinion, feels more engaging to ride than the Interceptor 650.

That’s because the Continental GT 650 Twin, a Cafe Racer by design, has a lower clip-on handlebar and rear-set foot pegs that forces you into a decidedly sporty riding position with a forward weight bias. This gives you more feel of the front end which translates to more confidence when attacking corners. Don’t get the impression that the Continental GT 650 Twin is uncomfortable to ride because it’s not. It’s riding position reminds me of the Ducati Monster 797, which is always a good reference if you ask me. 

The Interceptor 650 on the other hand trades that sporty attitude with a more laid back design, having a high-rise tubular handlebar with a bolt-on crossbar paired with a lower, more forward placed foot pegs for a more relaxed, upright riding position. The Interceptor 650 also turns noticeably quicker than the GT because its wider handlebars offer more leverage.

The tradeoff for this however is more pronounced wind drag at elevated speeds. But if you ride within the legal speed limit, then you will find the Interceptor 650 the most accommodating bike of the two. It’s just begging you to ride all the time. And you can. With a comfortable seat, upright ergo, huge tank range, smooth and eager motor, you could just hop on it and follow the horizon. 

As great as these 650 Twins may be, they are not without their faults. These are just minor gripes, mind. On Continental GT 650 Twin we tested, the fuel gauge is quite pessimistic. The low fuel warning blinked when there’s 5 liters of fuel left on its 12.5 liter capacity. We didn’t experience that on the Interceptor 650 with its bigger 13.7 liter fuel tank capacity, though. But I find it hard to prop it up on its centerstand, which it has, and the Continental GT 650 Twin doesn’t. I think a little longer cantilever should give it better leverage.

But aside from those I mentioned, it’s really hard to find any fault on the 650 Twins, which is impressive considering their very accessible price point. As of this writing, the Interceptor is priced at PhP365,000, and the Continental GT 650 Twin at PhP375,000. These 650 Twins certainly spell trouble for other manufacturers who have similar retro twins in their line up, and also trouble for those buyers who would find it hard to decide which of the two bikes to buy. We say if you could afford it, then buy both. For the price of one Italian, you could buy two of these beauties. These bikes represent great value for money.       


Interceptor 650 Specs:

Engine: Parallel Twin Cylinder, SOHC, 4 valve per cylinder, 4 stroke, Air/Oil cooled

Displacement: 648 cc

Max Power: 47 bhp @ 7250 rpm

Max Torque: 38 lb-ft @ 5250 rpm

Transmission: 6 speed

Seat Height: 804 mm

Tire, front: 100/90-18

Tire, rear: 130/70-18

Brakes, front/rear:  Disc/Disc ABS

Fuel Capacity:  13.7 liters

Curb Weight:  202 kg

Price: PhP 365,000

+: Superb build quality, smooth and eager motor, neutral handling, ABS, Slipper Clutch

-: Heavy to put on centerstand

C! Rating: 10/10 


Continental GT 650 Twin

Engine: Parallel Twin Cylinder, SOHC, 4 valve per cylinder, 4 stroke, Air/Oil cooled

Displacement: 648 cc

Max Power: 47 bhp @ 7250 rpm

Max Torque: 38 lb-ft @ 5250 rpm

Transmission: 6 speed

Seat Height: 790 mm

Tire, front: 100/90-18

Tire, rear: 130/70-18

Brakes, front/rear:  Disc/Disc ABS

Fuel Capacity:  12.5 liters

Curb Weight:  198 kg

Price: PhP 375,000

+: Superb build quality, smooth and eager motor, neutral handling, ABS, Slipper Clutch

-: Pessimistic fuel gauge

C! Rating: 10/10

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