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Long Term Review

Living with a… Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (Month 2)

Retro bikes may look cool but what are they like to live with? We spend some time with the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 to find out

Dan Trent

Words by: Dan Trent

Published on 14 March 2024 | 0 min read

Classically styled bikes have been a huge hit in recent years, now out-selling sports bikes in the UK. Which is quite the shift in tastes, and perhaps reflective of the wider demographic changes in the folk riding motorbikes these days. This may sound worrying for an industry dependent on attracting younger riders rather than oldies indulging in a bit of nostalgia but, in fact, there’s a strong hipster following for retro bikes as well. Which makes sense, given style and affordability are both big motivating factors for young riders, generally modest power outputs also opening up ‘big bike’ bragging rights for those on a restricted A2 licence. Something reborn names like BSA and Royal Enfield along with the likes of Mash, Herald and Mutt all work to their advantage by leveraging their cheaper Indian or Chinese production costs to hit temptingly accessible price points. A sweet spot Royal Enfield has absolutely nailed with its 650 range of twin-cylinder models. At around two grand less than an equivalent Triumph Bonneville this Interceptor 650 looks an absolute steal as well. But what’s it like to live with a retro as your daily ride? Time to find out!
Skip to: Month 1 – First impressions count Month 2 – Reality check

What is it?

  • Model: Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
  • Version: Interceptor 650
  • Spec level: Black Pearl
  • Options fitted: None
  • Price as tested: £6,599

We like

  • Fabulous looks
  • Retro authenticity
  • Value for money

We don’t like

  • Crude suspension
  • Outpaced by some rivals
  • Keeping it looking nice

Month 1 – First impressions count

Dan says: “It may only cost £6,599 but to my eyes it looks a million dollars with its timeless, classic style”

My accelerated path into motorcycling has been quite the whirlwind, and I’ve been lucky enough to try a wide selection of bikes so far. Even in that context the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 is a bit different, and quite the mood shift from the of-the-moment Honda Hornet CB750 I was running previously with its oodles of power, configurable rider modes, quickshifter and TFT screens. None of that on the Enfield. So, how am I adapting? Well, it may only cost £6,599 but to my eyes it looks a million dollars with its timeless classic style. Even my bike sceptical dad had to admit his admiration for it when I called by for a brew on my first proper ride out, his attitude to my mid-life motorcycle awakening thus far as enthusiastic as if I’d tried the same back when I was 17! In terms of hardware the Interceptor 650 is the more mellow flipside to the racier Continental GT and part of Royal Enfield’s wider 650 range, which represents a big step up from its popular single-cylinder 350s in terms of performance and presence. The air-cooled 648cc parallel-twin puts out 47 horsepower, which is down somewhat on the 65 horsepower of the 900cc Triumph Bonneville T100 and equivalent Moto Guzzi V7 850. While both can be restricted for riders on an A2 licence the Enfield nails that limit right out of the box with no modifications necessary, while also undercutting both by a healthy margin. Which, given insurance costs for new and younger riders, is a massive plus. True, the parts, finish and lack of modern bells and whistles is reflected in the price as well. But you’ll be too dazzled by the reflections from the chrome exhausts and big aluminium crankcase cover to be bothered by that for long, and it nails the important bits perfectly. Saying that, the idea of covering them in winter road grime and salt is somewhat less appealing and, at the moment, it’s a case of grabbing brief windows in the weather forecast for opportunities to ride. First impressions suggest it’s as easy going and fun as the looks suggest. But more on that next time.

Mileage: 116 miles Fuel consumption: 55.6mpg (measured)

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Month 2 – Reality check

Dan says: “I wonder if it could do with being a bit louder, given above 60mph and with my earplugs in I can’t hear the engine at all”

Different bikes have different talents and I’m already thinking that, perhaps, the middle of winter is not the best time to be riding a retro. Which I should have realised even without having swapped straight from a decidedly more modern Honda Transalp adventure bike but, hey, I’m still new to this! In its favour the Interceptor is an inherently friendly bike, feeling lower than its 805mm seat height suggests and easier to manoeuvre than you’d expect for its hefty 217kg. For a beginner rider it’s very easy to get along with, and while it’s the first bike I’ve ridden without a gear indicator this hasn’t bothered me, given the old-school rev-counter gives you a visual reference for where you are in the rev range and the vibrations through your backside a very clear physical one. So, even if I lose track of whichever gear I happen to be in, it’s pretty obvious whether or not I need to click up or down the pleasingly mechanical gearbox before opening the throttle! Early-on I was told in no uncertain terms ABS is an absolute game-changer in terms of safety aids for new riders, so I’m pleased this is one modern innovation the Enfield includes, meanwhile. True, there are none of the fancy electronic rider modes or configurable traction control of the Hornet. But with the mellow power delivery that doesn’t feel too much of a concern and I’m glad I persevered with perfecting my rev-matched gear changes on the Honda, even though it had a quickshifter. Tech like that is all very well but I’m wary of leaning on it too hard and getting lazy, pride dictating I want to ride ‘properly’ before leaning too hard on the labour-saving rider aids. So that’s all good, and I really enjoy the Interceptor’s unfiltered character, the air-cooled engine sounding and feeling more authentic than Triumph’s liquid-cooled twins on ‘modern classics’ like the Scrambler 900 I enjoyed recently. Down on power and sophistication, admittedly. But similarly torquey in character, and flexible enough to enjoy the kind of relaxed riding the bike encourages. I especially love the throaty sound of the exhausts, especially on the overrun. But I wonder if it could do with being a bit louder, given above 60mph and with my earplugs in I can’t hear the engine at all. And, yes, I’ve already been browsing aftermarket options for doing something about that… One thing I’m not enjoying so much in the wintry conditions is the handling on the retro looking Pirelli tyres and somewhat crude suspension. A lack of damping means the tyres ‘skip’ over bumpy surfaces, which wouldn’t be an issue on dry roads but in intermediate neither-wet-nor-dry conditions leaves me uncertain on grip levels, and a bit nervous at times. Weirdly it’s less of an issue when it’s properly wet because at least then you know what you’re dealing with. Let’s hope the weather gets a bit more spring-like before too long! Back to top

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