Royal Enfield Interceptor 650: 1000km Test Ride Review

21 November 2018, 12:11 PM Vikrant Singh

Introduction

The prices are finally out. And at Rs 2.5 lakhs ex-showroom, the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 is a steal! We liked it when we rode it in America. And, we liked it even more when we rode it back home in Goa. 

But, the question that kept popping up repeatedly in our head was if this could actually be THE do-it-all modern classic? A motorcycle that oozes with practicality, usability, and chore handling ability, as it does with charm? 

To find out, we decided to ride one to Goa. Now, some might argue, these questions didn't warrant a near 1000km ride to the holiday capital of the country, but we beg to differ. 

We needed long hours in the INT saddle. We needed to ride it on changing terrain. We needed to see how it handled slow corners and fast; smooth tarmac and undulating one; and, of course, we wanted some cheap beer. 

We also had to subject the bike to long traffic jams, and show it a wide-open road to get it to scream its lungs out. We wanted to find out what speeds it is comfortable cruising at, and how far can it go on a tankful. 

A Mumbai-Goa road trip promised all that.

Morning Rush

Well, there wasn't any. Unless you take into account our 5am starting time, which meant I really had to rush - get up at 3, pack the bags, load it on a scooter and head to office. Well, yes, I do stay that far away from work, and the scooter is a story for another day.

As for loading up the Interceptor, we were told there are dedicated saddlebags for the bike. We didn't find them. So, we strapped on a Kriega US20 dry bag on the tail, which was super easy to do courtesy the easy release seat and decent clearance under it. We also added a magnetic tank bag. The latter is something we hadn't used for years, not with modern day bikes moving to plastic tank covers and razor sharp edges.

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 2,49,724

Meanwhile, the 5am start promised us empty roads. But, it also meant they were poorly lit. And, the Interceptor's old-school round headlamp with a weak bulb inside did us no favours. It does need one of those modern all-LED units that look old school but work like a charm. Ditto for the instrumentation. This part-analogue-part-digital unit isn't just short on info; it's downright boring.

The NH4 Straights

By the time the sun rose, we were already bypassing Pune. And, once we had crossed the new Katraj tunnel, it was time to stop for breakfast. And, if in Shindewadi, Misal is a must. And the smaller the shack, the tastier the Misal.

That done, we had some fast, open stretches of road awaiting us. And the Interceptor 650 didn't disappoint. This might be a Royal Enfield, but it cruises at three digit speeds with the calm, stability and potency of a large capacity Japanese motorcycle.

There are no vibes. Nor ugly mechanical noises. The gearshifts are precise and effortless. The engine pull, even from as low as 2,000rpm, is smooth and thick. Not only did this allow us to keep to high cruising speeds, it also made it less tiring; especially since it was only a matter of rolling on the throttle to get back to said speeds post an intersection, or after having negotiated slow truck drag races across all three lanes. The INT almost behaved like an automatic in that sense. 

And when we found a long closed road in one of the by-lanes, it was pleasantly surprising to note that even speeds like 170kmph come so easy to this Royal Enfield.

The Nipani Badlands

Past Kolhapur, we made a right at Nipani and left the six-laned road behind us. From then on, it was a single carriageway with unmarked speed breakers, busy villages, and wannabe grand prix drivers coming full belt at us around blind corners.

But, the state of the road was equally shocking. It started off being nicely laid and flat. But then, around a bend, it went all Armageddon on us. There were potholes the size of craters; ruts deep enough to catch your motorcycle's front wheel; and the shoulder run-off was equally dicey if not worse with it being lined with undulating gravel. 

Not surprisingly, we found some cars parked with blown tyres. The others, meanwhile, trying to zigzag their way around craters and only ended up clogging the broken, single lanned, state highway. 

Now, the INT does look like a scrambler with its braced handlebar, the flat seat, and the spoked rims. But, then you are reminded of its 88mm rear wheel travel, which is low even for a road bike. Naturally, all our expectations of just standing up on the footpegs and powering through these badlands were shattered. But, we tried it anyways.

And soon we realised, 'fast' wasn't the way to the ride the INT over bad roads. Sure, the momentum (and some muscle power) can help the front skim over the potholes, but only for a bit. Eventually, it does come crashing down. And when it does, it easily bottoms out too. The rear is prone to bottoming out in the stock setting as well.

It's best then to take things easy. And when you do that, the INT's centralised weight balance only helps you along.

Ghat Attack

Eventually, the roads became better as we zeroed in on Amboli. Now, Amboli is a winding, narrow stretch of road that connects NH4 to NH17. It is also where the world stops to look at water falls. Which, is the same as watching your shower run, only at a grander scale. But, many believe it is still worth stopping for, and parking badly, and causing traffic jams, and generally inconveniencing others. And, of course, since they have stopped, they might as well litter the place too.

Anyways, this headache lasts for a few kilometres only. Then on, the ride takes on joyous overtones. We have already established that the Interceptor 650 is smooth, it is torquey, and it is comfortable unless the road goes to hell. But, it’s also unexpectedly agile. To use an adage - It’s not as sharp as scalpel - but it’s very close to a point-and-shoot tool. 

It doesn’t need a lot of effort to change directions, and even around tighter corners, it doesn’t seem vague or lost. But, yes, if you push it hard around a bumpy corner, the INT does weave and wallow a bit. It isn't scary, just a little unnerving. 

The Home Stretch

Okay, calling Goa home might be a stretch, but it does seem like a good place to settle down. That’s probably closer to Karwar, though. Because riding in the northern part of Goa is much like battling Mumbai. There are constant detours, traffic bottlenecks aplenty, and vehicles coming at you from all quarters. The weather isn’t much better either. 

So, there we were, after having ridden like kings all day – having taken in the sun and some crisp air – stuck in a jam behind a toxic spewing truck. The air was still, the humidity was stifling, and the heat was bordering towards unbearable, especially under the riding gear. But, surprise, surprise, the INT refused to cook our thighs; it refused to make things more challenging. Not only was it game to cruise effortlessly at three digit speeds, it was equally happy to just sit in traffic, idling. 

So, after nearly 1000km of having ridden the Interceptor 650 on highways, broken roads, no roads, twisty roads, and choked Goa roads, all we wanted to do at the end of the day, was ride it some more. So, yes, in our book, the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 is really THE do-it-all modern classic.

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