Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (2019 onward) | Long-term reliability review

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (2019 onward) | Long-term reliability review

 

The Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 carries the first parallel twin motor with the iconic badge in more than 50 years, and starting at just £5,699, it promises to be one of the best value bikes on the market.

But is it reliable? It’s a question asked by many, and by running this bike over thousands of miles (right through winter and into 2021), I intend to find out.

For a little background, I’ve been riding since 1996, have owned 20 bikes so far, and have ridden 100s more having worked on MCN, Bike, Ride, MotorCycle Monthly and Motorcycle Sport and Leisure before joining Bennetts BikeSocial. I currently own a BMW S1000XR, a 1999 Kawasaki ZX-6R and a customised Honda MSX125 (Grom). Over the coming months I’ll be sharing my riding experiences of this motorcycle during commuting, weekend blasts, touring and trips out with a pillion. I’ll also be looking at the service schedules and talking to owners to really find out if this bike is worth the money…

 

First Impressions

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 vs Kawasaki W800

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 vs Triumph Street Twin vs Moto Guzzi V7

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 pillion opinion

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 modifications

A brief history of Royal Enfield

2019 Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 Specifications

 

For and against
  • Fantastic value for money
  • Wonderful engine
  • A truly relaxing and enthralling ride
  • Feels heavy when pushing it around
  • Only just enough space to carry a disc lock if you leave the tool kit behind
  • Suspension feels a little budget

 

2019 onwards Royal Enfield Interceptor 650: First impressions

This is a bike I can’t help but stare at. And I don’t mean in a ‘what were they thinking’ <cough>KawasakiZH2<cough> way; the Interceptor has such classically simple lines that I just have to have one more look as I walk away from it.  

This is coming from a late-40s owner of wide range of machines; whether it appeals to you of course won’t be something I can influence. I hoped – by now – to be telling you what it was like after 1,000 miles but shortly after receiving the bike the country went into lockdown, so all I managed was a ride home and a blast out in the countryside the day before I had to hang up my keys.

The 648cc parallel-twin motor might ‘only’ make 47bhp (it’s A2 licence-friendly), and it does that relatively high in the revs at 7,250rpm. It also ‘only’ makes 38.4lb-ft of torque at 5,250rpm, but 80% of that torque is available at 2,500rpm. You don’t need to work this bike hard to potter through towns and villages, you don’t have to thrash it to enjoy a blast in the countryside, and yet it doesn’t feel stressed when it’s sitting at 80mph on the motorway.

I tend to be a rather uneconomical rider, but I saw 50.3mpg during my rides. There’s no economy gauge, so I checked the mileage from brim to brim of the tank. Interestingly, the LCD fuel gauge seems pretty pessimistic; at 85 miles there were two to three bars showing out of seven. By 93 miles the last bar was flashing, yet I only got nine litres of fuel in – if that tank does hold 13.7 litres (and you can use it all), I should have had just over a gallon left; enough for a good 50 miles. I’ll test it by running it dry later…

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (2019 onward) | Long-term reliability review

One 100 mile ride isn’t enough to give a thorough assessment of the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, but it did get me very excited about a return to normality…

 

First impressions were that this thing is heavy. It might only be 213kg (and that’s accurate, judging by this video of it being weighed from a tractor), but it leans a long way on its side-stand and feels rather top-heavy.

Jumping on this after my ZX-6R I wasn’t thrilled at first, but it was only a matter of a few miles before I was wallowing in the relaxing ride, spotting beautiful parts of the countryside (yes, even in the Fens) that I’d never noticed, and pulling over for photos and another look at the polished metal and chrome that makes me think what it must have been like for my Dad riding his red Flying Flea back in the early 1950s.

Now, not being able to ride the bike, I figured I’d take it apart to have a closer look at the build-quality, and to get a better idea of how reliable I think it’s going to be. Certainly from owner feedback I’ve had so far, there are no major problems or issues with the Interceptor 650, besides a few mentions of head bearings and speedo cables being replaced under warranty. And this bike has consistently been among the top ten sellers in the UK for the past year or so; it’s popular.

Do YOU own a Royal Enfield Interceptor? If you're a Bennetts Rewards member, click this link to send me your details and I'll aim to feature you and your bike in an upcoming review. When lockdown is over, I'm also hoping to arrange a great ride out for many of us to get together. Tea and bacon butties will be on me. I'll keep the link open until 12th July 2020, but please do get in touch as soon as you can! https://rewards.bennetts.co.uk/rewards/tell-us-about-your-royal-enfield-interceptor

This Interceptor had already covered 2,541.7 miles when I took it on, likely as a demo bike at MotoGB in Chorley. You can watch the video below to see what I found, but here’s a summary:

  • The clocks are wonderfully simple, with a pair of dials for speed and revs, idiot lights, a fuel gauge, odo and two trips.
  • The battery is a bit of a fiddle to get out – fit a fly lead to charge it if you’ll be laying it up for a long time (like, if the world shuts down).
  • There’s no useful storage under the seat but removing the tool kit (which comes in a neat roll bag) gives you just enough room for a disk lock.
  • It’s got a centre stand, as well as a handle to help pick it up.
  • The chromed-plastic indicators and tail-light are a little cheap looking.
  • The mudguards are painted plastic, but look good.
  • Brakes are Bybre – ‘By Brembro’ and seemed fine for the 100 miles I’ve done so far.
  • Lovely classic-looking engine; shame about the QR code on the cylinder head.
  • There are a few small spots of corrosion, but I’m going to keep it clean and treated with ACF-50 and XCR Rust Blocker over winter.
  • The welds look fine – no spatter or mess here

 

Under the skin of the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

Unable to ride during lockdown, I take my long-term-test Interceptor apart for a closer look. Note that when I say ‘there’s no fuel gauge’, I meant to say that there’s no economy gauge.

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 vs Kawasaki W800

When it comes to price, the Interceptor is pretty much in a class of its own; there’s little that’s quite as good value. But there’s no denying that someone who finds the style of this bike appealing would also appreciate the classic lines of the Kawasaki W800 (£8499), the Triumph Street Twin (£8,100), or of course the Triumph Bonneville T100 (£8,900).

While we’ll be looking at the Triumphs later, during testing the lockdown guidelines said that only two people from different households could meet, so we took the Kawasaki out with the Royal Enfield for a very thorough test...

The W800 harks back to the 624cc Kawasaki W1 released in the US in 1966 and has some beautiful touches to it, from the bevel-gear drive for the engine’s cam to the chromed metal mudguards and overall premium feel. But at £2,800 more than an Interceptor with a painted tank (or an increase of 49%), you can do a lot with that spare money. In fact, Bennetts BikeSocial’s Steve Lamb worked out that you could buy an Interceptor, all the kit he was wearing during this review, insurance and road tax for three years, as well as 65 tanks of fuel! Particularly for somebody looking to get started in biking, that’s a big consideration.

But where the Royal Enfield can feel a little budget on the switchgear and some other details, the Kawasaki comes across as more solid and finished. That solidity also translates to an increased kerb weight – 221kg vs the Enfield’s 213kg – but it certainly doesn’t feel it. And to be honest, both of us agreed that the W800 feels like the lighter machine when pushing it around.

At 5’10” tall, I found the Kawasaki a little bit cramped, though Steve’s 5’6” and thought it was great. I wasn’t uncomfortable, but the Interceptor’s that little bit more roomy.

 

We’re putting 1,000s of miles on a Royal Enfield Interceptor 650: How reliable is it? Could it really be one of the best budget motorcycles? Full review…

 

They both make 47bhp, though the Kawasaki does produce it 1,250rpm earlier than the Royal Enfield. It also makes more torque, but only by 8lb-ft, 450rpm sooner. On the road there’s not much in it, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference, the Kawasaki maybe pulling away that little bit quicker. Though the extra gear in the Enfield’s transmission (there’s only five in the W800) means neither will be the clear winner in a retro-race.

Taking price out of the equation, the choice would likely be a stylistic one – which gives you that warm feeling? Or it would, if it wasn’t for the Kawasaki’s engine vibration between 3,500 and 4,500rpm. While some might love the character it injects – and Steve and I would wholeheartedly recommend test riding both – for us, the Royal Enfield has the better engine. Watch the video and tell us what you think in the comments…

 

Royal Enfield vs Kawasaki

Which modern classic is the one we’d buy?

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 vs Triumph Street Twin vs Moto Guzzi V7 III

After the recent comparison between the Interceptor 650 and the W800, we had many requests to compare the Royal Enfield to Triumph’s Street Twin and Moto Guzzi’s V7 III.

While the prices and engine capacities of these three machines are quite different, there’ll be few serious potential buyers who wouldn’t have at least one of these other bikes on their shortlist.

The Street Twin is the most expensive at £8,100, but it’s also the most refined in design and engineering. Making 64bhp (47.8kW) @ 7,500rpm and 59.0lb-ft (80Nm) @ 3,800rpm, it’s a more rapid, better handling and well, more exciting bike than the Interceptor. But honestly, that’s not why I’m so drawn to the Royal Enfield; while I was buzzing with enthusiasm for the Triumph after the test, I took it out for several more rides after and found it always made me want to ride everywhere fast. Which would be fine if I didn’t already have an old Kawasaki ZX-6R.

I want a bike like this to make me ride slowly, taking in the scenery. I want it to be something that helps me relax.

The Moto Guzzi is a different matter – currently starting at £6,999 and with an incredibly characterful transverse V-twin motor, it makes 51bhp (38kW) @ 6,200rpm and 44.3lb-ft (60Nm) @ 4,900rpm. It’s got a shaft drive and the most wonderful torque reaction as it twists gently under you when revving. Honestly, for a classically-styled, simple bike – despite it being the only one in this company with (fairly unnecessary) traction control – the Moto Guzzi is a real challenger to the Royal Enfield.

 

We’re putting 1,000s of miles on a Royal Enfield Interceptor 650: How reliable is it? Could it really be one of the best budget motorcycles? Full review…

 

Many will love the fact that Moto Guzzis have never stopped being made in the factory on the edge of Lake Como, and while I don’t really care where bikes are made – quality control is what matters, not the race of the person building a motorcycle – in a market that often sees motorbikes bought for their ‘authentic roots’, having the Bonneville-badged Street Twin built in Thailand seems to put some people off.

All three of these machines are great first motorcycles as the Guzzi and the Street Twin can both be restricted for A2 licence holders, while the Royal Enfield doesn’t need restricting. But to consider any of them to only be for new riders would be to miss the huge pleasure they can bring us all. Even ex-Performance Bikes magazine bad-boys like Simon Hagreaves…

 

Royal Enfield vs Triumph vs Moto Guzzi

Three fantastic retro-classics… which would you choose?

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 pillion opinion

The interceptor 650 is not a pillion-friendly bike.

Sure, it’s got a pillion seat and footpegs, but this isn’t a motorcycle that the average-height European is going to want to spend more than a few miles on.

“I’ve never been on anything as uncomfortable,” my wife Helen told me after an 80 mile ride. “The space between the seat and the pegs puts my legs at a really acute angle, so I’m really squashed up. With no way to really move around, it’d be okay for hopping between villages on the north Norfolk coast, but I need to stop every 15 to 20 miles to stretch.”

We got off to a bad start on our pillion test due to – but not the fault of – the SW Motech Legend luggage, which has been invaluable on my solo rides, swallowing my camera kit and, more importantly, my snacks. While it’s not bulky or oversized, the position of the pillion pegs means that Helen can’t get anything but her heels on them with the bags fully packed, so for this trip, the bags had to be removed.

Soft panniers are never going to be as quick and easy to remove and refit as dedicated hard luggage (or as secure), and the four retaining clips and two straps on each bag are a little bit of a fiddle to deal with, not to mention having to tuck the straps out of the way when the bags are off. But they do suit the style of the bike, and when I’m solo, they can stay there.

My Kriega R30 pack dwarfs Helen, but it rested on the rear rail of the Royal Enfield, so didn’t cause her any real problems. And while she loves the classic look of the Interceptor, and like me appreciates its potterabilitly (a new, but necessary word), she just didn’t enjoy it without regular breaks.

Stopping regularly is something I enjoy on the Enfield, simply to slow life down and take in the surroundings. Also, it might be relatively heavy and lean a long way on the stand, but with it being so compact and easy to pick up, I feel confident stopping anywhere on it; steeply cambered gravel lay-bys and farm tracks don’t worry me like a big, fully loaded tourer can.

It looks like I’ll be enjoying the Interceptor on my own, but there is still hope. A lot of people commented on the video that Hepco and Becker offers a peg-relocation kit; fixing to the existing hangers, it pushes the pegs forward, which should mean Helen’s legs wouldn’t be as bent, and we’d be able to leave the luggage in place. Otherwise, it could be that I need to consider a different seat – Royal Enfield’s own touring seat looks worth trying at £139.99, though Wemoto also offers one at £95.98 so I’ll make some tweaks and report back…

 

Two up on the Interceptor 650; good or bad?

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 replacement Hagon shocks review

The Interceptor 650’s suspension isn’t bad, but it is made to a budget, which means the front and rear can feel a little harsh over pot holes and bumps.

In a bid to make it as comfortable for Helen as possible (and because it’s an easier fix), I focussed on the rear shocks. I also don’t really like the styling of the OE ones with their modern-looking remote reservoirs.

Ilford-based Hagon builds its shocks to suit the customer, so for £206.50 including delivery, the company will supply suspension sprung and damped for your weight and riding circumstances. Adjustable for preload with the supplied C-spanner, and through 23 smooth clicks of an Allen-key rotated rebound damping adjuster, this isn’t top-spec race suspension – it’s simple, it works, and it’s better looking than the OE kit. As most owners will probably find, I had no need to adjust how Hagon had set the shocks up – the bike simply feels right.


Two up on the Interceptor 650; good or bad?

The Hagon shocks look much more in keeping with the style of the bike

 

No true owner of this Royal Enfield is going to be worrying about exact damping settings, so while the Hagon shocks don’t transform the bike into a razor-sharp sports machine, it has lost some of the crashy feeling at the rear. It’s also highlighted the harshness of the front end – not to the point that I now feel more money needs to be spent on the suspension, just that it’d be something I’d consider down the line.

The beauty of the Interceptor 650 is its relative value; it’s one of the cheapest new bikes available, and for many that will leave some money to make the bike their own. Both comfort wise and aesthetically, the Hagon Shocks are a modification I’d say is worth making, and at the price, they represent really good value for money.

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 Pillion opinion

What’s this retro classic like from the back?

 

2019- Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 modifications

Having been an ex-demo, this bike came with a few extras already fitted:

  • Crash bars: £109.99
  • Bar-end weights: £34.99
  • Tall screen: £94.99 (the short screen costs more, at £99.99)
  • Sump guard: £64.99
  •  Hagon rear shocks: £206.50 including delivery and set up to suit the rider’s requirements.

I’ve also fitted some SW Motech Legend luggage, which cost £257.47 (£42.91 for the saddle strap and £107.28 for each bag).

 

The SW Motech luggage is making the Interceptor that little more practical…

The SW Motech luggage is making the Interceptor that little more practical…

 

A brief history of Royal Enfield

Royal Enfields are of course made in India, but they have been for a very long time…

The company was formed in November 1891 when Bob Walker Smith and Albert Eadie bought George Townsend and Co of Hunt End in Redditch, a well-established needle manufacturer that had just begun building bicycles.

Within just two years, the pair had won a contract to supply precision parts to the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, Middlesex, and changed the company name to ‘The Enfield Manufacturing Company Ltd’. The following year, all the company’s bicycles took on the name ‘Royal Enfield’, with the trademark ‘Made Like A Gun.’

Powered four-wheelers (called quadricycles) followed, but it was in 1901 that the first Royal Enfield motorcycle was built, making 1½hp and driven by a rawhide belt.

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (2019 onward) | Long-term reliability review

The first Royal Enfield motorcycle was built in 1901 and was designed by Bob Walker Smith and Jules Gotier

 

By 1909 Royal Enfield had a Swiss 297cc motor powering its motorcycles, jumping to a 770cc 6hp V-twin two-stroke in 1914 (imagine a 770cc stroker now!). During World War I, the company was supplying these bikes to the British, Belgian, French, US and Imperial Russian forces.

Dozens of models were released over the next couple of decades, but it was in 1932 that the ‘Bullet’ was unveiled at the Olympia Motorcycle Show in London.

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (2019 onward) | Long-term reliability review

The Royal Enfield Bullet was released with a 250cc, 350cc or 5oocc single-cylinder motor, foot-operated gear selector and high compression pistons.

 

Various changes and new releases occurred over the coming years, with Royal Enfield producing large quantities of military motorcycles, bicycles, generators and anti-aircraft gun predictors (a mechanical ‘computer’ that assisted aiming of anti-aircraft guns) during World War II between 1939 and 1945. The Flying Flea was the most well know – a 126cc two-stroke that was dropped behind enemy lines in custom-built parachute cradles.

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (2019 onward) | Long-term reliability review

The Royal Enfield WD/RE, or ‘Flying Flea’, was designed to carry messages quickly where radio communications were not established

 

After the war, new Bullets were developed and in 1949 Royal Enfield joined other British bike brands being imported into India by Madras Motors.

Just three years later, the Indian Army placed an order for 500 350cc Royal Enfield Bullets thanks to their rugged build and ease of maintenance.

In 1955, the Redditch company partnered with Madras Motors to form ‘Enfield India’ and started building a new factory in Tiruvottiyur, near Madras. By the end of 1956, 163 Royal Enfield Bullets had already been assembled there, having been shipped from the UK in kit form.

The first Royal Enfield Interceptor was a reaction to the Japanese bikes flooding the UK market, and was built with a 736cc parallel twin motor until the UK side of the company closed in June 1970, leaving India to continue production.

By 1977, Enfield India was exporting 350cc Bullets back to the UK and Europe, releasing a 24bhp 500cc model in 1989. The Enfield Diesel was released in 1993, and in 1994 the Eicher Group bought Enfield India, renaming the company Royal Enfield Motors Limited.

Since then, sales of Royal Enfields have rocketed, with new factories being built and 2013 seeing the re-release of the Continental GT with a Harris Performance frame and 535cc single-cylinder motor.

In 2015 the company bought Harris Performance and established an American HQ, before setting up the Royal Enfield Technology Centre near Leicester with over 100 engineers, designers and testers developing new models in this high-tech building with direct digital links to the Indian factories.

Royal Enfield isn’t name that was snapped up by a foreign investor – the bikes have seen real evolution through the decades, and after more than 65 years being built in India, the company is constantly enhancing its products.

 

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (2019 onward) | Long-term reliability review

The Royal Enfield 838cc KX Concept V-Twin was unveiled at EICMA in 2018… we wouldn’t be surprised to see the motor on the market in some form very soon…

 

 

2019- Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 spec

Price

From £5,699 (this ‘Glitter and Dust’ model is £6,199)

Capacity

648cc

Bore x Stroke

78 x 67.8mm

Engine layout

Twin

Engine details

4-stroke, single overhead cam, air-oil cooled

Power

47bhp (35kW) @ 7,250rpm

Torque

38.4 lb-ft (52Nm) @ 5,250rpm

Top speed

100mph

Average fuel consumption

61.3mpg (tested) 70.5mpg (claimed)

Tank size

13.7 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

185 miles (tested) 213 miles (claimed)

Rider aids

ABS

Frame

Steel tubular, double cradle

Front suspension

41mm, 110mm travel

Front suspension adjustment

n/a

Rear suspension

Twin coil-over shocks, 88mm travel

Rear suspension adjustment

5-stage preload

Front brake

320mm single disc

Rear brake

240mm single disc

Front wheel/tyre

36 spoke alloy / 100/90-18 Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp

Rear wheel/tyre

36 spoke alloy / 130/70-18 Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp

Rake

24°

Dimensions

2122mm x 789mm 1165mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1400mm

Ground clearance

174mm

Seat height

804mm

Kerb weight

213

MCIA Secured Rating Not yet included

Warranty

Three years with free roadside assistance

 

What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

·      A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard

·      An ignition immobiliser system

·      A vehicle marking system

·      An alarm system

·      A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.

Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance

 

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