Triumph’s stranglehold on the modern classic range is well and truly over. While the English brand opened the floodgates, manufacturers from across the globe are now swamping the market with brand new bikes with styling that takes us back to yesteryear.
Throughout this resurgence of the classic style, plodding along in the background has been Royal Enfield. To be fair, you could never really call Royal Enfield’s range ‘modern’ classics, as their Bullet line-up is really just a continuation of a 1950’s recipe with fuel injection as a garnish. That is until now, with the all-new, twin cylinder GT650 range hitting showrooms in Australia and across the world.
The GT650 Interceptor and Continental, much like the marque’s Himalayan, aim to take Royal Enfields to new places, with fresh faces twisting the throttle. While the Indian brand has been hugely popular at home, selling over 800,000 bikes in India last year, it has remained a relative oddity outside of its home market.
That is until now. Let’s take a look at what makes the new GT650 twins tick.
Interceptor or Continental? What’s the difference?
The Interceptor treads the traditional line, with upright chrome bars and generally more relaxed ergos. The Continental is its racey, single seated cousin with clip-ons, slightly altered suspension, a bit less chrome around the edges, and a slightly longer and more angular fuel tank.
Engine and Gearbox
The GT650s share an engine and gearbox and revive the parallel twin Royal Enfield. Only single cylinder thumpers have featured in its line-up since the 1970’s iteration of the Interceptor. The 648cc parallel twin is all new and has been developed to be as tractable and user friendly as possible.
The engine uses a single overhead cam, four valves per cylinder, fuel injection and air/oil cooling to produce 47hp at 7100rpm and 52Nm at 4000rpm. Almost 80% of that torque on hand from 2500rpm, with it peaking at 5250rpm.
The engine uses a 270º crank to not only reduce some of the new twin’s vibrations, but also give a rich, almost V-Twin-like rumble. Interestingly, the development team only settled on the 270º firing order after trialling 180º and 360º development engines first.
Riders are treated to a 6-speed gearbox and a slipper clutch (both Royal Enfield firsts), with the overdrive top gear allowing 100km/h to register at 4000rpm — 3300rpm before the rev-limiter.
Brakes and suspension
Brakes and suspension are all very ‘normal’, but also more than up to managing the task at hand. Up front are conventional, non-adjustable 41mm forks, while out back there are preload adjustable twin shocks. Each shock sports a collar that’s easily accessible by a C-spanner and topped off with some slinky gold remote reservoirs. The Continental’s rear suspension is slightly stiffer (more preload) to fit its racier image.
Brakes are courtesy of Brembo’s Indian sub-brand, ByBre, with a single front and rear disc measuring 320 and 240mm respectively. The front disc is clamped by a twin-piston caliper, while the rear makes do with a single piston caliper, with sintered pads at both ends. All of this is watched over by a dual-channel Bosch ABS system and even braided brake lines.
The other bits…
Both bikes roll on 18inch wheels front and rear, which are shod in Pirelli Phantom Sportcomp tyres specially developed for the bikes. Famed frame builders Harris Performance, who are now owned by Royal Enfield, designed the tubular steel frame, which clocked over a million kms during development.
All of this weighs in at around 200kg wet, which is pretty good going when you consider Royal Enfield’s only other all new bike in decades, the single cylinder Himalayan, tips the scales at just over 180kg.
One of the most important other bits of course, is the price. Royal Enfield have truly sharpened their pencils when pricing the 650 twins, with the Interceptor set to start at just under $8,500 and the Continental GT at just over $8,600. That’s seriously cheap when you consider you’ll need to hand over about $15,000 before riding away on Triumph’s Street Twin.
The GT650 Interceptor and Continental are showing up in Royal Enfield dealers now, with deliveries set to start in earnest in February 2019. If these sweet new twins are half as good as the sum of their parts, then theyâ€™re sure to take Royal Enfield from an obscure Indian oddity, to a major player in the modern retro game.
Photos courtesy of Royal Enfield