The 2024 Royal Enfield 650 twins, the Interceptor and the Continental GT, have been updated with a bunch of fresh colours, LED lighting, new wheels and more…
We sent Justin ‘Stretch’ Law along for a ride on the 2024 Royal Enfield 650 twins, and he came back with some interior decorating tips… and a comprehensive summary of the model updates:
My wife loves mid-century modern stuff and has decked out our apartment accordingly. If it was somewhat larger, the updated Royal Enfield Interceptor with the Cali Green teardrop tank might well take pride of place in the living room. Perhaps beneath a Slim Aarons print depicting a California beach in the 1960s, such is the bike’s steadfast adherence to the era.
It would be the Interceptor (rather than the Continental GT 650 café racer) because the gorgeous metallic Cali Green only adorns the Interceptor’s tank and we both love that colour.
On the other hand, I do like the Conti café racer’s clip-on ’bars, rear-set ’pegs and solo seat cowl. But rather than risk a divorce-threatening argument about which one we would hypothetically settle for, the good news is that all the parts on each model are interchangeable so we could feasibly have both.
But making either of these freshened up 650s mere living room ornaments would be a disservice to motorcycles which stop and go much better than their sub-$12k price tag would suggest.
When launched in 2018, Royal Enfield created a disturbance with its reimagined parallel twin, doing such a good job with it that the brand single-handedly instigated this midsized-capacity push the market’s currently found itself in.
Here was the engine configuration originally designed to power the equivalent of superbikes back in the 1960s and was enormously popular before Honda revolutionised performance with the four-cylinder Honda CB750 in 1969.
With a bit of modern engineering, Royal Enfield fettled a new 648cc, air/oil-cooled, fuel-injected twin to pump out a respectable 35kW (47hp) and 52.3Nm, and neatly slotted it into a tubular-steel, double-cradle frame designed by legendary chassis fettlers Harris Performance, which RE bought out to work exclusively on its bikes.
When selecting the identities for these new offerings, RE went to the natural choice of the Interceptor, which was the last of their big-bore muscle bikes in the Sixties. The other was more inspired. The Continental GT 250 was launched in 1963 as the first café racer to roll off a production line at a time when café racers were being cobbled-together by poor students. It was an enormously popular stroke of marketing genius (see breakout).
In 2018, these revitalised models were bestowed upon us as a pair of sexy-as-all-get-out, functional new bikes that seem to be finding their way into more than a few bike journos’ garages.
So, you smash open the market with a couple of rippers and the customisers are going nuts because, well, what a great platform, right? And then someone at RE HQ wonders whether a few upgrades might help boost sales or something.
And as a result, powder coating, alloy wheels (no more inner tubes!) and a USB port are among the goodie bag of extras which also includes a bunch of fresh colours and an LED headlight.
Adherents to tradition will be pleased to know that in keeping with the old-school-cool vibe of the thing, the USB is the older USB-A version, which is just enough to keep your phone or Navman charged. I’ve gotta say, though, the single USB port does look like a bit of an afterthought screwed under the left handlebar. Perhaps they could have taken some cues from popular aftermarket options such as the Hitchcocks Motorcycles unit. It has a fork-mounted bracket and looks like a bought one. Anyway, good on ’em, and quite frankly, if you go looking for electro tech on a Sixties-inspired Royal Enfield, you won’t find much more than an LCD odometer (with A and B trip meters) and fuel gauge… a bloody clock would be nice. But it all helps keep the price under $12k, which is pretty much dirt cheap for such a capable and cool motorcycle.
The stealth look, with the powder-coated engine cases and cooling fins, is a matter of taste and will no doubt find a place. Royal Enfield’s marketing department calls it Dark (as in Continental GT 650 Dark) and these options come with unique fuel tank designs reminiscent of the California surfer/beach culture. Perhaps that’s where marketing thought an extra $700 would not be considered too much of a stretch. There are also sundry factory aftermarket bits coloured to match if you really want to blow your budget, which is still well within the realms of most Aussie battlers.
Anyway, the blacked-out bits are one thing, but the real eye candy is in the range of new fuel tank (and solo-seat cowl for the GT) colours. Each model gets a unique colour palette, with the Interceptor getting the Cali green and the equally gorgeous orange, red and blue as its single-colour options. There are also two-tone vertical and horizontal offerings – I’m also a fan of the black and white with red highlights Black Pearl – while it’s always hard to go past chrome.
The options for the Continental GT’s moulded tank are also a mix of solid and two-tone designs – the red is the pick if you want that original café racer style, while the Dark offerings are very much inspired by 1970s surfer culture.
Customisation is at the heart of Royal Enfield’s mass appeal and don’t they know it, offering a range of extras to tart things up a bit. The flyscreen, which on its own looks like something you might have worn on your head when invading England in 1066, is an essential to achieve that café racer look, as is the cowled solo seat.
Engine protection bars, screw-in “finisher” bits, a taller screen, a touring seat for the GT, heel guards, covers for various engine components and rear-axle bobbins to hoist the bike onto a stand are among the other options. As are soft panniers, which are the size of small courier satchels (they have straps to make them so) and slip on to chrome mounts. They might be adequate for a long weekend away, but you’d be going on your own, because if your pillion is anything like my wife, there’s barely enough room for her toiletries. Instead, these panniers are more suited to an office commute with room for a laptop and a sandwich.
If romantic weekends away are part of your thinking, then one option could be to encourage your partner to get one as well. They are learner-approved after all.
Finally, the LED headlight and the aluminium switchblocks should not go unmentioned. The switchgear for the starter/kill switch and high beam is still Royal Enfield’s go-to setup of rotating dial arrangement that sits flush with the block and is simple and stylish – I am a fan. As for the LED headlight with the minus sign dividing the high and low beam, it casts a good spread of light, but I wonder how many old-school pedants will replace it with the older quartz halogen unit just to keep with the vintage vibe. You could probably do that without too much hassle, such is the interchangeability of the marque.
In its natural habitat of inner-city commuting roads, the 650 is a peach. Tractable and solid through the rev range, from about 2500rpm to the peak power spot at 7150rpm, it chugs along without having to row through the six-speed gearbox.
The real surprise came on a strop up through the twisties with a couple of Speed Triple-mounted mates. At the start of the ride, they carefully told me where the planned stops were along the way, just in case we got separated. It was their nice way of saying, you won’t keep up with us, but we’ll wait for you here, here and here.
Not only did the Interceptor keep up with them, I nearly overtook one on a corner, such was the clearance and spread of torque and power in the 5000-7000rpm range.
The high, wide ’bar made changing direction quick and easy, and the chassis inspired deeper lunges in corners until the suspension stepped in to spoil the party – for context, I’m 100kg.
The transition from yanking hard on the single-disc, twin-piston 320mm front brake (the 240mm rear brake didn’t wow me in this environment) to picking up the throttle sometimes induced an unsettling hinging sensation thanks to the fork’s softness and perhaps a little less rebound than is desirable.
The collar-adjustable coil-over rear suspension seemed pretty good, so if you’re keen on turning your Interceptor into a back-road scratcher, investing in aftermarket fork internals would be a good start.
I sampled the clip-on-fitted GT during the launch and it felt a lot more planted, thanks to the fact that you are hunched more over the front wheel, but I didn’t get to push it as hard, so I can’t make too much of a comparison.
By the end of my time with the Interceptor, I started to understand the burgeoning RE customiser community. The possibilities for what I might do with it for not a ridiculous amount of money seemed easily achievable – sharper handling with a fork kit and straight-through exhaust to amplify that parallel-twin burble would be good starts. But I could easily settle for one of the many colour options (okay, the Cali Green), and the ’bar-end mounted mirrors.
And that’s the spirit of this fine offering – not so much a blank canvas, but more painting by numbers with a mix of their own well-thought-out touches mixed with a few ideas of my own.
Priced between $10,990 (Interceptor 650) and $11,790 (GT 650 Dark) it’s more a question of why wouldn’t you?
All I need now is a bigger living room.
TEST: JUSTIN LAW PHOTOGRAPHY TOM FOSSATI & MATT HAYMAN
+ Interchangeable old-school cool on a fantastic engine/chassis platform at great price.
– Soft front suspension not suited to pushing beyond the design parameters.
THE ORIGINAL CAFÉ RACER
While the Interceptor was ponderously slugging it out in the British big-bore stakes, the 250cc single Continental GT was helping to define a whole new genre – the café racer.
Design cues came from racebikes of the time, with clip-on handlebars, long, sleek fuel tanks held on with rubber straps, a hump at the rear of the seat, fly screens, exposed-spring rear suspension and rear-set footpegs.
Royal Enfield’s clever R&D department saw an opportunity and, after consulting with its young apprentices, developed the first production-built café racer – the Continental GT 250 launched in 1963.
It was the fastest 250 of the time, hitting 85mph (137km/h), and became so popular it helped the British company eke out a few more years until its eventual demise in 1971.
Meanwhile, RE’s Indian subsidiary was plugging away in the background, pumping out 350cc and 500cc Bullets, and would revitalise the model in 2013 with the Continental GT 535. The single-cylinder café racer retained the styling of the original 250 down to a replica of its jelly-mould tank.
Type Parallel-twin, SOHC, four valves per cylinder
Bore & stroke 78mm x 67.8mm
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Fueling EFI, with dual throttle bodies
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Final drive Chain
Power 34.6kW (46.3hp) @ 7150rpm (claimed)
Torque 52.3Nm @ 5650rpm (claimed)
Top speed 180km/h (est)
Fuel consumption 4.2L/100km (measured)
Rider aids ABS
Rider modes Not applicable
Frame material Composite steel
Frame type Double cradle
Front: 41mm, non-adjustable right-way-up fork, 110mm travel
Rear: Twin shocks, five-step preload adjustable, 88mm travel
WHEELS & BRAKES
Wheels Forged aluminium
Front: 18 x 2.5 Rear: 18 x 3.5
Tyres Pirelli Phantom Sportcomp
Brakes ByBre, ABS
Front: Single 320mm disc,
Rear: Single 300mm disc,
Weight 202kg (oil, no fuel, claimed)
Seat height 804mm
Ground clearance 174mm
Fuel capacity 13.7L
SERVICING & WARRANTY
Servicing First: 1000km
Warranty Three years,
unlimited kilometres, roadside assist
Price From $10,990 (plus on-road costs)
Colour options (Interceptor) Cali Green, Orange Crush, Canyon Red, Ventura Blue, Black Pearl, Downtown Drag, Baker Express, Sunset Strip, Mark Two; (Interceptor Dark) Black Ray, Barcelona Blue; (Continental GT) Dux Deluxe, Ventura Storm, Racing Green, Rocker Red, Mister Clean; (GT 650 Dark) Slipstream, Apex Grey.