Royal Enfield Interceptor Long-Term Test — The Green Lane

By Jeremy Taylor

2 months ago

A classic bike with a lively update


How can you save money on transport but still cut a retro dash? Motoring editor Jeremy Taylor rides the award-winning Royal Enfield Interceptor – sustainable fashion expert Jessica Saunders watches on…

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Review: Royal Enfield Interceptor

Royal Enfield Interceptor

First Impressions

JT – You know, my grandfather rode a motorcycle in the 1950s. His ancient BSA was the family’s only mode of transport, in the days when bikes were more everyday transport, rather than weekend fun machines.

JS – Didn’t a pillion passenger trap their foot in his wheel and end up in hospital?

Yes, that was unfortunate, wasn’t it? But no permanent damage, I’m told! Point being, British motorbikes were everywhere back then – before vastly superior Japanese machines flooded the market in the 1970s.

Royal Enfield Interceptor

But you obviously like this Royal Enfield. I thought they were a gun manufacturer?

Correct, Enfield started making bicycles, then parts for a small arms factory. Hence the brand catchphrase ‘Made like a Gun’, which dates back to 1913. The first Royal Enfield motorbike in 1901 featured a tiny engine in front of the handlebars, linked to the rear wheel by a rawhide drive belt! Those were the days…

So, what’s the story with the Interceptor?

Royal Enfield produced motorbikes in Redditch until the factory closed in 1967, leaving an Indian subsidiary to carry on using the name afterwards. The Interceptor is still made in India but, crucially, the bike has benefitted from more modern production methods, at an R&D Technology Centre in the UK.

Which I can only imagine is a good thing?

Indeed. Compared to other retro motorbikes, the Interceptor is also remarkable value at £6,399, with back-up three-year warranty included. The styling may be classic and reminiscent of my grandfather’s era, but the bike is powered by a modern 47bhp engine that’s lively and fun.

Looks good in the metal, too, with that painted fuel tank!

Our bike is Cali Green, but riders can choose from retro-looking Black Ray, or a polished stainless steel tank called Mark 2. Every model has a powerful LED headlight, Pirelli tyres, decent suspension and lots of lovely chrome.

Are the mechanics as old-fashioned as they appear?

No, underneath the chrome is a thoroughly modern 648cc twin cylinder that meets the latest Euro 5 emission regulations. It’s styled like an old bike but, apart from the number plate, there’s little to give its modern roots away.

Well, wrap up warm then, because I note it doesn’t have a heated seat or heated handlebar grips like your old BMW!

No, but Grandad would have approved. All that new-fangled technology just wasn’t his thing anyway.

OK, let’s see how you feel after riding it through a British winter in a couple of months time…

Royal Enfield Interceptor

Long Term Impressions

Two months later…

JT – Brrr – it’s freezing out there! 

JS – Are you finally admitting that riding around on the Royal Enfield motorbike over the winter months was not such a good idea after all?

Not in the slightest. No such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! That said, I’d probably fit a pair of heated handlebar grips to the Interceptor 650 if I was riding it year-round. Some bikes even have heated seats, you know.

I note you now have a pair of heated gloves and heated socks, seemingly on permanent charge in the office. Toasty?

Yes, although sometimes my feet feel like they are on fire. I’ve finally worked out the settings – not easy to do on the move. And I have news on the Royal Enfield front.

The Royal Enfield Interceptor against a blue sky in a field

Is there an electric motorbike on the horizon?

No, not yet from Enfield. Although I should point out, motorbikes and scooters generally have much lower emissions than a car. The Interceptor produces 99 g/km…

OK, OK! What news?

Well, as much as I love the retro-style Interceptor, Royal Enfield is about to launch an all-new Himalayan. This is their best-selling adventure bike, a bike that is very capable both on and off-road.

The two-wheeled equivalent of an SUV car you mean?

Indeed. The old model was a bit sluggish, especially for overtaking. The new one is more powerful, thanks to a 450cc engine. According to my biker pals who have already ridden it on the launch event in India, it’s more comfortable and a bargain at around £5,700.

So, are you going to trade the Interceptor in then?

They are very different bikes. Can I have both? The Interceptor draws attention wherever I’ve ridden it – the chrome fittings the 1960s styling, it’s a real head-turner. This probably explains why the bike is hugely popular in the UK.

I’ll admit, even I’ve cast an admiring glance when I see it parked in the garage.

The speedometer on the Royal Enfield Interceptor

The Interceptor is also very forgiving to ride around town, with no surprises from the gearbox and a willing engine. It’s perfect for a Sunday afternoon ride in the country but taller riders might find the low seating position a little tiring on longer trips.

I was expecting the instrument panel to be a confusing rash of dials and screens but a rev counter and speedo is pretty much all you need on a bike, isn’t it?

That’s true – and if you want a sat nav system, there are plenty of kits around these days to attach a phone securely to the handlebars securely. Best of all, the Interceptor is remarkable value for money and I guarantee it will put a big smile on your face.

Conclusion

Two more months later…

JS – Don’t think I haven’t spotted you on the internet again – looking for a new motorbike, are you?

JT – When spring arrives, a man’s thoughts naturally turn to the great outdoors, the thrill of the open road, wind in the hair…

Not sure you have much of that left. At least ‘helmet hair ‘ isn’t so much of an issue these days.

Yes, I may be follically challenged but I can still get my leg over a motorbike and I intend to ride on for many more years yet.

Royal Enfield Interceptor

So, what type of bike are you looking for? Will it be a retro Interceptor, like the Royal Enfield you currently have on test?

It will likely be a Royal Enfield, but I’m looking at the brand’s all-new Himalayan – the bike that changed the marque’s perception among buyers when it was launched in 2015. Until then, Enfield was outdated and unreliable.

And now?

While the bikes are built in India these days, the company has an R&D centre in the UK and that has helped reboot a brand that can trace its British heritage back to 1901, as well as famously supplying firearms to the Army.

OK, hence the brand logo – ‘made like a gun’. So, the new Himalayan is better?

I haven’t seen a bad review yet. It’s a bit faster than the sluggish old model, built around a new frame, with improved suspension and modern instrumentation. I love our Interceptor, but it’s a road bike and I sometimes prefer a dirt track.

Any final thoughts on the Interceptor then – will you recommend?

First and foremost, the GT is such a great value motorbike, fun, enjoyable and very easy to ride. It looks very much like a British bike from my youth, without the nasty oil leaks and other issues. It’s that fast, or that comfy for long days in the saddle – but who’d have thought a measly 47bhp would be this much fun!

DISCOVER

Discover more about the Royal Enfield Interceptor at royalenfield.com

Jessica Saunders is Director of Programmes at London College of Fashion, studying for a PhD in sustainable e-textile design.