My Royal Enfield Interceptor 650: 1 year & 10,000 km update

I don't think it's possible to ride this bike above 100 kmph & stay comfortable. I believe that the Standard 500 & Himalayan are the most comfortable touring machines from Royal Enfield.

BHPian sandeepmohan recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Happy New Year to all. This update has been in the works since November.

One year and 2 months have passed. I've clocked ~10,200 kilometers in this time. 99% of that mileage are from highway runs. I've gone through 4 seasons of riding, starting with Spring in November 2020, when I bought the bike. The hardest time of the year to ride is in winter. My body can't take the cold. I am on the lookout for windproof riding gear. Taking my time with this as we're talking about $1000 (or 50k INR) windproof jackets. Online reviews are great for reference but they don't necessarily have to work for you. I've come across heated jackets (Using battery packs) but the important thing to note is if they can keep the wind out. Once you've sorted that, your body can build up some heat to keep you warm, alongside active heating. On the other hand, the winter months give you a lot of crisp days (cold, sunny and no wind) and there is less wind resistance compared to the summer months. I pick my riding days based on wind speed. Once it pushes >35kmph, it's usually combined with wind gusts >60kmph. I use MSN's excellent weather app service. The important thing to note here is wind speed and direction. Anyway, back to how it's been with the bike.

I got the second service done at a different garage this time around. There were a few reasons for this decision. The place where I purchased the motorcycle from, TSS Motorcycles, stopped dealing with Royal Enfield. That leaves me with Motorad, the sole official Royal Enfield dealer. Royal Enfield does not mandate the need to get the bike serviced from an authorized service garage. As long as the bike is serviced at the recommended interval is all they care about when it comes to any warranty claims or repairs. TSS and Motorad are a good 20km one way and from my first service experience with TSS (Which was good), I just ended up sitting there waiting for the bike to be serviced and returned, which they did in 2 hours. You can spend hours at this motorcycle dealer. There are no less than 50 different motorcycle models on display from various brands and >5000 square footage dedicated to motorcycle riding gear, spares and accessories. It's a one-stop shop for anything and everything motorcycles. You can kill an hour or more easily. It's still time wasted, not just for service, even the commute back and forth.

The second service was done by Boyle Brothers. A 15-minute run from home. This place deals with used motorcycles, general service and repair for just about anything on two wheels. Labor worked out to be a little more expensive than TSS. As this was a trial, I was willing to accept that additional cost. There were no specific repairs to call out and the bike was back with me in 5 hours. The oil poured in was Motul 3100 4T Gold 10w40 (The oil drained out was Motul 7100 10w50). I can't say if it was the fresh oil or a change in grade, the engine felt much at ease after this service and a bit more eager to respond when you get back on the throttle. The gearbox shifts better too. There is noticeable heat dissipation taking place from the engine post this oil change. I've never noticed any kind of heat before this. I am not talking about the kind of heat you can feel from a Duke 390 engine. It's nothing compared to that but I've noticed it ever so slightly. I must add that with varying weather conditions, that could also be the reason. Refinement is the same as before. Almost immediately after setting off from service, I felt the steering was lighter. Boyle had bumped the tire pressure to 29psi. This seems to suit the bike more than 25psi that I used to maintain, which made the steering feel sluggish, depending on the road surface. I am trialling a tire pressure between 27 and 29psi.

The rear tire is coming up for replacement. The center groove has <.5mm and no groove in some places. Fortunately not a single flat to date. I am open to recommendations. Be good to know if I can carry on with the same tube. I've always changed tire and tube whenever I replaced a tire but those were days from my Enfield and when the tire would last almost 3 years or more in some cases. The one option I have on the table is a Bridgestone Battlax BT46. Priced lower than stock and supposed to have a longer life.

Every time I take to the saddle of my motorcycle, I am left stumped that this is a Royal Enfield. The engine is what it's all about. You can surprise almost anyone from a traffic light. It's also tractable due to the wide torque spread. Paired to a nice slotting gearbox, you can have fun with this thing all day. On a wide-open road, you cruise effortlessly in 6th. On the hills, you flip between 3rd and 4th and you're in the spot. The bike remains mechanically bone stock. I have added an aluminium bar ended finisher, an oil filler cap and the short fly screen. All are cosmetic upgrades. I've got a large chrome engine guard still sitting in the box.

I've read a lot here that thicker (or better) front fork oil and preload adjusters are a must, to improve the dynamics of the bike. That may well be true. However, for the roads and conditions I ride to, I like the soft stock spring action. It absorbs everything and much of New Zealand roads are uneven so I need that absorption. It's definitely soft to go corner carving. I don't do much of that. The rear springs at their stock setting are okay.

I've got used to the erratic fuel gauge. I wait till it blinks or once the trip meter crosses 220km and refuel. I've pushed a max of 285km, reserve fuel included. This is the borderline for pushing the Interceptor on reserve fuel. I overestimated the range once and had the engine cut out. It was a scary moment. I thought it was a seize. I felt power drop, pulled the clutch in (while doing 105kmph) and let the bike slow to a stop. In this short interval. The engine idled for a bit at 500rpm and then died. Fortunately, this was just outside Waverley town. Waited a few seconds, the bike started without a problem and 200 meters ahead was a gas station. Phew! The bike took in 11.7 litres which means there was gas in the tank. Just not enough to keep the flow continuous for the pump to feed the engine. Not a good idea to starve the fuel pump either as fuel is used as a means of lubricating the pump.

The lack of a gear position indicator is sort of solved once you get used to the engine speeds in a said gear. I know that in 5th at the ton, you're engine speed is close to 4500rpm and that drops to 4000rpm in 6th. You actually end up looking for 7th due to the way this motorcycle is geared, the sound of the engine. That said, the engine is nowhere near stressed. Passing another vehicle can be handled in 6th, I drop to 4th only to complete the pass faster. The engine has sufficient torque to pull you up gradual highway inclines (even in 6th) and there are lots of these in NZ. I still pop a gear down or two, to keep the engine spinning where it sounds and feels right.

My comfortable cruising speed is a shade over the ton. I don't think it's possible to ride this bike above this and stay comfortable. There are two reasons for this. One is wind blast. There isn't anything you can do about this. The other is an increase in resonance, vibrations from the engine once the rpm creeps >4500rpm and not exceeding 5000rpm. You can guess what those speeds are. Those vibrations are not to the extent that you're teeth are going to rattle and fall out. It's an odd buzz or feeling. Maybe it goes away once the rpm creeps higher. This is my observation.

The lights are definitely weak. I can't say what it really is. I use low and high beams. The latter if nobody is coming the opposite way. I feel that low beam lights up the front nice. When you flip to High Beam, it's pointing so far ahead and not that much in terms of intensity. It also cuts out low beam coverage. I'd like to see some of the road that's immediately ahead. I get by only because the roads have cat eyes everywhere and clear marking on the edge of the road, indicating the left or right boundary. I will try and post a picture next time of what it's like to ride on pitch black and deserted NZ roads. You may not see a human or a vehicle for miles. You've got only your motorbike and those cat eyes for company.

Comfort is a mixed bag. I find the stock seat quite firm. Comfortable for short distances. It's my rear end that's a bit wider than the seat which causes discomfort over extended periods of riding. I don't know if the touring seat adds width to the front section, which is where more support is needed. Pictures do not suggest that it does. The maximum distance I've done in a day is shy of 570km and that's pushing it for me, on this motorcycle. Seating is cramped and my height is at the borderline for what this bike can be for comfort. This ain't no armchair like feeling, like my Standard 500 or the luxurious Himalayan. These two bikes are hands down the most comfortable touring machines from Royal Enfield. Not that you cannot tour on an Interceptor. You can. The other bikes offer more comfort and have more room while you're at it.

I tend to slouch after a period of time while riding. Can't keep my back straight for too long. Not that it hurts. I do not notice I've slouched and end up riding like that. The usual knee and shoulder pain sets in after some time too. The shoulder pain is bizarre and something I've never had before. I attribute this to a lack of riding, compared to what I used to do. It was not too long ago where I used to ride 40km every day. Present-day, there will be gaps of two weeks (or more) where I won't ride at all, then pick up the bike and ride a good 300 to 500km in a day or two and then go into hibernation.

If you tend to leave your left foot between the gear shifter and footpeg, you need to be careful around bends. I've had several painful scrapes when I corner as the tip of my shoe makes contact with the ground. I don't wear professional riding footwear. A regular cloth pair of ankle covered sneakers is all I do. These things have flex and won't save your foot if it does decide to scrape hard. I slide my foot back so my toe area is over the footpeg. It's quite a bit different to how I could be at ease on my Enfield 500, where the left foot is almost parallel in position to the brake pedal.

On longevity, the Interceptor does need some care at a cosmetic level. Mostly around water, the water you use to wash the bike, exposure to moisture. I made the mistake of parking a wet bike in the garage. 12 hours later, the bike had not dried up. There was still water on it. As a result, superficial rust started to set in on parts like the exhaust crown, exposed fork tube, bits of the handlebar and a few other places. Had I wiped the bike down (or just left it out in the open to dry naturally), none of this would have happened. Fortunately, some WD40 did the trick and I could get most of the rust off. What you see in pictures is a bike that's never had a professional wash, wax or polish job. All I do is wash and wipe with some car wash liquid (I've done a full bike wash twice in the last 14 months). The quality of paint and chrome is not in the league of a Triumph for sure. For a motorcycle that costs half a 2019 Bonneville, I can live with that (The new 2021 Trident does make a strong case for itself though as it's $2400 or 1.3lac over the 2022 Interceptor). Everything has held up well. One plastic clutch cable-stay has come off its anchor point. I can't seem to find where it is. It now rests on the oil cooler. No squeaks, rattles and nothing had fallen off. Surprisingly the chain had not slacked by much even at 7000km. Tension was checked and adjusted during the second service.

When you watch marketing videos of the Interceptor, you hear a really nice exhaust note. It's definitely pumped up (in the edit) and its music. When you are out riding, you can't hear any of that. The only time I can hear the exhaust is when I'm <50kmph and when I blip the throttle to drop a gear. With a headscarf (to keep the wind and cold out) and the helmet, most of that noise is cut out. An exhaust upgrade is definitely on the cards. I'll take it up once I am clear of my options and their noise levels. I need to pay attention to the latter when the bike goes for fitness inspection every year as they take note of the dB levels. Something that will let me swap out the pipes easily will be good. I like the ones from AEW and have seen something identical on an Interceptor here. AEW did confirm that they will ship to Kiwi land and said they will prepare a PayPal invoice for me. After that, it has been radio silence from them. Maybe a good thing as the pipes were gonna land at Rs. 28,000, shipped. I know it's a lot but I have no other option. Pipes over here are going to set me back no less than $900! I am also inclined to give business to a company that does good work, quite like what I did with the Trip Machine touring bag that I use for trips. Gone are the days you could buy an amazing exhaust for Rs. 2000!

The other observation I have made is less about the bike and more about owning and riding a motorcycle. In New Zealand, to be a biker is special. Owning a motorcycle comes out of a passion to ride and enjoy the outdoors on two wheels. Nobody rides solely for the purpose of commuting. To share an example, the office parking has no more than 10 motorcycles versus 100 cars. It's the exact opposite in India where we use a motorcycle as a faster and economical way to commute. I have a few colleagues who ride no matter what the weather is. I chicken out when it rains or if it's too windy, cold. My body cannot deal with that.

Every time you pass another rider, you wave out or nod your head to the side. It's like you are a tribe of your own. There are only two classes of bikers that I've noticed who don't care for anybody else on the road. That's Harley Davidson (obviously) and most of the Triumph clan (The bonny chaps in particular). The Harley chaps rarely wave out or even acknowledge your presence. I guess when you ride something like a Harley, that big bike feeling does sink in a bit much and you do feel like the King (or Queen) of the road. The Triumph Bonneville group also rarely wave out. It's as if they are pissed off by the fact that I am riding something very close to theirs at a fraction of the cost. The Tiger owners don't seem to have the same issue or problem. Anyways, I gesture to everyone I pass, whether they return one or not. It does not matter. To pass another Enfield rider/owner is most thrilling. There are a good number of Interceptors on the road followed by the Himalayan. The latter makes more sense as NZ roads offer a wide range of terrain (off-road included). Some highways are gravel roads. It is a lot more suited versus the Interceptor/Continental GT. It's also the cheapest adventure motorcycle one can buy.

I got back on a motorcycle after a 4-year gap. This is the longest break, considering I started riding in 2002, had a break when I relocated to Bombay for a year and jumped back on again in 2005-2006. I've been riding ever since. To work mostly and the occasional trip. I did not spare a moment even when I visited India back in 2019. Got back on my trusty old Enfield 500 with FM tharian (On his ~125,000km+ run Electra) and went for a ride. It was amazing to jump back on my Enfield. Back to New Zealand, the feeling started to sink in again, looking at other motorcycle riders, especially on weekends. I was missing that feeling of being on the saddle, exposed to the elements. Freedom. It didn't take long to head to AA New Zealand and sign up for a motorcycle learners license (I'm still on it) and I picked up a new Interceptor right after. In the back of my mind, I did want that Orange Enfield Trials motorbike cause it looked different due to the paint scheme. After a year with the Interceptor, I feel I made the right decision. This has to be the best motorcycle in its segment and perhaps some above. It is engineered to perfection.

Here are some photos from my travels with the Interceptor.

I travel on this section of road at least twice a month. If I can't do a really long ride, then this is it and the view is stunning every single time. Very close to Martinborough. This is part of New Zealand's wine trail and if you ever make it to kiwi land, it's a must-visit, especially if you love wine.

Taihape. This was taken from the longest ride I've done to date with the Interceptor. Was freezing but you tend to forget such things with a view like that.

A pitstop at the Remutaka Hill midpoint. One of many hill roads New Zealand has and close one to Wellington City.

On the way for a nice long loop ride. This was on my way out of Wellington City. Pukerua Bay.

A visit to Gladstone School for their annual Scarecrow's Big Day Out festival. That's some nice work the kids have done. Also, remembering Bruce McLaren. The only Kiwi to make it to Formula One. Sadly, he is no more.

Gladstone was a village I discovered by just discovering new roads. I see a road, turn onto it and see where it goes. You can geographically plot in your head which direction you are headed. The village has a school, Gladstone Inn which dates back to 1870, which the workers originally built as a resting place as they were building a bridge across the Ruamahanga river and a church. The closest shop or medical center is 20km away! The Inn is a popular weekend hangout spot for families and is usually booked out. Bikers frequent this place too.

During one trip, I spotted this immaculate Impala parked outside the Inn. The lines, all that curved glass is beautiful. Wouldn't you prefer this versus all those useless screens inside your car? You can sit on a bench and stare at this thing all day.

Gladstone Church. Mass is held to this day.

The bridge that goes over Ruamahanga River and Gladstone Inn is visible on the left.

At Riversdale. The town or village has one shop, a small cafe and maybe a hundred beach houses. That's it. It's all about the sand here.

I have been driving and riding past this property ever since we moved to New Zealand. It's clearly a Residential and Commercial property as there are a lot of trucks parked. These two Mack Trucks always guard the gates. One day I decided to pull over to find out what was going on. Turns out, the owner runs a Mack Truck specialist repair shop. He does restoration too and those two trucks are his pride and joy. He takes them out for truck shows.

The last photo is from (To Marton), a couple of weeks ago. The one where I ran out of gas. This is the first time I have come across a place like this in New Zealand. I believe there are many around. It's a restroom and Plunket room. The latter is a space designed for kids. There is a play area, a space for mothers to feed, a learning center for new or soon to be parents, a small outdoor play area, couches and toilets. I've never seen anything like it. Is free to use for anyone. It's clearly not seeing much use today. (A public toilet is the last thing you'll ever struggle to find in New Zealand). I was the only one around. Couches were not in great shape. The toilets were spotless.

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