Some of you may never have heard of Royal Enfield and its long history of producing motorcycles that make it one of the industry's two oldest manufacturers in existence. Heck, a lot of today's motorcycle enthusiasts probably don't care. But there's a good chance they and everyone else will soon know of the brand that has made a name for itself in the burgeoning Indian market and is now looking to gain a foothold in the US. The new 650 twins from Royal Enfield have a unique combination of approachability, performance, style, and fun that just might re-energize a new generation's interest in motorcycling.

Last week we brought you the Continental GT 650, a surprisingly fun, capable, and legitimate throwback to the café racers of the '60s. Now we'll introduce you to its "twin brother": the INT650, a more classic take on Royal Enfield's middleweight twin formula.

Royal Enfield INT650
Royal Enfield’s INT650 is the more classic take on its parallel-twin.Royal Enfield

The INT650 is marketed as the “Interceptor” in the rest of the world, and while Honda has a trademark on the name in the USA, it should be noted that Royal Enfield had an Interceptor model long before Honda’s 1983 V-4 sportbike. The first Royal Enfield Interceptor was a 692cc parallel twin introduced in the USA and Canada back in 1960. It soon grew to 736cc in 1962, and was produced in two more variations up until the British company shuttered its doors in 1970.

But the brand has been living on in India, and is now making a bold and calculated push to gain foothold in the USA, European, and Asian markets with a new pair of 650 twins. These bikes are all new from the ground up, and represent a considerable amount of investment by Royal Enfield to become a player on the world motorcycling stage. Both the INT650 and Continental GT are built on their own dedicated assembly line, and the factory has completely overhauled its quality-control process to ensure the bikes are ready to compete at the world level (a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty plus roadside assistance on both models shows the company’s confidence in the build quality of its new 650 twins).

INT650
The INT650 and its sibling, the Continental GT 650, are all-new Royal Enfields from the ground up.Royal Enfield

The INT650 is marketed as the “Interceptor” in the rest of the world, and while Honda has a trademark on the name in the USA, it should be noted that Royal Enfield had an Interceptor model long before Honda’s 1983 V-4 sportbike. The first Royal Enfield Interceptor was a 692cc parallel twin introduced in the USA and Canada back in 1960. It soon grew to 736cc in 1962, and was produced in two more variations up until the British company shuttered its doors in 1970.

But the brand has been living on in India, and is now making a bold and calculated push to gain foothold in the USA, European, and Asian markets with a new pair of 650 twins. These bikes are all new from the ground up, and represent a considerable amount of investment by Royal Enfield to become a player on the world motorcycling stage. Both the INT650 and Continental GT are built on their own dedicated assembly line, and the factory has completely overhauled its quality-control process to ensure the bikes are ready to compete at the world level (a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty plus roadside assistance on both models shows the company’s confidence in the build quality of its new 650 twins).

The steel double-downtube cradle frame is also identical to the Continental GT 650, with renowned UK frame constructor Harris Performance (purchased by Royal Enfield in 2015) assisting in its development. Steering geometry figures are a very sporty 24-degree rake and 106mm of trail, and the lack of vibration from the 270-degree crank layout and secondary counterbalancer mean the engine can be solidly mounted in the frame for additional rigidity. Again, like the Continental GT, a non-adjustable 41mm conventional fork and twin coilover/reservoir-equipped shocks (both by Gabriel of automotive aftermarket fame) handle suspension duties, with the same spoked 18-inch wheels in 2.50/3.50-inch width front and 3.50 x 18-inch rear respectively, shod with Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp rubber in 100/90 front and 130/70 rear sizes (tubes are used because of the conventional spoked wheels). Completing the carryover from the Continental GT are the single 320mm disc up front clamped by a two-piston floating ByBre (an abbreviation of “By Brembo,” the Indian subsidiary of the renowned Italian brake manufacturer) caliper, and a single 240mm disc and single-piston floating ByBre caliper in the rear.

single 320mm disc and two-piston floating ByBre caliper
The single 320mm disc and two-piston floating ByBre caliper provide excellent stopping power on the INT650. Note the steel-braided brake lines.Royal Enfield

Where the INT650 differs from the café-racer-styled Continental GT is in the ergonomics department. Instead of the clip-on bars, the Interceptor sports a conventional high-rise tubular handlebar with a bolt-on crossbar, mounted to the top triple clamp. The seat is a much longer and better-padded unit with plenty of room for two (unlike the single café seat option we tested with the Continental GT), with the additional padding boosting seat height by almost half an inch. Because of the rider’s more upright torso position courtesy of the taller handlebar, the INT650’s footpegs are moved forward approximately 1.5 inches and lowered about 0.75 inch. And lastly, the INT650 sports a teardrop-style fuel tank that lacks the knee cutouts of the Continental GT unit, giving the INT650 about 0.3 gallon more capacity.

INT650’s tear-drop-style fuel tank
The INT650’s tear-drop-style fuel tank holds 0.3 gallon more than the Continental GT since it doesn’t have the knee cutouts. This splays your legs out a little more, but it’s barely noticeable.Royal Enfield

The more comfy seating arrangement of the INT650 is immediately noticeable, with an overall feel that harkens back to the do-it-all motorcycles of the ’60s and ’70s prevalent in California—the same fun culture that inspired the original Interceptor during that time. There’s plenty of space to get yourself situated comfortably on the long seat, and there’s decent legroom; the fuel tank splays your knees out a bit more than the Continental GT, but nothing obtrusive. Firing up the 270-degree twin results in the same syncopated rumble from the upswept mufflers (all identical to the Continental GT), and the user-friendly clutch, bottom-end torque, and good gearbox action all remind you of what an amiable engine the Royal Enfield 650 twin really is.

INT650 seat
The INT650 has a long, comfortable seat for both rider and passenger that brings back memories of the do-it-all motorcycles of the ’60s and ’70s, when hyper-specialization of the market didn’t exist.Royal Enfield

Oh, and it’s fun, too. Spec-chart mavens may scoff at the modest 42.55 hp at 6,820 rpm and 37.48 pound-feet torque at 5,010 rpm, but those numbers don’t truly depict what the INT is like to ride in the real world. There’s plenty of low-end and midrange power to get the bike moving swiftly through busy traffic or down your favorite canyon road, and it’ll cruise at 80 mph on the highway without breaking a sweat. The overall power spread is nice and wide, meaning paying attention to the tachometer is optional. Even though the twin revs surprisingly quick, the engine is fine with wherever in the rpm range you want to change gears, and shifting early to take advantage of the flat torque curve won’t penalize your acceleration one bit. Sure, there are plenty of more powerful bikes of similar engine size out there, but outright power obviously isn’t what Royal Enfield was aiming for with its new 650 twins.

648cc parallel-twin powerplant
Overall power is nice and wide from the 648cc parallel-twin powerplantSpenser Robert

Throttle response is silky smooth in any riding situation we encountered, which also adds to the Royal Enfield’s novice rider appeal. It’s obvious that a lot of time was spent getting the fueling correct, especially when you consider the engine’s air-/oil-cooled architecture; the “Interceptor” fires up readily on a cold morning, and could be ridden right away without any hesitation or hiccups from the fuel injection. The INT650 is also pretty frugal on gas consumption; despite the smallish 3.6-gallon fuel tank capacity, we could easily see getting more than 180 miles to a tankful based upon our full day’s ride.

Royal Enfield INT650
Handling is neutral yet responsive on the Royal Enfield INT650.Spenser Robert

Like its Continental GT brother, handling is delightfully responsive yet neutral on the INT650, not something we expected with the 18-inch wheels. The more upright ergos of the INT650 allow a bit more leverage on the bars for slightly quicker steering, but it retains the same confidence-inspiring stability over rough pavement and aggressive riding pace as the Continental GT. There’s a bit less ground clearance due to the lower peg placement, with the peg feelers touching down to warn you that the limit is close by; surprisingly, the centerstand (remember those?) never touched down during cornering. Despite suspension settings on the softer end of the spectrum for a smooth ride, the Royal Enfield always kept its composure, even when ridden at a pace that 99 percent of its likely buyers will never approach.

The brakes also displayed a nice combination of novice-friendly/expert-capable characteristics. There’s plenty of power and feel to reel the INT650 during spirited canyon rides or panic situations, yet initial response isn’t grabby or overly progressive in a way that could overwhelm less experienced hands. And the Bosch ABS never felt overly intrusive, even during simulated panic stops or aggressive corner entries.

INT650
The INT650 kept its composure, even when ridden harder than its intended purpose.Spenser Robert

As far as gripes with the INT650, the use of inner tubes as with the Continental GT due to the spoked rims means that any punctures will be more difficult to repair. The footpeg bracket on the left side is little obtrusive; if you like to keep your feet close to the bike, your foot will find itself slipping annoyingly on the bracket where the footpeg attaches. And both 650 twins utilize a Le Mans-type flip-up fuel cap that has no lock to prevent tampering or theft.

Sweetening the deal is the price: the base model INT650 will retail early next year for just $5,799, with one of the many beautiful custom two-tone paint schemes selling for $5,999, and like the Continental GT, a stunning chrome-tanked special will be available for $6,499. Yes, there are plenty of similar-displacement motorcycles that have more performance, or might be more practical, but Royal Enfield isn’t looking to compete directly against any of those bikes. The INT650 is intended to appeal to the novice (or experienced) rider who wants to return to the simple and fun days of motorcycling without breaking the bank. It’s got a combination of retro-cool authenticity and modern day approachability that just might be one of the game-changers the motorcycle industry needs right now.

Royal Enfield’s INT60
Royal Enfield’s INT60 is simple and fun without breaking the bank.Spenser Robert

2019 Royal Enfield INT650

PRICE $5,799 (solid colors), $5,999 (multi-colors), $6,499 (chrome)
ENGINE Air-/oil-cooled, SOHC, 648cc, parallel twin, 4 valves/cylinder
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 42.55 hp @ 6,820 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 37.48 lb.-ft. @ 5,010 rpm
FRAME Tubular mild steel, double cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm conventional damping rod fork, 4.5-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Twin coilover shocks, adjustable preload, 3.5-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE 2-piston floating caliper, single 320mm disc w/ ABS
REAR BRAKE 1-piston floating caliper, single 240mm disc w/ ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 24°/106mm
WHEELBASE 55.1 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.6 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.6 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 445 lb. (all fluids, no fuel)
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT royalenfield.com/usa