MCN Fleet: Shockingly good move

K-Tech's Product Developer and racing expert James Harpham installs the firm's suspension on our Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
K-Tech's Product Developer and racing expert James Harpham installs the firm's suspension on our Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

There isn’t a lot wrong with the way the Interceptor rides. That’s clear by the sales figures as much as anything else – it was among the UK’s best-selling bikes during June 2020. Sure, it’s cheap, but that sort of success doesn’t come off the back of a low list price alone.

However, with low cost inevitably comes compromise, and so we find a bike that’s been fundamentally designed well, but using some bits from the cheaper end of the parts bin as finishing touches.

That isn’t to say anything about the 650 twins is substandard; more that it’s built to a budget. This also means it’s a great base for simple yet significant improvements. I’d decided to turn my attention to the handling, which, if you’ll remember back to my earlier updates, was one of the things I thought could be better.

The tread pattern on the ContiRoadAttack3

For me, the issue was two-fold: the standard Pirelli Phantom tyres weren’t great because their round profile, hard compound and classic tread pattern meant I didn’t have as much confidence as I’d have liked mid-bend – particularly in the wet. This was addressed with the fitment of some Continental RoadAttack 3 rubber (front - 100/90 R18 M/C 56V TL, rear - 130/80 R18 M/C 66V TL), which have been designed for all-weather performance on classic endurance racing bikes.

Close-up of the Continental ContiRoadAttack3 CR on Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

Costing £184 a pair, these immediately transformed the way the Interceptor felt. Turn-in is more linear and I’ve got loads of confidence to push on in corners because there’s considerably more grip on offer at every angle of lean. I’m keen to try these in the rain to see how their tread pattern slices through standing water but so far the difference between these and the Phantoms is chalk and cheese.

K-Tech are based in Debryshire

And secondly the Interceptor’s suspension struggled to keep up with itself, and I often found the tail bouncing a bit too much for my liking along the rutted, cambered B-roads I live along. Luckily, at the just the time I was giving this some thought, I came across a news story about K-tech’s new range of fully adjustable forks and shocks for the Interceptor. A phonecall later and I’d got the bike booked into their on-site bike setup facility at their factory in Derbyshire.

K-Tech's Tracker forks for the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

The system I’d gone for couples the firm’s Tracker fork cartridges, which feature adjustable compression and rebound damping along with spring preload adjustment (£594), with the Razor rear shocks (£954), which retain the twin coilover design Royal Enfield intended, but are of far higher quality and have compression, rebound, spring preload and length adjustment.

The Razor shock from K-Tech, as fitted to the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

And the verdict? I’m blown away. Within seconds it was obvious this was a different ballgame. Bumps and ruts disappeared as I learnt to ride with a new-found enjoyment – not in going particularly quickly, but in the ability to adjust midcorner and really get into a rhythm with my riding. It’s not a hard ride, either – there’s a decent amount of travel but the damping accuracy is exceptional. My handling project is now complete so it’s time to learn to live with this new setup and do some longer trips, and later in the year, the Enfield’s first trackday…


Update 5: Posh Pipe Dreamin'

First published 21 July 2020 by Gareth Evans

The S&S slip-on pipes on the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

I’m still in the honeymoon period with the Interceptor, loving every single ride, but if my back was against the wall, I’d say that my biggest criticism was its soundtrack. It’s just a little flat.

Thankfully, there are myriad options for remedying this, and my search for a set of new slip-ons found me lusting after this pair of beautifully crafted pipes from S&S Cycle – a firm that  works very closely with Royal Enfield (and Harley-Davidson, and Indian…). USA-based S&S produce a range of performance upgrades for the Interceptor aimed at improving rider enjoyment. More smiles-per-mile sounds great to me, so it was time for some heavy breathing.

What’s on the menu?

This little project took the form of the pair of pipes (£548), which save around 6kg over the hefty standard items, and also a new high-flow air filter kit (£62.50) complete with restrictor removal plates (£27.28). I’m told these latter two additions mean 95% better airflow into the engine, which should ensure improved throttle response as well as a subtle power boost.

S&S Cycle slip-on pipes, high-flow air filter and filter restrictor removal plates

It was an absolute cinch, too – a simple job with big returns. I did the filter first, which involves removing the seat and opening the airbox to get at the restrictor plate. Unbolt that and the standard filter is exposed. You simply remove, then replace with the S&S filter, and bolt the trio of restrictor removal plates on to keep the new element secure.

Next up were the pipes, once I’d finished drooling over their brushed steel finish – their build quality really is exceptional. I needed a set of gaskets from Royal Enfield (£12.52) sourced from Cooperb in Wellingborough, as the standard ones crumbled in my hand when removing the stock pipes.

The S&S high-flow air filter and restrictor removal plates

Past that, you simply unbolt the bracket and then unbolt the pipes from the bike’s frame and pull them away. Then reverse the process to install the new pipes. Easy.

So what do you reckon?

The result, once the ECU had sorted its fuelling out, is a dramatic improvement. The throttle feels so sharp it’s almost telepathic, and the twin’s new music is just fantastic. It’s not too loud until around 5000rpm, but still every single combustion event is like a party in my lid.

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 standard pipes vs S&S Cycle slip-ons

Furthermore, I saved a whopping 6kg off the weight of the considerably bigger standard cans. You can see the difference in the image above. It’s going to take a while to wipe this grin from my face…

The 6kg weight saving is a welcome benefit with the S&S slip-on cans on the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

Update 4: Interceptor's proving pretty popular

First published 07 July 2020

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 in Baker Express

I’m a huge fan of the Interceptor for a number of reasons – its looks, the way it rides, its simplicity, and of course its £5699 price tag for a standard bike, which includes full manufacturer warranty.

But it seems I’m not alone, because figures announced today by the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) show it was the best-selling ‘big bike’ (over 125cc) in the country during June.

The firm sold 196 bikes in the month, with only the hugely popular Honda PCX 125 scooter selling more, at a whopping 445 units in the same timeframe. The Interceptor outsold every other naked in what is the most popular bodystyle of bike currently on sale. Second spot goes to the Adventure Sport class, which includes bikes like the BMW R1250GS.

Have you been one of the lucky buyers who’ve got the keys to an Interceptor? I’d love to hear what you think of the bike, and about any modifications you’ve carried out. Why not send me an email and get in touch? - cheers!


Update 3: Lockdown life - charged and ready to go

First published 27 May 2020 by Gareth Evans

Oxford Products Oxymiser charger

Sure, we’re still enduring restrictions due to coronavirus, but that hasn’t stopped me dreaming about what I’m going to do  with this bike once the lockdown’s lifted. Having been an avid motorsport fan for most of my life, and in particular a historic racing enthusiast, I’ve decided the natural fit for it would be to see how quickly it’ll go around a circuit. If you think that sounds like an optimistic leap of faith for a relatively green biker like myself, I’d probably agree, but then this wouldn’t be my first visit to a track. I’m just more used to four wheels than two.

And anyway, I’ve got a seriously speedy secret weapon up my sleeve: I’m going ask for some tips from Neevesy, who when not running the Road Test desk on MCN or racing himself, has spent years instructing at the Ron Haslam Race School.

He recently presented a video on the common road-to-track mistakes for MCN’s Youtube channel (youtube. com/motorcyclenewsdotcom). It’ll also allow me to indulge in more fixing and fettling along the way, which I’m rather excited about. I’m considering the wisdom of fitting the slightly sportier seat from sister bike the Continental GT, following some advice on Facebook, and I’ll be trying new tyres out too for extra grip and feedback. I’m keen to hear from anyone out there who’s tracked an Interceptor already: what did you do to make it go quickly? You’ll be able to find out what I did later this year, as I’m planning on entering the Bike Shed Festival on this 650… 

Still, while it’s been tucked up in my workshop at home over the past few weeks, I’ve had some small jobs to do just to keep it primed and ready for action after a long stint under lock and key. I’d ordered an Oxford Oximiser 900 charger (£31.24) to keep the battery healthy, but I’d need to remove the latter first. It’s nestled under the triangle black panel with the Royal Enfield logo on the side, and removal involves a key, four bolts, one rubber belt, a wiring clip to break the circuit and the two screws for the positive and negative hook-ups. After wiring battery to charger this unit does the job all by itself, analysing and selecting the appropriate mode for your battery at the time. Couldn’t be easier, and it’s valuable peace of mind.


Update 2: First impressions count, but don't judge a bike by its key

First published 09 April 2020 by Gareth Evans

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 in Baker Express

A key can say lots about a vehicle. So it was slight trepidation that I took the plain, lightweight Royal Enfield-branded item into hand a few weeks back.

Would the bike, which looked impressively finished in promotional pictures, stand up to close scrutiny in the metal? Or was it destined to corrode the second I looked at it and fall to bits the moment I swung a leg over? With a price tag as low as the Interceptor’s, quality is a logical concern. And let’s not forget it’s made in India by a firm that builds nearly a million new bikes every year, mainly for less pernickety emerging markets. This’ll go one of two ways.

Lovely detailing on the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

However, my first inspection of the bike waiting outside revealed nothing but a pleasant surprise. It looks like a brilliant proposition, and – considering my relative lack of bigger- ike experience - a great learning platform. A twist of the key to ignition position and the old-school clocks illuminate in an appealing violet hue, displaying a rev counter with 7500rpm redline on the right, while on the left the 120mph shown on the speedo seems optimistic given the A2 licence-compliant 47bhp on offer from the parallel-twin motor. But nevertheless, I’m not a rider pining for points on my licence and neither is my talent anywhere near taming a 200bhp superbike.

No, I’m here for the thrill of my local country lanes, blasting between airfields, under viaducts and over humpback bridges. Thumbing the ignition, the starter motor spins the air-cooled engine into life with a reserved bark that quickly settles into a consistent pleasing aural tattoo.

Waiting for some heat to soak in before my first ride, I took the opportunity to inspect the bike’s mechanicals. I love that machined metal crank case, the curves blending well with the Interceptor’s distinctive twin exhausts. These softer shapes are in stark contrast to the horizontal cooling fins on engine and radiator, making for a purposefully nostalgic look. Anyway, I’m here to ride, and once onboard the seat is comfortable for someone of my proportions; it should be fantastic for longer jaunts. A twist of my right hand and the engine responds almost instantaneously. The clutch isn’t heavy, the gearbox feels solid, and the brakes and handling seem friendly. It’s not perfect, of course, but a few mods could change that…


Update 1: Interceptor 650 has classic appeal

First published 11 March 2020

As a new-ish rider, the modest 47bhp the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 boasts carries big appeal – I want to learn to get the best from it, rather than spend 2020 simply holding on for dear life.

But it also speaks to my love of classic machinery, style and engineering too, with the simplicity of an old-school design and retro aesthetics married to the home comforts of modern running gear and, hopefully, reliability.

Here’s hoping for long summer evenings rumbling along my favourite country lanes, and maybe some admiring glances from like-minded classic fans.

The rider Gareth Evans, MCN Online Editor, 36, 6ft. Riding six months, likes commuting and rural runs.

Bike specs 648cc | 47bhp | 202kg | 804mm seat height

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Gareth Evans

By Gareth Evans

Online editor, engineering enthusiast, historic motorsport fan