RE Interceptor 650 Review India
RE Interceptor 650 Review India

RE Interceptor 650 Review | Text, Pictures, and Videos By: Syed Shiraz

I know that we are late to the party. Heck, the last we reviewed an RE was way back in 2014, and you may click here to read that review. Therefore, before I begin our RE Interceptor 650 review, you, dear readers, have all the right to know why we couldn’t review an RE in the past five years or how we now managed to get a media unit finally. In fact, now we’ll make this—writing about the unethical acts in our industry—a regular feature whenever & wherever we come across such acts first hand. But first, let me quickly explain how the process of obtaining a review unit works. This should help those of you as well who are planning to make a foray into automotive journalism. See, all manufacturers have a Corporate Communications department that’s responsible for, among other stuff, dealing with media. However, since a small team of, say, less than 10 people, can’t really get into micromanaging, they hire a PR agency to do all of that and more. Therefore, the agency is generally the first point of contact for almost all journalists. And so it was for us too, back in 2015 during the RE Himalayan media ride in Shimla, sometime after its launch in Delhi.

A fine agency otherwise, they had an amazing chap handling RE’s PR who told us that he couldn’t invite us to the RE Himalayan media ride because RE didn’t have enough bikes for the ride. I believed him. But then I started receiving screenshots from friends and acquaintances showing that even tech reviewers (one of them said in his video review that “he is not a motorcycle expert“), fashion bloggers, photographers, and a few others who I believe didn’t even represent any media house, were also invited. He had blatantly lied, of course. It would have still been okay had he not promised us that we would be invited while I continually reminded him, in the months preceding the ride. Forget professionalism (or the severe lack of it rather) or following basic work ethics, one can try to be a man of their word, at least. Also, a media ride is supposed to be an event which involves inviting proper reviewers; it’s not be to treated as an all-expense paid vacation for you and your friends.

Anyway, I wrote to him, but didn’t get a proper response. I requested him (the PR chap) to provide a media unit to us later on, and despite again assuring us that he will do so, we never got a test unit from him. Much thereafter, the bloke moved on from the agency after spoiling it for both RE and us. Or so he would have thought. Some say, he is still working on promoting influencers (and hopelessly trying to become one himself) rather than his own client/company…

Fast forward to the last quarter of 2018, and I was again flooded with questions from readers, friends, their friends, acquaintances, absolute strangers, and others about the new RE 650 twins. That prompted me to write to RE’s Corp. Comm. team directly, asking them for the review units, while also reiterating the mess created by their ex-PR. I was not expecting a reply.

However, contrary to my expectation, I got a call from them the very next day! I was told that we will definitely get the bikes, but it would take a while before the Delhi test units come in February and are registered thereafter. We did get the bike in April end, and the Corp. Comm. gentleman kept his promise of giving us an almost brand new test unit. I had put in that request because, sadly, most auto journalists just do not handle the media units like they pamper their own bikes (if they have any, that is). And I didn’t want to review a roughed up bike as then the review wouldn’t have given the correct picture of it. With that out of the way, let’s begin our RE Interceptor 650 review now!

RE Interceptor 650 Review: Design, Instrumentation & Build Quality

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If God designed a motorcycle, it would not be much different than this. I mean, just look at it! There is not a thing which is over- or under-done here. It’s perfect. The round headlamp is just the right size and so are the twin pods that comprise the instrument cluster. The dials personify elegance—a big pat on RE’s back for keeping it classy.

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The speedo houses a small LCD which has a bar-type fuel gauge, odo, and two trip meters, while the tach dial contains the idiot lights. Neat. That’s all the information I need from my motorcycle.

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And that big beautiful engine jutting out ever so slightly from underneath the sculpted tank makes you want to sit on the bike, rest your temple on the tank, and wrap your arms around it; you’re in love, sir! Riding the motorcycle can wait.

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Also, in profile, you can see that the engine, bend pipes, and exhausts look like they were diecast as a single unit! Such a cohesive design is a rarity!

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In fact, even the exposed parts of the chassis make this motorcycle look organic. They tell you that it was made by human hands, and not by a factory of bots from Will Smith’s I Robot.

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What’s commendable is that even if you look at any part of this motorcycle in isolation, you’ll realize that it’s simplistically beautiful. Take for instance this picture below:

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Don’t you just love the shape of that fender and how it caresses the Pirelli, whose pattern reminds you of a resting python, or how the rim looks like a bit of adamantium was fused into it? Heck, even the brake assembly looks like some classic jewellery at display!

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And I don’t know why I didn’t remember to click a picture of the fuel cap lock’s chunky flip-up cover, which makes you feel like Marlon Brando while flipping it up every time at a gas station. That said, all gas lids should be hinged, period. Because while Mr. Brando would use one hand to hold the fuel cap and the other to fill the tank up leisurely with mostly gusts of wind to accompany him at the desolated fuel station, I, in India, have to use both my hands to take the wallet out and give the card/cash to the attendant, while keeping an eye on the fuel cap that lays gingerly on the saddle, and also giving the look to the guy on the Splendor behind me for rubbing his front tyre against my bike’s rear. Pervert.

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To avoid such confrontations (I am a peaceful guy, you know), what I do is that I get the fuel, push the bike out of harm’s way (read: “the hurried-for-nothing masses” behind you), and then pay for the fuel. Talking about fuel stations and the crowd present, I noticed that this RE, despite wearing the most inconspicuous colour for a retro, does attract a lot of eyeballs. RE is offering the Interceptor in quite a few attractive colour schemes, my favourites being the base Orange and that dual-tone White & Red.

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The build quality is great, and I am happy to report that nothing, absolutely nothing rattled, hissed, or squeaked in the entire duration I had the bike with me. And yes, there wasn’t any oil leakage from anywhere. Not a whiff of it! RE has finally made a global product.

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RE Interceptor 650 Review: Ergonomics & Comfort

I have dedicated a separate section for this topic as it would comprise a major reason for serious riders for buying the Interceptor 650. They foresee being the most comfortable on this motorcycle than on anything else being sold for under five-lakh rupees, except all other REs (especially the Thunderbird) which have the most comfortable saddles, this side of the mighty Indian Chiefs’. However, the Interceptor 650 is a mixed bag in this department. Let’s start with the handlebar first. It gives you the impression that you will sit comfortably upright and you do to an extent, but, as you can see in the panning shots below, there is a bit of a reach for even someone who is 5’9″ like my younger brother in the picture.

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That said, you can loosen a couple of bolts and tilt it closer to you. I didn’t do it as I prefer the slightly forward-biased riding posture. What no one will like is the position of the footpegs. Unless you’re like eight-feet tall, and can place your feet wide apart whenever you stop, the pegs come in the way every time you put your feet down. Your shins or calves, depending upon whether you place your feet ahead or behind the pegs, will swear at you more frequently than you can imagine. But this is something that you might get used to. I couldn’t.

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I believe this issue will be more problematic for shorter riders like me who’re already on their tip toes with bikes that have a saddle height of 800 mm and more. The Interceptor’s seat height is 804 mm and, thanks to its narrow upper-mid section, it would have been perfectly manageable for shorter riders had it not been for the protruding pegs. Anyone taller than 5’6″ might not face that much of an issue. I am getting restless to now ride the GT650 for this very reason. It has a lower seat height 793 mm, and the footpegs, I guess, are also rearset. I think that could be the perfect bike for us shorties as far as ergos are concerned.

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What adds to the pain is the seat, which is downright horrible, both for the rider and pillion. My official pillion-comfort tester is 5’4″, who said that other than the obvious ease of swinging a leg over a flat saddle, she was more uncomfortable on the Interceptor than on the YZF-R15 V2! She said the pegs placement feels wrong and the seat is just plain uncomfortable. For the record she had felt quite comfortable on the Bonneville T100. And I am taking into account a ride of around 80 km on exactly the same route (South-East Delhi to Gurgaon and back) every time, which means that all three motorcycles were ridden on the same roads.

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Again, this is something that can be easily fixed. There are amazing seat fabricators out there who can put a king’s throne to shame. Also, while touring, most will anyway wear riding pants that have padding to protect your hindside as well in case of a fall, which should make saddle time comparatively better too.

RE Interceptor 650 Review: Ride, Handling, and Braking

Most might not actually feel the stock saddle’s lack of comfort much because the ride quality of the Interceptor 650 is wonderful! The thing just glides over almost everything in its path. The first stroke of the suspension is soft and then it gets progressively stiffer but without getting ‘hard’ at any point. Brilliant! And you still would never be able to bottom it out, unless you treat it like an MX bike, which you never will, of course. The rebound is almost perfect too. What it means is that the sudden anomalies we encounter at least once everyday at a fair clip, won’t throw us off the road or onto the traffic next to us. Simply put, this bike’s suspension will keep you happy in the city and on the highways too, irrespective of the surface condition. The ground clearance of 174 mm also helps.

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It handles bloody well too! Its rake angle of 24 degrees is steeper than both the Street Twin’s (25.1 degrees) and Bonnie T100’s (25.5 degrees), however, the Triumphs beat it in the trail game. Nevertheless, the Interceptor’s steering feels quicker than the Bonnie’s and almost as neutral as the Street Twin’s. That’s a BIG achievement for a motorcycle that’s the same format as the Triumphs but costs LESS than three times the Bonnie and exactly three times less than the Street Twin! If you’re someone who has never ridden a Bonnie or a Street Twin, then do not worry, I shall explain to you as well how the Interceptor handles.

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Take a Bullet 350 (I am taking you’d have ridden that, at least), shave off around 20 kilos in how it FEELS (the 650 is otherwise heavier, of course), give it a quick and superbly connected steering, and you’re riding the Interceptor 650! It weighs 202 kg dry (the dry weights of T100 and Street Twin are 213 kg and 198 kg, respectively), and you definitely feel every kilo of it during tight-space maneuvers, such as in a crowded parking lot, that can involve a lot of manual pushing and pulling to park it properly.

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Talking about parking, I must also add that those oh-so-gorgeous silencers protrude too much outward and you have to be mindful of that while putting the bike into, and taking it out of, tight spots.

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My garage comprises a ’66 Willys CJ-3B, two RD350s, a Jawa 250, and an RX-100. If you noticed, three out of my four motorcycles have twin pipes. Now though it is a tight fit, all five vehicles are comfortably parked inside, without a single occurrence of non-consensual touching. However, with the Interceptor in the garage (the Jawa had to be parked at my uncle’s workshop) there was no space left for even the slim RX-100! The upside is that the bikes behind you in traffic, looking at the sheer width of the exhausts, won’t honk unnecessarily to egg you into squeezing in the 6-inch space left between that state transport bus and the kerb. Also, in parking lots, the bikes parked alongside will automatically keep their distance from your shiny fuel tank.

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Anyway, there’s one more thing that will leave you in awe: the braking of this motorcycle! The stupendous braking power, thanks in no small measure to the astounding grip provided by the Pirelli Phantom Sportcomps (RE says that the structure and compound were specially developed for the 650), left me pleasantly surprised every time I dropped the anchors! The brakes do not only stop the bike, they are strong enough to stop your inner demons too. For complete conscience cleansing, I recommend applying the brakes with full force, twice a day. Don’t worry, the dual-channel ABS by Bosch will ensure that you’re not skinned while at it.

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Just so you know that the Interceptor’s front rotor is a 320 mm unit, whereas the both the Triumphs employ one that’s 10 mm smaller. I must also mention that all three bikes mentioned here use 41 mm forks. RE has given steel-braided lines, a feature that is generally missing on bikes even thrice its price! The last time I reviewed the Bonnie and the Street Twin, they didn’t have them either. I guess the 2019 models still don’t. You may witness the Interceptor’s braking prowess here:

Also, if you’re wondering how well, handling wise, will the Interceptor 650 keep up with the Duke 390 ridden by your friend in the twisties, then let me tell you that you would never lose sight of him, provided there being not too much of a difference in your and your friend’s riding skills. How the Interceptor fares in a straight line in comparison is something you will learn in the next section. Stability wise, it is definitely better than the lighter KTMs, and is almost as good as the Triumphs!

RE Interceptor 650 Review: Engine & Gearbox Performance, and Fuel Efficiency

Now we come to the best part of the Interceptor 650, its engine. I had never imagined RE to come up with such a gem of a motor! I knew they were capable, but I just didn’t expect them to utilize their capability in this manner! This engine, ladies and gentlemen, will stand proudly alongside the smoothest and most refined engines ever built! I am sure no one had expected that to be ever said of an RE! That’s already four exclamation marks in five sentences, and let me shamelessly ask you to be prepared for more in this section.

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But let me first get the numbers out of the way. It’s a 4-stroke, 4-valve-per-cylinder, SOHC, air- and oil-cooled, fuel-injected 648 cc parallel twin with a counterbalanced crank, and firing intervals set at 270/450 degrees. RE claims that it produces 47 bhp at 7,250 rpm and 53 Nm at 5,250 rpm, while a 6-speed gearbox is responsible for converting those numbers to forward motion. Also, RE’s magnanimity has ensured that you get a clutch with both slip and assist functions. The former keeps the rear wheel from locking up under aggressive downshifts, and the latter makes sure that pulling the clutch never never becomes a forearm workout.

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Anyway, we need to start the bike first. Switch the ignition on, thumb the starter, and you’re greeted by a mellow-but-bassy rumble. It will never startle you or the people around you, but, even at the lowest revs, they (and you too) will get a hint that it’s not a run-of-the-mill motor. You pull the clutch lever in, select first, and immediately realize that the gearshift action felt Japanese! Letting the clutch out while simultaneously twisting the right wrist a bit enthusiastically rewards your with strong but nonintimidating acceleration. And that’s the whole idea of bikes like this one and the Modern Classics range by Triumph.

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These bikes are big enough to make you stand out in the crowd, but not too big in size and power to get intimidating. Make no mistake though, the Interceptor 650 is both quick and fast, and on it you will always be not much behind the 900 cc Triumphs. And like the two Brits, our Anglo-Indian 650 remains devoid of vibrations at all speeds! I am trying to hard to recollect if there was any vibration felt from anywhere even at above 160 km/h, and the answer is a resounding NO! But what you really want to know is how does it fare against the Mad Max KTM Duke 390? I say, why don’t you look at the acceleration videos of both below:

The KTM is quicker up to 100 km/h, but thereafter the Interceptor 650 reiterates the “no replacement for displacement” cliche. You will also notice that while the difference in the times up to 100 km/h was not much, it grows substantially, this time in RE’s favour, as the speeds keep on increasing! I definitely did NOT expect that! I think I can also share the RE’s top speed video now. So here it is:

And it’s not just the acceleration and top speed that will bring a smile to your face, but the in-gear acceleration too! The midrange is terrific! RE claims that 80 per cent of torque comes in at as low as 2,500 rpm, and you know what, they aren’t lying. This motor feels strong just about everywhere! See the in-gear progress of this RE below:

The Interceptor 650 makes overtaking everything on our roads a stress-free affair. There’s no meticulous planning needed—if the road ahead is clear to overtake, one twist of the wrist is all that is needed to accomplish it. Without any downshifts, mostly. Plus, despite testing the bike in peak Delhi summers, and it’s a new bike that hadn’t even had its first service, it didn’t overheat! Of course, like any internal combustion engine, it heats up, but it never gets to the point of roasting your legs. RE are again correct in mentioning that the engine is indeed under-stressed with a relatively low compression ratio of 9.5:1 (the Street Twin’s is 11.0:1 while the D390’s is 12.6:1) and the lack of overheating is a fine testimony of that.

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Fueling by Bosch is near-perfect for the most part, however, I noticed a slight judder while picking the bike up in 2nd gear at crawling speeds. You know, the speed at which you cross a speed hump slowly. I am really nitpicking here, but it’s my job so I’ll have to do it.

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And 21.7 km/l was the fuel efficiency figure I got in this test. This would be the worst figure that you as an owner can expect from your motorcycle as after the first couple of hundred km of “running in” the bike either stayed near the redline or in maddening traffic. Therefore, expect the city average to be between 22-25 km/l while the touring average should hover between 25-28 km/l. A 13.7-liter fuel tank would mean that you will cover more than 300 km easily before the low fuel light comes on.

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Also, in case you didn’t notice, it reaches 160 km/h in a jiffy (and then it takes forever for the needle to move further), which means you can tour at speeds in excess of of 120 km/h all day, provided road conditions, traffic, and the law allow you to do that. Talking about touring, let me also show you how this RE’s headlamp and horn perform. But, please note that all riding while touring should be done be during daylight only, irrespective of whether you have more floodlights on your motorcycle than a cricket stadium.

RE Interceptor 650 Review: Verdict

Before I even got the test unit, one of my very dear friends was complaining how there isn’t a single review that tells him how this bike compares to the Trimuphs. One of my other friends, who sold his Bonnie A3, also has been waiting for my review of the Interceptor to either cancel his booking or go ahead with the purchase. I am sure there would be others like these two gents, and I am also sure they won’t complain now. They have a definite answer now, which, in case you’ve been sleeping all throughout, is an emphatic “GO FOR IT!”

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But there would be many others as well: first-time buyers, experienced riders, and everyone in between. They all would be contemplating everything from a Dominar to a Duke 390, and they would be evaluating each shortlisted motorcycle as that one bike that can do it all. Most importantly, they all have that desire to own a big bike. The Interceptor 650, as even these folks would have seen for themselves in the review until now, ticks all those boxes, and does that pretty darn well!

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Plus, it does not have even a single flaw that serves as a possible deal-breaker. The minor niggles are really minor, and something that you can either get used to or fix without investing much time, effort, or money. Lastly, the price at which RE is selling the Interceptor 650 as a complete ride-away motorcycle, it could offer the whole bike as a kit in a box which you would need to assemble into a motorcycle, and it would still be a phenomenal value-for-money proposition. Heck, they are offering a 3-year / 40 thousand km warranty too; I think that’s just to win the trust of those chaps who are probably holding back considering RE’s antecedents (read: “Himalayan BS3 issues”).

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I never really thought that an RE would appeal more to my head than my heart (I was sold on the looks alone at first). In case you’re wondering as to when exactly was the last time an RE appealed to my heart, you may read my Conti GT 535 review again. And only the closest to me know about my fondness for the old cast-iron 500 (I’m still looking to buy one…), and now you all know about it too. But, I am glad this happened as it would be the first time an RE buyer won’t be compelled to resort to “you won’t understand” when questioned about the reasons behind his purchase. In fact, no one will be asking you those questions. Because, this time, head or heart, you won’t be going wrong with an RE.