2019 Royal Enfield Interceptor 650: Hipsters Rejoice!

Text: Luke Swab • Photography: Luke Swab

Motorcycles have improved by leaps and bounds in the last 50-plus years, with electronic fuel injection, anti-lock braking systems, adjustable suspension, disk brakes, and more. Technology doesn’t come cheap, however. Fast-forward to the present and every coffee-sniffing, pant-rolling, pipe-smoking hipster is scouring Craigslist for a used twin to complete their look. Yet only with luck will you find a decently running bike from the ’60s for less than what the 2019 INT650 costs, and then you better know your way around a shop. So there was a real demand for vintage-looking motorcycles. We all saw this, but the motorcycle manufacturers as a whole were slow to respond.

Ducati came the closest to notice the demand from this very particular crowd in 2015 when they released the Scrambler, but it still had styling cues of a modern bike that the purest AeroPress hipster would reject. It also lists between $ 9,595 and $ 11,900. After spending half of a paycheck at Whole Foods and (insert trendy local coffee shop name here), such potential buyers didn’t have enough money to purchase that bike anyway. 

Royal Enfield noticed this and they delivered. Or it can be argued that they had the decadelong foresight to stick to their guns until their products were relevant again, at least in the US. Cue the INT650, a brand-new bike for $ 5,799 that looks exactly like it came out of the ’60s but with EFI, ABS, and yes, even a rear disc brake. It has the look of a vintage bike with a price from the same era. Hipsters everywhere rejoice—the bike gods felt bad that you were all leaking oil in your landlords’ driveways and stinking up their garages with gas fumes. You now can have the look without the smell, and the style with comfort, and you can garner attention while enjoying the safety of traction control and ABS. 

Engine/Layout

The INT650 is Royal Enfield’s all-new bike inspired by the Indian brand’s classic Interceptor 650 from the ’60s. The air/oil-cooled parallel twin has the look of the past, but with the modern technology that we have come to expect. A Bosch EFI system fires the bike up in any temperature and allows you to explore and cruise town without fiddling with a choke or dealing with cold-blooded manners. No one wants to be “that guy” with a screwdriver on the side of a mountain road trying to tune in carbs to run at elevation. The bike has four valves per cylinder and 80% of it’s torque below 2,500 rpm, which translates to the INT650 sipping fuel in town and on back country roads. Let the bike wind up a little more and you can still cruise at 80 mph on the highway if that’s your thing. The relatively low compression and linear, predictable power curve takes you all the way up to 47 horsepower at 7,250 rpm. It’s not a tire-squealer by any means, but enough to take a date up the mountain for a sunset, and really, what is better than that? 

Chassis/ETC.

The classic styling makes the INT650 look exactly like a 50-year-old bike. It is dressed with 18-inch aluminum rims front and rear. The long, quilted saddle and chrome twin exhaust mimic what was done in the ’60s. Even the twin coiled shocks keep the look authentic, with the performance of modern-day standards. The upright riding position and simple single round instrument cluster get the job done with only the necessary information available. A neutral light, fuel gauge, and ABS may be the only real enhancements on the dash from the original Interceptor 650. The lack of windscreen allows for a more engaged ride with the elements, which can be good or bad. 

This is a bike that lets you feel the imperfections in the road, while still giving you the confidence to push it hard into a corner. There are no factory luggage options, but I strapped on a pair of DrySpec D20 waterproof saddlebags for daily riding and they look good and sit high enough above the exhaust that they don’t melt. They did not require any additional racks to keep the bags away from the tire as the dual rear shocks made for perfect guards. Add a top duffle and you could tour for a week. 

So who is the bike for? The better question is who is the bike not for? It’s not for touring across the country. It’s not for setting speed records. It’s not for riding wheelies. This bike is for everyone else: normal people with a budget who appreciate good looks. It’s a solid, fun, weekend-warrior bike with a cheap price to boot. I currently have three bikes in my garage, all costing thousands of dollars more, and what is the bike I always want to take for an afternoon cruise or a light four-day tour? It’s the INT650. You just can’t ride it without smiling and feeling good.