The Royal Enfield can cruise at 100-120 km/h all day long but when it comes to outright acceleration, it can’t stand up to the KTM 390 Duke.
BHPian 2StrokeJunkie recently shared this with other enthusiasts.
I’ve been riding on two wheels for most of my life, I got my first bicycle when I was 4 years old. Beginning with that cycle and then upgrading to a Hercules, I would cycle my way to school every day and then tuition through high school and football and hockey matches on a Hero Hawk. In high school I would sneak off on my elder brother’s Kinetic Honda to blast through the mist cover roads of Cubbon Road, M.G. Road at 6 am in the late 90s and early 2000s. Running on the thrill of sheer adrenalin, sans any protective gear of course. Ah, those were the days.
I soon learned to ride my first geared motorcycle on a good friend’s DTW ported RX100 and there was no looking back. Got my first motorcycle – a brand new 2003 RX135 4-speed from Pacer Yamaha on Infantry Road. I learned a lot on this motorcycle – from modifying it into a 5-speed and multiple ported bores, shaved heads, holed pistons, sprockets and chambers along with a good dose of road rash. This was my daily ride for close to 2 decades until I grew too big/heavy for it. Pocket Rocket, Pocket Friendly and never missed a beat, except for once when I was running another CDI.
Along the way, I picked up my second motorcycle – the first motorcycle I could say I bought with my own hard-earned money- an RD350. By the time I came to own this motorcycle I had already read, experimented, and hung out at plenty of garages and with a lot of 2 stroke heads to understand some of the intricacies of these motorcycles. I understood the engine mods were a long-drawn affair and that I needed to improve my understanding of motorcycling to have realistic expectations of what those mods could do, how reliable they were, and if they would serve me well in the long run.
Other than some issues with the CB point electricals, a failed oil pump (always run pre-mix) and some fake roller bearings that cost me an engine rebuild – the RD350 was the dream that I always imagined. In its stock form, it would do 100 kmph at 3500 rpm all day. The last time the motor was rebuilt my mechanic went a little wild and built me a screamer, a sleeper on stock silencers, that turned into a drag bike on the highway and an able commuter in the city with a flat spot around 4500 rpm to keep me safe. The drum brakes on it did not instil much confidence and converting it to a disc brake setup is still a work in progress depending on when my trusted mech-friend decides to tell me he’s ready to get the parts, do the mods and execute it.
All along the way, I kept looking for a brand new 4-stroke to purchase – something that was comfortable to carry 2 large adults on the highway with no fear of the engine blowing up and a machine that was modern with good brakes, economical, and didn’t require to spend lots of time in the garage, sourcing parts and meeting strangers to learn as I’ve always done with the 2 strokes – from the School of Hard Knocks.
I considered the R15 gen 1, it was a scalpel. I loved it so much that I borrowed a friend’s bike and crashed into the wall at Nandis on the way down. It was not serious but it made me acutely aware that my mind was way slower than what this machine’s handling characteristics were capable of. I also had a friend’s T-bird Gen 1 parked often in my basement, it was comfortable, loud and fun but the bike spent a great deal of time in the garage in repairs and it couldn’t hold a candle to that R15 gen 1 even on the highway.
The Duke 390 gen 1, I seriously considered until I took a test ride. The sound, the gearing, the design just didn’t sit well with me.
I realized that I was looking for a retro-styled motorcycle, that was modern but looked old-school, that had a refined motor, that had the torque to make low-speed rides a breeze, and that had the power to do highway jaunts, and one that had a wide service network and affordable spares. A motor that had enough juice in its stock form for me not to want to tinker around with it as I had done with my other rides but also had to potential to feed the Sulaimani keeda that we all sometimes get, to go wild on the motor with mods and also pass off as a sleeper.
Towards the end of 2018, I had a colleague who was enthu about the new Jawa that was just launched. He owned a Yezdi Classic so that’s why the Jawa appealed to him. I ridiculed him for considering the new Jawa 300 and instead took him to Teknik Motors during lunch to show him the Interceptor 650. He spent 5 mins looking at it, pulled out his wallet, paid the booking amount and we walked out. I was shocked, I hadn’t expected that. That was one of the first lot of bikes sold by RE so I thought I would play it safe and see what came off it.
A few months prior to this I had a bad spill on my RX doing some stupid stuff and broke a vertebra in my back, so my commuting was restricted to my car until I felt confident enough to ride the RX but its suspension just couldn’t cope with my weight, back issues and the terrible roads. So I started using the RD350 which had much better suspension and handled my weight and back issues better. I weigh around 90 kgs and am 5.11ft tall. Using the RD350 as a daily commuter did not sit well with me and I was constantly paranoid of the bike being tampered with or worst stolen, so adding a new modern motorcycle to the stable was now urgent.
Sometime in late 2019, my friend who had purchased the Interceptor 650 (delivered to him after a 5-month waiting period) offered the bike to me to try out and help me make a purchasing decision. I used the bike for a few days and completely fell in love with it. This was exactly the motorcycle I had been looking for. Retro, understated, torquey, easy to manoeuvre, commuter-friendly, high-way suited, bike bore, economical, and affordable. As soon as I returned the bike, my desire to buy it began to overwhelm me. I missed being able to ride it and it did not seem fair to have him part with it just so that I could enjoy it.
I could finally take no more and based on all my practical calculations I went ahead and booked the motorcycle in Feb 2020 and got the motorcycle delivered to me within a week. I choose Black because according to me there is no better colour for a motorcycle and all my previous bikes were black, so it was kinda a no-brainer, though I do love the new Sunset Strip paint theme, I was averse to having matt black coated wheels because of the fear of the colour peeling off when getting punctures fixed etc.
So, the base model Interceptor 650 Mark III it was! Anand who runs the HSR Tekniks outlet and was at the Indiranagar outlet on that day, especially for me was super helpful, and the overall experience was brilliant. Also picked up a riding jacket with the 40% discount available with the motorcycle purchase. I rode the bike to work and back every day and all was well…
In April 2020, the COVID lockdown kicked in and the bike was just parked. I would start it, take it for a short spin and park it back once a week so the battery wouldn’t drain. This continued through the lockdown. Once the lockdown lifted, I started doing short rides and while I did enjoy the bike, I quickly realized the seat was not comfortable and the handlebar position was not ideal for comfort. My first puncture also led me to the discovery that RE was selling the bike with Tubeless Pirelli Tyres and a CEAT Tube, and that a single puncture would cost me close to 4 hours to fix.
Since I still WFH (touch wood), I do not use the bike to commute much, I do the odd weekend rides and do day trips of around 600 km and weekend overnight trips of close to 1000 kms. The motorcycle and motor are flawless, and the gear shifts are slick. The Interceptor is a Road King on the highway – 100 kmph comes up around 3800 rpm – and it’s got great road presence, weighing it at a little of 200 kgs it holds its own on the highway. However, don’t be fooled by its 650 cc motor, this motorcycle cannot stand up to the Duke 390 when it comes to acceleration and I’m not the kind of rider who is keen to figure out its top speed. It can cruise at 100-120 kmph all day long, it’s got plenty of torque and easy handling in the city and there are plenty of performance mod options if that’s what you are looking for. This motorcycle has already dethroned the long-reigning RD350 in the Indian Open Class 1/4 mile drags. For now, the stock motor is good enough for me.
Now I’ll come to its cons and some of the mods I have done.
- Seating/ Handle Bar position
- Carbon Racing Angled Handlebar risers around 2.5k (The Carbon Racing angled risers require re-routing of the clutch and throttle cables)
- Comfortable Customized Seat from Rao Seats Shivajinagar for 3.5k that offers great lower back support compared to the stock seat.
I see a lot of people complaining about the seating position / comfort and this one issue deterring them from purchasing this bike. Well, the solution is a no-brainer and definitely not a deal breaker according to me. These two changes are all that you need to do.
- Way2Speed tubeless conversion. I purchased the kit from Melwin, got the installation done by Bhushan at Top Gear Thumpers and it works great. The entire process takes about 4-5 days for the wheel truing, solution to cure, plugging old punctures, and testing for leaks. I don’t have to worry about a ripped tube, carrying tools, an extra tube and losing 4 hours on a trip if I catch a flat (which I hope I don’t). With the tubeless conversion, I have also picked up the Xiaomi Air Pump S1 and a tubeless repair kit online. Throw that in your bag and you are sorted. Melwin and Bhushan are great people to deal with and are great resources for information on these motorcycles.
- RoadPowerCustoms or RPC sells a rubber gasket for the fuel cap for around 900 INR. I didn’t choose to claim a warranty that would replace the ignition switch, fuel cap, and side panel lock since this does not solve the issue of the poor quality of the rubber in the fuel cap. The RPC rubber gasket is of good quality and is holding up well. Having water going into your tank or having fuel pour out of it is the last thing you should have to worry about.
Other than the above-mentioned changes I am also running:
- Carbon Racing Wanderer V2 Windshield to reduce wind buffetting on the highway
- Bobo Mobile Holder & Charger – a must-have. Water and dust-proof units could provide more utility in all-weather conditions
- Zana Rear Carrier – to carry any luggage or mount a tail bag
- Fork Gaitors – since my model did not come with it as standard
- BS3/4 right side switch gear to turn off the headlight during the day and save battery juice
- Motul 7100 10W50 Fully Synthetic Engine Oil
- RE Large Crash Guard (must have)
- RE Bash Plate (must have)
These are the only mods I am running on the motorcycle to help me ride in comfort, not worry about punctures, charge my phone and carry luggage. Other than this the only other mod on priority is most likely HJG fog lights – though I very rarely ride the highway after the sunsets. The stock lights are ok for the city, not too great on the highway. I might also look into mods for the front and rear suspension in the future but none that seem urgent right now.
Though I am constantly tempted to get aftermarket slip-on exhausts (AEW 102, 201, PowerRage etc) I will save this for later because I do not want to compromise on initial torque or performance/mileage and I do not want to ride with the worry of the cops catching me. And in my past experience, it is never just a simple exhaust change, it requires you to go full monty: air filter, remap, fueling, timing, sprocketing – and I’m not ready to go down that path again just yet and do not want to compromise on engine reliability either.
In terms of luggage, I have picked up the Viaterra Fly tank bag and the Viaterra Elements tail bag. They are of great quality, offer great utility and offer all weather protection.
In terms of riding gear, I upgraded all the armour in the RE riding jacket I bought with the bike to Level 2 armour including the back which is sold with just a foam sheet for protection, an SMK Twister Helmet with a Bluetooth headset installed, Rynox Urban X riding gloves, Raida Level 2 Riding Pants with hip, knees, tail bone protection, rain & thermal pants, and Raida Touring Boots.
I also have the Rynox H2Go rain jacket, Rynox Thermal Jacket Liner, Decathalon Pant & Boot cover that comes as one piece (ugly but innovative!) and a Raida base layer shirt. They work great in all kinds of weather I have encountered so far. I am contemplating whether I should pick up waterproof riding gloves for the monsoons, let me know what you think.
Riding gear is extremely, extremely important. All my scars, injuries, aches and pains that I bear are a result of me not wearing the right riding gear when I crashed and I’ve paid the price and have been lucky to continue being able to ride. The gear I have invested in provides me with the comfort to ride through all kinds of weather and gives me the confidence to reach my destination with the protection it offers.
Attaching a few pics of my ride after the recent Way2Speed tubeless conversion and Carbon Racing windshield addition at Bhushan’s Top Gear Thumpers.
Let me know what you guys think or if you have any questions.
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