Trying out the new RE GT650.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on the new Royal Enfield GT 650, a totally brand new one, one of the (if not the) first GT650 in Bangalore. So, here is what I thought of the bike.
Firstly, let’s get the gorgeous looks out of the way. Of course it is always a matter of opinion, beauty …beholder all that. But seriously, I think the RE folks have got this one just right. It has the perfect symmetry that can only come with twin engines and one silencer on each side of the bike. The Café Racer shape is there but it is a little muted which has the right appeal rather than an overdone café racer long tank etc. The dual dials hit the right spot and complete the symmetry factor. Overall, I think the GT650 is one serious piece of eye candy.
Coming to the feel of the engine when you switch it on. It has a soft purr, no thump here, it has the purr of a tiger waiting to pounce. While I have a leaning towards loud pipes personally, the GT650 has a nice note to the sound and gives a reassuring sense of power under the sound. When you open the throttle, the purr becomes a powerful growl.
The bike is seriously peppy. I rode it on the Nice expressway and in the city. On the expressway, I could open the throttle and get to 100+ before I realized it. And even while cruising at 110 or so there is plenty more pep in the bike to overtake someone by twisting the throttle some more. It got up to the 130+ range quite easily but I think 140+ would need a little push on the bike. But for most rides and riders this is plenty of power. Within the city of course it has enough pep for you to make that signal before it turns red or overtake someone when you need to. There is serious power in the bike and it is available in all gear positions. I think the engineers at RE have got the tuning of the engine perfect for the urban commute.
The braking was what I was most impressed with on the bike. I own a Classic 500 (my daily commute bike), a Harley Superlow and a Triumph Thunderbird, all three of them have varying levels of braking with only the TB having ABS. This bike however I would say is really superb at stopping when you want to or even when you need to. The weight is front loaded so the front bake needs to be engaged more and hey my weight is getting a bit front-loaded too these days so yeah! But seriously, I was impressed with the braking. This is by far the best feature of the bike and one of paramount importance.
Handling and taking curves was really good too. Now, I am not the most aggressive of riders and to date my knee has never touched the ground on a curve, though occasionally I have done some random tests to see if gravity is still working. However, on this bike the confidence to make sharp turns is immense. I would rate it as good as the Harley sportsters in making sharp turns. When you come off the Nice expressway at Tumkur road, (heading towards the city) there is plenty of opportunity to maintain a very sharp line as the road curves completely in on itself. It is a great place to experience the stability of the bike. I, for one, was very happy with the bike for the ability to take that and other turns. A more aggressive curve-boy (or girl) might touch their knees on that curve on the GT650.
The shocks were a little hard, but I guess that is the tradeoff for taking sharp turns. You get a feel for the road and all its imperfections. In most parts of India, you will find plenty of imperfections on the road to get a feel for. At one point on the Nice expressway I had to ride over some wooden planks which appeared out of nowhere, while I felt the bump very much, the bike was very stable and did not get troubled by the unexpected bounce.
Clutch and gear shifting is probably an area where the refinement of the bike has not come together completely. I was left wondering at times if the gear shift has completed or not. While down-shifting especially, I would not be sure if I had switched 2 gears or 1 down. I managed to stall the bike a couple of times by slowing down in high gear, though the engine always started on the first press of the ignition. However, I think this area would need some work from RE.
Now, my least favorite part was the aggressive seating. As you might have noticed all three of my bikes have cruiser style seating. Even the sportster is a more cruiser style seating. So, having my feet behind my derriere is something I am not ordinarily used to. The GT650 has quite an aggressive seating, halfway between a tourer and a sportster. So, in my case it bought my (ample) weight to bear on the palm of my hands where I hold the handle bars. This is most apparent when you brake. Of course, the correct way to ride is to grip the tank with your knees and use your lower back and core to maintain your riding position and not over-burden your hands. In my case though I found that I needed to actually crouch a bit to achieve that state and bending my elbows was the only way I would take pressure off my palms. I guess the riding position is the only thing on the bike I was not a fan of. Of course, everyone has a different comfort level with how they sit on the bike. The low-slung handle bars are part of the aggressive look and the visual appeal, they are also one of the reasons for being able to take sharp turns. So, riding comfort might come at the cost of maneuverability. However, for the daily commute I would say it is fine, though definitely not something you would take on a multi-day tour.
So, in sum, I would say this is one helluva machine. If I were in the market right now (and yes, my wife knows I am not in the market) this is a bike which would be top of the consideration set. I still need to ride the interceptor. On sheer looks, the GT650 wins the day and the peppy ride with superior braking and cornering it is just sweet.
Would totally recommend checking the bike out and taking it for a nice long spin, if nothing else you will have a total ball as I did.