Just as the English sailed to the far ends of the planet to make the world ‘England’ a household name in the 18th century, Royal Enfield seems to be on a worldwide mission, but theirs isn’t one of imperialism. Royal Enfield is trying to build motorbikes for every kind of rider. And motorcyclists everywhere are celebrating.
The Indian motorcycle company now has four capable and reliable engines in its portfolio, which it uses to manufacture purpose-built motorcycles that appeal to a wide spectrum of motorcyclists.
There is the 411 engine that did duty in the previous Himalayan and continues to power the Scram 411. The new Sherpa 452cc engine takes the new Himalayan to greater heights. The J-Series 350 cc engine powers the Classic 350, the Meteor, the new Bullet and the Hunter—all of which have become a style statement for motorcyclists, ranging from Gen X to Gen Z. And then there is the twin-cylinder 650cc engine, which made the motorcycling brotherhood sit up and pay attention to Royal Enfield.
The shift from the archaic ‘dug-dug’ to a brand new burble is the soundtrack to the story of the 123-year-old motorcycle company’s rise from the red when it had been all but written off about two decades ago.
The Interceptor and Continental GT, powered by the 650cc twin-cylinder engine, took the motorcycling world by storm with their delicious hark-back-to-the-past design married to modern convenience and reliability, along with a muscular and potent engine in 2017. Then came the Super Meteor, a cruiser powered by the same engine, which has spawned clubs that regularly organize rides.
And now comes the Shotgun 650, which was first showcased as the Royal Enfield SG650 Concept at the two-wheeler exhibition EICMA 2021 in Milan. It received a favourable response, was put into production, and made its India debut earlier this week.
I rode the Shotgun 650 in and around Los Angeles, US, in December 2023, as part of the Royal Enfield global media ride. There were reviewers from Southeast Asia, Australia, India, Europe and the Americas—in short the whole world.
Custom bike builders love the Interceptor 650 because it lends itself so well to customization. Custom bike builders have had a field day with the Interceptor and the GT, turning them into scramblers, bobbers and racetrack machines. This was the genesis of the Shotgun 650, a motorcycle inspired by all these custom builds for the customer.
I had been drooling over the motorcycle ever since I’d first seen it at Motoverse in Goa in November last year.
Its short front mudguard, the smooth and rounded rear on which sits a floating single seat, the upside down 43mm chunky Showa front forks with a nice rakish angle, the matt black engine, the minimalistic design of the headlight nacelle , vintage inspired tail-lamp and the beautiful paint job—everything sends out a “let’s go for a ride” vibe.
My first experience with it was while battling 9am traffic in downtown Los Angeles. I was mostly at ease with the bike. The ergonomics are good but they would have been great if I did not have to lean forward as much I had to. I would have preferred to sit further back on the seat rather than so close to the tank and a tad more upright.
The 18-inch and 17-inch front and rear tyres and the 1465mm wheelbase with a seat height of 795mm translate into a low centre of gravity that told me it would handle the anarchy of suburban Mumbai traffic as well as the streamlined traffic of downtown Los Angeles.
I am familiar with Royal Enfield’s 650cc engine and it was no surprise that its reassuring low-end torque made the motorcycle go about traffic with minimal fuss. We soon left Los Angeles behind and headed towards the Angeles National Forest through twisty roads. It is here that I could fully appreciate how much fun this motorcycle is. The grippy Ceat tyres (specially developed for the weight and suspension set-up of this bike) allowed me to scrape pegs, throwing up a shower of sparks around smooth tarmac corners. On straight roads, I could give the engine’s 45 horses a free rein.
I have never had so much fun with the 650cc engine. This was mostly because the route was so well selected and I had the reassurance that there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises in the form of cattle, carts or wayward motorists around a corner. This knowledge gave me the courage and confidence to explore the full potential of the engine and the cornering capability of the suspension set up. Since I have never ridden a Royal Enfield motorcycle with this engine so freely in India, I was convinced the engine had been tweaked for the Shotgun 650. It hasn’t.
The Shotgun 650 features a single digi-analogue meter that tells the speed in analogue. It gives information like the amount of fuel left, time of day, distance and current gear in a digital readout in the centre. There is no rpm meter, something I sorely missed. The very nature of the 650cc engine with its short six-speed gearbox begs for it to be kept in the powerband and for this, a rpm meter would have been handy.
On the few sections where the tarmac was uneven, some of it around corners, the motorcycle didn’t lose its composure. The Showa suspension up front and rear keeps things rather tidy.
The route got even more scenic and exciting after our lunch stop at Palmdale. During our return, we rode through the Angeles Crest Highway with its wide sweeping corners through which I could carry speeds in the realms of 110kmph. The motorcycle was absolutely game for it. The exhaust note through the twin pipes is distinctive but definitely muted. It would have been more exciting if the decibels were a bit unruly.
The photograph here shows the motorcycle with a single seat. It can be set up with a pillion seat. In fact, Royal Enfield is offering 31 accessories, ranging from bar-end mirrors to wheel rims, to further customize the bike, keeping in tune with its original concept idea of ‘by custom for custom’. The Shotgun 650 is on sale, with prices starting at ₹3.59 lakh.
If you want a motorcycle for a daily A to B commute, this might not be the right fit. But if you are looking for exciting yet relaxing recreational motorcycling and a bike that allows you to customize it as per your style, the Shotgun 650 is the one to pick.
Wheelbase: 1465 mm
Ground clearance: 140 mm
Length: 2170 mm
Width: 820 mm
Height: 1105 mm
Kerb weight: 240kg (with 90% fuel and oil)
Fuel capacity: 13.8 litres
Engine type: Parallel twin, 4 stroke, SOHC, air-oil cooled
Gearbox: 6-speed constant mesh
Front tyre: 100/90 R18 (tubeless); Rear tyre: 150/70 R17 (tubeless)
Rishad Saam Mehta is a Mumbai-based author and travel writer.
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