Royal Enfield Interlayan: Best of all worlds
Think about Royal Enfield and you will realise that there is a certain level of awe that is inspired by each of their motorcycles. Maybe it is the unabated demand for the Classic or the desirability of their newer machines such as the 650 twins, the cult following that surrounds a Royal Enfield is something which I simply cannot put my finger on. After his first ride of the Royal Enfield Scram 411 when it was first launched, even Karan Ramgopal, our go-to guy on the team for all things two wheels, was massively impressed. “It is the perfect tool for someone who wants to conquer the city on the weekdays and kick up a cloud of dirt on the weekend,” he said, describing the motorcycle.
But the idea of a more-rounded Royal Enfield Himalayan for the road isn’t a brand new one. Custom bike builders in India as well as abroad have been fettling with the ADV to make it friendlier ever since it was first launched, but no one has really nailed the brief like Cooperb Motorcycles from the UK. This build, dubbed the Royal Enfield Interlayan was one that really piqued my interest and I reached out to Ian and Jack, the enthusiastic duo at Cooperb Motorcycles to tell me more about it.
“The bike itself is an Interceptor; we haven’t taken the chassis from a Himalayan,” explains Ian. But compared to a stock Interceptor, the Interlayan features raised suspension, new wheels, a different seat and handlebars along with a custom-made fuel tank. While Cooperb Motorcycles was started in 2004 and they have been dealers for Royal Enfield in the UK since 2015, the Interlayan was a project that has purely been built out of passion rather than a commercial motive. The idea struck Ian when he was riding a Himalayan to Devon, to build a machine that was much more competent on the tarmac rather than just off-road. “Some of our customers have multiple bikes and they love the Himalayan. But then they have to leave the Himalayan in the garage when they ride with their friends who have (BMW) GS’ and (Honda) Africa Twins, and these guys never even ride on the dirt.” Ian’s vision was of a Himalayan that would cruise comfortably at triple-digit speeds all day long, and that’s what he set about to build.
To add to the off-road ability and improve the sense of purpose, the Interlayan gets a lift kit, which also really amps up the stance
of the motorcycle. The setup is paired with the custom built YSS Black Series gas shock absorbers to improve comfort on the road.
While the Interlayan sits 40mm higher than an Interceptor and despite the handlebars sitting on risers, it still rides perfectly without needing a set of custom-made front yokes. What is interesting is that the suspension geometry of that bike, which would become the Interlayan, is still the same as the standard Interceptor. Incorporating some of the other modifications was not that effortless though.
“The fuel tank was actually two fuel tanks. The base was that of a Continental GT tank, and the top was a Himalayan fuel tank,” says Jack. The two fuel tanks were sent off to be fabricated at Fastec Racing, who have also worked on the tanks which are present in WRC rally cars. The challenges involved however were immense. “We wanted the tank of a big capacity, so that we could get many miles out of it,” Jack adds.
And if that wasn’t enough, the base would have to work with the existing fuel pump of the Interceptor while the top-surface would need to match the design of that on the squared-off one on the original Himalayan. It took several man-hours and a lot of effort during fabrication. The duo chuckled that the chap who worked on the tanks said that he would never do another one, thanks to the complexity involved! It was an even tougher task to ensure that the Himalayan tank rails fit properly over the bigger tank. Finally with the bodywork sorted out, it was time for a respray. Ian and Jack loved the granite black paint scheme with its stealthy finish that came on the Euro 5 Himalayan and they opted for this colour scheme for their Interlayan build along with some tasteful graphics.
Once it was back from the paint shop and the graphics were applied by Hilly Designs & Stickbarn, the meaner-looking Interlayan received some performance upgrades from S&S such as a new 2-into-1 Qualifier exhaust system that sounds better without being too ostentatious, and a new air filter. Jack states that the engine, which now gets powder coated engine casings, is running in the stock state of tune and there are no changes to the gearing at the moment, which means that the Interlayan should produce a power figure in the ballpark of the standard Interceptor 650. Jack adds that they will likely play around with the setup as they proceed to get more miles on the clock.
While the prospect of riding the Interlayan might seem like a daunting one, Jack and Ian state that this isn’t the case. Despite the added storage capability, with the Kriega soft bags and the Givi panniers, the Interlayan is not a handful to ride thanks to its wider and taller handlebar, along with lighter anodised gold spoke wheels (which are now tubeless) and a lighter exhaust. The bike only feels a few kilos heavier in reality, but that isn’t really noticeable on the move. The Interlayan sits higher than the Interceptor it is based on, and in extreme off-road trails where the Himalayan might plug on like a mountain goat, the Interlayan trades some of its on-the-limit capability in favour of improved on-road cruising.
The 19-inch front wheel and the 18-inch rear may not provide it with the outright stability of, say an Interceptor, but this creation does manage to strike a brilliant balance when it comes to dynamics on the road and off it. The Interlayan ups the ante in terms of comfort too with a cushier seat from Seat Concepts and conveniences such as the heated grips are a boon to have in colder riding conditions which is a way of life in the UK.
During our conversation which took place barely two weeks before the launch of the RE Scram, I asked Ian about the challenges faced during the build and he said, “It’s a custom bike. If Royal Enfield does bring out a bike like this, it would be much more cost effective. But for us, we build it as a custom bike and custom bikes are excruciatingly expensive.” Jack adds to it saying, “There’s a lot of time spent on making things not only look right but also to have them function right.” Both Ian and Jack are heavily clued-in to their bikes, and there’s no doubt that the Interlayan was a build undertaken purely out of passion. And I cannot help but be in awe of these maestros at work, crafting motorcycles which make enthusiasts like us celebrate the Thrill of Riding.
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