How often do we discuss our favourite motorcycles? What do they include? Cruisers, Superbikes, Retros or may be even the fuzzy little two-strokes from Yamaha’s glory days in India – but how often has a Café Racer been a part of your discussion? If you are from the generation that has grown up watching Sachin Tendulkar become a legend from child prodigy, chances are almost never!
The thing is, café racers were buried in some part of the history books by the time the Indian market was matured enough use 150cc motorcycles. Not many would have bothered to rekindle their magic; but there is a manufacturer who has thrived on selling bikes with the ‘vintage’ and ‘classic’ touch. Obviously Royal Enfield and their love for everything thumping needs no introduction, however, their new product is unlike anything they have ever sold in India. It has classic roots alright, albeit, with a slightly different pedigree.
Before I left for the ride in Goa, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the new model. Its lineage demanded you to crouch, go fast and also lean into the corners and all of that seemed inconceivable knowing it was a Royal Enfield. RE or not we put it through a proper test hoping to find some more details about the bike that shares its name with one of the most luxurious cars in the world – the Continental GT.
Royal Enfield went through a series of design evaluations and many concepts before finalizing this design. The company says that the Continental GT is a modern day reincarnation of their first Café Racer built in 1960. The overall styling is very retro in nature and turn heads wherever it goes; I got plenty of attention in Goa from everyone – right from kids to older men and also Enfield owners. The overall design elements add to the attractiveness of the bike and truly define the Café Racer styling with the low narrow clip-on handle bars, small rearward mounted humped seat, rear foot pegs and the traditional headlamp design.
The elongated fuel tank, aluminum spoke-wheels are of high quality and add a premium touch to the bike. It is not just the overall design that gives retro feel; the company has taken efforts to maintain the theme and worked on every tiny detail – the Continental GT does not share too many design components with rest of the lineup. The traditional Monza-styled fuel lid is quite unique along with the Continental GT crest on the tank. The bike is available in Red and GT Yellow colour – both are sporty and go very well with the design.
I think this is the prettiest of Royal Enfield bikes and that is not just for the design but also for the detailing and the quality.
Royal Enfield has developed the Continental GT from the scratch with the exception of the engine. This doesn’t mean that the engine was picked up from the Classic 500 and directly installed without an changes. The unit has bored to 535cc which not delivers 29.1bhp at 5,100rpm – 2bhp more than the Classic 500 and the Thunderbird 500 and peak torque of 44Nm at 4,000rpm. This modern-day Café Racer has a decent amount of low end torque that is brilliant for quick starts. Coupled with the design of bike and your posture it urges you to twist the throttle completely; however there is a rev-limiter at 5,700 rpm that plays bit of a spoilsport and doesn’t let you go berserk.
The Continental GT reaches the 90-100kmph mark quite easily but takes time to cross another 30-40 kmph and this is when you feel the vibrations to a great extent. Now frankly I am not the kind of person who loves Royal Enfields for the way they feel when you are riding them. And the vibrations here are a turn-off as well, but they kicking a lot later and the overall package is such that I can’t ignore it for this. What you should also understand is that the company likes to keep the vibrations as a part of their tradition, just like the spoke wheels – so it is not that engine is not finely tuned or unrefined, the vibrations are here to stay.
Cruising at 100kmph isn’t a problem as the bikes engine doesn’t feel too stressed. After riding for 140 kms, I did check the engine for any oil leaks and unlike the old-school thumpers the chrome was still shining without a single drop of oil. The 535cc single cylinder fuel-injected engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. I did encounter many false neutrals at high speed but after few kilometres I was able to ignore it. The clutch is light and the gear shifting feels average. And yes, the bike gets a kick-start along with the electric starter. My test bike had an upswept exhaust which sounded pretty good – it has this very mild husky note that creats its own character on the road. However, the upswept exhaust is a part of the options list and will cost you another Rs 2,900. We didn’t have the chance to see the stock exhaust but we will get those details for you soon.
The Continental GT gets a new twin downtube cradle frame that has made this motorcycle so much better than the other Royal Enfields. The Enfields were never renowned for their handling but the Continental GT contradicts that notion. The bike feels very stable in the corners and the ride through many ghats on the way to Dudhsagar pasted a big smile to my face. The Pirelli Sport Demon tyres provide great grip in the corners as well as on the straight lines. Overall, the handling character is all sorted for this bike.
The Continental GT gets telescopic forks at the front and these coupled with the premium Paioli twin gas-charged shocks at the rear deliver a stiff ride. The Continental GT gets a 300mm brembo disc at the front and a 240mm disc at the rear; the two deliver some excellent braking but the rear disappoints with the initial bite. The overall ergonomics of the bike are little aggressive but not so much as you expect looking at the photographs. The knee recesses fit in perfectly and due to the elongated fuel tank, short riders will need to put lot of effort in maintaining the posture. But if you are someone who is a six-footer like me, you won’t have a problem riding the bike for long.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT gets a twin pod cluster that has been inspired from the smiths unit. The left houses the speedometer and a small LCD screen, while the right cluster features the tachometer, headlamp, voltage, turn indicators and fuel injection indicator. The speedometer gets both distance marking – kmph and mph. This is because the same model is exported to various international markets. The overall character of the instrument cluster goes very well with the bikes image.
The bar end mirrors is one of the best feature of the Continental GT. At first glance it will make you feel that it is just an accessory but honestly, these mirrors perform brilliantly. Unfortunately, these aren’t stock mirrors and Rs 4,000 is what you pay to make them yours. I would definitely recommend that each and every Continental GT owner should go for them, they are a good addition. Also note as per the Royal Enfield website, the bar end mirrors and the upswept exhaust can be only used when you go off-road.
The Continental GT has been homologated as a single seater and that is why you won’t see any sari guard. Two seat configurations is offered as an option that includes a dual seat but I personally would go for the factory single- humped seat.
Royal Enfield has tried something new and they have got it spot on. After spending over three days with the bike, I can clearly say, it’s the best Royal Enfield till date. In fact, except the complaints that I had about the engine, the rest of the bike is just perfect. However, this is not a traditional RE and there are things that you need to consider before making a buying decision. This bike isn’t as practical as the other Royal Enfields. It isn’t the best choice for long rides, neither for daily commute to office if it is anything more than couple of kilometres. Few hours with the bike and even the most hardcore RE followers will think twice even before considering touring to Ladakh, but such is the charisma that it won’t stop many from visiting the showroom with a cheque book.
A large chunk of Continental GT buyers will come from Royal Enfield’s current customer base as they are more inclined towards lifestyle motoring. The Continental GT isn’t just a bike; it’s a lifestyle. The Café Racer concept is something new to India but I am sure it won’t remain just a fad, thanks to the GT and also Triumph Thruxton. But at the end it all comes down to the price. At an on-road price of Rs 2.05 lakh New Delhi, the Continental GT gets competition from the Honda CBR250R ABS and the KTM 390 Duke ABS. Both the competitors are proven products in the country, but the reason you will buy the Continental GT is because you own either of them or simply bacause you don’t want to think beyond the Royal Enfield.
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