There is a lot that I want to say about the new Continental Royal Enfield Continental GT Café Racer from Royal Enfield. So I’m going to skip the part where I usually delve into the history of a motorcycle, and also because we all knew that this bike has been in the pipeline for many years now. The best thing to do would be to read up about the history of Café Racing, and the original 250 Royal Enfield Continental GT from Royal Enfield, which at the time of its launch in 1963, was Britain’s fastest 250cc motorcycle.
Let’s start with the development of this bike and why it is such a special and historic motorcycle. The all new Royal Enfield Continental GT is not like any other Royal Enfield motorcycle you will see on the road today. It is the amalgamation of 4 years of tremendous amounts of R&D that RE has done to come out with a brilliant and lustful machine. Harris Performance – the same people who have designed frames for Moto GP teams – have helped in creating a completely new chassis for the Royal Enfield Continental GT. I managed to have a word with Steve Harris, who cheerfully explained to me that it took his team around 2 years to come out with a perfect chassis design, and that he insisted on a dual steel frame for strength, stiffness and durability. He also explained how the engineering team worked very closely with the design team of Mark Wells of Xenophya to come out with the final product. Mark was previously involved with RE on the Thunderbird 500 and has devoted 4 years of his time on the new Royal Enfield Continental GT.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT follows a traditional Café Racer design and is heavily influenced by the 250 Royal Enfield Continental GT. The elongated tank that allows the rider to crouch down, the subtle lines, the clip on handle bars, the raised exhaust pipe, and the single humped seat give the bike its legendary look. Then the bar-end mirrors and the wire spoke wheels give it a more modern approach so the bike is both rustic-classic and contemporary. The motorcycle we have for our Royal Enfield Continental GT Review looks a lot better up close and personal than it does in pictures.
Moving on to the engine, a lot of questions were asked as to why an entirely new engine was not developed for this bike, and the answer was obvious – high cost. The Royal Enfield Continental GT instead uses the exact same 500 UCE found in the Classic and the Thunderbird models, however the bore diameter has been increased from 84mm to 87mm to give it a displacement of 535cc. The inertial forces have also been reduced and there has also been a 20% weight reduction in the crankshaft. Along with the bored-out engine there is also a brand new ECU fuel mapping system and the volumetric efficiency has been improved and the air-filter box volume increased. All of this allows the engine to now pump out 29bhp and 44Nm of torque – making it the most powerful RE engine.
The entire Indian automotive fraternity was invited down to test ride the new Royal Enfield Continental GT in Goa. Over 2 days we rode across some of the best roads this country has to offer and this is where my Royal Enfield Continental GT Review India really starts. First off, the engine is brilliant, it gives you just the right amount of power for Indian roads, and the torque is really good as it helps you to rocket from 0-60 km/h in well under 4 seconds. To hit the 100km/h mark it will take you around 8 seconds. The engine does seem a little more refined than before, and the bike doesn’t vibrate too much, but the handle bars vibrate much the same as other RE models. The top speed was a disappointment as I was never able to cross more than 130kmph - but then this bike is not really meant for the open highways.
On the twisty roads the Royal Enfield Continental GT performed beautifully and this is where you will really enjoy the bike. The bike feels light and maneuvers well, and with the slightest shift of weight it follows your shoulders as you lean into tight corners or high speed curves. The engineering team tested the Royal Enfield Continental GT at some of the UK’s best race tracks including the Castle Combe circuit where Isle of Man TT testing is usually done, and also at Chennai and Coimbatore. So it’s no surprise that the bike handles brilliantly. The frame and the suspension setup has been tuned for best directional and cornering stability, so it does seem a little stiff, but the Royal Enfield Continental GT is also the lightest RE motorcycle ever made, at 184Kg dry weight.
The overall ride quality of the bike is really fantastic, and the riding position is decently comfortable. Even though the suspension is on the stiffer side, it soaks up potholes and bumps with no problem. However, I must point out, that the roads in Goa are absolutely brilliant when compared to the rest of the country, and this is where I begin to tell you a few things that you might not like. If you do decide to buy the Royal Enfield Continental GT, know this – it is definitely not something you want to ride in crowded city streets, it is not something you want for long highway trips, and no, this is definitely not an Enfield that you want for a Ladakh expedition.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT seems to be more of a novelty machine than anything else – something you take out on a weekend ride. It might be priced decently, and it might look fantastic, but it’s not really an everyday machine for India. It doesn’t have the greatest fuel economy, and it is not a major step forward in terms of refinement. Yes the quality of components may have improved a bit, but when you compare this bike to let’s say a Duke 390, there simply is no comparison. The Duke 390 is cheaper, faster, lighter and more comfortable. The only reason someone would choose a Royal Enfield Continental GT is because of its heritage and legendary design. I really do believe that the Royal Enfield Continental GT is a phenomenal bike and it is really a blast to ride, but it’s not something that the Indian customer will accept just yet – at least the educated ones. It is a global product, and that is probably why RE decided to have its global launch in England well before an Indian launch. If all the roads in India were like the ones in Goa I would have already bought this bike – but sadly they are not.