Café Racer and Rocker subculture, words that made no sense to most Indian motorcyclists until the launch of the new Royal Enfield Continental GT Café Racer. In the last few days everybody actively following motorcycling news in India knows what a Café Racer is or atleast what it looks like! For the uninitiated Indian motorcyclist, a Café Racer is a type of motorcycle that looks like the new Continental GT. But for Royal Enfield, it is much more than just a product or a brand building exercise, it is a motorcycle that they have given their heart and soul while building it for the motorcyclist of today. In fact it is for them, the blast from their past, it is their legacy as a manufacturer. It is a memory revived from their heydays as one of the best motorcycle manufacturers in the United Kingdom during the 1960s.
However, it is a past that we (as Indians) cannot validate in its entirety as it belongs to the British, American and European motorcycling history by and large. Of course we had the Royal Enfield motorcycles in India, but we did not have the Café Racer and Rocker sub-culture, far away from it in-fact! There are but a few elements from the 60s that some of us can still identify with; Some of our parents grew up in the 50s and 60s, owned motorcycles from manufacturers of that time, brand new in some cases and hand-me-downs in others. A few lucky ones, including myself listened to the tapes of rock music from a time when our parents were in their teens, getting pillion rides on these vintage motorcycles growing up to even owning or riding them later on.
The unearthly noises, phase shifting extravaganza of the sound of Hendrix devilishly playing his guitar, to the music of the Beatles and The Rolling Stones that somewhere in our minds, haunts us and makes us hum along every once in a while. The Café Racer in similarity is something that comes back to me, painting pictures in my mind of a time that I wasn’t born and conjuring up memories of a past I never got to live in. But for most part of the last 12 years that I have been riding motorcycles, this era is something that I appreciate for what it stood for; Music and Freedom and in the context of this review, Pure Motorcycling!
So, lets cut to the chase now as we have tested the following claims: Fastest, Lightest and Best handling Royal Enfield motorcycle ever built.
Design, Quality and Ergonomics
Royal Enfield have gone back to their roots as the Continental GT is largely inspired by the Café Racer motorcycles from 1960s and their own 1965 Continental GT Café Racer. S. Sivakumar (Royal Enfield in-house designed) teamed up with the Mark Wells from Xynophya Motorcycle Design –a highly renowned UK based Motorcycle Design house to ensure it retained all the classic elements and overall proportions were absolutely spot on. Few motorcycles built today can be termed as a work of art made out of metal and this is one of them. It has a simple and un-obstructive design that is sporty yet remains streamlined and clean. The Continental GT is beautiful in every sense of the word and destined to become a modern-classic.
It remains true to its Café Racer heritage and brings a perfect combination of form over function and function over form. If you have an eye for details and appreciate retro themed motorcycles then you will find the GT to be a visual treat with its round headlamp, contrast stitching on the seat, small bar-end anti-glare mirrors (available as optional equipment) looks great and provides a decent range of visibility, upswept exhaust that not only enhances its sportiness but improves ground clearance as well. The instrumentation consists of a large analogue speedometer and tachometer housed in a round casing. It looks sporty but in terms of functionality it brings a digital fuel indicator, odometer and trip meter integrated within the speedometer while the tachometer housing sports the lamps for high-beam and turn signals.
That’s not all, the twin triple clamps and fork brace in addition to the clip-on bars adds to the delightful theme of the motorcycle. The tail light, slim turn indicators along with trimmed front and rear mud-guards with removable black mud-flaps (to meet regulatory standards) look so cool. It has a low-profile elongated fuel tank with a chromed Monza style fuel cap. The brushed metal look on the engine in addition to the chrome on gearbox casing and exhaust adds to the elegance. Another example of form over function and function over form in the GT is the inclusion of wire-spoke aluminium alloy wheels that looks fantastic but is light in weight.
The fuel tank has knee recesses that can be easily hugged while putting it through the paces is the proof of its expert craftmanship. The flat wasp-style single seat with bum stop is narrow but provides adequate comfort over longer distance on the motorcycle. A longer seat that can accommodate a pillion is available as optional equipment which includes pillion foot pegs as well. The seat height is set at 800mm which was comfortable for some of my height 5ft 10in.
The Continental GT has been homologated as a single seater motorcycle. It looks smashing in GT Red color and while the overall finish can be further improved, it goes about its business perfectly the way it is right now. The riding position is sporty and while the sharply angled clip-on bars might look low and uncomfortable but they are in fact sensibly positioned as far as functionality is concerned. The rear-set, grooved and grippy foot pegs (with foot peg guards) aren’t radically placed ensuring a comfortable ride and they never come in the way when you lean the motorcycle. It brings an exposed chain, two very powerful horns to clear traffic, quality switch gears and kick-start as standard equipment. It will also attract eyeballs equally, whether you ride it or park it by the road side.
Engine and Gearbox
The engine on the Continental GT has seen a few minor updates but how does it benefit us you may ask and ask you must! The new improvement has the motor producing 2 Bhp more than its 500cc counterpart. Now at 535cc, the single cylinder air cooled Unit Construction Engine, makes 29.1 Bhp at 5,100 Rpm and 44 Nm of twisting force at 4,000 rpm. It has a kerb weight of 184 kgs (with 90% fuel and oil) which gives a total power to weight ratio per ton of 158. The engineers have been able to achieve this by increasing the bore size from 84mm to a larger 87mm while maintaining the stroke length at 90mm. But they have strengthened the internals such as the connecting rod and crankshaft to improve durability. They have also cut down on weight in some areas which has reduced its overall weight. You fire up the engine using the electric starter but it brings a kick-start for emergencies.
Valves and valve springs have been uprated to to keep up with the stronger motor while the inlet valve has been modified to improve performance from the Keihin Electronic Fuel Injector. It also features a new ECU mapping which ensures it is smoother when you are rolling-on and off throttle and the fueling is spot-on. Royal Enfield claims a 35% reduction in inertia which allows it it rev quicker improving acceleration throughout the powerband. The new 535cc Fuel Injected motor on the Continental GT doesn’t feel much stronger over its 500cc iteration seen in the Classic 500 but there is indeed a noticeable difference.
For a mid-size capacity, pushrod single cylinder engine it revs up happily to its rev-limiter which surfaces around 5,800 rpm which is fairly high for this engine. But the cut-off isn’t smooth, it results in a loud, coarse clunk which at first scares you and tends to bog you down. But, the GT managed to hit the rev-limiter in the first 4 gears and I managed to hit a true top speed of 127 kph (GPS reading) which was about 138kph – 140kph on the Speedo. The Continental GT will happily cruise around the 80-110 kmph mark but anything higher is uncomfortable to the rider owing to the vibes and progress toward its top speed is a little lethargic after 120 kmph without a slope and some tail wind to assist.
The Continental GT produces the “Royal Thump” that we have all grown up listening to on the road as you ride along. It also has a great resonating bark to it, especially with the optional fitment sporty exhaust running on the test bikes. A stock version should be slightly quieter in comparison, although I would prefer to plonk the up-swept exhaust right away after purchase.
It has a 5 speed constant mesh gearbox with 1-down and 4-up gear shifting pattern. Apart from a few false neutrals while shifting up from 2nd to 3rd gear and 3rd to 4th I also had some difficulty finding the neutral (just a couple of times) even while standing still. But I didn’t come across any other niggles. It shifted quite smoothly and downshifts from 5th to 1st were quickly executable along with precisely timed throttle blips, resulting in smooth downshifts without any misses and minor wheel-hopping (only at high revs). I tried to find other faults with the gearbox but these are all that I came across. A carefully run-in engine and gearbox should ideally perform better and certainly function smoother. The wet, multi-plate clutch is light, well weighted and easy to press and this allows you to quickly engage and disengage gears without tiring out your wrist after continuous gear changes in traffic.
Vibrations are synonymous with Royal Enfield motorcycles and this one is no different. It is a trade-off for using a large capacity single mill. However, the vibes are present at the clip-on bars only. The rest of the motorcycle including the frame, tank and foot pegs were vibe-free. It can be tiresome, not to mention annoying on long rides and it certainly got my hands buzzing at the end of the day. On my test bike, the vibes were very evident between 3,000 to 4,000 rpm and it smoothened out towards the rev-limiter. However I managed to sample another GT during our test ride which was relatively far smoother than my bike at the same rev-range. It was present in just the right amount and barely bothered me during my ride. Strange but true! Royal Enfield must work on improving these aspects to ensure a better riding experience to the owners of the GT.
Max Speed in Each Gear - Continental GT (As per Royal Enfield)1st Gear - 50 kmph @ 5600 Rpm2nd Gear - 76 kmph @ 5600 Rpm3rd Gear -101 kmph @ 5500 Rpm4th Gear - 121 kmph @ 5200 Rpm5th Gear - 136 kmph @ 5100 Rpm As you can see from the figures above the max the bike can do is 136 kph true speed in the 5th gear.
Ride and Handling
It was rare to come across a review of a Royal Enfield motorcycle that on the onset describes it as a very good handling machine but the Continental GT has changed that and how! Enfield understood the need for a sporty handling package and headed to Harris Performance, UK. Established by Steve Harris and Lestor Harris more than 30 years ago, Harris Performance is one of the biggest names in the world of motorcycling and they are the ‘Real Gurus’ at developing high performance chassis that has helped win championships in MotoGP, Isle of Man TT, British Superbike and World Superbike and the continue to innovate and up the ante motorsports they are currently associated with.
Royal Enfield teamed up with Harris Performance to deliver a strong package for their Continental GT Café Racer. It has a tubular down-tube double cradle frame, one that is very stiff and rigid to ensure that the massive 535cc engine sits happily in the frame. It has resulted in an Enfield that handles quite sharply, shedding its previously infamous wobbly characteristics. It is now invigorating to ride an Enfield motorcycle through the twisties as the intuitive handling on the new Continental GT is proof and the following picture is the testament to the engineering by Harris Performance and Royal Enfield.
It has a 41mm dia conventional telescopic forks by Gabriel that provides 110mm of travel up front with the correct rake angle and trail to deliver that sharp handling without losing its straight-line stability. The weight is also noticeable when you try to make quick direction changes. It is nimble yet I wouldn’t call it extremely flickable. This isn’t a sport bike that let’s you drop your knee on every corner, but it will make you work, sweat it out and earn it as you understand its dynamics. The front forks also come with a fork brace that improves the rigidity of the forks. The rear suspension are twin Paioli gas charged shock absorbers that are adjustable for pre-load. They look good aesthetically but also do a good job of providing the necessary ride quality. In addition to these the rear elliptical section swing-arm is rigid and provides the necessary handling capability to the motorcycle.
On bumpier stretches and undulating road surfaces, if you attempt higher speeds the ride can get a little uncomfortable. It was partly due to the slightly wallowy front suspension which I felt was due to in-sufficient damping and partly due to the narrow seat that could use slightly extra padding to improve rider comfort. It has a weight distribution of 55:45 with forward bias. The front suspension is set on the softer side as compared to the rear which is firmer set, this results in a fair bit of shock being transferred to your back. But, this setup provides an overall ride quality that is compliant and largely comfortable. On smoother tarmac the Continental GT is an absolute pleasure to ride.
The suspension works in unison when you are negotiating through the tighter curves as the GT holds a good line with some effort at the bars. The ergonomics do their bit in ensuring your comfort levels are intact and this translates to spirited riding on your favourite set of curves. At higher speeds, the front end doesn’t feel nervous, the handling is almost neutral, composed and confidence inspiring and never does it feel like it would fall over mid-corner at lean angles you generally don’t attempt with an Enfield.
The turning radius as I experienced isn’t very large, in fact it is only 2.8m! U-turns were easily made without putting my foot down even on a narrow single lane road. However for a a new rider or someone with lesser experience, the weight will certainly add to the learning curve of managing a heavy motorcycle at lower speeds, where the possibility of stalling the motorcycle and dropping it exists. A crash-guard is certainly a welcome addition.
The agility of the Continental GT is complemented by the use of wire-spoke aluminium alloy wheels that come shod with Pirelli Sport Demon tyres 100/90-18 53H up front while the rear is shod with 130/70-18 63H. These aluminium alloy wheels are light in weight and help in improving turn-ins while the highly grippy soft compound tyres do a great job in sticking to the road at any speed. They warm up nicely and provide good level of grip even on the damp Goan roads (it had rained overnight in Goa during our stay) early in the morning. Royal Enfield did a great job of selecting the tyre, given the limited choices we have in our country as far as tyre choices are concerned, their choice of tyre only enhances the ride quality thus allowing you to further explore the limits of the motorcycle.
The front disc brake is a floating type 300mm dia Brembo unit that comes with twin piston callipers while the rear is a 240mm dia floating disc brake with a single piston calliper. Both the brakes have steel braided brake lines. The front brake is very powerful and it has a good initial bite. The steel braided line gives ample feedback and the braking itself is quite progressive. It is possible to lock it under panic braking maneuverers but we can expect to see an ABS unit in the future.
The rear lacks the initial bite of the front but it is sufficient to slow you down. Under hard braking manoeuvres the front end will dive quite a bit and if you were are hard on the rear brakes simultaneously you will easily lock the rear wheel, getting the rear to fish tail ever so slightly. The tyres do a fantastic job of ensuring grip although locking them up is possible due to the lack of ABS. However, due to the amount of tyre grip available, the GT will shed its speed quickly.
Royal Enfield Continental GT has an ARAI certified fuel efficiency of around 41.9 kmpl. However we can expect around 26-30 kmpl in normal city riding conditions and slightly more if when you are cruising on the highway. We hope to test this more accurately in the near future.My test bike had a glitch where the fuel indicator went a little haywire and showed reserve when we were a little more than half way into our 240 km ride, but it had plenty of fuel in the tank and after sometime it indicated the fuel level more accurately.
Continental GT On-Road Price & Value for Money
The on-road price of the new Royal Enfield Continental GT in the following cities are:
Royal Enfield Continental GT New Delhi On-Road Price: ?2.05 Lakhs,Royal Enfield Continental GT Goa On-Road Price: ?2.04 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Mumbai On-Road Price: ?2.14 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Gurgaon On-Road Price: ?2.02 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Chandigarh On-Road Price: ?1.96 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Noida On-Road Price: ?2.06 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Hyderabad On-Road Price: ?2.09 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Bangalore On-Road Price: ?2.19 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Kolkata On-Road Price: ?2.14 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Pune On-Road Price: ?2.08 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Ahmedabad On-Road Price: ?2.12 LakhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Chennai On-Road Price: ?2.09 LakhWe think the pricing is spot on as it will be less than ?2 Lakhs in some cities such as Chandigarh and given all the features it brings, it is priced appropriately and is of good value to its owners. The 1 year / 10,000 kms (whichever is earlier) manufacturer warranty is a downer as it could have been extended to atleast 2 years or 20,000 kms which I think would provide even better value to the entire package.
Verdict – Is the Continental GT the right motorcycle for you?
In all seriousness, if you are only interested in top-speeds and 0-60 kmph figures, European build quality and Japanese reliability standards, latest in engine tech, near telepathic handling capability and being able to stop on a dime (21st century–everything) then this might not be the motorcycle for you.
Having said that, this is a good motorcycle and if you are on a budget of 2 Lakh rupees, love the concept of Café Racers, adore vintage and classic motorcycles, wish to own a legacy, can’t afford to purchase and/or the long-term upkeep of an import and you can withstand the vibes of a mid-size single mill, you will certainly enjoy every moment on the Continental GT. You do however get quite a bit of modernity mentioned above in it.
Final Words – Few points to Consider
As I boarded my flight to New Delhi, these were the thoughts in my head; Beneath all the marketing hype and branding initiatives, Royal Enfield is genuinely trying to do something good while taking a huge leap of faith at the same time. It has stuck to its roots while we have moved on with the times, hence some will appreciate this and some may not. Nonetheless, the new Continental GT is an honest attempt at bringing back all the positives from the Rocker subculture. It impresses with its visual appeal but also with the improvements to its chassis and build quality. It also tries to revive the rocker subculture of the 1960s in the 21st century by being an extremely fun to ride motorcycle for its size and weight. Despite the fact that it has an engine that most consider outdated by today’s standards in engine development.
This was necessary to retain the retro character of the machine and it was one aspect of the motorcycle that Royal Enfield couldn’t deal with thoroughly in the process of building the GT. The engine platform can only evolve, there cannot be something entirely new here without losing the DNA of Enfield motorcycles. Rest assured, we will see a few improvements in the right direction in the future or so I am told by the Engineers at Royal Enfield.
The Continental GT is a Modern-Classic in every sense of the word. It brings modern equipment such as Brembo brakes, Paioli suspension, minor improvements to its evolving engine and excellent handling capabilities courtesy a very well engineered double cradle frame from Mr. Steven Harris at Harris Performance UK –few things we look for in a Modern motorcycle.
It has an universally appealing retro design courtesy Mark Wells and team at Xynophya UK along with comfortable ergonomics, a peppy engine with a very good low-mid-range power and minimal electrical system that is easy to maintain and repair even for a road side mechanic – usually considered as the finer aspects of a Classic motorcycle.
Modern-build quality usually associated with assembly-line built products and the premium feel of a product that has received a fair amount of human touch to it, backs up the new GT. The quality of the parts used is indeed an improvement for Royal Enfield over their existing portfolio. Their new plant at Oragadam, Chennai features world class facilities and is a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility which meets all the legal requirements for manufacturing in many countries.
Something to keep in mind is that the true essence of a Café Racer is people buying a standard motorcycle and then modifying it into a Café Racer. Here, Royal Enfield provides you a good platform to modify as per individual requirements, if you wish to do so. If you have followed the trend of choppers and cruisers, the new Continental GT may spark and fuel the trend for exciting Café Racers in India in the future.
I hope to assess this motorcycle over a few days and greater number of kilometres in the future. But at the moment, my current observations corroborates with Royal Enfield’s claim that it is the best Enfield motorcycle built to date. If you are looking for an elegantly designed retro motorcycle that your money can buy today, one that doesn’t require you to break your bank deposits or sell your kidney, then the Continental GT is the motorcycle for you! But, do feel free to take a test ride today and decide for yourselves!
1. Authentic Café Racer design2. Good Handling3. Torquey Engine4. Powerful Brakes5. Excellent tyre grip6. Premium feel and Quality7. Optional Equipment and Official Accessories
1. Vibrations at the Clip-on bars.2. High-speed cruising and top speed.3. Short rev-range4. Warranty Period
Technical Specifications of Royal Enfield Continental GT
Royal Enfield Continental GT Wheelbase: 1360 mmRoyal Enfield Continental GT Ground Clearance: 140 mmRoyal Enfield Continental GT Length: 2060 mmRoyal Enfield Continental GT Width: 760mm ( Without Mirrors)Royal Enfield Continental GT Height: 1070mm ( Without Mirrors)Royal Enfield Continental GT Seat Height: 800 mmRoyal Enfield Continental GT Kerb Weight: 184 Kgs (with 90% Fuel+Oil)Royal Enfield Continental GT Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.5 Litres (Including Reserve)Royal Enfield Continental GT Type: Single Cylinder, 4 Stroke, Air CooledRoyal Enfield Continental GT Displacement: 535ccRoyal Enfield Continental GT Bore X Stroke: 87mm X 90mmRoyal Enfield Continental GT Compression Ratio: 8.5:1Royal Enfield Continental GT Maximum Power: 29.1 Bhp at 5100 rpmRoyal Enfield Continental GT Maximum Torque: 44 Nm at 4000 RpmRoyal Enfield Continental GT Electrical System: 12 voltRoyal Enfield Continental GT Battery: 12 volt, 14 AhRoyal Enfield Continental GT Head Lamps: 12V H4 60W/55WRoyal Enfield Continental GT Tail Lamps: 12V 21W/5WRoyal Enfield Continental GT Turn Indicators: 12V 10W (Each unit)Royal Enfield Continental GT Ignition System: Digital Electronic IgnitionRoyal Enfield Continental GT Clutch: Wet, Multi-PlateRoyal Enfield Continental GT Gearbox: 5 Speed Constant Mesh, 1-Down 5-Up Pattern.Royal Enfield Continental GT Lubrication: Wet SumpRoyal Enfield Continental GT Engine Oil: 15 W 50 API, SL Grade JASO MARoyal Enfield Continental GT Fuel Supply: Keihin Electronic Fuel InjectionRoyal Enfield Continental GT Air Filter: Paper ElementRoyal Enfield Continental GT Engine Start: Electric & KickRoyal Enfield Continental GT Turning Radius: 2.6mRoyal Enfield Continental GT Front Tyre: 100/90/18-53H Pirelli Sport DemonRoyal Enfield Continental GT Rear Tyre: 130/70/18-63H Pirelli Sport DemonRoyal Enfield Continental GT Front Disc: Brembo 300mm Dia Disc Floating Type with Twin Piston CaliperRoyal Enfield Continental GT Rear Disc: 240mm Dia, Single Piston Floating Caliper