It has been just a few weeks since the Royal Enfield Continental GT was launched in India. We were given the opportunity to take the bike on a road test to test out its performance and handling. Here’s our road test review of the latest bike to come out of the Royal Enfield stable.
The first Royal Enfield motorcycle thumped into India in 1949. In 1955, the Indian government selected the Enfield as a suitable motorcycle for use by the police and army. In the same year, the Redditch based company partnered with Madras Motors in India to form ‘Enfield India,’ to assemble, under licence, the 350 cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in erstwhile Madras.
As the only genuine for-the- masses touring motorcycle manufactured in India, Royal Enfield is concentrating more on building the brand and its values than on large scale advertisement campaigns. It’s all about riding and getting mileage on your saddle. Enfield motorcycles are not for posers, they are a lifestyle choice of leisure motorcycling.
An independent manufacturer since the demise of Royal Enfield in England, Enfield India under Eicher group (from 1994) still makes an essentially similar bike in 350 cc and 500 cc forms today, only for updates like much needed electric start, disc brakes, fuel injection and a new five speed transmission.
With a waiting period of months for almost all models in the lineup, Royal Enfield India is having the time of its life. And to further its glorified image in the country, R.E. has now introduced the all new Continental GT Cafe Racer 535 and Indian Cars and Bikes took part in the launch at Goa.
The Continental GT Cafe Racer 535 is definitely one of the best looking bikes that has rolled out of the Royal Enfield’s South India stable. The Café racer had been a concept for a long time, and the final product does not look far away from the concept that was showcased.
With the Continental GT, Royal Enfield marries new technology with old school retro looks seamlessly, like the others in the R.E. lineup.
First things first, the Café racer is not your typical Bullet, though it shares the engine with the Thunderbird 500, Continental GT’s mill has been bored out to extract an additional 35 cc. The stroke has also been changed for a different response as well as for increased torque. And that is where all the sharing ends.
The engine produces 29.1 bhp at 5100 rpm and 44 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. Its chassis is also completely different, made by Harris Racing which employs a twin down tube cradle frame. They have also made the frame more stiff to increase the road holding ability and handling but more importantly to lessen the vibrations to a certain extent. The bike gets larger 41 mm telescopic front forks with 110 mm travel and rear suspensions made of PAIOLI twin gas charged shock absorbers having 80 mm travel and adjustable preload.
The standard MRF rubbers have also been replaced with sticky Pirelli Sport Demon 100/90 x 18, 56H tyres at the front and 130/70 x 18, 63H Pirelli Sport Demons at the rear, providing phenomenal grip levels on Indian roads. The new brakes are from Brembo, sporting a 300 mm floating disc with a dual piston caliper at the front, while the rear brakes are a 250 mm disc with a single piston floating caliper. Needless to say the Continental GT has one of the most advanced braking systems from Royal Enfield, providing good stopping power.
The bike is a head turner, with its sculpted fuel tank and curved racer seat all lending their cues to make the Continental GT a handsome, butch machine. The Café racer has a completely different design philosophy, harking back to the racers of the Sixties. But the core Royal Enfield values remain the same; the bike won’t be hurried and will not offer outright performance like the Japs and it doesn’t need to.
It’s a big bike but at no time would you feel the it being overpowering or untameable. This aspect is the cafe racer’s USP. The tank is sculpted and the knee recess are placed ergonomically. The bike features clip-on handle bars which neither lean forward nor stand upright. The Royal Enfield team has struck the perfect balance in positioning each element. The gears are rear-set but perfectly placed too, all making the bike comfortable to spend long hours on.
The build quality on this bike is better than the already good stuff from the regular lineup. In fact, the Continental GT takes it to the next level. The paint quality, fit, and finish are all top notch, from the headlights to the rear tail light. The mirrors are typically retro and are at the bar ends which enhance the Café racer theme.
The bike sports a single seat with no accommodation for the pillion which is good as it looks best when ridden solo. The switches on the bike are a bit plasticky to touch but still good quality. The fuel filler cap is chromed to further add to the retro look and also gives a break to the red colour of the bike.
The bike surprisingly handles well and can take a corner with a lot of grace which is not typical of R.E.
The gearbox is smooth with a light clutch according to Enfield standards. The bike absorbs the Indian road conditions well without losing any composure on rough bumpy surfaces. Through the entire duration of the ride we didn’t experience much vibrations from the it, which increased the riding pleasure, contrary to the image that cruiser’s from the RE stable have. The only niggle we faced was a weird noise every time we hit the front brakes which sounded scary but did not hamper the brake bite in anyway.
The bike is fast by Royal Enfield standards and handles cruising speeds of 130 km/hr easily without any pronounced stress on the engine. The brakes also feel good and confident but could be bettered with a bit more bite at the rear.
The surprise, however, comes in the form of another colour option. The new Royal Enfield bike will be available in two colours- the already gorgeous deep red as well as a sunflower yellow one too.
The launch was compered by none other than Gordon May, the celebrated historian of Royal Enfield. His excitement for the product was shown in the exuberance and passion when speaking about the bike. He also showcased videos of the making of the Café racer too. There was a pleasant surprise in store for all the Auto journos assembled.
We all wondered whether there would be an unbelievable sticker price or another bike launch with it, the possibilities were endless. But the surprise was in the form of another colour option, the bike will be available in two colours- the already gorgeous deep red as well as a sunflower yellow one too. There was also the new riding/protective gear range from the Royal Enfield known as ‘Burn Up’ wear, launched at the event.
The ‘Burn Up’ wear consists of, R.E branded leather jackets which portray the times when this bike originated and the cult of the leather jackets that followed during those times. There is a textile mesh jacket too, with sufficient armor just in case of any mishap occurring on the bike. There is a large Royal Enfield emblem at the top of the jacket.
Full and half leather gloves with decent knuckle protection, a line of colorful t-shirts with heavy Royal Enfield branding, as well as Continental GT branding are all part of the range. Custom helmets are also provided from the industry front runners AGV, and they too have Royal Enfield and Continental GT decals.
We could have chosen a predetermined route but there was also the option to wander free, and that was all we needed to hear. A group of us decided to ride from one spot to another without any stops in between, just what the Café racer was born to do- quick transportation from point A to B. So we decided to explore old Goa and check out the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The bike fit well into the Old Goa neighborhood and we didn’t feel much out of place there.
Riding this bike is so much fun that as soon as we reached our first point, we had already decided our next journey and went deeper into Goa, reaching small beautiful villages. After that we hit some good winding roads and indulged in mindless corner carving. But our exploits came to a halt as we had to meet up with the Royal Enfield team and again it was a race against the clock to reach from old Goa to Morjim beach where Royal Enfield had planned the evening for us.
Eventually we realized we weren’t following the map given to us by Royal Enfield and were a bit worried if we would not reach the destination, but to our good luck the locals were very helpful and guided is with a smile all along. All in all we reached our destination with couple of minutes to spare before sunset, so we decided to hit a bar for a quick drink.
Royal Enfield has also been very competitive with the pricing of the Continental GT and at Rs 2.15 lakh on road price in Mumbai is the final cherry on the top, a steal at that price.
People might be a little confused about this all-new offering. Is it a sportsbike or a regular old cruiser? Well to be honest it’s a cruiser with better road manners than its siblings in the Enfield lineup. The Continental GT is reliable and has good built quality, on par with the Japs. There may have been issues with previous models, but when putting the bike through its paces, it did not grumble or break down.
Overall, the bike is a perfect package with many options for customizations. There will be very few stock bikes on the road, but that is the true spirit of the Royal Enfield and Café racer community, to look better than the other while still being able to go fast. The bike comes as a single seater with options for a pillion seat, but we don’t think many will go down that way, unless you are a family man. We’d still urge you to go for the single seater and ask your better half to take the bus.
With waiting lists that span months for all bikes from the Enfield fleet, the main question now is if the company will be able to deliver the bike within a reasonable time period or lose potential customers though few would change their minds after having set their sights on this machine. They have a good product in their hands, now all that matters is how well they can deliver the new flagship bike to the hands of the waiting customers.