Royal Enfield has launched the Continental GT in the UK, unveiling it at the Ace Cafe, the place where the cafe racer tradition started and launching it at Brooklands Museum. The UK price of the Continental GT is £5200 (Rs. 5.21 lakhs) putting it right against the Honda CBR500R which is priced at £5099. The motorcycle will be launched in India in the month of October and is expected to be priced at around Rs. 2 lakhs. The Continental GT is a modern cafe racer, mixing retro style with modern appeal. The company calls the Royal Enfield Continental GT as the “fastest, lightest, most powerful Royal Enfield in production”.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT is powered by a 535cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled engine which produces 29.1 BHP of power at 5100 RPM and 44 Nm of torque at 4000 RPM. The Keihin fuel injected engine is mated to a 5-speed gearbox and the motor can be powered to life by either electric or kick start. The front uses 41 mm telescopic forks while the rear uses twin gas charged Paioli shock absorbers. The chassis is a twin downtube cradle frame and the Continental GT weighs 184 kgs (with 90% fuel) and has a 13.5-litres fuel tank.
In India, we will get handlebar mounted conventional rear view mirrors while in other countries, Royal Enfield offers bar end mounted mirrors, which look very cool. The Royal Enfield Continental GT has a wheelbase of 1360 mm and measures 2060 mm in length, 760 mm in width and 1070 mm in height. The seat height is 800 mm and the ground clearance is 140 mm. The bike uses Pirelli Sport Demon tyres of size 100/90/18 and 130/70/18 at the front and rear respectively. The front uses 300 mm floating Brembo disc while the rear uses a 240 mm disc. The bike will come with a single flat seat as standard and the pillion seat is an option.
The cafe culture was to ride to the next cafe and back before a song finished playing on the jukebox. This meant the motorcycle had to be fast and low weight was the need of the hour. Reaching 100 mph was popularly called ‘doin a ton’. In 1956, the cafe racer was born as people modified their bikes by stripping it off weight for better performance. The handlebar was long slung while the footrest was made further rear set for better aerodynamics. With these changes, cafe racer bikes had a unique stance and in 1959, Royal Enfield launched the Crusader Sport which had the sportier stance which was in high demand in those days.
However it was in 1961 when the real birth of the Royal Enfield Cafe Racer happened with the launch of the Meteor and Meteor Minor. In 1962 the Super Five was launched while next year the British company updated the Crusader Sport with more features. The Bullet 350 was also given the cafe racer treatment (aka rear set foot pegs and lower handlebars). In 1964, the Royal Enfield Continental GT lapped the Silverstone circuit with a fastest lap speed of 73 mph (117 km/hr), making it Britain’s fastest 250cc bike in those days.
The production of the Continental GT was started in 1965 at the company’s parent factory in Redditch. The 1965 Royal Enfield Continental GT used a 250cc, 4-stroke engine producing 21 BHP of power, mated to a 5-speed gearbox. It had a fibre fuel tank (finished in red). By 1970, the British motorcycle industry started to see a slowdown and many companies stopped production. However Royal Enfield continued to do well with the Interceptor cafe racer. By 1985, the cafe racer segment almost got over and no such bike type was available off the shelf. Some companies started making kits which let people convert their bikes into cafe racers.
In 2005 a cafe racer kit for the Electra was launched. Royal Enfield showcased the cafe racer at the 2010 and 2012 Auto Expo in concept and production guise respectively, marking the return of the cafe racer after 60 years. Last month, the company commenced production of the Continental GT at its Oragadam plant, which is the sole facility that manufactures this retro machine. The Eicher Motors owned company is offering a range of ‘GT Apparel’ and ‘Burn-up Wear’ (riding gear) for Continental GT fans and buyers.