Royal Enfield Continental GT Review
Bike Tested: Royal Enfield Continental GT
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 2,14,000/-
One look at the cafe racer and your heart which beats for motorcycles, will skip a beat.
Royal Enfield is on a roll. It all started with updating its bikes with brand new UCE engines and it continuous to carry on. The Bullet 500 got an engine upgrade while the Thunderbird got a comprehensive update. All this resulted in more waiting period for customers, which some say boosts image of the manufacturer. Royal Enfield recognised this problem as well and started a brand new factory aimed at improving quantity and mostly importantly quality. Every niche manufacturer wants to increase their share of volumes in their own niche market. After the entry of international competitive brands, Royal Enfield took things seriously and has got something from the past to blast the present. Mid-2013, we expected to see the Continental GT and we saw it in an unusual way. Royal Enfield CEO Siddhartha Lal started tweeting pictures of the motorcycle, which were supposed to be called spy shots but if the manufacturer themselves start sending pictures of prototypes being tested, it becomes awkward to give it a name. It’s because the Continental GT is way different than what any of us Indian motorcycle enthusiasts have seen in a long while. The Royal Enfield Continental GT is fresh air for motorcyclist around the world. We fill our lungs with it in our hometown after the first ride in Goa and give it the proper road test treatment. Twisty roads, long highway trips and grabbing a lot of eye balls in the city of Mumbai, we have done it all.
Motor Quest: In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Royal Enfield produced a number of 250cc machines, including a racer, the ‘GP’. The Continental GT was launched in 1965 and was a 250cc cafe racer.
Styling – We all know the Continental GT is a blast from the past. The design is achingly gorgeous and dare we say timeless. The retro fuel tank, boxy side panels, traditional round headlight and exposed chassis lends the motorcycle a macho appeal. Oodles of chrome, yellow rear shocks with spoke wheels complete the retro design. Believe us, you must be watching the motorcycle in pictures and feeling it looks good. However, if you look at it in person, a smile conquers your face and makes you want one after a long stare.
Allow me to tell you in detail the kind of words the junta has used to describe the Continental GT. Bikers giving multiple thumbs up, senior citizens rolling down their Mercedes car windows and saying “good choice son” and kids on their scooters with fluorescent slippers and clothes constantly staring and saying “mast dikhta hai boss”. Parked to get some veggies, heard two middle-aged software nerds saying “Harley”. At a deserted pump, refuelling, a car goes by, stops, reverses, and four people walk towards you and suddenly the fear of being abducted becomes high. On a serious note, I was not allowed to leave for 10 minutes until I finished answering their questions. During the entire period, their eyes were on the Continental GT, asking me questions on the other hand, talk about “attention grabbing” and this motorcycle should get another award for it. People you know personally, when you show them a superbike, they are like “it’s good”. Show them the GT and they are like “it’s very, very good”. Styling then surely gets A+, but most people did ask us if this was a customised Royal Enfield or a new product. It’s not their problem. Half Harley-Davidson, half Royal Enfield is a daily sight. We saw a Thunderbird turned into a Forty-Eight during the stint with the Continental GT.
Ergonomics – Café racer means the riding position is going to focus maximum attack on the air and to cut it solidly. Therefore a committed riding position but with the help of raised handlebars it’s not painful as a Yamaha R15 version one. Comfortable seat has been crafted thanks to superior cushioning and long rides on the Royal Enfield Continental GT are easily possible. Bar end mirrors offer form and function at the same time. They offer slightly less broad view than normal mirrors, but overall a satisfactory view. Blue tint on the glass saves you from buffoons who run on high beam in the night and give you a “cool” idea of what’s behind in the day. The rear set footpegs are too rear set, riding in bumper-to-bumper traffic becomes a bit of a pain. However get on a twisty road and you will adore the idea.
Instrument Cluster and Switch Gear – Clocks on the Continental GT are beautifully done, it is the right balance of retro and modern. It has all the essentials such as engine check light, battery warning indicator and turn indicators with high beam in the right pod. The left pod has mph and km/hr both engraved on it (totally cool) and the digital display shows two trip meters and a odometer which can toggled by a switch between these two pods. The indicators aren’t completely visible in daylight, a bit of eye straining is required to see if you cancelled the indicator after the last turn. However the reason why the clocks deserves a special mention is the back lit. Spot on mix of white and red colour in the back lit makes your night riding insanely joyful. You constantly adore the clocks while the rest of world drools at your bike. Excellent attention to detail by Royal Enfield, after all there has to be something that the rider can feast his eyes on as well. Switchgear and palm grip is borrowed from other stable mates and are good to feel and use.
Performance and Gearbox – Powering this café racer is a 535cc, long-stroke, fuel-injected, air-cooled engine which produces 29.1 BHP of power at 5100 RPM and 44 Nm of torque at 4000 RPM. All this is channeled through a 5-speed gearbox to the rear wheels. Thumb start the engine and it won’t come to life like a typical fuel injected bike. Use your tricks which you learnt on how to start a carburettored engine, because that’s how the Continental GT is going to start. No doubt this is one of the best engines Royal Enfield has ever made but fuss free start of a fuel injected motor is sorely missed. Engine is smooth until the redline but it’s the vibrations that kick in after 3100 RPM which makes it difficult to keep the engine on the boil. Vibrations are immensely less than any other Royal Enfield out there. Mountain of torque in the lower and mid range of the power band makes it an easy motorcycle in the city and on the highway for overtaking. Tall gearing and overdrive fifth gear makes it easy to ride anywhere but the fuelling is snatchy under 2000 RPM. Doing 90 km/hr in fifth gear at 3000 RPM and need to overtake? Simply twist the right wrist and cover the distance in no time.
Royal Enfield says this is the fastest, lightest and most powerful motorcycle they have ever made. 12.2 seconds to 100 km/hr is by far the fastest Royal Enfield right now. However, it’s not possible to keep doing it. Because every time you reach redline to do so, the air filter box wants to pop out. It’s best that the GT is ridden the way a RE motorcycle should be. Thump around in the city in the highest gear possible. Thumping reminds us of the sound. Which isn’t as throaty or loud as any of its stablemates. It’s less sonorous than before, mostly because of the aftermarket exhaust fitted to our test bike. The last number when it comes to comfortable cruising is 100 km/hr, sure 120 km/hr is possible but not for too long. Gearbox is the same 5-speed, clunky, loud gearbox with long throws. With no stopper holding, you can endlessly shift after fifth gear and go down as many times after first gear too. Our bike had done 2000 odd kms, which means first service was commenced and the bike was functioning at its best. After riding 550 kms, we have no doubt the 535cc unit is the best Royal Enfield engine out there.
Riding Dynamics – Usually armed with a single down tube frame, Royal Enfield bikes have been quite manoeuvrable and flickable but not the best with dynamics. Sure, the new Thunderbird with subtle changes to the swing arm and chassis was an able handler but nothing like this. You see the Continental GT has a brand new double cradle frame, still old school but the best choice for cruisers worldwide. The chassis has been sharpened and tuned very well. Sole reason why the CGT has fewer vibrations is because of the twin tubes rather than the single tube chassis used on its siblings. The chassis is seen on popular models like the Pulsars and Apache before. Rear set foot pegs, newly tuned suspension at the front and Paioli shocks at the rear make it dynamically rich. Getting your knee down on a Royal Enfield was completely unheard off until now. However, with the Continental GT, it’s very much possible.
The ride quality is good at low speeds but at high speeds on uneven roads, it becomes uncomfortably bouncy. Suspension damping could have been better on both ends. Chassis could have been a lot stiffer. Stiffer chassis was expected when we saw Royal Enfield going to Harris Engineering for chassis development and they used a small strip between two tubes at the front, which is missing from the production model. A very old, aftermarket technique used to stiffen up double cradle chassis, which was first seen on Kawasaki motorcycles (done by tuners) that had the same type of chassis. The raised handlebars give satisfactory feedback. Turn in is minutely heavy and the front suspension geometry could have been better with slightly higher degree of rake. However, since it aids in easy city manoeuvrability, it’s worth the compromise. Tyres are Pirelli Sport Demons, which are exceptional and best in the segment. Tyres are slapped onto 18-inch aluminium spoke wheels. We would prefer to have 17-inch wheels, which would have added more fun and nimbleness to the dynamics package. Braking is aided by 300 mm disc at the front and 240 mm disc at the rear, with both ends using Brembo callipers and steel braided lines. Braking is good and confidence inspiring but since the motorcycle weighs 184 kgs, it does take time to completely deploy the anchors. Having said that, the brakes are far better than any other Royal Enfield out there. Brakes do not lock even if tried for the fun of it.
Miscellaneous – The motorcycle is dead heavy at parking speeds. Good luck with removing it from tight parking spaces or simply create your own. Since there is nothing natural to hold on to or move the bike, there is a hook provided on the left side rear suspension to grip on to. Light illumination is excellent but the throw is wide rather than focusing far away. Rear brake oil container is oddly placed below the seat. Transmission is on the right side but the gear lever is on the usual left side. Shocks at the rear are adjustable. Normal rear view mirrors are far more convenient for daily riding but there is nothing normal about this bike, spend some money and make sure you get bar end mirrors (they cost Rs. 4000/-). Fit and finish is good but it’s only the ugly welds which are a bit of eye sore. When you take your thumper over a breaker (speed) it won’t scrape its underbody or main stand. This cafe racer has taken lightness seriously, the seat cover is made of fibre.
Verdict – There is no doubt that the new Continental GT is the best Royal Enfield in the market. Despite the shortcomings, it’s a very likeable bike because the design dominates your heart and mind. If only the GT would be much more easier to live with, it would find more homes too. Why would you buy it? Royal Enfield motorcycles have had one sole focus. The true and raw essence of motorcycling. If riding, riding and riding is to your liking, you won’t find a motorcycle like this elsewhere. The retro-modern-exquisite design and the bonus thump is enough to make Royal Enfield fans go gaga over this cafe racer. The Continental GT packs a lot of emotion which is hard to translate into words.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT may not be the easiest bike to ride in spite of being the best Royal Enfield motorcycle till date but it will take over your heart by immediately connecting to you on an emotional level.
* Retro styling
* Attention to detail
What’s Not So Cool
2014 Royal Enfield Continental GT Specifications
* Engine: 535cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder, UCE
* Power: 29.1 HP @ 5100 RPM
* Torque: 44 Nm @ 4000 RPM
* Transmission: 5-speed
* 0-100 km/hr: 12.2 seconds
* Top Speed: 130 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 28 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Frame: Double Cradle
* Suspension: 41 mm telescopic forks (Front), Twin gas charged shock absorbers with adjustable preload (Rear)
* Tyres: 100/90/18 (Front), 130/70/18 (Rear)
* Brakes: 300 mm disc (Front), 240 mm disc (Rear)
2014 Royal Enfield Continental GT Dimensions
* Length x Width x Height: 2060 mm x 760 mm x 1070 mm
* Wheelbase: 1360 mm
* Ground Clearance: 140 mm
* Seat Height: 800 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.5-litres
* Kerb weight: 184 kgs