Motorcycles

Video review: Royal Enfield's gorgeous Continental GT cafe racer

Video review: Royal Enfield's ...
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: a classic style that aims to offer modern reliability. (Photo: Chris Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: a classic style that aims to offer modern reliability. (Photo: Chris Blain/Gizmag)
View 36 Images
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: pure motorcycling simplicity. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: pure motorcycling simplicity. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: standard exhaust has a pleasantly raucous sound. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: standard exhaust has a pleasantly raucous sound. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: a deserving hit with the hipster crowd, who respond to its authentic character. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: a deserving hit with the hipster crowd, who respond to its authentic character. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: a classic style that aims to offer modern reliability. (Photo: Chris Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: a classic style that aims to offer modern reliability. (Photo: Chris Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: proper cafe racer looks right out of the box. (Photo: Chris Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: proper cafe racer looks right out of the box. (Photo: Chris Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: 535cc single-cylinder, fuel injected, air cooled engine. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: 535cc single-cylinder, fuel injected, air cooled engine. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: twin Paioli shocks. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: twin Paioli shocks. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: a relaxed and compelling ride. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: a relaxed and compelling ride. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: switchable headlight. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: switchable headlight. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: the beautiful key is a nice touch in itself. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: the beautiful key is a nice touch in itself. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: analogue clocks with a digital trip meter and fuel gauge. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: analogue clocks with a digital trip meter and fuel gauge. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: tank decal and fuel cap. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: tank decal and fuel cap. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: rocker style.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: rocker style.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: sells with a range of clothing and accessories.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: sells with a range of clothing and accessories.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: kick-starting a 535cc single requires more technique than we've got.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: kick-starting a 535cc single requires more technique than we've got.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: sells with a range of clothing and accessories.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: sells with a range of clothing and accessories.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: built to mimic rocker-style UK cafe racers of the 1950s and 60s.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: built to mimic rocker-style UK cafe racers of the 1950s and 60s.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: built to mimic rocker-style UK cafe racers of the 1950s and 60s.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: built to mimic rocker-style UK cafe racers of the 1950s and 60s.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: more cafe than racer in today's motorcycle market.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: more cafe than racer in today's motorcycle market.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: new factory in Chennai, India is delivering a huge bump in production numbers and quality.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: new factory in Chennai, India is delivering a huge bump in production numbers and quality.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: bar end mirrors are an optional accessory.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: bar end mirrors are an optional accessory.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: left side view
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: left side view
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: right side view
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: right side view
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: tank view
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: tank view
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: beautiful, clean design harks back to the cafe racers of the 1950s and 60s.
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: beautiful, clean design harks back to the cafe racers of the 1950s and 60s.
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: seat is a little planky, but it sure looks the part
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: seat is a little planky, but it sure looks the part
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: top view
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: top view
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: black
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: black
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: black, rear 3/4 view
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: black, rear 3/4 view
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: black, side view
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Royal Enfield's Continental GT: black, side view
View gallery - 36 images

Royal Enfield is going from strength to strength in 2015, overtaking Harley-Davidson in sales and growing at a remarkable rate both in India, where the brand is a revered and well-loved icon, and abroad, where Enfield's classic looks and simple, rootsy approach to motorcycling is finding favour with old-school riders and younger fashionistas alike. The Continental GT cafe racer is the fastest, lightest and most powerful Royal Enfield ever built, but it's definitely not fast, light or powerful. What it's got in spades is character. Enjoy our full review and a very tongue-in-cheek video below.

The world's oldest continuously operating motorcycle manufacturer, Royal Enfield has a brand new factory in Chennai and it's ramping up quality and production to record levels. Enfield is now selling around 300,000 motorcycles per year – overtaking Harley-Davidson at around 260,000 – and sales are trending upwards.

While a ton of Enfields sell in India, the brand also has a certain cult status internationally. The fact that some of its designs have barely changed since the 1950s gives these bikes an authenticity that rings bells for the hipster crowd and raises smiles from older motorcycling fans who were around back when these Enfields were the hot new thing.

Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: looks and presence to spare. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)

The Continental GT is on of Royal Enfield's first fuel injected motorcycles, and it rocks braided brake lines with Brembo calipers and a pair of Paioli shocks at the back end. There's also a digital trip meter on the clocks, but the modern touches end there. The GT is a period-perfect cafe racer that looks for all the world like it's been lovingly restored by a vintage bike fan.

Quality-wise, things look solid. The paint job is beautiful, with our test bike sporting a deep red, while the welds look clean and solid, and fit and finish are spot on. Time will tell how these bikes stand up to weather, but the new factory's work looks great at first glance.

Royal Enfield's Continental GT: 535cc single-cylinder, fuel injected, air cooled engine. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: 535cc single-cylinder, fuel injected, air cooled engine. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)

In the 50 years since the original Continental GT was released in 1965, peak power has gone from 21 horsepower to 29.1. It's not a lot, but the 2015 GT's 535cc single-cylinder air-cooled engine still manages to deliver a satisfying riding experience with a distinctive big-single exhaust note.

Acceleration is decent off the line. The clutch grabs a little, or perhaps it's just the well-spaced power pulses reaching the back wheel, but the GT makes enough grunt to get you off the line and out of the traffic easily enough. Shifting early makes the most sense as it runs out of puff as the revs come up and you're better off using the lower down torque.

The engine is good for freeway speeds up to an indicated 120 km/h (75 mph) with a bit left to give – mind you, I suspect the speedometer is overreading by at least 10 percent. It's not a speed machine by any means, but it handles freeway work fine.

Royal Enfield's Continental GT: the beautiful key is a nice touch in itself. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: the beautiful key is a nice touch in itself. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)

The riding position is a lot more comfortable than you might expect looking at it. It's a compact bike, but your legs aren't squashed up and the riding position isn't too far forward. The seat is thin, though, and your butt does get tired on longer rides, but not as quickly as your hands and feet tire of the vibrations.

Lively vibrations are without doubt a key part of the feeling of riding the Continental. The mirrors shake so hard at certain revs that you can't see much in them at all, and I found my hands, feet and crotch going a bit numb from time to time. Bolts from the exhaust shield started working themselves loose, so owners would do well to keep tools and loc-tite handy for their first thousand kilometers (620 mi) or so.

Mind you, I wouldn't change the vibrations at all. Sitting at the lights enjoying the thump and shake of this bike is part of the pleasure and character of the thing. This is a bike that sucks you into its world. After a week on board the Continental, my riding brain had thoroughly slowed down to match its pace, and I found that relaxed pace surprisingly satisfying.

Royal Enfield's Continental GT: tank decal and fuel cap. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)
Royal Enfield's Continental GT: tank decal and fuel cap. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag)

I enjoyed the ton of attention the bike garners from young and old motorcycling fans, as well as the conversations it started just about every time I parked it somewhere. I did not enjoy the humiliation of trying to kick-start it – I shot about two for 100 on that task and ended up using the electric start more or less exclusively. But that's a technique issue; I didn't grow up kicking dirt bikes over.

The Continental GT is on the road for AU$8,990 (US$7,230) in Australia. It's vastly cheaper in India (2.13 lakh rupees, or US$3,340). Outside India, you can certainly get a lot more for your money in terms of speed, power, performance and technology. On the other hand, for a bike with such a presence and a feel to it, it's hard to feel like you're getting a bad deal.

It's instant, old-school cred in a bottle. And if you're cool enough to pull off the look, you won't find much on the market that comes close – maybe the Yamaha SR400 with a ton of modifications. I for one am not cool enough to make it work – not by a long shot – but for one short week, I really tried. Enjoy our (very tongue-in-cheek) video review below.

Royal Enfield Continental GT

More information: Royal Enfield Continental GT

View gallery - 36 images
12 comments
Aussie Bob
Still waiting for the 1000cc V twin :-) Gotta happen soon :-)
Dan English
And everyone I have spoken to that had experience with them tell me they have been the most unreliable motorcycle they've ever owned and they couldn't wait to get rid of them.
mookins
Looks great, vibration would be the deal-breaker here. And low power- but like a Harley it's all there at the midrange rpm's you'll be at when the unexpected happens.
$8000's a joke- a Ninja 300's only $5500. But then the whole thing's a joke- with our modern efficiency and productivity making the 1% wildly rich and us steadily poorer, most people will never be able to buy either one.
GeoffBoxell
Yeah, well, I do love the look of the bike but two things: the original GT was 250cc, so the increase in power is only to be expected when you fit a bigger lump in the frame; the fastest RE had to be the 700cc Constellation (Connie). I knew a guy at our Rocker's Cafe in the late 60s who fitted a Connie engine into a Messerschmidt 3 wheeler, but that is another story. I know the feeling of amusement when people think you are riding a beautifully restored classic bike when in fact it is a band new one; I ride a Triumph T100 Bonneville.
Mic
The bike may be what it is but that video is woeful. Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit as they say.
Robert Duckmanton
I love this bike...kick starting, Wow!!! however, comment on the review less eating, more riding! If we must look at the reviewer talking and eating, let's be polite and have just one process at a time. Mostly boring; get back on track, please. Great to see Melbourne streets.
kurtjens
From your review of the RE Bullet: "January 13, 2009 The Royal Enfield Bullet has the longest production run of any motorcycle in history, having remained continuously in production since 1948, and with roots back to the1932 Bullet which was one of the fastest bikes on the road at the time – the Bullet has just been completely redesigned, and as the Bullet Classic, has all the hallmark design cues of its 75 year heritage, plus electronic fuel injection"
The Continental GT was a concept in 2010 and first shown as a production model in 2012. I don't think it's accurate to say that the GT is the first RE with fuel injection.
IanBovington
I would like to reply to Dan's post. I own a 2012 Royal Enfield C5 model I have put 30,000 klm's on the bike commuting and touring and it has not let me down once! Everyone that ride has ridden my C5 has stepped off it with a smile on their face, it's just a lot of fun to ride. You need to service and maintain the Enfield's a little more than most other “modern” bikes but for me that's half the fun of ownership for me. My intention is to hook the C5 up to a Cosy side-car in a couple of years. That will be life in the slow lane!!
Dan Lewis
Article bottom line - Royal Enfield has not yet faced reality. Time to get electric, dudes.
Phoghat
" Outside India, you can certainly get a lot more for your money in terms of speed, power, performance and technology. " Truth