Late last month, famous South India based motorcycle maker Royal Enfield launched the much anticipated Continental GT aka Cafe Racer in India. The Royal Enfield Continental GT India launch happened only a couple of months after the bike’s Europe debut and the India-spec CGT looks like a fine machine. It’s the first motorcycle from the world’s oldest bike manufacturer to have been built from the grounds u in a very long time. We spent a couple of days with the new kid on the block and while we were easily the first Indian online portal to come up with a first-ride review of the new bike (click here to go to our first ride review), here we are again, to present before you a more detailed report on the latest RE.
So what is a Cafe Racer?
The term ‘cafe racer’ is certainly new to India and going by the number of people that have been asking us about this ‘new’ style of bikes, it seems like only the most clued-in bike aficionados understand the Cafe Racer lineage. Nothing too surprising, especially if you consider that Cafe Racer styled bikes have been conspicuous by their absence in our country and it is the very first time that such a bike has been made available in the mass market.
Going by history, a cafe racer is a bike that has been modified for racing between cafes! During the 1960’s some high ‘spirited’ bikers in the UK used to go to a cafe, play some record, and race to return before the record finished playing!! Thus the term cafe racer was born. Gradually, it became pretty usual for Cafe Racers to hit the ton (100 mph / 160+ kmph). Most of these motorcycles were initially homegrown, with motorcyclists adding easily available performance parts to their ‘normal’ bikes to convert them into faster ‘Cafe Racers’. Thanks to addition of some of the commonly available parts, a standard look for Cafe Racers began to materialize.
A Cafe Racer of the 60s typically would consist of:
- Swept-back exhaust pipe(s)
- Clip-on handlebars
- Dunlop TT100 rubber
- Bigger carbs
- Rear set foot-pegs
It was in 1965 that Royal Enfield launched the Continental GT 250 in England. The ’65 CGT 250 came with a fibre-glass petrol tank and several such features that made it one of the sportiest Cafe Racers of its time. It is said that the 1965 Royal Enfield Continental GT 250 was the fastest quarter litre cafe racer model back in its day and the good news for us is that the good chaps at RE have taken enough inspiration from this Cafe Racer of yore for the new 2013 Continental GT!
Royal Enfield Continental GT Design and Ergonomics
As we have been saying, the new Royal Enfield Continental GT is a modern day re-incarnation of the ’65 RE CGT 250 and boasts of a typical cafe racer styling that pays tribute to the much loved machines of yore.
Thanks to the above, the new Royal Enfield Continental GT boasts of a round headlamp, clip-ons, elongated fuel tank, and several exposed bits that work together to infuse the decidedly tasty retro look in the new Royal Enfield. Those with an eye-for-detail would appreciate the sleek front mudguard, optional bar-end rear view mirrors, the classy looking speedo, which comes calibrated in both kmph and mph, color-coded stitching on the seat cover (Yes! The CGT comes in Yellow too!) and aluminum foot pegs.
Speaking of ergonomics, the old school RE lovers in India may find the sporty seating of the Continental GT a tad disappointing. However, we feel that the ergonomics of the new bike are nothing worth a worry, really! The new Royal Enfield Continental GT does offer a seating posture that is very unlike a RE but we never felt a need to complain about the ‘more dedicated’ riding position.
The new RE Conti GT comes equipped with clip-ons and slightly rear set foot-pegs. While the bike is no Yamaha R15 in this aspect, the riding posture surely has more than a hint of sportiness to itself. The rider has to stoop a little to grip the handlebars, which along with the positioning of the footpegs, warrants him to have a fairly sporty riding posture. Nothing wrong here, especially if you consider that the Conti GT is built to travel at a rapid pace and bestow its rider with tonnes of riding pleasure.
The new Royal Enfield Continental GT has been homologated as a single seater motorcycle. However, a bigger seat, that would allow the WAGs to tag along, is available as an option. While the media was provided with only the single-seat version, we believe that the pillion won’t have to face any discomfort on the new bike (given the benefit of doubt that pillion foot-pegs would be devoid of vibrations. which were found in plenty on the handlebar.)
A reason to complain here would be the distance between the toe shifter and the footpeg. It is a tad less than ideal and it takes the rider some time to get used to it.
Royal Enfield Continental GT Engine and Gearbox
The Royal Enfield Continental GT is powered by a 535cc, fuel injected, single pot motor that has a max power of 29 bhp @ 5100 rpm and peak torque of 44 Nm @ 4000 rpm. While the peak power output is nothing to write home about, we are quite happy about the torque of offer. The Conti GT’s motor is the only part in the entire package that hasn’t been developed from grounds up.
Instead, the CGT’s 535cc motor has been derived from that of its 500cc cousins and thanks to the increased bore (87mm vs 84mm), manages to churn out 2 more horses. Not just the increased bore size, the engine also gets reworked internals such as a strengthened crankshaft and new valves.
On the move, the 535cc motor makes the new RE Conti GT easily the sportiest RE we have ever sampled! Thanks to the sufficiently potent 535cc EFI engine, the Continental GT can easily cruise at 100kmph and the bike certainly won’t break any sweat to hit a speedo indicated 120 kmph! And the greedy souls that we are, we pushed the bike even beyond that and hit a speedo indicated 140 kmph, before maxing out. However, worth mentioning here is that the progress is a tad slow once you cross the 125-130 kmph mark and the bike takes its own sweet time to hit the top speed, which is claimed to be around 135 kmph.
Thanks to the torque on offer, the new Royal Enfield Conti GT impresses with its ride-ability. The bike, even when in high gears, can pull away from low speeds quite comfortably. For instance, we managed to chug along at approx 35 kmph in fourth gear without stalling the bike.
The new Royal Enfield Continental GT has an ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 41.9 kmpl. However, we would love to add a pinch of salt to this test-figure and expect the bike to have a real world fuel efficiency of 35 kmpl, which isn’t half bad if you consider that the CGT is powered by an old school 535cc engine and weighs close to two quintals.
The CGT’s motor comes attached to a 5 speed constant mesh gearbox that has a conventional 1 down-4 up shift pattern. The shifts are smooth as compared with the other RE machines. While the occasional false neutral is not something one should live with, the overall experience is still much better than the other models in the RE lineup. The well selected gear ratios, along with all that abundant torque, bestow the machine with a sense of urgency that is hardly ever associated with the bulls we all know of.
And then. . there is the distinctive RE thump. . .
What’s an RE without the characteristic thump, you may ask! And the Continental GT shouldn’t really disappoint you in this aspect. The media bikes were fitted with the optional sports exhaust, which treated us to just the kind of music we are always carving for.
Ride, Handling and Braking
The RE CGT comes with 41mm dia Gabriel telescopic forks up front and Paioli gas charged twin shock-absorbers at the rear. The setup is sufficiently efficient to endow the latest RE with a decent ride quality. However, worth keeping in mind is that the CGT has a lot of sporty aspirations and isn’t exactly the bike for those wishing for cushy, posterior friendly ride. The bike does tend to get unsettled while dealing with undulations and this means that the CGT is best kept away from all kinds of off-road excursions. On the beaten tarmac though, the bike performs well and the rider surely won’t fear to deal with the occasional speed-breaker that our roads are famous for.
Unlike the TBTS, the Cafe Racer won’t really push you to plan a trip to the Leh. However, those willing to attempt Ironbutt Association’s Saddlesore run may find the CGT to be just the tool they have been looking for.
Seldom did we dream of associating terms like handling-prowess with bikes from Royal Enfield. Until, we found ourselves pushing the CGT hard into the corners and emerging out of them with huge grins plastered on our face! Yes, the new Royal Enfield Continental GT is easily the best handling RE to have ever come to us and the CGT has surely got the cornering-prowess to match all that engine performance.
The RE CGT is built around a new chassis that has been developed in cooperation with Harris Performance. Harris Performance is a UK based tuner that specializes in chassis-development for high performance bikes. And the UK based tuner has definitely helped RE a great deal with endowing the new Cafe Racer with just the right ingredients to make apex hunting a pleasure with this machine.
The CGT’s chassis is a double cradle frame unit that scores highly on stiffness and optimum weight distribution. Thanks to the new chassis and the suspension setup, which is a bit on the harder side, the rider of the new RE can surely dream of keeping up with similarly priced (and lighter) Japanese motorcycles on most of those ghat sections.
The icing on the cake here is the set of tried, tested and much-loved Pirelli Sport Demon tires (100/90-18 53H for front and 130/70-18 63H for the rear). These tires are high on grip levels and play a large role in making the CGT an accomplished handler.
However, thanks to all that weight, the new bike isn’t exactly the best tool to go leaning around the bends.
The new Royal Enfield Continental GT comes equipped with a floating type 300mm diameter disc brake up front and a floating type 240mm diameter disc at rear. While the front disc boasts of twin caliper arrangement, the one at the rear is a single caliper unit. Putting it simply, the new RE CGT has enough stopping power to haul itself down quickly from triple digit speeds, sans any sort of drama. The front disc has a good amount of bite and loves to chew away speeds at the slightest dab of front brake lever. The rear disc though, reminded me of the one on my 4 year old Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTSi. What I intend to say here is that while the rear disc brake of the RE CGT is reasonably efficient, it doesn’t really have the bite one generally associates with disc brakes. It is easy to lock both the wheels under hard braking and we would want RE to soon come up with an ABS variant.
At slightly above INR 2 lakhs on-road, the new RE Conti GT doesn’t come cheap! What doesn’t help the case either is the fact that you can buy faster, sharper and infinitely more modern bikes for similar money. However, for those who appreciate the lineage associated with the bikes like this one here and for those who care more for style and character than outright performance, the new Royal Enfield Continental GT ticks almost all the right boxes.
The new Continental GT is a really honest attempt by Royal Enfield at livening up its model range with a product boasting global appeal. The new RE CGT is probably the best put-together bike from RE ever. Also, it has enough power to let you keep up with your friends on similarly priced Japanese sportsbikes, both on highways and in the ghats!
The new RE CGT not just pays a tribute to the Cafe Racers of a bygone era but also opens the gates to an all new segment of bikes in India. And for that, we have no choice but to award full points to the new bike.
Royal Enfield Continental GT Engine
•Type- Single Cylinder, 4 stroke, Air cooled
• Displacement- 535 cc
• Bore x stroke- 87mm x 90mm
• Compression Ratio- 8.5:1
• Maximum Power- 29.1 bhp (21.4 kW) @ 5100 rpm
• Maximum Torque- 44 Nm @ 4000 rpm
• Ignition System- Digital Electronic Ignition
• Clutch- Wet, multi-plate
• Gearbox- 5 Speed Constant Mesh
• Lubrication- Wet sump
• Engine Oil- 15 W 50 API, SL Grade JASO MA
• Fuel Supply- Keihin Electronic Fuel Injection
• Air Filter- Paper Element
Royal Enfield Continental GT Chassis and Suspension
• Type- Twin downtube cradle frame
• Front suspension- Telescopic, 41mm forks, 110mm travel
• Rear suspension- Paioli,Twin gas charged shock absorbers with adjustable preload, 80mm travel
Royal Enfield Continental GT Dimensions
• Wheelbase- 1360 mm
• Ground Clearance- 140 mm
• Length- 2060 mm
• Width- 760mm
• Height- 1070mm
• Seat Height- 800 mm
• Kerb Weight- (90% Fuel+Oil) 184 Kgs
• Fuel Tank Capacity- 13.5 Ltrs
Royal Enfield Continental GT Brakes and tyres
• Front Tyre- 100/90-18, 56 H Pirelli Sport Demon
• Rear Tyre- 130/70-18, 63 H Pirelli Sport Demon
• Front Brake- Brembo 300mm Floating disc, 2-Piston floating caliper
• Rear Brake- 240mm Disc, Single piston floating caliper