First ride: Royal Enfield Continental GT
The cafe racer finally races to the Indian sub-continent. We find out just how good it is...
We last saw the Royal Enfield Continental GT at the Auto Expo in Delhi in 2011, and after a two year-long wait, we finally got to sample it today.
We are not very sure if it will bring back the café racer era of the 60’s; but we are very sure that you will see the Conti parked at a café near you very soon.
One thing that we could have told you when we saw the bike at the Expo and it stands true even today is, the Conti is one heck of a looker. It is easily the best-looking bike in the country, with that round headlight, the slim and elongated fuel tank with the mirrors hanging out of each end of the handlebar. What baffles us even more is despite the minimalistic design, the bike still turns heads wherever you go.
Just a word of caution here, the bar-end mirrors and performance exhaust are optional extras, for which you will have to cough up a little extra over and above the cost of the regular bike. Red and yellow are the only colours of choice available here, and we are not complaining about it. Both strike a nice contrast with the black frame and chrome exhaust. Can’t imagine the same effect in silver or black.
The engine is the same unit found in the 500cc line-up, but has been bored out for an extra 35cc. This fuel-injected 535cc single-cylinder motor makes 29.1bhp and 44Nm of torque, and is connected to a 5-speed transmission. So the numbers assure you that the Conti GT will be fast.
Speaking of fast, the bike also has a sportier seating position than you are used to with your Enfields. Rather than sitting upright, your hands reach out to the clip-on handlebar, and the footpegs have been moved back a bit. Don’t worry, the bike still has a commuter-friendly riding stance, but now, it leans a bit more towards the sporty side.
On the move, you realise that the bike feels and rides a lot different from regular REs. This is thanks to an all-new double cradle chassis that makes the 184kg bike really nimble on its feet. And this is not just in theory - the bike feels at home on straights and also while being thrown around corners. The suspension is on the stiffer side, but transmits the right amount of feedback. It’s a lot of fun riding the bike over straight as well as winding roads.
What’s really not a lot of fun is the vibration that creeps in especially when the bike's making its peak torque at 4,000rpm. Crossing that mark, the bike feels a lot better all the way till 5,100rpm. The shifts are smooth, so you can switch gears effortlessly while battling city traffic or negotiating corners.
After riding the bike all day, we truly appreciate the fun element and handling capabilities of the Continental GT. What we didn’t like much was the level of vibrations. However, nothing even comes close as far as looks go, and RE has made a genuine effort in lending a sporty feel to a brand which has been mostly associated with touring. And at Rs 2.14 lakh (on-road, Mumbai), the pricing is sweet, too.
1cyl, 535cc, petrol, 29.1bhp, 44Nm, 5M, 184kg, Rs 2.14 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Pros: Looks, sporty ride and for some people, nostalgia
Cons: Vibration levels, low-end power
Looks as good as a classic café racer. Just wish it had a higher-revving engine that could make more out of that new chassis.