Royal Enfield Continental GT650 – TG's Custom Bike Build 2023 | Top Gear
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Royal Enfield Continental GT650 – TG's Custom Bike Build

Published: 05 May 2023

Top Gear is building a custom motorbike!

We’ve had plenty of projects over the years at Top Gear – from spannering together a Caterham Seven in our actual office (to then realise it was too big to get out), to bearproofing a Mercedes estate that ended up in Forza Horizon, and the odd space rocket and hovercraft in-between – but we’ve never tackled the world of two wheels.

Why? Good question. And if we’re honest, we don’t actually have a satisfactory answer. But with the cost of living crisis biting hard, motorbikes are becoming an appetisingly frugal means of transport. Plus, they’re flipping cool. And, while increasing insurance costs mean modifying your car is both out of the question and out of fashion, with bikes there’s more flexibility and a healthy and thriving custom scene. Plus, for not a lot of money you can make a big difference, making your bike yours and something that can project your personality and passion. So, join us as we crack open the TG history books, ink our quill and write a new chapter. And probably get a load of blood blisters along the way.

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What’s the plan? A relatively simple yet seemingly ambitious one: a long-term build of a Royal Enfield Continental GT650, turning it from a standard bike into a never been done before crossover custom café racer. See, from our side of the fence, too many people appear to make cool custom café racers to only have them pootle around town and sit on bike stands to share on Instagram. That’s why we want one that looks the part but is also usable – y’know, capable of taking luggage and doing big trips – that kind of thing. A café racer with panniers and practicality. The BMW M3/Porsche GT3 Touring of the two-wheeled world.

And our red and white striped Conti GT650 is a great base for a custom bike. For those not in the know, Royal Enfield is nothing short of an Anglo-Indian motorcycle giant – the oldest motorcycle company in continuous production in the world, no less. So it’s got some proper heritage (it used to lob wicked little two-stroke bikes out of planes to help defeat the Nazis) and has recently had a massive resurgence, with sales numbers to match – often duking it out for the bestselling bike in the UK against the mighty BMW GS. But where that’s expensive and rather senior for newbies, Royal Enfield offers small-engined bikes that are not only accessible and affordable, but also look the part.

The Continental GT650 is the sister bike to the Interceptor 650, a naked cruiser that harks back to doobielicious 1960s California thanks to a distinctive teardrop tank, quilted dual seat and wide, braced handlebars. The Continental is a more focused café racer, capturing the spirit of the Continental GT 250 from the Fifties. With an air-cooled 650 parallel twin it doesn’t make huge amounts of power or torque, but that’s not really the point. In an era of potty numbers, it’s perfectly adequate for all scenarios and means you actually use it. And it’s a good looking and easy to ride bike that has taken the market by storm as you get a hell of a lot of bike for under six grand. Now we’ll mix it up and see how much bandwidth is built into the bike to make it our own.

So over the next year or so, we’ll be diving into the bike world to meet the amazing people crafting extraordinary things using new and traditional techniques so we can create something unique. If we don’t mess it up, that is. As you can imagine, our brains are frothing with ideas and inspiration. But what would you do? Let us know in the comments below.

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