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Long-term review

Royal Enfield Continental GT650 – TG's Custom Bike Build

£6,239
Published: 12 Apr 2024
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Here’s what we learned shaking down our custom motorbike

Wahey! Our custom Royal Enfield Continental GT is no longer an evolving sculpture on a workbench, rather an actual motorbike that makes noise, moves, and – most importantly – wheelies.

But, having not turned a wheel in the last twelve months, it was time for a shakedown. Mainly to see if anything would fall off – notably the Malle panniers and duffel bag. However, losing one of our handmade wire wheels is also an equal possibility at this stage. So, we enlisted the help of Charlie Nesbitt, a Royal Enfield development rider who just happens to be BSB’s Rookie of the Year.

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Charlie is a different breed. When he’s not racing, he does 3,000-mile endurance tests around Bruntingthorpe – a former Cold War bomber air base that now doubles up as Royal Enfield’s private test track. Part of his remit is hilariously named ‘chassis abuse’. That includes everything from wheelies to hard braking, VMAX runs and coast downs. For 600 miles a day.

Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 Shakedown

“The bike handles really well,” Charlie says having instantly got his knee down. “But the yoke needs adjusting, and it can be stiffer front and rear.” Luckily, that’s just a few twists and clicks on the adjustable Nitron suspension. Which, as we found out, will need to be adjusted a lot depending on what, where and when we’re riding.

See, with the panniers on the back, there will always be a compromise to be had depending on how much weight is being lugged around and what terrain we’re on. If the bags are full, it’ll put a lot more weight over the rear, so the front will have no feeling and be prone to wash out. So we need to dial that out, adding stiffness but compromising the ride.

Seeing Charlie at work was quite the insight. “My job basically is to do as many miles as I can,” Charlie said. “We've got to find any issues that the bike might have, so we're pushing them to their limit, which is what Royal Enfield need.”

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Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 Shakedown

Put simply, Charlie’s job is to try and break a bike, find the faults, tell the testing team what those issues are so they can address them before they go into production. And Charlie did find some niggles with our bike. We learned that the new MotoGadget bar-end mirrors are a bit tight for a big glove, so you end up smacking your knuckle. But that’s an easy enough fix with a spacer. Plus the new pegs and exhaust don’t scrape. And boy oh boy does that exhaust sound sweeter now it’s breathing freer. It’s got a classic twin sound and no longer sounds like a Singer sewing machine.

Before the shakedown my main concern was the luggage. And mainly if it’d stay put… or end up in some hedge in Leicestershire. So Charlie tucked his elbows in, got his head down and pinned it down the two-mile runway. Amazingly, the Malle bags stayed on at 110mph. Success!

Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 Shakedown

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