Royal Enfield Continental GT650 – TG's Custom Bike Build - Report No:5 2023 | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
The Latest US News & Reviews
USA News
Tuesday 5th December
Long-term review

Royal Enfield Continental GT650 – TG's Custom Bike Build

Published: 04 Oct 2023

Top Gear's custom Royal Enfield has had some major upgrades

It’s time to put your aprons on as Top Gear’s custom bike project is now cooking on gas. Having spent months going back and forth on inspiration, designs and subtle 2am tweaks, thanks to a trip to legendary race motorcycle chassis tuners and parts manufacturer, Harris Performance, seismic changes have started happening to our Royal Enfield Continental GT. So… whatcha think?

In case you didn’t know, Harris has been designing, developing and manufacturing road and racing bike goodies for the last 50 years. It’s a fact that’s not easy to forget when walking into its workshop on a light industrial unit in Hertford.

Advertisement - Page continues below

From the outside it’s your standard nondescript breeze block, but inside it's an enchanting place with memorabilia and frozen moments of time dripping from the walls, including victorious Barry Sheen bikes, blown-up photos of its days running a GP 500 team and Suzuki’s World Superbike operation. And once you’ve had a nose around, it doesn’t take long to work out these guys know what they’re doing. And Royal Enfield knows that too.

RE first approached Harris many moons ago to help with chassis and stability queries for its old Bullet. Impressed, RE then got Harris to work on prototype and development bikes (including our Continental GT). Then RE just took the plunge and bought Harris out wholesale and brought them in-house; a bit like how Mercedes bought AMG and BMW recently bought Alpina.

Top Gear Royal Enfield Custom Motorbike Harris Performance

Since then, Harris has been engineering parts for Royal Enfield’s racing operations, working on future products as well as a range of aftermarket accessories for the GT and Interceptor. But being RE and race gurus, we wanted to test Harris’ motorsport knowledge and fabrication skills to bring some spice to the bike with new clip-ons, rearsets, yokes, headlight and fairing.

Now, is there anything sexier than some CNC billet aluminium parts? Because we’ve not got a load of them – a mixture of off-the-shelf bits but also bespoke goodness and even some prototype parts. There are multiple wins all round, most notably they look better. But all of them are also lighter and stiffer than what they’re replacing, which should help with performance.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Let’s start with the clip-ons and rear sets. The rear sets are adjustable footpegs (where the position of the footpeg can be adjusted based on the rider's preference) meaning compared to the stock bike there’s more adjustability in your riding position to help ergonomic comfort as well as riding control. They look simple but compared to the standard foot pegs our new black beauties are rose-jointed, have new bearings, stainless bolts and are beautiful to look at. Practical too as there’s more corrosion protection, meaning they’re not going to go rusty and look like Twiglets anytime soon.

The rear sets have been paired with clip-ons (handlebars that attach to the fork legs) offering – again – more adjustability. Literally leaning into our Café Racer theme, our bars are now lower putting that tiny bit more weight on your wrists which may be a regret on a long journey. But it was a forced hand by one of the biggest and best visual differences: the fairing.

The fairing (the fibreglass shell placed over the frame – think of it as bike-y bodywork) will not only deflect wind and reduce air drag but also single-handedly change the attitude of the bike from a bit of an old-school plodder to something way faster than it actually is and way more visually enticing. It’s inspired by Harris’ old Magnum road race bikes and the mould is from Harris’ previous RE customs and race bikes, so not readily available. It should be as it looks very cool. Especially when it has Highsider’s more contemporary LED headlight plugging the hole in the middle of it. You can buy that. But the mounting for our bike is all custom. It’s welded then mounted to the headstock of the chassis, reinforced and bushed to make sure it doesn’t rattle itself to death.

Top Gear Royal Enfield Custom Motorbike Harris Performance

As you can see, we’ve binned off the standard exhaust – saving a whopping 12.8kg in the process. The new curved pipes are from BAAK, a French custom bike company who do amazing builds. Their low-slung exhaust runs underneath the frame rail which works perfectly with our plan to run panniers. RE’s stock pipes + bags = things can get toasty, burnt and – worst case scenario – possibly fiery. Not good.

Finally, the new yokes (the bit that helps connect the front wheel and axle to the frame). This element is super exciting as we’re trialling Harris’ new racing parts for the road. They may look simple, but these yokes are complicated to manufacturer as they have to work in harmony with the ignition barrel, clocks and wiring. But people are asking for them, so Harris is making them. There’s also a massive 50 per cent weight saving to what looks like quite an incongruous part. Further benefits come in the shape of us benefiting from how the fork will flex but also visually – as you can see, it’s far cleaner and shouts ‘I AM A MOTORSPORT PART’ which must be worth at least 10bhp.  

But the great thing about working on the Royal Enfield is how easy it is. Tim – who has worked with top-flight race teams for years – loves the Enfield’s simplicity. Being Harri’s top spanner, he helped put everything together with Royal Enfield’s ever enthusiastic and indefatigable, Ian Tam. In a matter of hours. Which means you can do it too. But isn’t it starting to take shape? Now we need a splash of colour. That’s coming up soon…

Top Gear Royal Enfield Custom Motorbike Harris Performance
compare car finance
Powered byZuto Logo

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5