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Long-term review

Royal Enfield Continental GT650 – TG's Custom Bike Build

Published: 29 Feb 2024

Here’s how you make a custom motorbike practical

Practicality. Not something you normally associate with a motorbike, but something we’re striving for with our custom Royal Enfield build. Because what’s the point of making a custom motorbike if you can’t use it? In fact, motorbikes parked on grass with paddock stands is possibly even worse than all those concours cars parked on grass. Bikes are machines to be used. A tool for exploration. And that’s our intention.

So, for our latest update we’ve collaborated with Fastec Racing (CNC and engineering gurus) and Malle London (the best-spirited luggage company on Earth) to give our Conti GT an adventurous edge.

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If you’ve not heard of Malle, it’s the fascinating brainchild and brand of Jonny Cazzola and Robert Nightingale – two cousins who spent their youth chasing (and crashing) motorbikes around paddocks together and dreaming of adventure. Somewhere along the way their attitude and beliefs got stuck in a time-machine set to the Sixties, as both are incredibly free-spirited and very British. Their outlook is remarkably refreshing to see in a world of algorithmic falsities, deep fakes and blinding Love Island veneers. It’s also created some mighty fine luggage and adventure riding apparel as a byproduct.

Royal Enfield Continental GT650

See, when they got older, still obsessed with bikes, Robert and Jonny wanted some way of carrying their underpants and pencil cases on the back of their bikes that didn’t look like a fisherman’s maggot box (which most panniers do). They created Malle – an expedition brand that had an eye on thoughtful design to match vintage motorbikes and aid adventure. So they made some bags. But needing to test their prototype expedition gear out, they did a 10k mile trip across America, Mexico and Canada – which beats endlessly pounding around Nardo.

So our Royal Enfield has been kitted out with two gorgeous Malle adventure panniers and a top duffel. They may look chi-chi and cut out for the catwalk, but these hard-wearing waxed canvas, leather and merino wool bags have been proven to be borderline bulletproof on even the most extreme adventures. Yet they also have a timeless and surprisingly utilitarian design. But we need to attach them to the bike. And not keen on using cable ties and dreams, we turned to Fastec’s Danny Starmer.

Danny is a man who has spent his life in CAD/CAM. He’s forged a rather fierce reputation for being a design and manufacturing whizz ever since he fabricated a new rear brake guard for his kid’s motocross bike 20 years ago. His reputation has got so large, he and Fastec Racing now produce bike parts for OEMs, motorsport teams and foolish custom bike enthusiasts like us.

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Top Gear Royal Enfield Custom Practicality

The plan was to create a bespoke rear luggage rack which would work with Malle’s quick release system to allow us to carry everything we needed on an adventure and look cool in the process. Something we thought would be quite simple. But seeing Danny work in different dimensions in CAD, inputting thousands of lines of code to create a beautiful, billeted aluminium rack (complete with hand-drawn TG cog) was mind-blowing and surprisingly complex. In total, it was about 12 hours of design work, which would turn into two and a half hours of machining downstairs.

Having spent a day with Danny prototyping parts, he then fed a chunk of aluminium and the final design into a five-axis CNC machine. With tools being able to move in the X axis, the Y axis, the Z axis, the A axis, or the B axis (so many axis!) one machine is capable of machining one wonderfully reductionist luggage rack.

Royal Enfield Continental GT650

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