The Indian auto market is all about two wheelers as their numbers are reasonably greater than that of four wheelers plying on the street. Bike manufacturers like Hero, Bajaj, Yamaha etc are flooding the market with their new iterations.
Apart from launching new models, the trend of launching new technologies is also catching up. Bajaj has its arsenal loaded with the DTS-i while Honda relies on its PGM Fi engine technology. If you are an enthusiastic college dude then there are options ranging from Pulsar 135 to KTM 390 which impress all with their snazzy road presence and if you kill time by doing a 9am to 5pm job, then the option lies between the Splendour, Discover and Passion where the claims of giving more Kmpl increases by the hour.
These are the two main segments which drive the motorcycle market in India. Among the bread butter producing motorcycle makers lies a cult bike maker. This company has always been humble about its innovations. Their motorcycles are passed on from one generation to the next. Young lads, Matured men and even the fairer sex, many of them are big fans of these motorcycles. Be its sheer street presence, their vintage design or the iconic “Thump” these motorcycles have a universal connect.
Royal Enfield, has gone ahead and launched the fastest and most powerful bike they have ever offered in India. The Continental GT is a vintage cafe racer inspired motorcycle. As Siddhartha Lal, Managing Director and CEO, Eicher Motors Limited (the parent company of Royal Enfield) puts it, the Continental GT is for the true blue biker who would enjoy pure motorcycling.
We were in Goa to test ride this motorcycle which boasts of retro styling but then with an Indian heart and soul. The Continental GT marks a new segment not just in India but also globally as it is the only production cafe racer motorcycle to be sold anywhere.
Looks and Styling
It does not look anything similar to what Royal Enfield has offered in the country. The Electra, Thunderbird, Machismo and Classic series mainly cater to the relaxed riders who like touring but then the Continental GT is for the wild fire rebel generation. It has got a wild pulse to spoil even the most controlled.
It borrows heavy design cues from cafe racers of 1960s, with a strap it-tie it and weld it look. The Continental GT is 1070mmmm in height and 760mm in width. It has a wheelbase of 1360 mm and a ground clearance of 140 mm respectively. The bike weighs a meaty 184 Kgs which is heavy indeed.
At a first glance, the bike appears compact. The chrome and glitter everywhere is evident. It looks like a bike which someone can make in his backyard but then the assumption vanishes when one comes closer to the bike. The paint job to begin with is of international quality and this is because of the world class paint facility of Royal Enfield. Even the plastic levels have gone up considerably.
The low slung styling of the Continental GT really worked for me. It gives the rider an aggressive stance. Even the foot rests which have been deliberately pushed behind make the rider tuck in completely. Interestingly, the rider has a forward incline position but then not a full superbike stance which means this bike is practical for everyday use too.
The retro styled 13.5 litre tank has a strong split line running at an angle to give the tank a more muscular appearance. Even when seen from top, the tank tapers from both sides to help the rider keep his legs intact with the bike. Back in the days, when engineers and designers concentrated more on the utility than the style, cafe racers were all about attitude. Even the Continental GT with it’s straight cut chassis looks sweet.
Chaps at Royal Enfield wanted to make a motorcycle for global audience so they did not wish to compromise in any way possible. Take the tyres for instance; this bike comes in Pirelli tyres which look hot. It gets a 100/90-18, 56 H Pirelli Sport Demon at front and 130/70-18, 63 H Pirelli Sport Demon at rear. These tyres have to be the best looking ones offered by any bike manufacturer in India.
The Chrome exhaust pipe just takes the styling further. It has a super flowing design from the engine chamber before cutting abruptly at a height. The company will also offer custom performance exhausts for the Continental GT and there would be 2 more options except the stock exhaust.
The clip on handle bar is of great quality, there are optional titanium oxide coated mirrors which are attached to the handle bar itself. Sadly, these will come as accessory and not standard equipment. The instrumental cluster gets a speedometer and a tachometer.
The speedometer in classic British motorcycle style shows speed in Km/h as well as in mph too. The speedometer also shows digital information of fuel left and trip readings which can be controlled with a central button. The tachometer shows engine speeds of upto 7000 rpm where it red lines after 5500 rpm.
To sum it up, this has to be the best looking motorcycle to be sold in India. Royal Enfield has indeed worked very hard to make the Continental GT look truly international. Some onlookers also claimed that the bike reminded them of Moto Guzzi which is a very big compliment for this bike.
Performance Test: Technical Specifications, Ride and Handling
Powering the Continental GT is a 535cc Single Cylinder, 4 stroke, Air cooled engine. This is the same 500cc engine used in other RE bikes too except for a fact that it is re-bored to produce a displacement of 535cc. This engine produces a power output of 29.1 bhp at 5100 rpm and a torque output of 44 Nm at 4000 rpm. The engine is also mated with a 5 Speed Constant Mesh gearbox.
It was a very nice move by RE team to retain the basic engine and re-bore it to produce a higher displacement as this process took less time and is also very cost effective. Had they tried to make a new engine for the Continental GT, the bike won’t have met its deadlines and the staggering costs won’t have made any sense.
Because it’s a cafe racer, the Continetal GT still gets a kick start in addition to an electric start. Old school bulleteers vouch for the classic kick start even now claiming that was the real deal. If you have ever tried kick starting a vintage Bullet, chances are you might have not started it at one kick and waited for the guy who owns it to start it but that is no longer the case with the Continental GT. The kick start is very smooth and is like any other modern bike selling in India. Even the electric start cranks the motor very swiftly.
Dimensionally the GT is not a big bike nor does it feel similar to other RE models. On the other hand the riding position is very sporty. The Clip on handle bars, slender fuel tank and the sprty foot rest position gives a forward incline riding stance. For taller riders, it might take some time to get used to but then for the average heighted, it is a very comfortable position. It is a racer indeed but without the crouching position of a typical sportbike making it very practical for often use.
Get the engine cranked up and the legendary “THUMP” is Alive. The exhaust note of Continetal GT has to be the sweetest compared to anything on road presently and what more could one have asked for as Royal Enfield will be the only company in India to offer an aftermarket silencer option which sounds amazing. The hard beats of a typical Bullet are maintained in this one as well except the pace which has got faster and meaner.
Shift it to first, and the GT gets thumping and fast. The power delivery feels very strong at initial engine speeds. It pushes the bike without being lazy. Also, the torque kicks in at very low speeds giving the confidence to throw it at any corner and with ease. Even the clutch now feels smoother. The gear shifts are decently smooth too and changing it often in city riding will not be difficult.
The Contiental GT is not an extreme performance machine but at the same time, it is a very fun to ride motorcycle. This motorcycle will get a new breed of customers who have always shied away from Royal Enfield bikes. It reaches speeds o upto 100-110 Km/h with great ease but then post this, the engine vibrations get alarmingly evident which is a big drawback in this bike. The vibrations feel so strong that it gets difficult to push the bike any further. Company claims that the Contiental GT can reach a maximum speed of 135km/h and also claimed that it is really quick while doing 0 – 60 km/h runs.
The engine speed redlines at 5500 rpm and also there is a rev limiter at that engine speed. The meaty chunk of engine speed is felt between engine speeds of 3000 rpm to 5000 rpm where the torque play is at its best. The engine is very athletic at these speeds and one can just play around downshifting and upshifting as the minimum rpm drop is till 3000 which keeps the momentum of engine really high. One other drawback is while overtaking, once you downshift and are ready to overtake, the rpm just cuts off very abruptly leaving you at a middle of your manoeuvre. This happens if you are riding aggressively and shifting at higher speeds.
Leave the other two issues aside and the Continental GT grows over you. I had my concerns over RE using Pirelli Sport Demon tyres on this bike raising the prices but then I was proved extremely wrong. The Sport Demons are extremely sticky tyres and they grip the road with extreme precision. These tyres make the rider corner the bike at any angle possible. Even at high speeds, cornering on the Continental GT is joy indeed.
The Continental GT is an extremely important product for Royal Enfield and they have not left any stone unturned to make it a truly international product. The GT is based on a new platform and also uses a double cradle frame for the first time. RE engineers worked very closely with UK-based Harris Performance on this new chassis. The new chassis is the main reason behind the CT’s fantastic handling and ride quality. Even the 41mm front forks and twin gas-charged Paioli rear shockers take the experience further. The suspension built is superb and it takes on any type of road very easily.
The Continental GT, to begin with, is not at all for the weak hearted. It brings two distinct worlds of retro and modern together. Royal Enfield has not introduced the GT with an intention to get into the rat race where mundane bikes compete but then it is an extension to the company’s philosophy in a different segment.
In India, where normally the aam junta finds solace in faired paper tigers, the GT will attract the tasteful few. It will need some maturity to understand how “Classic Sports” bike were in those days and the main idea behind such bikes. These days as Mr.Lal pointed out everything has become very monotonous. Even though our life has colours we all tend to live in the same sepia tone. Technology is indeed leaping ahead but then what we also tend to ignore is that technology is also reducing the human value or the human connection with the machine. Thus, RE believes that its simple at heart but modern in approach motorcycles will retain the human connection with their motorcycles.
RE had also roped in Xenophya Design, the design guys from UK who gave the company a real strong sense of direction for this prestigious project. When we asked Mark Wells from Xenophya Design about his take on the Continental GT, he stated that it is the best a Cafe Racer can look or feel like. He also added how his team along with RE’s engineers worked really hard to capture the real spirit of cafe racer and transformed it from drawing board to real world. Xenophya has a very modest list of clients which include Triumph, Aprilia, Fischer Motor Company and Bajaj Auto among others.
Team Performance Factory was mighty impressed with the robust attitude and drop dead sexy looks of the Continental GT. The GT was launched at a superb price of Rs. 2, 05,026 (On-Road Delhi). This indeed highlights the basic idea of Pure Motorcycling. The GT is just the beginning. Even though RE claims that it will concentrate heavily on the mid size motorcycle market, they have still not ruled out any possibility of launching a bigger bike in future. Let’s just hope the THUMP keeps getting bigger, better and stronger.
Check out our Royal Enfield Continental GT Image Gallery :