Friday, August 9



ROYAL Enfield's long awaited Café Racer is set to hit New Zealand before the end of the year.  But it will only be a lucky few who will get one.  That’s because the initial allocation for export markets is limited due to demand on the home market.

“We have been given the green light to order the Café Racer” says Royal Enfield New Zealand’s Trevor Clark.  Although a price has yet to be finalised, at the current exchange rate, expect somewhere between $10,000 and $11,000.  This will include VIN-ing the bike. 

He says that anyone who wants one from the first batch will need to place an order soon.  So if you want one, call Royal Enfield New Zealand Ltd., 09 415 8453;  mobile: 021 -334 999.

The Café Racer will use a big-bore version of the all-alloy unit construction engine released in 2009 that now powers all Royal Enfield models, both 350 and 500cc.  For the new model, Royal Enfield has enlarged the 84mm cylinder bore of the 500cc engine to 87mm, creating a 535cc motor that also uses a bigger bore throttle body and an Arrow-style exhaust system to pump out nine more horsepower than the current 500.

The RE engineers also decided to do more than pay lip-service to the café racer theme, contracting English chassis specialist Harris Engineering to design a completely new frame and running gear.  The result is the lightest Royal Enfield made since the demise of the old 250 GT Continental made from 1962-67: the new Café Racer weighing in at just 164 kg fully fuelled, compared with the 184 kg of the C5 Classic tested in Kiwi Rider in 2010.

Clip on handlebars and rear-set foot pegs mean it looks the part of a retro sports bike, the bikes that were in the vogue in the swinging Sixties.  The entire motorcycle is based on a minimalist theme that has resulted in the substantial weight reduction.  For instance, the mudguards of the 535 Café Racer are made of aluminium alloy.  It also gets uprated suspension:  the beefier Paoli front forks and the box section swing-arm are borrowed from the recently released Thunderbird 500, while rear suspension will be handled by laid forward Paioli gas charged units using spring and damper settings arrived at in prototype testing with multi-adjustable Öhlins units.

The all-new double cradle frame, another first in the current Royal Enfield range, is designed to shave weight and improve handling.  Braking is taken care of by a single floating rotor up front gripped by a four-piston Brembo calliper with a twin piston Brembo at the rear.
Wheels are wire-spoked 18-inch with polished lightweight alloy rims.
The higher displacement, along with the bigger throttle body and new exhaust system means that the power goes up quite a bit.  Instead of the 27.2 hp output of the 500cc motor, the 535cc engine generates no less than 36 horsepower, a useful 32 per cent increase.  That, combined with the substantial weight reduction, means a far superior power-to-weight ratio than the existing Bullet-based bikes.
Using the 50-year-old 250 Continental GT as a base for the design, it is obvious why the new Café Racer looks like a classic.  
The original Royal Enfield Cafe Racer, the Continental GT which was in production from 1962 to 1967.
The Royal Enfield design team has stayed true to the café looks with an elongated fuel tank held in place with a leather buckle at the front, a generous single seat complete with bum-stop, clip-on handlebars, bar-end mirrors and some high quality finishes including polished fork clamps, brushed alloy switch gear, alloy rims, alloy dash and minimalist instrument cluster.


Royal Enfield has thought long and hard about this bike.  It first showed a concept bike in January 2010 at the Auto Expo in Delhi.  At that stage it was fitted with the leading axle forks from the Bullet-based bikes, with gold painted slider and black gaiters and a side-mounted racing number plate while the frame was a modified version of the Bullet’s single down tube design.

At the time, Siddarth Lal, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Eicher Motors Ltd., Royal Enfield’s parent company, discussed a possible one-make racing series for the bikes in India, and other new models with a more modern look, including bikes in the Scrambler and Touring genre.

Two years later an updated concept bike was shown off at the Delhi Auto Expo.  This one used the new Harris-designed frame and was fitted with Öhlins rear suspension and an Arrow exhaust system.

Then in December 2012, a refined version of that was shown at the Long Beach Show in California.  This bike had black painted switch gear rather than brushed alloy and the clip-on handlebars were mounted above the top fork clamp rather than below it.  In addition, there was a small cowling around the rear of the seat and the dashboard was re-designed with an ignition key in an alloy lug on the top fork clamp and the warning lights included in the Smiths-style tacho and speedo, the latter with a digital odometer.

On the top of the elongated fuel tank were the words ‘Continental GT’ – which may be the name for the Roadster version of the new bike.

In addition, word is there will be several options of specification for the new Royal Enfield 535: a dual seat, alloy, steel or plastic fuel tanks, alloy or plastic guards and options for foot-peg location, as well as pillion foot-pegs.

We think Royal Enfield has hit a bulls’ eye with the styling of this new model, but the reason for the delay in its production was due to the company is struggling to meet the demand for its current ‘classic’ range.  There are waiting lists of up to 12 months for some models! 

Production has ramped up from around 35,000 in 2005 to 75,000 in 2011 and in 2012 it hit 100,000 units.  The new plant will increase capacity to 150,000, with enough space to double that, if need be but in the meantime, those wanting a new Royal Enfield are paying cash deposits to ensure they are at the head of the queue!

That’s quite a success story, especially set against a general industry-wide slow down with plant closures from some of the Japanese manufacturers: Suzuki closing its plant in Spain, Honda closing its Ohio motorcycle plant in the USA and Yamaha closing plants in Italy and Spain.

Perhaps there is something to be said for a simple, push-rod operated two-valve air-cooled four-stroke single that is easy for the home mechanic to maintain…