Wednesday, January 22

ENFIELD'S CAFE RACER IS A GT

Cornering clearance is very good although we did
manage to get the foot of the centre-stand grinding...
WHILE countless customisers around the world create 'café racers' from all sorts of improbable old machines, Royal Enfield has jumped head first into the market with a factory-built version.

Actually, it is not a true café racer as it doesn't have those low mounted clip-on handlebars the café set seem to drool over.

Royal Enfield calls the bike the Continental GT, so no doubt when they produce a version with low handlebars, a polished alloy tank and a megaphone exhaust, it will cop the 'cafe racer' moniker.

We had the new bike for a short while as there is a lot of interest in them, with the first shipment pre-sold.  Fortunately there was a demo left over from the second shipment for us to sample.

As we've gone into the background of this bike at some length (August 2013) we won't regurgitate that.  However, if you missed it, click here .

Fortunately the importer had managed to put a thousand kilometres on the bike before handing it over to us to make sure it was at least 'house broken'.  It started on the button with the use of the fast idle lever (it is electronically fuel-injected but like the early injected BMWs and Moto Guzzis, there is a fast idle lever for cold starting).  

The bike proved as fussy to start from cold as those earlier efi 'Guzzis but once running, settled into a loping idle.

We've sampled this engine in the C5 Classic so pretty well knew what to expect.  Clutch action is firm without being heavy, throttle action is smooth and easy and the clutch engagement point is easy to find.

The shift action felt very long (we'd just jumped off a Suzuki) but after a few kilometres we were in the swing of things and did not notice it again.  Gear changing is positive with nary a missed shift from the five-speed gearbox and as you settle in, the Continental GT feels better and better.

Front and rear suspension is from Paioli and we have to say we were surprised and impressed with how well the front-end in particular soaked up the bumps.  Initially we thought the forks were a little on the soft side but they seem to firm up as they compress but still have no harshness about them.  The use of a fairly high profile 18-inch front tyre (100/90 section) helps here.

Talking about tyres, they are Pirelli Sport Demons, the rear a 130/70 x 18-inch item.  Both provided good grip and a nice ride.

So we have an Indian company with an English name going to Italy for suspension and tyres.  However, when it came to fuel-injection Royal Enfield chose the same supplier as Triumph: Keihin from Japan.  They have also gone with a Japanese starter motor (Denso).

When it came to braking, Royal Enfield has gone with the Italian Brembo.  These are the floating caliper type with two adjacent pistons and the opposing pads set into the caliper, which slides on pins.  The front disc is a 300mm job with a 240mm rear.

We ended up stomping on the rear pedal to achieve rear wheel lock-up, which is what we prefer.  You can use a lot of lever pressure in a panic situation, which is not when you want it to lock, so full marks there.

The front brake was more than adequate providing plenty of power and feel.  The all alloy unit construction engine, now out to 535cc, pokes out 30 hp, and acceleration is leisurely so you shouldn't find yourself arriving at corners with your brain still in the previous county.

On a quiet country road we saw 140 on the speedo but that was on a slight downhill.  On the flat, 135 km/h is about the practical maximum so we cannot help but think the large muffler is way more restrictive to gas flow than similar Japanese items.  A freer exhaust would doubtless let all 30 horses out of the stable for a decent gallop.

Still, we were far from disappointed with our brief jaunt.  The bike steers very nicely into corners and holds a line very well as you wind the throttle all the way to the stop.  Hey, this is fun!

The Continental GT is a handsome machine 
from any angle.
The foot-pegs are tucked up and slightly rear-set and there are long 'hero'tabs' on their undersides.  We tried and we tried but we didn't manage to touch them down.  However, at one point there was a loud 'graunch' from underneath as we came tearing uphill through a set of esses for intrepid cameraman Geoffrey Osborne Esq.  As the foot-pegs had not moved, we delved deeper and found the right foot of the centre-stand was a little chamfered.  That was whilst cornering over a large bump.  We had no problems in long, fast sweepers, which is this bike's forté.

If you want to try one, contact:

Royal Enfield New Zealand Ltd., 40 Paremoremo Road 
Albany, Auckland 

Phone: 09 415 8453 or email: sales@royalenfield.co.nz


Click here for the website.

Keep an eye on Kiwi Rider magazine for a full test and all the technical details i the near future.