Second Look: Royal Enfield Continental GT

Getting some road time on Royal Enfield’s new Continental GT.

| March/April 2015

2015 Royal Enfield Continental GT

There's no arguing that Royal Enfield got everything right in the styling department — the GT's café racer profile is nigh on perfect.

Photo by Richard Backus

2015 Royal Enfield Continental GT
Claimed power: 29.1hp @ 5,100rpm
Top speed: 80mph (indicated)
Engine: 535cc air-cooled OHV single, 87mm x 90mm bore and stroke
Weight (wet): 405lb (184kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.6gal (13.5ltr)/58mpg (avg/observed)
Price: $5,999

First impressions are only that. An hour or a day with a bike rarely tells the whole story. A new bike can feel great on that first, short ride, but a week or a month of riding often tells an entirely different tale — and not always a good one.

In 2014, Royal Enfield introduced a game-changer in its previously staid line of retro machines — the Continental GT. Inspired by the 1965 250cc Continental GT produced by Royal Enfield in England, the new GT is the most adventurous offering yet from Royal Enfield in India, which has staked its export future on retro classics powered by simple, single-cylinder engines designed to invoke memories of the original Enfield Bullet. Royal Enfield CEO Siddhartha Lal believes the mid-sized motorcycle market has lots of room for growth, and he thinks bikes like the Continental GT have a bright future thanks to their relative simplicity, accessibility and affordability. He’s backed up that belief with a new state-of-the-art, 200,000-square-foot factory in India’s Oragadam industrial region, where the new GT is built.

At $5,999 the GT is priced against bikes like Honda’s new CB500F twin, a far more technically advanced half-liter sport bike powered by a liquid-cooled twin. While the new GT is the most advanced machine yet offered by Royal Enfield India, technology-wise it’s hardly on a par with the best from Japan.

Alan Cathcart sampled the GT for our January/February 2014 issue following its U.K. debut and came away impressed, noting the bike’s relaxed performance and solid handling, the latter thanks to famed chassis builders Harris Performance in England, who designed the GT’s all new frame.

I had the opportunity to flog a new Continental GT during the model’s U.S. launch in May 2014, and my first impressions of the GT were almost uniformly positive. In a day of riding with Lal and a dozen-plus other journalists in the hill country outside Temecula, California, I found the GT to be a capable low-speed, sporting motorcycle with excellent handling and a huge fun factor. In 175-odd miles of hard riding, not one of the bikes in our crew so much as hiccupped, and squeezing every ounce of performance I could out of the 535cc single still returned 52mpg for the day’s ride. I was impressed by the GT’s brakes and suspension dynamics, and it didn’t matter that it wasn’t powerful. In fact, it was fun precisely because of its modest power, which forces the rider to really work it to get the most out of the GT.

3/5/2015 3:36:52 PM

RE:Second Look Continental GT. I purchased a (Red) Royal Enfield Continental GT last summer as a retirement gift to myself! Absolutely LOVE the bike! I added the power commander, K&N filter, after market exhaust and small tinted fly screen. I may have gained 1 or 2 hp after all that. It drew a lot of attention at the British Bike Show last Fall across the river in Kentucky. As I've shared with others, it's more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow! Thanks for the article!

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