2014 Royal Enfield Continental GT Café Racer Test
Royal Enfield has just released the GT Continental café racer in the North America market after debuting it in Europe and India in 2013.
Royal Enfield’s overall design approach is to offer a motorcycle in the mid-engine class that is accessible both in price and maintenance. Consequently, most of the India-based manufacturer’s models are powered by a fuel-injected, single-cylinder, air-oil cooled engine with single disc brakes, a cable-based clutch, and straightforward suspension system.
With the Continental GT model, the engine size is increased to 535cc, which makes it the model with the biggest engine.
When looking $5995 price and the components – Harris Engineering designed frame, Brembo brakes, 41mm telescopic front forks, and Paioli twin gas charged shock absorbers – the Continental GT is a good value for this size of motorcycle. The overall design does evoke memories of the 1960s in the United Kingdom when 20-somethings would race back and forth between coffee shops.
I was fortunate to snag a ride on one in the state highways and back roads in the northern San Diego County area, which is well-known for the combination of sweeping turns and tight twisty curves through the numerous canyons and arroyos.
My initial expectations based on a visually small bike and mid-size engine was that I was going be a bit cramped on a poorly accelerating machine. However, both of these expectations were quickly quashed once I swung by leg over the seat, rolled the bike of its center stand, hit the electric start button, and headed out on California State Highway 76.
Although I was initially expecting sluggish acceleration, I experienced a well-controlled run up through the rather tall gears. This engine does not have the same low-end pull as some slightly larger thumpers, and achieves the modest 29 base horsepower at 5100 rpm.
Consequently, I was required to wind up the engine and quickly dump the clutch to maintain momentum while climbing some of the long grades. This technique resulted in a controlled launch that accelerated the bike faster than if you would release the clutch in a more controlled manner; yet, this was a blast using this shifting technique and the engine and clutch did not complain with this robust method.
Unlike other designs and modifications that make up café style motorcycles, the clip-on bars are mounted above the steering yoke. This kept me a bit more upright and comfortable, which is an important criteria for my six-foot some frame. The control levers are positioned well enough for easy reach, and the cable-based clutch had a fairly easy pull while shifting.
The other controls, such as the center-cancel blinker switch and light switch, are easy to operate. The canister style analog speedometer and tachometer are easy to monitor, but the turn signal and neutral indicators are hard to read in direct sunlight.
One thing to note – the speedometer uses kilometer per hour as the outside scale and mph inside of the kph scale; not realizing this at first I was a bit startled to see that I was doing 70 through a moderately tight curve. But after a quick sanity check my ego was brought back to ground when I realized that this was really a bit over 40 mph.
The shift lever is well positioned for quick shifting, but the rear brake pad required me to lift my right leg up to move the foot over top of the foot pad. Thus, operating the rear brake was a bit awkward given the slightly hunched over seating position.
At a claimed wet weight of 405 pounds, I found the Continental GT fairly easy to maneuver through tight turns on its 18-inch Pirelli Sport Demon tires, and my cornering speed was only limited by conservative riding style.
A feature that makes the Continental GT easier to handle through turns is that the 3.5- gallon tank has cut outs that allow easily placing my knees for squeezing the tank. By design the suspension is rather stiff but necessary for maintaining cornering stability. However, if you are willing to spend time to soften up the ride at your own comfort point, the rear shocks can be adjusted.
There is noticeable engine vibration from idle through highway speeds. It’s not obnoxious but could cause some riders to be a bit uncomfortable, although I personally did not mind. However, this vibration did cause the brushed nickel finish bar end mirrors to vibrate out of position to the point that they were useless. Even after tightening the bolts to the tightest possible position, the mirrors did not hold their position very well during the remainder of the ride.
One feature missing on most modern day motorcycles is a kickstart capability, which the Continental GT is equipped with. I did try starting the engine a couple of times I was not successful. This was mainly due to me trying this method of surfaces that were not flat so I wasn’t able to get my full leg strength into the kick.
Overall, I found the Continental GT to be a fun motorcycle that allowed me to be a modest-level hooligan for the day without worrying about getting in over my head.
- Helmet: AGV Bali (exclusive for RE)
- Eyewear: Liberty Cruisers
- Jacket: Royal Enfield GT Textile
- Gloves: Cortech Accelerator
- Pants: Alpinestars Land