Royal Enfield’s glory days at the racetrack are long gone, but that doesn’t mean its era of ruling the roost at the Ace Cafe London, where the café racer lifestyle was born, are quite over.
The new Continental GT may not be the fastest bike in the Ton-Up boys’ parking lot, though it is arguably the most stylish and authentic, right down to the ability to kickstart it.
Still, riding the Continental GT is anything but boring. I was initially expecting sluggish acceleration, yet once the throttle was turned, I experienced a well-controlled run up through the rather tall-ratio gearbox.
While the air-cooled, Keihin fuel-injected, slightly undersquare 535cc single does not have the same low-end pull as some slightly larger thumpers — it maxes out at 32 ft/lbs at 4000 rpm—it does produce a decent claimed 29 horsepower just 1100 rpm later.
Unlike other designs and modifications that recall traditional café-style motorcycles, the clip-on bars are mounted above the steering yoke, which keeps me a bit more upright and comfortable — an important criterion for my six-foot-some frame. The control levers are positioned for easy reach, and the cable-actuated clutch has a fairly easy pull while shifting the five-speed transmission.
The shift lever is well positioned for quick shifting, though the rear brake pedal requires me to lift my right leg up to move my foot over the top of the foot pad. Thus, operating the rear brake is a bit awkward given the slightly hunched over seating position, so I relied on the single 300mm front disc with a Brembo caliper to slow down its 405 pounds (claimed curb).
The Continental GT is fairly easy to maneuver through tight turns on its tall Pirelli Sport Demon 18-inch tires, and my cornering speed was only limited by my conservative nature. Cutouts in the 3.5-gallon tank make it easier to marshal through turns, as my old-school knees-squeezing-the-tank style is accommodated.
By design, the GT’s suspension is rather stiff, befitting a performance bike. The only adjustment is spring preload on the twin piggyback-reservoir shocks. Cranking it up will give you a bit more cornering clearance.
Giving you that old-bike feel, the vibration from the Royal Enfield mill is significant at all speeds. The brushed nickel finish, bar-end mirrors will vibrate out of position to the point where they are useless.
Overall, the 2014 Royal Enfield Continental GT is a fun motorcycle that allows me to be a modest-level hooligan for the day without worrying about getting in over my head or joining the Ton-Up boys.