Let’s address the elephant in the room first. Yours truly wasn’t a die-hard fan of the Royal Enfield range of bikes. They require high maintenance, demand a lot of care and attention and turn sane men into those who begin to falsely assume that everyone in the road is looking at them. Now before you draw the swords to slice off my arms, let me get to the good part. Great bikes have always been attention-craving. And if a bike makes you feel like everyone is looking at its rider, then it is certainly doing one of its jobs really well. It is making a star out of you. And the Continental GT makes you a rock star.
It’s this café racer which made Royal Enfield an international best seller and in fact it even gave the legendary Harley Davidson brand a heart attack. Global sales have been so good that now the manufacturer can both afford and prioritize the construction of factories and development centres in different parts of the world.
It costs you Rs. 2.10 lakh (On-road, Bangalore) brand new and during the brief test ride of the dealer vehicle, it wins you over in a matter of minutes. Take it out for a quick 2-mile spin and you’ll return with a big smile plastered across your face and yes, your right hand is so much eager to sign the dotted line that it will keep pounding your left palm till you leave the dealership. But then the brain kicks in with its daddy mode, “You just rode it for barely a couple of miles and though it’s a dealer bike, it has been set up to win you over. Do not fall into temptation, my son. You know how that ends up usually.”
So we thought of checking out how a Continental GT which has put thousands of kms on the odo, been at the hands of riders with different riding patterns and witnessed 2 years of rough use fared. Because no matter how good you are in giving promises, you’ll end up being a rough rider who doesn’t take care of the bike as well as you had decided while purchasing it. So how does such a copy fare?
We got ourselves such an example and took it out for a day’s ride. And it popped some surprises – of both the pleasant and unpleasant kind.
The Continental GT is one hell of a good-looking bike. It is probably among the few bikes out there which stay retro while boasting of all the bells, whistles and modern pieces of engineering going into it. The quality of the parts is astoundingly good. Be it the switchgear or the components, they are built to last and despite several thousands of kms of rough use, the paint still retains the glossy finish. And if the kind of attention that it gets while it’s on the move is amusing, the attention that it gets while standing still is all the more staggering. People admire this bike even if they don’t aren’t bike enthusiasts. Given that Royal Enfield made this bike with the primary aim to take over the American and European markets, it’s no surprise that they didn’t leave any stone unturned in the styling and manufacturing of this modern day classic.
Now comes the riding part. The 500cc, single cylinder, 30bhp engine wasn’t in any mood at all to disappoint and it delivered the goodies gladly. It was surprisingly eager to please as every gentle twist of the wrist, launched the GT into a full-on gallop with the speedo needle climbing, and that too without breaking a sweat. Now comes the best part, it doesn’t let you know that you are riding too fast until you take a look at the speedo… or until the vibrations make things a bit too blurry to process. Now the latter is the bad part to be honest. The vibrations aren’t linked to the speed at which you are travelling as such. It’s more about the rpm. Rev it above 3000 and the vibes rise till it gets impossible to even see what’s in your rear-view mirror. Now, there are a couple of things to be taken into account here. This is quite an old example. Later that day, we took relatively new one out for a spin around the block and though it still had the vibrations, it wasn’t as high as that of the used example that we had as the test subject.
Ergonomics of the Continental GT isn’t designed for daily use and that’s not what this bike is meant for. It’s a lifestyle motorbike. It’s a piece of art, a classic, a master-class automotive history icon that you should own so that you will get to pride in its ownership and of course your future generations will look up to you as one hell of an uber cool ancestor. Fuel efficiency was in the range of 20kpl which is fine for a bike of its class and kind. Plus, the riding style wasn’t any forgiving on the bike as well with ride time distributed evenly between city and highway.
So, what’s the verdict? Well, this wasn’t a ride test report. It was more of revisiting a lifestyle motorbike to see how it fared so far in the real, brash, brutal world. The way we see it, the Continental GT can weather and age with elegance. If you can keep it away from your friends and family whose unfamiliarity with the bike will mess up its gearbox, if you can treat it with tender love and care and if you are someone who intends to treat it not as a daily commute bike but as a lifestyle motorbike, then there aren’t any reasons to stop you from getting a Royal Enfield Continental GT Café Racer.