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Styling Straight Out Of The Sixties

India-based Royal Enfield has been busy expanding its footprint as of late. The newly-minted U.S. dealerships will be scampering for a piece of the action with a bike that is sure to appeal to the increasingly-important Millennial buyers— the cafe’-tastic Continental GT. Built with an unmistakeable retro flavor and powered by a 535 cc, 29.1-horsepower engine, the GT brings a relatively authentic cafe’ experience to the table. Maybe even a little too authentic in some ways, perhaps? We’ll find out. The factory established a foothold on U.S. soil just a few years ago and it has introduced its very first engine to be designed in-house, but the GT is more of a reflection of the company’s deep roots than a product of its more progressive agenda.

Continue reading for my review of the Royal Enfield Continental GT.

  • 2014 - 2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT
  • Year:
    2014- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    535 cc
  • Price:
    5999
  • Price:

Design

2014 - 2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT
- image 758080
Not really a retro piece as much as it is a ride that drew inspiration from the mid-'60s and never really tried to evolve.

Straight. Up. Cafe’. That’s what you see, and that’s what you get. The factory drew from design elements going back to the sixties for what has to be the most authentic cafe’ on the market. This isn’t actually a retro piece as much as it is a ride that drew inspiration from the mid-’60s and never really tried to evolve, and I love it for that.

A laced wheel, standard forks and a round headlight leads the way, and the lack of a cafe’-style bullet fairing does nothing to diminish the overall cafe’ vibe. Clip-on bars and bar-end mirrors keep the front end clean with all the instrumentation tucked away in the twin clocks mounted ahead of the tripletree. Though clip-ons are definitely not in line with history, the Superman riding position they encourage is spot on as they pull the rider down over the fuel tank in an aggressive position. Admittedly, this position has a tendency to load up the wrists and neck much like superbike-style rides, at least at low speeds where there’s insufficient wind pressure to help support your trunk ’n bucket.

The 3.56-gallon fuel tank carries the classic knee-indents that immediately call to mind the British cafe’ racers of yesteryear with a flyline that plummets to the racer-style solo seat with a tail fairing to finish it. Taillight, turn signals and tagholder obscure all but a sliver of the rear fender, and the upswept exhaust and contrasting springs on the coil-over shocks complete the ensemble.

Chassis

2014 - 2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT
- image 758081
Nimble and compact, the GT feels stable on the straights, but remains eager in the curves.

A double-downtube, double-cradle frame sets the tone with the classic cafe’ geometry that gives it a straight backbone from head to tail. Suspension is pure-D vanilla with standard, non-adjustable 41 mm forks up front and a set of piggyback, coil-over shocks out back. The front forks turn in 4.3 inches of travel while the shocks move through an 3.1-inch range with the obligatory spring preload adjuster. Yeah, it could be better, but it’s very historically accurate as it sits and I suppose that’s part of the charm.

Brembo anchors bite the single, 300 mm front disc and the 240 mm rear without any fandanglery such as ABS or linked brakes, just honest braking and feedback. Simple and clean, just like its looks. At only 405-pounds wet, the brakes are sufficient. Laced wheels mount a 100/90-18 hoop up front and a 130/70-18 in back to help keep the bike nimble, and it seems to have helped; the GT feels stable on the straights, but remains eager in the curves. True to its nature, the wheelbase is nice and compact at only 53-inches long with an 81-inch overall length.

Frame: Twin downtube cradle frame
Front suspension: Telescopic, 41mm forks, 4.3 inches travel
Rear suspension: Paioli,Twin gas charged shock absorbers with adjustable preload, 3.1 inches travel
Tires Fr.: 100/90-18, 56 H Pirelli Sport Demon
Tires Rr.: 130/70-18, 63 H Pirelli Sport Demon
Brakes Front: Brembo 300mm Floating disc, 2-Piston floating caliper
Brakes Rear: 240mm Disc, Single piston floating caliper

Drivetrain

2014 - 2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT
- image 758087
Sure, it's got electronic ignition and EFI now, but the overall engine design is straight out of the sixties.

Like the rest of the Continental GT, the engine can be taken at face value; it’s not a copy or a tribute, but an actual relic. Sure, it’s got electronic ignition now instead of points and an electronic fuel injection system instead of a carburetor, but the overall engine design is straight out of the sixties.

The air-cooled thumper runs with an 87 mm bore and 90 mm stroke for a total displacement of 535 cc, and a cheap gas-friendly 8.5-to-1 compression ratio. I gotta’ say that I love the kicker; not only does it add to the classic looks of the bike, but it’s a functional emergency backup to the electric starter. Looking cool while kicking her to life is just an added bonus.

Power flows through a standard wet clutch and five-speed transmission with a chain-type final drive. The full, 32 pound-feet of torque comes on at four grand with 29.1 horsepower at the 5,100 rpm mark, and while that’s plenty of power for a commute or just knocking about town, you’d better plan your passes well and watch your six on the interstate.

Engine: Single Cylinder, 4 stroke, Air cooled
Displacement: 535 cc
Bore x stroke: 87mm x 90mm
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Maximum Torque: 32 ft lbs@ 4000 rpm
Maximum Power: 29.1 bhp (21.4 kW) @ 5100 rpm
Ignition System: Digital Electronic Ignition
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox: 5 Speed Constant Mesh
Lubrication: Wet sump
Engine Start: Electric & Kick

Pricing

2014 - 2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT
- image 758083
MSRP on the 2018 Continental GT is under $6k and well within reach of the budget-minded buyer.

You can score a Continental GT for $5,999 no matter which color you choose. The GT is available in GT Red, GT Black or GT Green, all with a black seat and abundance of chrome.

Colors: Red, Black, Green
Price: $5,999

Competitors

2014 - 2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT
- image 758086
2016 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan S / S Cafe / S SE
- image 745115
Unlike the Continental GT, the Vulcan just emulates a vintage ride.

Royal Enfield is sort of in a league all its own as far as historical fidelity is concerned, but the market it’s competing in is awash with more modern machines that simply borrow from the look and name of the genre. Kawasaki’s Vulcan S ABS Cafe’ is just such a bike. The overall design resonates with echoes of the past, but with an entirely modern interpretation. One thing Kawi definitely got right was the screen that leaves the impression of a bullet fairing, and as tenuous as that connection is, it definitely gets the job done.

The rest of the Kawi shows a modern bent with only a passing association with the classic cafe’ design elements, but it ain’t meant as a replica, now is it? Much like the GT, Kawi’s Cafe’ runs with a rather basic suspension setup, but Kawi’s Ergo-Fit system allows the rider’s triangle to be adjusted to accommodate a wide range of body types and it runs an ABS system for a clear advantage over Royal Enfield.

The modernization continues into the engine compartment with a liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder, 649 cc engine that cranks out 46.3 pounds o’ grunt at 6,600 rpm, a skosh more than the GT’s thumper. Naturally, you can expect to pay for the advantages you’d get with the Kawi; an $8,099 price tag awaits anyone looking for a modern ride with classic roots, rather than an actual classic design for a couple grand cheaper.

He Said

“As much as I like the visual vibe I get from the Continental GT, I gotta’ say the actual vibrations from that big thumper is a little off-putting. Would I own one? You betcha — I might even ride it around town — but forget about hitting the superslab, I want something with a bit more power.

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “This is the epitome of period styling and has the same engine as the RE Classic. Riding position feels very tucked-in, but I didn’t find it particularly taxing on my wrists. Maybe a taller rider would, I dunno. Nice brakes, and the suspension doesn’t feel as rough as the specs might suggest. The seat is not overly comfortable, but the vibration in your hands and butt will likely give you reason to take a break before the seat itself would, so I’ll say it’s comfortable enough. It’s really a nice bike for toodling around town or taking a ride in the country.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Single Cylinder, 4 stroke, Air cooled
Displacement: 535 cc
Bore x stroke: 87mm x 90mm
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Maximum Torque: 32 ft lbs@ 4000 rpm
Maximum Power: 29.1 bhp (21.4 kW) @ 5100 rpm
Ignition System: Digital Electronic Ignition
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox: 5 Speed Constant Mesh
Lubrication: Wet sump
Engine Oil: 15 W 50 API, SL Grade JASO MA
Air Cleaner: Paper Element
Engine Start: Electric & Kick
Chassis:
Frame: Twin downtube cradle frame
Front suspension: Telescopic, 41mm forks, 4.3 inches travel
Rear suspension: Paioli,Twin gas charged shock absorbers with adjustable preload, 3.1 inches travel
Tires Fr.: 100/90-18, 56 H Pirelli Sport Demon
Tires Rr.: 130/70-18, 63 H Pirelli Sport Demon
Brakes Front: Brembo 300mm Floating disc, 2-Piston floating caliper
Brakes Rear: 240mm Disc, Single piston floating caliper
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 53 in
Ground Clearance: 5 in
Length: 81 in
Width: 30 in
Seat Height: 31.5 in
Height: 42 in
Curb Weight: 405 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 3.56 Gal
Electricals:
Electrical System: 12 volt - DC
Battery: 12 volt, 14 Ah
Head Lamp: 12V H4 60 / 55 W
Tail Lamp: 12V 21W/5W
Details:
Colors: Red, Black, Green
Price: $5,999

References

2016 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan S / S Cafe / S SE
- image 660929

See our review of the Kawasaki Vulcan S.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com, royalenfield.com

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