Bobbies on bicycles… we are humming while zooming along the streets astride the reincarnation of the Continental GT, the iconic bike of iconic-maker Royal Enfield (RE) that graced London roads in the 1960s. Perhaps the song should have been ‘Bobbies on motorbikes’.
We are in London for the relaunch of the Continental GT, and this is nothing short of that magical era of psychedelic rock, retro rev-ups, Beatles and Pink Floyd — and of course the mad bike races from café to café that spawned the genre of “café racers”.
When Enfield launched the Continental GT back in 1965, it had a 250cc engine, and was seen as ahead of its time with to its retro styling that belied its buzzing motor. It was the fastest racing bike manufactured by the company in that period, and became something of a cult figure at a time when biking fashion was at its peak, and British youth had more money to spend, an effect of the growing economy.
The new Continental GT carries forward the typical café racer from the 60s — an elongated tank, wide handle bars, a circular headlamp, chrome highlights, and the humped racing seat.
The engine has grown: it is now powered by RE’s 535cc UCI engine that produces peak power of 29.1bhp and peak torque of 44Nm. We managed to hit nearly 150 kph, though the bike feels more comfortable at about 100 kph. The gearbox is 5-speed gearbox — one-down and four-up.
The seat is very comfortable, soft and wide, the foot pegs well positioned and the handle bars within easy reach. As a whole, the bike rides firm, and the handling is spot on. The bike feels more than capable of taking on curves and turns.
Featuring 18 inch rims, the GT is shod with (100/90) section Pirelli tyres in the front, and 130/70 at the rear. True to its racing legacy, the bike has disc brakes on the front and rear that are sufficient for the form.
Expected to be launched in November 2013, the Continental GT is likely to command a price of Rs. 2-2.25 lakh. It is a legend, and going by RE fan forums, a lot of people out there are already putting aside cash in anticipation of its arrival.
Royal Enfield is on the upswing these days, but there has not been any real new product from the stable. With the Continental GT it is looking to plug this gap. Whether the bike up to the expectation, and sales match the hype, is to be seen.
(The writer’s visit to London was sponsored by Royal Enfield)