Royal Enfield Continental GT: Find your café, here’s the racer
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Picture this: We are doing a relaxed 60 kmph on an empty Goa highway when a biker on a Honda CBR250R speeds past us. Keenly observing our motorcycle in his rear-view mirror, he slows down, allowing us to join him. Challenging us, he again vrooms past. We accept the challenge, downshift to third gear, apply throttle—a little twist goes a long way—and the poor CBR chap gets reduced to a small spot in our rear-view mirrors. We are now happily doing 120 kmph and our motorcycle still seems to have enough grunt. Let me introduce you to the Continental GT—the lightest, fastest and the most powerful Royal Enfield in production. A machine that also creates a new category in the mid-size motorcycle segment where Royal Enfield aims for global leadership—and that's why the GT was first launched not in India, but in the UK in September.
The Continental GT is the same bike that Royal Enfield had displayed at the Auto Expo 2012 by the name of Café Racer. Now, café racing, as a culture, evolved during the 1960s in the UK and involved motorcycle enthusiasts (the Rockers—a biker subculture) using stripped down, customised motorcycles to race between transport cafés. These sporty, souped-up motorcycles gave birth to the café racer genre. Low-set handlebars and rear-set footpegs—lending to a crouched down riding posture—were the hallmarks of these café racers. They were also very simple machines that could be customised easily to make them more responsive and quicker.
Café racers of the 1960s and Royal Enfield's own 1965 Continental GT—the first mass produced café racer of its time—have been the main design inspiration for the current Continental GT. This bike has a stretched out low-profile fuel tank with knee recesses for the authentic period café racer look. Then, it has a flat sculpted racing seat with contrast stitching and bump stop along with rear-set foldable footrests. There are trimmed front and rear mudguards that add to the clean lines of the Continental GT. It also has an upswept exhaust that allows more ground clearance, especially required when you are cornering at speed. Royal Enfield has worked closely with Xenophya Design of the UK in order to ensure that the Continental GT doesn't miss out on design details. So as to retain the classic look, the bike is simple and devoid of the excesses that characterise many cruisers and superbikes of today. Although the machine we rode was a single-seater, the company is also offering a double-seat option.