There have been plenty of reviews on the Continental GT, but let’s test ride the Enfield with an alternative perspective.
Ah, the undying café racer. Every one wishes to own one, few attempt and fewer do. It isn’t a segment that allows compromise. It isn’t about a low-set handlebar, a long tank and a rounded seat. It is about the attitude that the rider carries within him embodied by a motorcycle that says we aren’t two; we are together.
For example, the folks at Hero Motors, none of whom have obviously understood this segment, exemplify this misinterpretation with a mockery of a café racer that they hope shall “celebrate singlehood”. Other than promoting ‘awkward-hood’ at traffic signals, there is little the Splendour Pro Classic achieves.
However, we are here to crush pretentions and test the seemingly honest-to-ego Continental GT. The Enfield in real-life seduces you far more than its retroactive, soul-stirring advertising based on English roads ever could. If she is beautiful, it isn’t your fault to expect her to perform before you let her ride – metaphorically speaking of course. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. Somewhere between the drawing board and the end consumer riding the motorcycle, Royal Enfield Motors faltered. They went to press about Terblanche joining them, claimed something about the GT doing the Ton on their website, and promised it was their fastest product ever. It did neither of the latter two, and we are awaiting the designer’s Franco-Indian perspective.
Let’s start with the good news though: The GT is beautiful. Quite easily the best looking bike in its segment and price bracket. The lines, in profile, are excellent and so are the proportions. The long tank, the thin seat and smaller wheels, add to the charisma of the café racer. The forward stance due to the lower bars and upswept exhaust, gives it the attitude of an era passed. Focusing on just two colours is a great idea, red being true to lineage, however the Picasso at REM was probably in a chirpy mood when he decided both had to be vibrant. How they decided that black was a bad choice is beyond the scope of this review.
To throw away the old adage of “this much is enough” and equip the GT with floating discs may not have been easy for the manufacturer, but that is the most amazing part on this bike. Even the Paioli rear shocks on the GT are second. Incidentally, why in the world would you place those shocks upside-down? No international motorcycle manufacturer, leave alone the shock makers, would ever place the suspension with the unsprung weight being more than the sprung weight. It’s a bit foolish because you’ve just spent a fortune lightening the unsprung load with aluminium Excel rims. Those who haven’t noticed this please invert the rear shocks the right way up – and no it won’t leak.
The bike that was tested was a well-used dealer demo with over 24,000kms. So whatever is reviewed has this fact considered. If anything, the state at which the bike was is a testament to its endurance. Cold starts were easy as long as you don’t blip the throttle and no choke was required thanks to the EFI. Front brakes performed like they were new, while the rear performed the feather-duty fine. To emphasise, the front 300mm Brembos are actually a tad better than the non-floating 320s on the Triumph Bonneville. There isn’t ABS
, but men not boys ride these. The clutch is superlight on the UCE motor compared to the light-oil unit on the older three-piece motor. This tester could be ridden easily with just two fingers, although it was adjusted with late bite. The gearshifts were only positive on the upshift, while downshifts weren’t. The internal lever-play was large enough that you could unconsciously still be midway after dropping one gear, only to realise on the consecutive downshift that you hadn’t fully released the lever. So basically a Bullet newbie would shift thrice for two downshifts since he’d be used to the short-throw of other bikes.
The bars were perfectly positioned, and the bar-seat-peg triangle couldn’t have been better. Compared to the Standard 500, the GT has an additional 18-degree forward lean but the hip-angle is exactly the same at 74 degrees. The knee-angle is of course closer by 13 degrees for the GT. It doesn’t take too much effort to ride the bike in traffic or crowded streets, and the usual complaints centre around people who use their arms to hold up their body as opposed to sharing the load with their backs too.
Much of the sales that we have seen are going towards the vain – they don’t really want to ride it they just want to be seen riding it. India has never had café racers, only uptight machismos. The Bullet owners think they are the target audience and supposedly 90 per cent of them buy the GT. Enfield should focus on getting the middle-aged non-Bullet rider to taste a thumper. This mismatch has resulted in barely ridden bikes being sold at lower prices than an equivalent condition Bullet 350. It's obvious that the stock pile-up will reach Enfield’s delivery doors soon. Apparently they are focusing on the export market.
However, the actual performance is where the decision to buy the bike should be made. And it disappoints in that regard. One can expect the defense-response of how the CR needs to be 8.5 not any higher because the fuel is poor, or that you could blow a hole in the piston and forged pistons are too expensive. Sorry, that reason isn’t good enough when a CBR250 just whizzes by you. Neither is the GT their fastest product because a heavier Thunderbird 500 with a large windscreen and just a free-flow exhaust overtakes you with what seems like a good 4hp more. With a speedo indicated top speed of 130kmph on the GT, we had one 1997 Enfield Machismo that we modified – and not too radically – happily touched that mark too. And that old model was a 350. So, what’s with a 535cc top-power-product moniker, we fail to grasp. With Enfield’s subtle claim of the Magic Ton being as deceitful as a smiling tiger (we are talking the same Ton hopefully), you have to plan corners well ahead.
When you approach a curve, accelerate as hard as you possibly can and pray nothing gets in the way. Or else accelerating through the bend is a vacation – at leisure you may watch children play or the chaiwala briskly pour one out. If you want power from this thumper, keep a lakh ready in addition, and you can get 40 per cent more juice – good enough.
Sigh... Yet she has a hold over you. The fact that for the similar price you could buy a KTM RC390 that’s 20 years ahead, does little to impress your alter-ego. What’s interesting is that the KTM owner would admire your GT, while you wouldn’t be bothered about his or anyone else’s. So should you buy one? Well, here forgiveness is freedom. Let go the expectation’s you’ve had when you first saw the lady in red. She only disappoints you, but doesn’t fail. You will love her in a few hundred kilometers, and more importantly she will love you back.