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Less weight, more power. British bikers in the 1960s discovered this potent mix and started racing their bikes from one cafe to another on British motorways. It was then, that cafe Racers were born.
Royal Enfield launched their latest cafe racer - The Continental GT 650 in November 2018 and we got to take it for a spin through CVS Motors, Royal Enfield's Dealership in Bangalore. The Continental GT was always intended to be a performance brand for Royal Enfield.
It was in 1965 that the Continental GT brand was born when Royal Enfield first launched the 250cc model. It produced 21bhp, and came with a fibreglass tank to reduce weight. It was also the first time that a Royal Enfield received clip-on handlebars, rear-set footpegs, upswept exhaust system and a humped-back seat.
Well, the formula has basically remained the same ever since, for all cafe racers from Royal Enfield. It is little surprise that it remained the same, because there was only one more Continental GT which was the 535cc model that came out in 2012, and then in 2018 came this - the Continental GT 650.
Design & Styling
The 2018 Continental GT 650 follows the styling mantra of the model from 1965 - function first, form next. Up front is an old-school, circular reflector headlamp with dispersion-style lens and orange lenses for the turn signal indicators.
Right above the headlamp is the analogue-digital instrument cluster with and the brilliant looking clip-on handlebars. The clip-on handlebars look near perfect with the brushed aluminium stalks drawing attention. The sculpted and slim fuel tank further adds to the stripped-down design and the same goes for the engine.
The motorcycle we had on test had the optional crashguard fitted on and that was to an extent a spoiler in the overall design of the motorcycle. The engine is the single biggest part in the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 and plays a huge part in making the Continental GT look good. The large engine block with the chrome crankcases and chrome dual-exhaust system defines the side profile.
At the rear is a simple setup with a single tail-lamp and two turn signal indicators mounted directly onto the mudguard via a clamp, while the dual upswept exhaust system makes the bike stand apart. The humped-back seat is also a throwback to the original Continental GT.
The footpegs too are rear-set, and all these elements come together to give the rider the signature cafe racer riding position. More on that later.
Engine & Performance
The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 is powered by an all-new, air and oil-cooled, parallel-twin-cylinder engine. The 648cc motor puts out a maximum power output of 47bhp at 7,250RPM and a peak torque output of 52Nm at 5,250RPM.
With the Continental GT 650, Royal Enfield has upped the game and has moved up to a 6-speed gearbox assisted by a slipper clutch. Just to draw a comparison, the older Continental GT 535 pushed out just 29bhp and 44Nm and was driven by a conventional 5-speed gearbox. This is how big a difference the second cylinder has made.
The second cylinder, combined with the balancer shaft has also resulted in a drastic reduction in vibrations - something that the older Continental GT was criticised for. The engine in the Royal Enfield Continental GT is an under-stressed unit and hence, the output is still comparatively lower than most 600cc segment motorcycles.
This is also the reason for Royal Enfield to go with air and oil-cooling instead of liquid-cooling. Through the dual upswept exhaust pipes, the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 produces a deep, bassy rumble that is neither too loud, nor too feeble.
As much as 80 percentage of the torque comes in at lesser than 3,000RPM and hence makes puttering around town easy. However, when the throttle is worked hard, the Continental GT 650 picks up pace pretty quickly. It accelerates from 0-100km/h in under 6.5 seconds and will go on to touch a top-end whack of over 170km/h.
It is without doubt a fast motorcycle, however, if one is used to performance riding, it will take a pretty long time getting used to. Since the engine has a relaxed character, throttle response is not as crisp as I would have liked it. Blipping the throttle and rev-matching the downshifts are a task as the throttle has to be wrung fully for that to happen.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 has an in-city mileage figure of 23km/l, which went up to 27km/l out on the highway.
Ride & Handling
The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 has a dedicated riding position and this is what makes it handle well despite the old-school design and technology. The riding position clearly indicates that it was meant to be ridden fast, and that is just what one can do on the motorcycle.
Triple-digit cruising speeds are reached with absolute ease and the Continental GT 650 will comfortably hover around the 120km/h mark all day, but its character really comes into the light when it is shown some corners.
Now, do not be mistaken, the good handling characteristics of the motorcycle do not mean it would be able to set a blistering time around a racetrack. However, it would put a grin on the rider's face when shown some curves. Making the ride more pleasurable is the fact that the motorcycle is now vibration free.
Long rides though, would require the rider to get off the motorcycle occasionally for stretching, again owing to the riding position. The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 is rides on a conventional telescopic fork up front and twin gas-charged shock absorbers at the rear.
It is no-doubt a simple setup, but has been tuned well. The best bit of the suspension is felt between 40-60km/h. It almost seems like the potholes on the road are missing at this speed and rumble strips are soaked up like they never existed. But when the shocks are felt, the jolt goes directly to the rider's shoulder again because of the riding position.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 rides on Pirelli Phantom SportComp tyres that were specifically designed for the Royal Enfield 650 twins by the Italian tyre giant. The tyre has high grip levels and allows the rider to take corners and brake hard with confidence. This however changes when ridden over dirt patches.
A 320mm disc up front and a 240mm disc at the rear, both from Bybre brake the Royal Enfield Continental GT. The brakes have good initial bite and are powerful, thereby giving the rider confidence to push the motorcycle. ABS is a standard feature on the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650, further increasing the capabilities of the motorcycle.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 features a simple instrument cluster with two large analogue dials for the Speedometer and Tachometer. Within the speedometer dial is a tiny digital display on which one can view the fuel gauge, the odometer and tripmeters.
The attention to detail is another good feature on the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650. There is a Royal Enfield badge on the clip-on handlebar mount and ‘Royal Enfield' also embossed into the footpegs. The paint quality is top-notch and the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 is offered in five attractive colour options.
Ice Queen, Ventura Blue, Mister Clean, Black Magic and Dr. Mayhem are the various colours that the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 is available with. The one we picked up from CVS motors was Ice Queen, which in our opinion is the best colour.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 is quite an attention magnet, thanks to its design. It has sporty handling thanks to its riding position. and it has a sense of premiumness that has never been seen before in this price bracket. And price, is what it all comes down to.
Rs 3.1 lakh on-road for a bike of this calibre is just brilliant. This is the one to go for, if handling and styling are your priorities.
Stephen Neil Thinks!
The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 will not be the model that brings in the volumes for Royal Enfield, but it will be the one that enthusiasts would go for. The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 is a style statement even when it's standing still and wouldn't look out of place even indoors.
Also Read: Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 Review
Image Source: bike-urious