(Top) We love the uncluttered look of the Enfield’s front end. The rearview mirror set-up could be improved however. (Center) The GT offers the most complete instrumentation including and LCD fuel level gauge. However the aesthetics and overall quality don’t measure to the same level as the instruments on the Japanese bikes. (Bottom) The Continental GT uses a relatively large 535cc Single that pumps out the majority of its torque at low rpm. It can be started via manual (kickstarter) or electric start.
Royal Enfield inspires riders to take a trip down memory lane with the re-release of one of motorcycling’s greatest classics: the Continental GT ($5999). With boyish good looks, a sporty chassis and simple 535cc air-cooled Single that features both electric and manual kickstart, the GT is an authentic interpretation of a café racer from the 1960s.
Sporting a rider-only wasp seat, narrow fuel tank, and clip-ons the Continental GT is pure 100% café racer. All of our testers love its shape and it was an absolute head turner everywhere we rode. For the dollar you won’t find a motorcycle that creates more buzz (both figuratively and literally) than this Indian-built bike.
“When you look at it— you’re like ‘whaaat, this is the bike’,” says Ana of the Enfield’s incredibly stylish and neck twisting appearance.
“When I saw all three of the bikes this morning I was most excited to ride the Royal Enfield,” agrees Melissa. “I think the styling on it is really cool. It’s kind of vintage and different looking—not something you see every day. And it’s a little tough looking.”
Swing a leg over the Continental and it has the raciest seating position. It’s also the tallest (31.5 in.) and the clip-ons position the rider over the front of the motorcycle like a racebike. Instrumentation consists of a dual gauge set-up like the Yamaha, however it gets a handy LCD fuel gauge and trip meters. The instruments function adequately but don’t offer the same high fit-and-finish as the Japanese bikes.
“The riding position on it was pretty neat. It has that café racer, bad ass, around-town feel,” says Melissa. “The overall styling and the way you sit on the bike was all pretty cool.”
The RE blends the best of both worlds offering both electric and manual kickstart. Even with the simplicity of e-start, getting the engine lit isn’t always as easy as a push of a button. Sometimes we had to prod the starter button a few of times before the big thumper would run cleanly and idle on its own.
“This bike is a rock and roll bike,” says Ana. “It does vibrate [a lot]. The sound is incredible and it looks incredible. I feel like from the three bikes this is the one with the most character.”
“It could use a little refining,” Melissa explains of the Continental’s crude-ish riding experience. “It was just a bit rough. There were things about the roughness that I enjoyed, that it was kind of loud and sounded throaty and ridiculous and makes the neighbors angry. But it also felt like it could stall at any moment when I was at a stoplight.”
“A few little fit and finish things weren’t so nice,” she continues to explain. “One of the mirrors is kind of worn out already [the left mirror had vibrated itself loose]. It doesn’t always start right away — a few little things that if I owned it might be frustrating. But when it’s someone elses it kind of just adds to the charm.”
(Top) Despite weighing the most (90 pounds more than the TU), in motion the Royal Enfield felt agile and responsive through turns. (Center) The wasp-style seat is a styling highlight on the GT, only problem is there’s no room for a passenger. (Bottom) The Continental GT’s ergonomics are more hunkered down and race feeling than the upright Suzuki and Yamaha.
And charm is something the Enfield has in spades. From its throaty exhaust note (easily the loudest to both the ear and sound meter), and at times, excessive engine vibration, the GT gives you a taste of what it was probably like to ride a motorcycle in the ‘60s.
Compared to the Suzuki’s rev happy 250 engine or the more metered, versatile powerband of the SR, the Continental GT’s engine produces low-end diesel-type power. Near maximum torque is available from just above idle all the way through its 3400 rpm peak (28.12 lb-ft). Torque tapers as the tach needle climbs, with maximum horsepower arriving at 4700 rpm. Above that the power curve falls quickly necessitating a short shift to keep the GT accelerating. Like the other two the Continental employs a five-speed gearbox and cable-actuated clutch. The set-up functions satisfactorily but lacks the solid feel of the Japanese. It’s also a little tricky to find neutral at a standstill.
In spite of its hefty torque advantage, and comparable horsepower figure, the GT took 0.8 of a second longer to accelerate to 60 mph compared to the SR. It ranked behind it again through the quarter-mile and was only a second faster than the 286cc smaller TU. Since it has the biggest engine, it’s no surprise the RE recorded the lowest fuel mileage figure of 44.7 mpg, though because of its largest-in-class fuel capacity (3.6 gallon) has a range of about 160 miles.
“It makes pretty good power for what it is,” says Melissa of its mediocre engine performance. “For something to cruise down to the beach and try and get people to pay attention to you, I think it would work really well.”
On the scales the 410-pound Enfield is clearly the heaviest. Despite weighing 90 pounds more than the featherweight Suzuki the GT didn’t feel much heftier in motion. In spite of its extra girth it still achieved a shorter stopping distance compared to the Yamaha but required a few extra inches compared to the Suzuki. Its disc brakes were effective but lacked the same-level of lever sensation as the TU.
Around town the RE rides more stiffly but through curves its taut chassis pays dividends offering the sportiest overall handling. It offers a different feel from the more standard-riding Japanese bikes, something that the girls never really got comfortable with.
“This was my least favorite bike,” Ana reveals. “To me, it doesn’t handle too well—it’s very stiff. I guess you get used to it as you go along and ride it. It’s not too smooth. Comfortable, just not smooth and for me it just didn’t handle well.”
- Easily the best looking of the group
- Loads of character
- Sporty handling through turns
- Fit-and-finish needs improvement
- Transmission feels sloppy
- Engine starting can be problematic
“The front end wasn’t really confidence inspiring,” chimes in Melissa. “It felt a little bit like if you leaned on it too much it would tuck the front and wash out. The handling was a little bit wonky for my likes.”
Fans of sporty handling retro rides will love the Royal Enfield. It looks, sounds and rides as you’d imagine an old bike would. Problem is the powertrain and overall build quality are too rough around the edges compared to the precision-built motorcycles from Japan. But if you’re willing to overlook those quirks, the GT is a winner as it gives the rawest and most visceral experience.
Bore x Stroke: 87.0mm x 90.0mm
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Clutch: Wet multi-plate, cable actuation
Front Suspension: 41mm telescopic fork; 4.3 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Twin Paioli gas-charged shocks; 3.1 in. travel
Front Brake: 300mm disc with twin-piston Brembo caliper
Rear Brake: 240mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Tires: Pirelli Sport Demon; 100/90-18, 130/70-18
Curb Weight: 406 lbs. (ready to ride)
Wheelbase: 53.5 in.
Seat Height: 31.5 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.6 gal.
Warranty: One year
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