Jukebox thumper

Royal Enfield has come a long way from being on the verge of shutting shop to a new existence as a happening brand. The old-school Bullet series bikes will always be part of Enfield's portfolio, but now the company has moved on to new territories with the re-introduction of the Continental GT. Just looking at the bike will make you aware that this is a completely different beast. Everything here is about aerodynamics, a topic that Enfield is not traditionally associated with. This latest addition to the Enfield family is the "Cafe Racer" that harkens back to the rock-and-roll days of the 1960s. Continental owners were labelled as pseudo bikers by traditionalists because they would just ride down to a cafe, park and listen to the juke box inside, while the "real" rockers would be riding hard and fast in the streets, clad in their black leather jacket, white or red scarf and open face helmets.

The Cafe Racer's riding stance is very different from the usual upright position. With the signature two-piece clip handles and the foot pegs swept back, you are "tucked in" and this posture reduces wind resistance and increases better handling. Sounds a bit complicated and looks slightly uncomfortable, but trust me, after riding the Cafe Racer for over 500 km, I can tell you it doesn't demand much from your body. But yes we need to change the mindset, for this gorgeous looking bike is not a typical Enfield that is perfect for cross-country cruising. It is an urban lifestyle bike and is elegant enough not to leave oil marks on your favourite pair of jeans.

When you fire up the new 535-cc bike, you are not welcomed by the typical Enfield holler. This, in my opinion, is nice because it is a sign that Enfield has decided to move on while still retaining its distinct position in the world of bikes. But the lack of a growl does not mean the absence of power. The Cafe Racer has enough mojo to let everyone around know that it is still an Enfield bike. On paper it has only got a 2-bhp boost over the existing 500 cc variants like the Thunderbird and Classic 500, but it was surprising to see how rev happy the GT is. Unlike other Enfields which have a lazy, leisurely pick up, the GT vrooms to 3500-4000 rpm in a jiffy. The elation dissipates a bit as the handle vibrations become more and more jarring. This continues to be Enfield's Achilles' heel and it takes a severe toll on the arms and shoulders if you ride fairly long distances. The Continental's 5-speed gearbox's ratio has been tinkered with to ensure it is responsive and it doesn't disappoint. Sure the gears aren't as precise as one would have liked them to be and they are still clunky, but all-in-all, it is still better than the other bikes in the Enfield stable.

Riding on the winding roads of Goa, the Continental GT showed its mettle and proved to be the best handler among Enfield bikes. It actually made a sweeping statement while taming the tarmac curves. The new double-cradle chassis has done wonders for the bike, but just to give you a heads up, this is not a sports bike so you should go with the flow of the bike rather than try to take a knee-down turn.

It is quite evident that a lot of thought has gone into making the Continental GT. No short cuts have been taken. It uses Pirelli tyres that provide great grip while taking turns even on gravel. The Brembo discs (both front and rear) provide responsive bite when you slam on the brakes. What is heartening is that the bike remains stable when the brakes are applied. Another feather in the cap is the great ride it provides. The Pailoli gas shock absorbers make sure there is no spine jarring experience.

The Continental GT is fantastic to look at. Many Goans stopped us on the road and asked about the bike and when it will be available in at dealerships. Enfield has added a bit of modern touches to the GT but it predominantly retains the 60's design. This slick urban hipster could have been faster too. But more than anything, the blokes at Enfield need to iron out the vibration issue. Once considered the granddaddy of motorcycles, this Enfield is today the bike to own in the segment.
Engine: 535cc
Power: 29.1 bhp @ 5100 rpm
Torque: 44 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Weight: 184 kg
Tank capacity: 13.5 litres
Price: Rs 2.05 lakh (On road, Delhi)