zaterdag 14 januari 2012

The Royal Enfield Continental GT Cafe Racer

When it comes to selecting the best factory built Cafe Racer it looks like Royal Enfield's Continental GT Cafe Racer could take out first place. The Royal Enfield Continental GT Cafe Racer which is scheduled to be released in 2013 (fingers crossed), sports the first new chassis to be released by the Indian motorcycle manufacturer in 50 years. Along with the new chassis Royal Enfield have added a selection of performance upgrades and Cafe Racer styled parts you won't find on any other motorcycle in their current line up.
As you can imagine this is pretty exciting news but at the 2012 Auto Expo in India the Enfield Cafe Racer was overshadowed by the unvealing of their new Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 which may be due to the fact that this bike is more targeted to markets outside of India. While many are now speculating that this bike will be rolling out of the Enfield factory next year it's important to remember that it was labeled as a 'concept' so we'd wait for an official production announcement before we get too excited.
The Continental GT Cafe Racer is based around Enfield's single cylinder Bullet 500cc engine but no details have been released about any upgrades to it's performance. Due to the stripped down appearance of the Continental GT and the specially designed frame I'd expected that this bike will weigh in less than the Bullet so I would assume that performance improvements could be expected.
The styling of the Continental GT is text book Cafe Racer but it's not all about the looks. The new frame features a double down tube and double cradle design that will definitely outperform the more than 50 year old design of the Bullets single tubed frame. The front forks are stiffened up by an alloy brace that sits on top of the front fender and the rear stays true thanks to a pair of gas filled performance shocks from Ohlins. With this sort of handling it's easy to see why they've also put rear sets on the bike and not left any space for a passenger.
Starting with a motorcycle that was designed half a century ago as a base it's obvious why the GT looks so much like a classic. Enfield's designers have stayed true to classic Cafe Racer looks with an elongated, Manx style tank held in place with a leather buckle, a wasp tail single seat, clip on bars, bar end mirrors and low profile lighting (huge thumbs up from me for that one). The GT also features some high quality finishes including a polished triple tree, brushed alloy switch gear, alloy fenders, alloy dash and minimalist instrument cluster.
As I said at the start of this post this has to be one of the nicest, "straight off the factory floor" Cafe Racers we've seen. It'll a classic before it even gets a chance to get old and I'm sure the waiting list will be disturbingly long if Royal do indeed start building the Continental GT Cafe Racer in 2013.

Since its first appearance at the International Auto Expo in Delhi, the Royal Enfield Continental GT Cafe Racer has been touring the international motorcycle expo circuit. Originally sporting some fairly high end components this version has had some changes that would lower production costs suggesting it is much closer to the bike that Royal Enfield will be offering to the public next year. The movements of the bike around the globe also suggest that Enfield's primary market for the machine will be on foreign shores, with it's latest appearance taking place at the Long Beach Motorcycle Show in Los Angeles.
The 535cc motor is the same Unit Construction Engine used in the Royal Enfield Lightning which will produce around 30bhp in this set up. Although you're not going to be smashing the Ton (100mph) in record time the Continental GT Cafe Racer will be the most powerful motorcycle in the Enfield lineup.  This will undoubtedly have Enfield fans scrambling for their wallets and when combined with this new direction in style could earn the company a lot more interest from US and European buyers.
With only a handful of factory built Cafe Racer styled bikes on the market the Enfield Continental GT may well be the closest alternative to buying a vintage Cafe Racer. Enfield are renowned for the fact that their technology and design has hardly changed for decades so they had a great starting point for the GT. An all new double cradle frame designed specially for the GT has been combined with a revised version of the Thunderbird swingarm along with the Thunderbirds larger forks to produce handling characteristics that are in keeping with it's Cafe Racer appearance. Enfield have also used high performance, gas filled shocks on the bike which were originally Ohlins but now look to have been swapped for a cheaper brand to keep production costs down.