Back in Time – The Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

Written by William Gee.

Last year, Royal Enfield looked back into its archive and pulled out another gem from its emotive and influential history.

Photo: Thomas Grube

Photo: Thomas Grube

In 1964, the original Continental GT was a 250cc and was used for competition racing due to its spritely potential. The Redditch built bike was also popular with the notorious ‘café racers,’ when they were not bashing the heads of ‘mods’ in.

The new £5199 Indian built Continental is bigger, more refined, yet it manages to keep the atmosphere that only Royal Enfield can produce.

The engine is an all new 535cc fuel-injected single-cylinder, which produces an eye-watering 29 brake horse power. However, do not be put off by this low power output because that is all the bike needs.

The lightweight tubular steel, Harris performance frame and glorious body only come to a grand total of 184 kilograms.

This means the single cylinder is not exactly a snail. It is never going to beat an R1 or a Daytona off the line, but the Enfield does not claims to do this.

As James May once said whilst reviewing the Ferrari 250 California: “It is not about the power output, it is about the nature of the delivery.”

Riding it along the twisting and winding roads of the Lincolnshire Wolds, you can totally understand this statement. The Enfield is raw, racy, it vibrates and when fitted with a Hitchcock’s Megaphone exhaust, it has one of the best sound tracks ever heard from a ‘modern’ motorcycle.

However, it does has some issues. The handlebars are a little too high for the café-racer style and the original chrome exhaust system is prone to rust.

At high rev range the handlebars become a little bit lively from vibration, so long motorway rides are not recommended.

Having said that, I rode mine all the way to the Isle of Man on motorways and in the pouring rain and it wasn’t too uncomfortable.

The top speed is nothing memorable, only 85mph. Let us be honest though, when are you ever going to need to do that on a public road, unless you want to kiss your license goodbye?

A number of reviewers have tried to compare the new Continental to other café-racers on the market, such as the Moto-Guzzi V7 racer and the Triumph Thruxton.

However, you can’t. These two are heavyweights measuring close to 210 kilograms’ and they are much powerful, with huge engines!

Whereas, the Enfield is different. Instead, it has created a Unique Selling Point. It is the only decent lightweight, small engine café-racer on the modern market. This is why I love Enfield, they stick to principle, design and emotion, rather than power output and plastic!

2 Responses to Back in Time – The Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

  1. FMcInnes says:

    I bought one of the initial batch of “demo” Continentals from the local dealer in March of this year.
    I have had nothing but problems with it since most of a very serious and dangerous nature that should have been found by both Moto GB and the selling dealer and exhibited attempts at prior correction that only exasperated and increased the serious nature of these faults.
    1) The fuel level sensor was found to be incorrectly installed and its mounting screws overtightened distorting its mounting face and resulting in disgorging the fuel tank contents therefrom when the fuel tank was filled to the correct fill level.
    2) The rear swinging arm was incorrectly fitted at its mounting to frame where a spacer was fitted “back to front” meaning the swinging arm remain loos in the frame and could not be tightened.
    To compound this fault an additional “old” plain washer had been fitted and believe it or not when delivered to me the lock nut on this swinging arm mounting bolt presumably in an additional attempt to prevent side movement had been so overtightened that the nut was stripped and only held on by the nylon insert.
    3) Many other assembly faults have been found and corrected.
    Build of my machine is very bad, extremely dangerous, could have been disastrous to the rider and totally lacked initial build and subsequent dealer quality control

  2. Chris says:

    I brought a continental GT a couple of months ago, had the first service and all is good. I’ve owned and ridden bikes from a honda cg125 to a yamaha R1, I wasn’t expecting the best build qaulity or reliability from the Enfield but so far I am impressed. The bike starts first time every time and last time I went out it was 2 degrees ! I brought the sports package with the bike so have the alloy mirrors, sports exhaust (sounds great) and duel seat with pillion pegs and grab handles. Everything works as should, brakes work great, suspension is a little firm but takes the bumps well and handling is very good – the bike is well planted and corners well. The power delivery is smooth and consistent, you do need to ride this bike like you rode in the 60’s, using the gears, watching the Rev range and short shifting to get maximum use out of the power it has. This bike reminds you what made motorcycles great, provides a permenent grin and gets plenty of attention.