The Legend Returns: Royal Enfield Continental GT 535 Cafe Racer

I’ve been following the development of the Royal Enfield Continental GT 535 Cafe Racer closely since it was showcased at the Indian Auto Expo in the beginning of 2012. This week the Continental GT has been unveiled at the Ace Cafe London and will go on sale to the public for the bargain price of 5,200 British Pounds. Unlike any other model in the Royal Enfield line up the GT 535 is a sports-bred machine using exclusive performance parts and an upgraded engine. This isn’t the first Continental GT to come out of the Royal Enfield factories though, so I thought we’d take a quick look at the differences between the 2 and what the new 2013 Continental GT 535 has to offer its potential customers.

Back in 1965, Royal Enfield started producing the original Continental GT 250 out of their Redditch factory in the UK. The entire concept behind the bike was to create a factory-made Cafe Racer, like the bikes the Rockers were custom building, to offer customers an “off the shelf” custom. Back then the Continental GT was powered by a 250cc, 4-stroke motor with a 5-speed gearbox that produced a peak power figure of 21bhp. The GT 250 featured clip-on bars, a red fibreglass tank, a humpback-style seat and Enfield’s signature single downtube frame. While 250cc may not seem like a lot the ’65 GT held claim to being the fastest 250cc in Britain (top speed of around 74mph) and enjoyed much success despite the gradual decline of the British motorcycle industry over the coming years.

Fast forward 48 years and the Continental GT is back! The Cafe Racer spirit of the original GT remains intact but the engineering behind the new bike has been dramatically upgraded. Design-wise you’ll find a similarly styled tank and seat combo finished in red with the exception of the fibreglass being replaced by steel. The clip-on bars are also still there but are attached above the top yoke for a slightly less aggressive riding position and that’s where the similarities end.

For starters, the 2013 Continental GT 535 uses a frame, unlike any other Royal Enfield. For the first time in Enfield history, they opted against their single downtube frame and have developed a twin downtube cradle frame in conjunction with Harris Performance in the UK. Combined with a set of 41mm telescopic forks and twin Paioli gas shocks Enfield has created a motorcycle that they claim provides “authentic Cafe Racer ride and handling“. To further enhance the GT’s handling a set of Brembo discs and callipers manage the breaking and sticky 18” Pirelli Sport Demon tyres hold it to the road.

At the heart of the GT 535 lies an engine that boasts the biggest capacity of any motorcycle in the Enfield lineup. With their classic, unit construction, 500cc, 4 stroke single as the starting point, Enfield has increased capacity to 535cc. Combined with a Keihin EFI system, remapped ECU and a specially designed exhaust (with upswept megaphone style muffler) this revised design delivers a peak power figure of 29.1bhp. To get the most out of the horses the GT 535 also happens to be the lightest bike in the Enfield range. At 184kg it’s a whopping 15kg lighter than its closest predecessor the Thunderbird 500.

With prices for the US set at approximately $7500 the Royal Enfield Continental GT 535 could be the perfect choice for anyone looking to own their own modern Cafe Racer. To date, the GT is easily one of the best ‘production’ Cafe Racers we’ve seen and for the price. As the bikes start to sell in the UK and India it’s going to be very interesting how they perform under such different climates and road conditions. For more about the Enfield, you can check out the where you will also find a range of GT jackets and gear for devoted fans.

“A look into the lightest, fastest, most powerful Royal Enfield in production – the culture that inspired it, the collaborators who finessed it, its combination of retro styling and ahead-of-the-curve engineering and why it is lauded by those who know their café racers. Explore our finest expression yet of pure motorcycling.”