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Continental GT 650 – A 60’s Café Racer Throwback

Royal Enfield hit it out of the park when they released the Continental GT 650, it is the ultimate value café racer that I am completely in love with. 

Sure it is pretty straightforward, a little basic and the specs won’t blow you away, but that isn’t what this motorcycle is about. 

What we have is a retro styled modern motorcycle that looks back to the good old days of British motorcycling while keeping those nuisance flaws in check like leaky seals and warped chassis’. 

Let’s take a look at the Continental GT 650 in a bit of depth and see if you end up liking it as much as I do.

Continental GT 650 review

The Continental GT 650 is a twin cylinder air cooled throw back to Cafe Racers of the 50's and 60's with just enough modern features to get it past the emissions and safety clipboard brigade
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The Continental GT 650 is a twin cylinder air cooled throw back to Cafe Racers of the 50’s and 60’s with just enough modern features to get it past the emissions and safety clipboard brigade

Following the Interceptor, the Continental GT 650 shares a lot of the same components including the engine with the preceding model. 

The engine is the first modern Royal Enfield design being an air-cooled parallel twin. Up until this point the engine designs had only been single-cylinders.

The extra cylinder means a leap in power and torque which was so desperately wanted by European and American riders, so to cater to the market the parallel twin was produced. This was a huge part of the company’s expansion plan for 2017 onwards. 

Royal Enfield stated that over a half a million miles were tested prior to release and the engine had undergone over 70 tests to prove its performance and reliability. 

The idea wasn’t to create the fastest, most powerful twin on the market but to build one ready for real world riding conditions that it would soak up with ease. 

It might not be a high performance engine but power delivery is smooth and has a pretty good amount of torque, working the gears will get you up to speed and you won’t struggle to ride at all speed limits and overtake where needed. 

Paired with the modern engine is a traditional chassis, basic but competent suspension and the modern benefit of ABS.

Stylistically you get a solo seat, clip on bars, tear drop tank for the rider’s knees to hug and rear set footpegs which give the traditional café racer look along with some very classy paint schemes to choose from. 

So what does it all surmount too, how does the bike ride?

Well, this is where things get a bit complicated. If you were going to climb aboard and expect the Continental GT to ride like a modern bike, say the Triumph Street Twin then you are going to be disappointed. 

However, I don’t think that is an altogether bad thing. 

The bike handles perfectly fine, the suspension is a bit soft and doesn’t really cater to throwing the bike around in the bends for precision cornering but it does do the job.

It has the charm of feeling very much like an original motorcycle from the 60’s, only incorporating modern systems and parts where needed to meet todays rules and regulations – ABS, fuel injectors, disc brakes etc.

Where I may call it charm, another rider may call it outdated, lumpy and inefficient, but I think my thought process is better.

For the price you are not going to get a monster performance machine, it just isn’t reasonable to think so, but you do get a competent ride that you can have a blast on. 

You also get the peace of mind that Royal Enfield does a 1007 point check on each bike before it leaves the production line and a 3 year unlimited mileage warranty. 

In terms of reliability and build quality I would have absolutely no worries at all. 

Components like Brembo disc brakes provide greater stopping power and add a quality feel and the clocks are classy, fit and finish is all nice and tidy and the bike looks complete. 

The Continental GT 650 undercuts all other rivals in the production café racer segment, and it offers serious value for money. It looks incredible, a real head turner, it sounds pretty good too and is fun to ride once you accept it isn’t a thrill-seeking racer. 

Continental GT 650 top speed

The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 has an estimated top speed of 105 mph. 

Where is the Continental GT 650 made?

The Continental GT was designed at Royal Enfield’s Technology Center in Leicestershire, England. It is said that they poached a couple of Triumph engineers who designed and built the parallel twin engine.

Although designed and tested in England, all Royal Enfield motorcycles are actually produced at one of their factories in India. Royal Enfield have been building motorcycles in India since 1955 and they’ve long since ironed out any manufacturing problems.

Continental GT 650 Specs

Continental GT 650
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Engine and Transmission

  • Engine – Four-stroke, parallel twin, SOHC
  • Capacity – 646cc
  • Bore x Stroke – 78 x 67.8mm
  • Compression Ratio – 9.5:1
  • Air-Cooled
  • Electric and Kick Start
  • Induction – Bosch fuel injection
  • Max Power – 47 horsepower
  • Max Torque – 51.5Nm
  • Transmission – Six Speed gearbox, Slipper clutch
  • Final Drive – Chain

Chassis and Dimensions

  • Frame – Steel tubular, double cradle frame
  • Front Suspension – 41mm telescopic fork
  • Rear Suspension – Twin rear shock absorbers
  • Front Brakes – Single floating disc, 320mm, 2 piston floating caliper, ABS
  • Rear Brakes – Single disc 240mm, single floating caliper, ABS
  • Seat Height – 790mm
  • Dry Weight – 198g
  • Fuel tank Capacity – 12.5 liters

Continental GT 650 Price

The Continental GT 650 cash payment price starts at £6,239 in the UK or $6,199 in the USA. The color schemes at this price are British Racing Green and Rocker Red.

If you pay a little extra you can get the bike in Ventura Storm or Dux Deluxe.

Lastly the most expensive paint option will set you back £6,739/$6,999 and that is called Mr Clean. It is all chromed out and is my favorite of all the options, even though the chrome will be a pain to keep sparkling clean. 

Who’s it for?

Royal Enfield are targeting a couple of different audiences with the Continental GT. 

The first is to hit the spot for the older bikers who were a part of or remember the café culture scene. Those original old Royal Enfield, Norton, BSA and Triumph motorcycles, stripped down to reduce weight and adding clip ons, rear sets and a bump stop seat for an aerodynamic riding position. 

The new bike gives these riders an opportunity to own something similar but with some modern features, comfort and performance thrown in such as being equipped with ABS and not needing to be worked on after every ride.

The Interceptor 650 is definitely targeted more at youth and new riders rather than the Continental GT 650 whose second audience is for those following the modern resurgence of the cafe racer.

In this segment the bike provides a budget alternative to something like the Triumph Thruxton but shares the style and attitude. 

It is a niche bike that fits into the scene without having to do any customisation work yourself. 

You May Also Like….

There are several other off-the-shelf cafe racer type motorcycles but none are on par with Royal Enfields price, which is where it beats off all the competition.  

The Triumph Thruxton RS, Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer, Norton Commando V4CR and BMW R Nine T are all priced in excess of $11,000 and reach heights of $16,000 with the Norton likely to be closer to $20,000. 

While the Royal Enfield is much cheaper, each of the competition offers something special to the market and are all highly respected models. 

The Triumph, BMW, Norton and Ducati are also significantly bigger in their engine capacity and power output compared to the Royal Enfield. 

Summary

The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 is a motorcycle that looks amazing, rides like a 60’s original without the grief and gives you a custom bike look without you having to pick up a wrench or send it to a mechanic. 

It is just an awesome motorcycle from the get go and I am not sure why anyone would want to spend double on the competition to achieve the same vibe, unless of course, power and speed are your priority.

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