The Royal Enfield test riders say their brief for these bikes was to make them fun and they’ve succeeded. Because it doesn’t make huge amounts of power, you can rev the nuts of it and spend the whole day stretching your throttle cables without feeling like you’ve had the shit kicked out of you. When a corner approaches, the Bybre brakes scrub off speed well with a decent bite and good modulation – hell even the budget Pirellis do a great job of sticking to the road. Riding along you start wondering where they’ve saved the money, then you come across some challenging corners and it all becomes painfully apparent.
When you really start to push on, the budget suspension starts to struggle although it remains slightly more composed than the Interceptor. The bikes are very soft, at the request of the Indian market, and can wallow on fast, sweeping roads but the GT comes with more rear preload as standard, which helps put a bit more weight onto the front. The clip-ons and rear sets also push you weight further forward, eliminating the worst of the ‘floaty’ feeling from the budget springs. When you consider the price, you can forgive the bike a few faults – there are more expensive bikes with naff suspension too – but it’s still disappointing.
The Continental GT is fitted with Enfield’s brand new, air-cooled 650 parallel twin. It doesn’t make huge amounts of power or torque, but that’s not really the point and it has ‘enough’. Down low there’s a reasonable amount of torque with 80% arriving before 2500rpm, so you can chug it out of corners but you can rev it all the way to its 8000rpm redline. The throttle is lovely and smooth too, partially as a by-product of its low power, plus it’s A2 compliant.
Holding on to gears brings you a bit more power while also rewarding you with a fantastic exhaust note. It sounds like it’s straight out of the ‘60s, which is a miracle in a Euro4 strangled world – there are even some S&S cans coming for noisy types. The new six-speed gearbox (an Enfield first!) is slick and if you keep feeding it gears it will clamber all the way to the magic ton.
For the brief 150 miles we rode the bike on the launch, nothing broke so I guess it’s 5/5. In all seriousness Enfield doesn’t have the best rep for reliability but that’s something they want to change. All the new bikes that come off the line will go through a 1007 point check, which Enfield say takes over six hours to complete. If that’s not enough, every new bike will come with a three year unlimited mileage warranty, so it comes with peace of mind too. Speaking personally – I wouldn’t have any concerns about buying one and it falling apart on the ride home.
Royal Enfield are known for the budget bikes and the Continental 650 continues that crusade. They’ve not actually confirmed the final UK price for the bike just yet but based on the US pricing, and the price of their current singles, we’re expecting it to be around £5995. A brand new 650cc twin bike with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty for under £6000. Could leave Street Cup owners feeling a little sick.
Despite its budget price there’s some decent kit. Brakes are from Brembo subsidiary ByBre and they’re paired with Bosch’s two-channel ABS. Pirelli provide the tyres (although 18” sizes doesn’t leave many aftermarket options). The retro clocks are nice too and they’ve even got a fuel gauge, although they’re not as feature rich as the ones on the Himalayan, which is a bit of a shame. The fit and finish of the rest of the bike isn’t bad either – the only thing that really lets it down is the budget suspension.