Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 (2019) | Review

 

The new-for-2019 650cc engine from Royal Enfield is the most powerful twin-cylinder the firm has delivered in 50 years. And they’ve strapped it into two very cool, retro-feel models with significant heritage yet a brand new, well, everything. Royal Enfield v2.0 is taking off and having sold 16 x as many bikes last year as it did in 2010, the investment laid out in both India and the UK is paying dividends. This from a firm who sold its first motorbike way back in 1901. 

 

One half of the dynamic duo is the Continental GT. Café racer extraordinaire. According to the boss of Royal Enfield, Siddhartha Lal, the middleweight market has been screaming out for a bike like this, alongside it’s stablemate the more upright Interceptor 650. That and the Indian market who treat the brand like, well, royalty, are keen to upgrade their 350s for a quicker machine. 

 

The quality of the production has been significant with high-tech research and development centres in Chennai and Bruntingthorpe assisting with the progression of this particular chapter in the company’s distinguished history. For instance, many social media commentators were quick to judge the 650 twins when unveiled in November 2017 by aligning them with the mechanically tricky Royal Enfield’s of old. In fact, every bike that rolls off the production line has a dedicated individual to perform a 1007-point check, a process that takes 6-hours. This is a new model, everything other than its silhouette is new and has been created by experts, so off we skipped to California, almost the model’s spiritual home, for the international press launch. 


 

Price

Unfortunately, just like the Interceptor, only the price for the USA market has been announced. Every other country including the UK is being made to wait until the EICMA show in Milan on 6th November for it to be revealed. 

 

Don’t despair though because with the USA price of $5999 (base spec), $6249 (painted) and $6749 (chrome model), at least I can offer an approximate with a belief the UK prices won’t be far away from the American numbers except with a £ instead of a $. That also include a 3-year warranty and free roadside assistance. The Continental GT 650 will be available in dealerships from early 2019. 

 

Reliability-wise, I spoke to a test rider who told me 100 bikes had been shipped to California for the press launch, each had been ridden for seven days (four for press rides and three beforehand for route and bike preparation) covering 800 miles. How many issues did the team have? One puncture.

 

***UPDATED 8th November 2018***

Continental GT 650 - Standard / Black Magic

£5700

Continental GT 650 - Custom / Ice Queen

£5900

Continental GT 650 - Chrome / Mister Clean

£6200


VIDEO: Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 Twin - first impressions
Includes an interview with Royal Enfield CEO, Siddhartha Lal.

 

Power and torque

One of the project targets was to make the two 650’s A2-licence friendly opening up a far wider prospective audience across Europe. The Indian market is younger with an average age down from 38 to 27 in the last 10 years. Being A2-friendly therefore limits the power to 35kW, or 47bhp which can be found all the way up at 7250rpm, just before the limiter prevents any further progress. The throttle control is deliciously receptive with no lag or play in the grip before the relative muscle of the 648cc parallel twin kicks in. The torque delivery is a little flat but the engine offers 80% of its torque at just 2500rpm ahead of its peak of 52 Nm at 5000rpm 


The right-hand side of the new 650 twin-cylinder motor 

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

By appearance the 648cc air and oil cooled parallel twin looks like it just stepped out of the 70s but inside lays a raft of modern day engineering courtesy of those R&D centres. The throttle connection and fuelling is sweet and even though only 47bhp is on offer, the engine’s refinement is of such quality that you’d be fooled into thinking it has at least 20 more bhp. Not only does it look fab, fitting with the nostalgic values of the bike but it does get a little warm. Be careful of the engine casing on the right hand side while the small engine mounts protect your knees from melting into the cooling fins. 

 

During the engine’s development stages, the team testing alternative firing angles before settling on 270-degrees and including a balancer shaft to wipe out a lot of mechanical vibration, and they got the amount spot on. There’s still a feel from the engine that reminds you that it’s a twin cylinder underneath but it doesn’t compromise the ride. 

 

Working the engine means ploughing through quite a flat torque curve and using the 6-speed gearbox (a first for Royal Enfield) to your advantage for overtakes, drop a couple and open the throttle hard to get the drive. First gear is short which makes it a little snatchy for slow-speed town filtering while 6th is like an overdrive – only necessary for cruising. 

 
A slip-assist clutch means a lighter weight clutch lever action and it won’t allow the rear to lock if you bang down the gears too quickly.  


 

Economy

At 12.5 litres, the Continental GT’s fuel tank is marginally smaller than the Interceptor’s 13.7 litres. You should be good for 140 miles before more go-go juice is required though with that riding position, I’d applaud anyone who could achieve that in one sitting. The press launch was held on the west coast of the USA on the roads between San Jose and Santa Cruz which offered a bit of highway cruising mixed in with miles of stonking twisties through the Big Baisin Redwoods States Park and despite the on/off throttle nature of the roads I still achieved 51mpg. Way below the claimed 70mpg so a realistic figure of 60mpg would represent good value in return for your 12.5 litres of unleaded. 

 

Handling, suspension, and weight

By buying Harris Performance, famed for their frame building prowess, back in 2015, Royal Enfield has the ideal in-house expertise to get involved with the 650 Twin project from day one. The steel tubular frame has been designed with precision to offer the perfect home for the new motor while offering equal weight distribution and both accuracy and balance when riding hard. And it does. The ride quality and handling characteristics belie the price and there’s plenty of ground clearance and when tucked in, it performs more enthusiastically than is expected. 

 

The 1400mm wheelbase with an 18”, 36-spoke alloy rimmed wheel at either end, shrouded in Pirelli Phantom rubber (the rear was specially developed for the bike), allows for excellent control when carving through the turns. It’s not massively dynamic to turn but the tyres give plenty of grip when hauling around the 208kg (wet) machine. 

 

It’s the bouncy twin shocks that will have the rear shaking a little. It’s not obnoxious but is noticeable when at speed.  


 

Brakes

ByBre is a sub-brand of braking pro’s Brembo, and was launched in India to provide braking systems for scooters and small-to-mid capacity bikes specifically, making them the ideal calipers for the 320mm single disc on the Continental GT. Any more power than 47bhp carrying 198kg (kerb weight) around and a second disc would be required for a little more control and speed of slowing. On the press launch I found myself using more rear brake than ever before in order to settle the bike into the faster corners.  

 

Comfort

Any bike of this ilk is going to have its riding position questioned for comfort and the Continental GT is no different. The accessibility of a low 790 mm seat works in its favour as does the seat itself. The standard version allows for rider preference if he or she like sitting pushed-up to the tank which in turn pushes the torso up, or as I liked, pushing back on the seat against the upswept lip allowing for a more sporty position. I found this more comfortable on the wrists but also handy to tuck in for a little slip-stream based ‘race’ later in the day. 

 

The rearsets are less chunky and clunky on the Continental than the footpegs on the Interceptor and the whole bike feels narrower than the 45mm it has over its brother. I found the position of the gear selector a little high for my liking but only marginally and it looked like it could be adjusted with little effort. 


 

Equipment / Accessories

This is a simple explanation; there is no equipment above the absolute standard to get the bike. In a modern world stuffed full of technology that we only ever use 10% of, the Royal Enfield’s are refreshingly simple. Old school charm with new school reliability, the Continental GT comes in five fuel tanks colour options: Black Magic (black with two vertical gold stripes, one thicker than the other), Ventura Blue, Mister Clean (chrome), Dr. Mayham (black and chrome, split by a thin yellow diagonal stripe) and Ice Queen (white with a grey diagonal stripe outlined in blue – the bike being ridden in these photos). 

 

A broad range of trinkets including bar end mirrors, engine bars and the gloriously deep-sounding S&S slip-on’s that play an audacious tune will be available for both Twins. And the limits of the accessory range are still being stretched with luggage options that don’t get in the way of the aesthetics of the bike being on the agenda for Royal Enfield CEO, Siddhartha Lal. The boss was not only present at the press launch but rode for a while with each group, something I’d like to see more of from a bike brand head honcho. He wasn’t pottering about either!  


Royal Enfield CEO, Siddhartha Lal, on an Interceptor 

 

2019 Royal Enfield 650 verdict

Despite the exact price no being available at the time of writing, we do know an approximate and it’s certain to make the Continental GT well worth the investment by representing excellent value. It’s a bike designed to encourage the younger generation into motorcycling while appealing to those familiar with the original model and scene. The clip-on handlebars and more sporty riding position acts as a spur to work that deliciously accurate and punctual throttle plus the terrific yet gentle engine and its refined fuelling. So many components that make up Royal Enfield’s headline model(s) for its 21st century revival have been created and assembled with great quality, care and attention and when the engineers and test riders are queuing up to buy one that speaks volumes. While the lack of luggage options may restrict it from being a suitable commuter, the café racer will be right at home being ridden effortlessly on a Sunday afternoon – around an empty city even. 

 

Three things I loved about the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650

 

Refreshingly cool styling 

Engine quality 

Simple and uncomplicated 

 

Three things that I didn’t …

Lack of brake lever adjustment 

Gear lever is slightly too high 

Engine casing gets quite hot 

 

2019 Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 spec

New price

£tba (approx. £6,000)

Capacity

648cc

Bore x Stroke

78 x 67.8mm

Engine layout

Twin

Engine details

4-stroke, single overhead cam, air-oil cooled

Power

47bhp (35kW) @ 7,250rpm

Torque

38.4 lb-ft (52Nm) @ 5,250rpm

Top speed

100mph

Average fuel consumption

51/70.5mpg tested/claimed

Tank size

12.5 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

140 miles

Rider aids

ABS. That’s it.

Frame

Steel tubular, double cradle

Front suspension

41mm, 110mm travel

Front suspension adjustment

n/a

Rear suspension

Twin coil-over shocks, 88mm travel

Rear suspension adjustment

5-stage preload

Front brake

320mm single disc

Rear brake

240mm single disc

Front wheel/tyre

36 spoke alloy / 100/90-18 Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp

Rear wheel/tyre

36 spoke alloy / 130/70-18 Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp

Rake

24°

Dimensions

2122mm x 744mm 1024mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1400mm

Ground clearance

174mm

Seat height

790mm

Kerb (no fuel)/Wet weight

198/208kg

Warranty

3-years with free roadside assistance

Website

www.royalenfield.com

To insure this bike, click here

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