The Continental GT Legacy: 50 Years of Evolution
The 2014 reincarnation of the Continental GT is undoubtedly the most awesome new thing Royal Enfield has done in 50 years. Today’s version is actually the newest step in an evolution that started with the advent of the Café Racer in 1950. The first production Royal Enfield cafe bike was the 1961 Meteor and in 1965, with significant redesign, they launched the first Continental GT. In those days, a 250cc engine powered the bike and Royal Enfield claimed the Enfield GT as “Britain’s fastest 250”. In 1985, RE upgraded the Indian-built GT with a 350 motor and in 1990, an Enfield cafe bike consisted of a Bullet 500 with a dealer or customer installed Clubman conversion kit.
The 1965 Continental GT 250
The 1965 model had an air-cooled 250cc four-stroke power plant producing 21.5 brake horsepower (BHP), coupled to a five speed transmission. The motor was started with a kick starter and the ignition system was conventional contact points and condenser. The engine was aspirated by a Dellorto carburetor and blown through a “Gold Star” type sport exhaust system. Top speed for the 250 GT was 74 MPH.
The 2014 Continental GT 535
The 2014 Royal Enfield Continental GT has an air-cooled 535cc 4-stroke fed by Keihin electronic fuel injection, pumping out 29.1 BHP and 32.5 ft./lbs of torque. The new motor sports both kickstarter and electric start and the ignition system is now electronic, which has a remapped ECU from the other RE models. The GT is fitted with Paioli Twin gas charged rear shock absorbers and 41mm telescopic front forks. On the front wheel is a Brembo 300mm Floating disc, with a Twin Piston floating caliper; the rear brake is a 240mm disc, and a One-piston floating caliper. The 18-inch tires are premium high performance Pirelli Sport Demons. The maximum speed reported by road testers is 75 MPH.
Looks can be Everything
Now that you have a snapshot of the technical differences between the old GT and the new one, what comes next is an aesthetic comparison. From a distance, the two bikes look very similar, almost identical; however, a closer inspection reveals obvious improvements in the 2014 design. The fuel tank has a slightly higher “hump” as does the bubble on the back of the seat. The 535 engine is absolutely gorgeous; the best-looking motor RE has ever produced. The 1965 250 engine was, well…kind of utilitarian. The bar-end mirrors on the U.S. version are super cool looking. The yellow Paioli shocks look great if you’re sort of a techno-buff, but some folks would prefer chrome or black. Of course, nobody would give up the handling advantage of the Paioli gas-charged suspension; repaint them perhaps.
Is the New GT Better Than the Old One
Aside from the intrinsic improvements due to advancements in several technologies, Royal Enfield has otherwise greatly improved the 2014 Continental GT over its predecessor 1965 model. One distinct improvement is the double down-tube frame, a total departure from Enfield’s single tube design found on every other bike in their history. The GT was wildly popular in the 60s and put Royal Enfield’s name back on top, the new Royal Enfield Continental GT 535 will hopefully accomplish the same thing.