Friday, January 18, 2013

Royal Enfield Factory Cafe Racer

Royal Enfield Continental GT

By Scott Araujo

In 1965 Royal Enfield released the Continental GT, a cafe racer style bike.  It had low bars, sporty looks, and good performance.  It was popular though made in small numbers.  Fast forward fifty years and they've done it again.  
 Royal Enfield Cafe Racer from bike show in Seattle
Cafe racer style bikes have been making a big comeback.  It's a great way to take an old 70s or 80s bike, put in just a little money and DIY, and have a very cool one of a kind bike.  Is it faster?  Sometimes, but who cares!  It looks faster.  It's more about doing it yourself, having fun, and not spending too much.  The spirit of punk rock incarnated as a motorcycle.

That's one side of the coin.  There are also plenty of very fast, over the top, super clean bikes out there from professionals and amateurs alike.  People will gather up an original Featherbed frame and all the vintage alloy bodywork needed, put in a fast motor (new or old), and come up with a bike that grabs everyone's attention no matter what's parked next to it.  If you want to see the full spectrum of what's out there check out Cafe Racer Magazine or Cafe Racer TV, on Velocity network and available on DVD.  I've got a subscription to the magazine and three seasons of the show on DVD, great stuff all around.

Royal Enfield Cafe Racer side shot
2010 Concept Bike
Back to the RE.  The factory has been floating the cafe racer idea for some time.  At the 2010 Indian Auto Expo Show they had a concept bike on display.  It was built out of one of the new UCE bikes and looked pretty sweet.  Their first test of the waters.

Royal Enfield Cafe Racer rear shot
2012 Concept Bike
Jump ahead to the 2012 Indian Auto Expo and they had another concept bike on display.  It looks similar at a glance but it was really a whole new animal.  It still had the stock 500cc UCE engine but just about everything else was different.  The multi-piece single downtube UCE frame with the engine as a stressed member was replaced with a much stouter full double cradle frame.  This immediately led to speculation in the community that a bigger powerplant was planned, perhaps the new twin that RE has admitted is in development.  It also had beefier forks, a bigger front disc, a rear disc in place of the production UCE's drum, clip on bars, trick accessories like Ohlins forks, adjustable rearset pegs, and more style than Paris fashion week.  This wasn't a cosmetic rework of an existing bike; it was clear they weren't playing around.  It had the looks and the engineering to back it up.

Royal Enfield Cafe Racers

And now it's really here.  It was unveiled at the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach.  Some of the concept bling is gone.  The Ohlins shocks are replaced with a similar looking but less expensive Paioli units, the trick rearsets are also replaced with more mundane looking production units without all that adjustability.  On the other hand, the bike was sporting a UCE 535cc engine.  This was a common overbore displacement of the old engines and is said to produce 36hp at the crank.  (Rumor has it the development on the twin has slowed down for the moment.)  That's a big step up from the 27hp of the 500cc UCE.  Couple that with a claimed 360 pound curb weight (down more than 70 pounds from the current production bikes) and this thing will certainly move.  You may not be catching any 600cc repli-racers on the straights but you will have twice as much fun in the turns and look five times as cool.  Oh, and you can see from the pic of the tank at the top of the page that there's a nice nod to the original model.

Royal Enfield cafe racer - Subcompact Culture

The bike will be getting to the US market in late summer 2013, so it will technically end up being a 2014 model year bike.  What was shown in Long Beach is still pre-production so some things could still change, but I'll bet it's going to be pretty close to what was on display.  Knowing the company I also wouldn't be too surprised if the release date slips a little.  Though not in the same region of the world, Indians seem to share the same relaxed attitude toward deadlines and delivery dates as the Italians.  Fine by me, they both make some great bike.

Long Beach Show Unveil Video from Motorcycle Daily

Road test of the original 1965 Continental GT

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