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Monday, May 12, 2014

Royal Enfield Continental GTs dash Top-to-Tip

The last of six Royal Enfield Continental GTs departs John O'Groats.
The Royal Enfield Top-to-Tip photograph I like best is a frame capture from a video posted on Facebook by The Cabin at John O'Groats (aka Geoff's Burger Van). Here's a link to the video, which really does capture the historic moment as the motorcycles are flagged off.

In 1964 Royal Enfield introduced its 250cc Continental GT cafe racer to the world with a 1,000 mile "reliability test" race from the top of Britain to its bottom tip. Fifty years on, Royal Enfield recreated its 24-hour end-to-end dash this weekend with a half dozen new 535cc Continental GTs.

In 1964 it was a publicity stunt. This time the Top-to-Tip run was for charity. Five teams of six riders who bid for their places began their relay race at 10 p.m. Saturday, May 10 to benefit Riders for Health.

David Dixon finished the 1964 run at Land's End; right, the 2014 route map.
The first leg of the original gallop from John O'Groats at the island's north end to Lands End in the southwest of England was ridden by Royal Enfield test rider Brian Crow. He told author Gordon May that he started with his rear wheel immersed in the North Sea; "there was no start and finish line in those days."

"The Royal Enfield Continental GT proved absolutely reliable throughout," Royal Enfield later boasted in one advertisement. Along the way, racer John Cooper had even made "eight quick laps at Silverstone."

The ad didn't mention that the 1964 Continental GT used wasn't stock.

“The engine was assembled very carefully in the competition shop so that it ran perfectly. They used a titanium con rod so that it would stand up to the thrashing it was about to get,” Crow told May.

After 50 years, better (but more crowded) roads likely eased the way. Appropriately, John Cooper, now 76, even took a new Continental GT on a lap of honor at Silverstone Sunday.

Elapsed time in 1964 was 22 hours 20 minutes. The best 2014 time was 20 hours 57 minutes. According to rider Sam Manicom's account, only two of the six 2014 Continental GTs came in under the 24-hour target, but all six finished the run.


CEO of Royal Enfield Siddhartha Lal, center, with Royal Enfield riders Tom Bray, left and Dan Cartwright in Land's End, England after the successful Top to Tip ride.

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