Monday, September 16, 2013

New Continental GT makes a pilgrimage to Redditch

Royal Enfield's new Continental GT cafe racer was present to be photographed at the National Museum of Motorcycles in Birmingham, U.K. Centerpiece was the Redditch built original, center.
One Australian journalist called it "quite a nice trick," taking the press gathered for the launch of the new Royal Enfield Continental GT through the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, U.K.

"All the time we're passing up motorcycles we would absolutely drool over to look at a bunch of (naughty word) Royal Enfields!"

Gordon May shows the press Royal Enfields in the National Motorcycle Museum.
Author Gordon May accomplished this feat, noting with pride at one point that the group had its back toward "an absolutely stunning collection of Bough Superiors."

We were instead closely examining a Royal Enfield 500 Twin ("boring name," Gordon acknowledged).

Gordon May wheels out a Flying Flea: Rubber band front suspension!
Royal Enfield didn't just introduce a new model last week in the UK. The company immersed the visiting press in the appeal of the Rockers and cafe racers, taking us on a walking tour of the London of the Swinging '60s, and to talks on "revivalist subcultures" from photographer Nick Clements and on cafe racers by Sideburn magazine publisher Gary Inman.

At Lewis Leathers (founded 1892) owner Derek Harris showed us original pattern leather motorcycle jackets. Did you know the Rockers liked the zipper to the side (the "Lightning" jacket) so it wouldn't scratch the tank when they laid across it?

The "Bullet" for 1934 had an actual speeding bullet motif on the tank.
Final stop Sept. 12 was Redditch, the site of Royal Enfield factories for most of its existence in Britain. Gordon conducted the group past the crumbling remains of the once immense works, pointing out the words "Royal Enfield" still visible on the roof, and, if you look, in Google satellite view.

Refreshments were at the Royal Enfield Cafe in Redditch. Once the town's movie palace, the Royal Enfield is now a spacious pub and restaurant. The new Royal Enfield Continental GT and its 1965 predecessor were drawn up outside in the sunshine.

What do people who built the original (left) think of a Royal Enfield from India?
But just inside there were a few icy stares from locals watching the leather-clad Indians and their motley crew of motor writers swarming off the bus.

"I wonder what English people think?" one Indian quietly said to me.

Martyn Clarke, "Redditch born and bred," stepped up to break the ice. He's in the oil business and has an Indian-made Bullet in Dubai.

Naturally, his association with Royal Enfield is a long one. He remembers his father had a Royal Enfield in the shed on their garden allotment. Young Martyn was told he could ride it as soon as he could pick it up. He was delighted when the day finally came, but disappointed that his father only meant he could ride back and forth from home to the shed!

"I'm sorry to see it go to India," Martyn said. "Redditch had Royal Enfield and there was BSA in Birmingham and Triumph in Meriden. We had a world motorcycle industry in the Midlands."

Modern motorcycles don't do that much for him anyway.

"I'm an engineer, being in the oil business. If it's just a matter of taking out one chip and putting in another chip..." He shook his head.

I told him that the new Continental GT cafe racer uses the traditional Royal Enfield long-stroke motor and that the company's CEO says he wants someone — perhaps in the UK — to build him one that will do the ton.

"If he wants to do that, I know some people who could help," Martyn said. "If people want to get back to basic engineering, that's awesome!"

Journalists photograph plaque noting location of Royal Enfield factory in Redditch.


  1. Anonymous9/17/2013

    Hats orf to Royal Enfield !
    Looks like a damn fine show all round - don't yer think .
    Very glad to see RE dragging a bunch of journalists round by the scruff of the neck to show them the heritage of the marque , [even Blasco might learn a thing or two - mmm what ].
    Can't hurt to educate the buggers ,some of 'em might even remember the odd fact .
    Not so sure about the side zipper old boy , upon observation one finds all manner of badges and studs embellishing the Rocker's jackets [ dreaful types ],bound to cause a scratch don't yer think . Mebbe twas to avoid entanglement with the castrator parcel rack found on Triumphs ,-haar haaaar haaaaaaaaaaaar !
    Keep up the good work Blasco ,
    Your servant ,
    Maj Bunty Golightly MBH , Defender of the Kickstart .

    1. Thank you, Major. Yes, I wondered about that zipper explanation as well. And would someone tough as a Rocker care about... paint???!

  2. Anonymous9/17/2013

    From above:

    ---"I told him that the new Continental GT cafe racer uses the traditional Royal Enfield long-stroke motor and that the company's CEO says he wants someone — perhaps in the UK — to build him one that will do the ton.

    "If he wants to do that, I know some people who could help," Martyn said---

    I know some people who could help, too - Tom and Chumma of ACE Engineering:

    ~ Mattsz

    1. Yes, I thought the same thing. I wonder if they would consider going into series production of cafe racer Fireballs?

  3. The bike is a still an old technology design with a few modern upgrades for emissions and reliable riding. It is what it is and appeals to those that want simple.....old school....classic style. It is not a CRF450 or other modern high horsepower single 4-stroke engine with the latest tech built for maximum performance. And those that it appeals to will pay the price, and don't care that for the same money one could get many other bikes that will blow it off the road. Doesn't matter. They know, but they don't care. They want it for the nostalgia, the looks, the feel, etc.
    But if one does some work on the's got the frame, brakes, suspension and other appendages in place so it won't be long before you'll see them screaming along and impressing many nay-sayers. Book it!


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