Thursday, September 12, 2013

Royal Enfield Continental GT inspired by original bad boy

Royal Enfield says its new cafe racer has "sporty yet ergonomic" seating.
Xenophya Design in the UK gets credit for consulting on the look of the new Royal Enfield Continental GT cafe racer. But there is no question where the inspiration came from.

The new Royal Enfield cafe racer takes up exactly where the original 1965 Continental GT left off. From the indented fuel tank to the bump stop seat to the clip-on handlebars and rear set controls — and the red color — it's the rule breaking motorcycle Roger Boss visualized in 1962.

Roger was Royal Enfield sales manager in those days. By chance, I sat next to him and legendary Royal Enfield trials rider Johnny Brittain at the press conference launching the new Continental GT Wednesday at Brooklands.

1965 Continental GT broke the rules.
Author Gordon May, a Royal Enfield legend himself, thanks to six books on the brand, MC'd the event, telling the audience how Brittain had brought racing renown to the brand while Boss had brought the company an exciting new motorcycle.

The new Continental GT is "the first production, factory built cafe racer," claimed Siddhartha Lal, CEO of Royal Enfield's parent company, Eicher Motors. But that's not quite true.

The original Continental GT, launched in 1965, deserves that title — and Roger delighted in telling me the story of how it came about as the press conference broke up.

As I got it, he had attended a sober meeting of the dealers' association at which it was agreed that there would be no forward-leaning seating position offered on factory motorcycles, as encouraging speeding was "bad for the image of motorcycling."

"I immediately went back to Royal Enfield and told them 'we've got to put clip-ons on these motorcycles!'" Roger said.

Naturally, Roger can't help but be proud of that little bit of dishonesty, and happy with the new Continental GT.

"Wonderful!" he exclaimed as applause ended the press conference.

Roger Boss, left, poses with Kevin Mahoney, U.S. distributor for Royal Enfield.
Graham Scarth, chairman of the Royal Enfield Owners Club in the UK, actually had the last word on the new Continental GT Wednesday.

"I had one of the original Continental GTs," he told the writers gathered for the press conference.

"I hope it'll put a smile on your face as big as the smile it put on mine."

Another inspiring sight at Brooklands: Johnny Brittain's Royal Enfield 500 twin, winner of the 1953 International Six Days Trial, the last time a British team won the event.

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