Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Royal Enfield Continental GT, the perfect cafe racer?

English designer Charlie Trelogan wrote "How to Build a Cafe Racer" on the BikeExif.com blog. He established basic guidelines for the ideal cafe racer and illustrated how these lines worked to turn a Honda motorcycle into a cafe racer.

I thought it would be fun to superimpose the lines he drew onto the new Royal Enfield Continental GT, to see how well it does in comparison.

You'll have to read the original article to learn the justifications Trelogan provided for the lines he drew. But just looking at them surely provides some idea.

How does the Royal Enfield do, all told? Very well, but not perfectly.

The Foundation.
The Foundation, a straight line (bumps and bends are distracting) above two equal size wheels.

The Cut Off Points.
The Cut Off Points run through the wheel center lines. No bodywork should extend past them.

The Height Limit.
The Height Limit. Low and lean. Nothing should extend above the top of the tank.

The Bone Line.
The Bone Line. Widest part of the bike. Best if it runs through the center of the headlamp.

Visual Weight.
Visual Weight. The mass of the bike is here, ideally topped by the tank. Peak of the tank should fall right on the center line of the cylinder.

The Swoop.
The Swoop ties the seat and the tank together.

Main Angles.
Main Angles. Straight, not spaghetti.

Secondary Angles.
Secondary Angles. Your eye likes things to line up.

Fork Distance.
Fork Distance. Tuck in that wheel. Makes it look mean.

Evaluated this way, the Continental GT looks a bit too long. To achieve the rough, tough look of the ideal cafe racer it should be more tucked in and less open around the motor. Note the Visual Weight illustration: cladding behind the motor (where the tool boxes would be on a Bullet) creates mass where openness is wanted.

Ironically, while working for Tata in India Trelogan built his own design based on the Royal Enfield Bullet 350!

The designer crafts his own Royal Enfield.
Looking at it tells us where he might have taken the Continental GT.


  1. There ain't no formulae for a cafe racer. You build them, you don't buy them. That means each one is unique. They might follow a style, early 60's Tritons for example, but still different. They are what each individual builder wants them to be.

    1. Chuck D5/10/2014

      I think the point here is that there is that there are elements of visual design which best please the eye and mind with regards to line and proportion. When these basic elements, as outlined in the original article, are observed by the builder, the result will stand a good chance of being both visually appealing and a faithful evocation of a particular era in motorcycle history.


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