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Royal Enfield: Raising the flag

2013-11-21 13:33


CURE FOR A CRISIS: Miss uShaka 2103, Chloe Stone, with Brice Bizzel, MD of Royal Enfield South Africa, and the Royal Enfield Continental GT at its unveiling at the 2013 Durban auto show. Image: ALWYN VILJOEN

Those of you who were teenagers in the 1960's will remember Royal Enfield bikes... but they're better, now. The Continental GT is a sure cure for any masculine mid-life crisis

South Africa's ironic ranks of thumper-riders have been keenly awaiting the local launch of the Royal Enfield Continental GT, first launched at the Ace Café in London in September 2013 and recently at the 2013 Durban auto show.

Riders of more modern bikes may scoff at Royal Enfield's (RE) advertisements that this motorcycle is their "fastest, lightest, most powerful yet" with "a more streamlined silhouette", but MD of RE South Africa Brice Bizzel touted the company line, saying the Continental GT is "a nod to motorcycling's finest hour" and "the best expression yet of a cultural phenomenon that has simply refused to fade away - the café racer".


Anyone who remembers that hour would have been a teenager in the 1960's and is right now throwing cash at anything that will bring back those memories of energy and tautness. To be sure, few machines are better-suited to stave of a mid-life crisis than the Royal Enfield's café racer. It has digital electric ignition for normal days but, for those special days when a rider needs to display his virility, a kick-start.

Torque is sufficient at 44Nm at 4000rpm with peak power a sedate 21.4kW at 5100 rpm. Five gears, gas shocks and a pillion seat complete the package. With the single piston steadily thumping away like a 535cc pacemaker, this 184kg bike is strictly for cruising to and parking at a fast-food joint that understands the importance of deep-frying in hot oil.


While on the topic of oil, sales manager Gareth Hope-Bailie said all RE's have been re-engineered and no longer mark their territory with a liberal dripping of refined crude. "They now claim everywhere as their territory," he said, fondly patting the saddle seat of a Classic 500.

He shrugged off a question about the GT being a machine for those in a mid-life crisis, saying if it were that simple his marketing job would be easy. "We get all ages, from young people who just commute to the weekend tourers, to one client who just parks the bike in his lounge."

Only 15 Continental GT's have been ordered for South Africa for now. They are priced at around R70 000 though with the number of test rides booked by the thumper ranks already double the national supply and a year-long waiting list in India for any Royal Enfield model, expect that price to rise a tad.
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