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Future collectible - Royal Enfield Continental GT535

(from MT #356 circa Feb 2020)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535


Beyond sweet styling and handling, Royal Enfield’s modern café racer was a global image-maker

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

Sometimes, a new motorcycle model represents a whole lot more than a fresh coat of paint and new componentry. And this was very much the case for the 2013 launch of Royal Enfield’s Continental GT 535.

While an updated single from this maker wasn’t necessarily earth-shattering – it had after all been building them for decades – this bike represented a true coals to Newcastle story. Here was an Indian maker that bought the rights to a sturdy English design during the 1950s and was now using London as the base for its international launch of a very English café racer.

Righto, let’s roll back for a quick bit of history. Royal Enfield had, since the start of the 20th century, been a moderately successful motorcycle manufacturer. It’s prime glamour model over the years was the 650, 700cc and then 740cc Interceptor twin, a rival for similar products from Triumph and BSA.

However, its bread and butter range included the 350 and 500 Bullet singles, which had been in the showrooms in various forms since 1931. In the mid-1950s, the series was being assembled in India, to supply the local military.

Things went badly for the British firm in the 1960s and it was out of business by 1970. Meanwhile, Enfield India kept plugging away with its Bullets. In fact, you were able to buy them here and in other western markets, branded as Enfields without the ‘Royal’ appellation.

Without question, the biggest shift occurred when Enfield came under the control of the giant Eicher concern and became the pet project of a scion of the family that now owned the firm, Siddhartha Lal. An economist with post-graduate qualifications as an engineer, he made it a mission to first win back the Royal Enfield branding through the courts.

In relatively short order, the company underwent a restructure, shut down an outdated manufacturing plant and established two new ones and gave the venerable Bullet series a heart transplant. The latter involved an alloy engine designed for fuel injection, which was up and running by 2007.

In 500 form that engine unit was still no powerhouse – we’re talking around 25 horses (18kW) – but it was quieter, easier to start and more robust than its predecessor.

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

Roll on to 2013 and the company announces an international launch aimed very much at export markets, based from a motel in London. It’s for the Continental GT535 café racer, a revival of the look and nameplate of one of the firm’s 1960s successes, the Continental GT250.

Just to whet everyone’s appetite, it cheerfully announces the machine has been developed in very close consultation with that most British of hot-up firms, Harris Performance Products. Oh, and the overall lines were done with UK-based Xenophya Design. Really, any more British and you’d expect it to come with a lifetime supply of fish and chips!

As for the launch, it was an extraordinary exercise. It included a seminar on British café racer culture, with tours of the Ace Café, Soho, Lewis Leathers and Brooklands. There was even a run to Brighton, though the suggestion we re-enact the mods versus rockers brawls of 1964 met with disapproval.
As for the bike, it was a sweetheart. The styling was spot-on.

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

Spec was reasonably basic. The alloy engine had been given a modest capacity boost to 535cc, and remained a two-valve air-cooled unit with electronic injection. It claimed a little more horsepower than the Bullet at 22kW (29hp) and was matched to a five-speed transmission.

The chassis was based around a very conventional twin-loop steel frame, with non-adjustable fork and twin Paoli shocks with ride height adjustment. That lot rode on wire-spoked Excel rims, with single disc brakes at both ends. Of course, Brembo supplied the hardware for the stoppers.

All up it claimed 184kg rolling weight, with all fluids except fuel.

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

There’s no question Royal Enfield hit the proverbial nail on the head with the styling. To that point it was easily the best-looking interpretation of a café racer launched by any maker in recent history. It presented well – quality of finish was clearly a priority – and it felt good in the saddle.

Despite the clip-on handlebars and the long-looking fuel tank, the ride position was quite benign, and surprisingly comfortable. There was unquestionably some vibration from the engine, though that tended not to be intrusive until you were hammering the thing. By 130km/h it was becoming intrusive.
Suspension was short travel – okay for most situations – while it steered very nicely. Medium pace turn-in with very neutral manners and precise feel. Lovely.

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

Braking was strong, with decent feel, though the front lever liked a bit of effort to really wake up.

The main question mark was over the performance. Just under 30 horses at a lazy 5100rpm seemed a bit light-on, when you could easily imagine a maker pulling more like 40 without too much trouble. At the launch, it was argued the bikes were intended to be a ‘blank canvas’ to which owners could apply their own touches, including hot-up bits.

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

Maybe. It might also have been influenced by the need to get an air-cooled single past so many variations of design rules across the globe. Plus, the conservative tuning helped to guarantee good reliability.

In any case, the performance was adequate. It would cruise at 120km/h and top speed was nearer 145km/h. Where this thing really shone was a swing through a set of curves, maybe somewhere up in the hills, where you could take advantage of the decent spread of torque and the delightful handling. It had few peers as a low-stress Sunday head-clearer.

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

Not long after the firm announced it was to release a new series of twins – at the 2017 Milan show – Royal Enfield revealed the Conti 535 was to be dropped. Production ceased in early 2018, with the remaining stocks selling over that year.

While it had served its purpose as an image-maker for the company, the 535 didn’t seem to sell in the numbers the company might have hoped for. In Australia, they cost a shade under $10,000 on the road, which was reasonable. However, that price range became increasingly crowded, with a number of Japanese 650 twins nudging into that space.

There are a few on the used market, priced from around $5500 with low miles (under 10,000km). At the time of writing, there was even a new one, with ABS, on the market in Tassie for $9650 on the road.

Long-term, they have huge significance in the history of the Royal Enfield brand, though it could be a very long time before the market values reflect that. In the meantime, you’d have something that is an absolute ball to ride and is very easy on the eye. That’s not a bad result…


Royal Enfield Indian

Enfield Indians

Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Late-model Royal Enfield Interceptor twins were sold in America as Indians (pictured). The deal was done by the Brockhouse Corporation in the US from the mid 1950s.

Then came along another generation of Enfield-powered Indians, assembled for the often-colourful Floyd Clymer. The English engine was hosted by an Italjet-designed chassis. Just 15 of the final model were built, just before Clymer’s death in 1970.

Great handling

Light-on for power

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535

Royal Enfield Continental GT 535


TYPE: Air-cooled two valves per cylinder single

BORE & STROKE: 87 x 90mm




POWER: 22kW at 5100rpm

TORQUE: 44Nm at 4000rpm

TYPE: Five-speed, constant-mesh 



FRAME TYPE: Steel twin-loop

FRONT SUSPENSION: 41mm telescopic fork, nil adjustment
REAR SUSPENSION: twin Paoli shocks, preload adjustment 

FRONT BRAKE: 300mm disc with two-piston Brembo caliper
(Note: some later versions had ABS)
REAR BRAKE: 240mm disc single piston


WET WEIGHT: 185kg with all liquids except fuel


FRONT: 90/90-19
REAR: 120/80-18

PRICE WHEN NEW $9900 rideaway


Produced by AllMoto 61 400 694 722
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