I always get the feeling that I am free when I ride a good bike fast on the highway. Now, when I mean fast, I mean within the speed limits. No pun included. Serious. But riding small capacity bikes on the highway just feels wrong, because the engine is being revved uncomfortably high to reach speeds that higher capacity bikes can easily achieve without a sweat. But there is no going around the fact that small bikes are better when it comes to day-to-day driving because they are light, fairly easy to park and don’t drink fuel like a alcoholic drinking booze.
So, when Royal Enfield (RE) gave me their Continental GT 650, instead of concentrating on its straight-line speed and highway cruising ability, I decided to run it every day. At first, things seemed rather odd. The bike had soft front brakes and the seat was not that comfortable. And then there was the ride. It was harsh when I was riding solo and did not improve much when I had a pillion on board. The bike was not off to a great start then. But, like every good thing in life, we have to persevere and my God was I in for a treat.
The first thing is the acceleration. Now, I know the bike does not have any trick liquid cooling or fly-by-wire throttle, but the sheer displacement advantage means the bike just overtakes every vehicle on the road with bloody ease. That meant fewer stops at the lights and less wastage of petrol. That is a green bike for you. The ride which was not great at lower speeds got better and better still the moment the bike was driven faster. So, there is a way around it – drive faster. And in this bike, that was no hardship.
The tyres were grippy as hell and because it was balanced very well, the chassis shone through as well. It is not a bike that is over-engined, rather the engine complimented the power on tap and near enough 50 bhp is no bad thing. But the trump card of the bike is the way it looks. I think it is one of the best looking shapes, let alone a bike, ever made. It grabs eyeballs like no other bike I have ever seen. People smile when they see one and boys definitely check it out and ask about it. Just to be clear, the bike was not offended in any way or form.
When driven in traffic, not once did it overheat even though the oil cooler was the size of my palm. And the soft brake it had, well I never got used to it. Because frankly, having a bitey rear with a soft front-end never works for me. But the ABS made sure I came to a halt without any issue. I just had to take care of the ones coming behind me because I could stop much faster than they can and I did not want someone rear-ending the circa Rs 3 lakh bike.
The flaws I mentioned earlier were exactly the reason why I liked it more and more because it had something I look for in a good vehicle. It had soul and that comes with human qualities and humans are flawed naturally. For instance, Royal Enfield gave all the tools for the bike with three different allen keys, but not the correct size spanner to adjust the mirror. It was mad! But then, they have to be mad to be a manufacturer of simple, easy to modify bikes in the age of electronic-everything.
I think RE is onto something here. Whenever I rode the bike, I was always thinking about changing things. No, not because it is bad, but to suit me better and the bike seems tailor-made for it. People can change the handlebar, put a single-sided exhaust rather than the stock one, change the seat, the mirrors, the whole lot. It is a simple bike with easy access to customisation. And one more thing, if you are getting the bike, just make sure you do not have a protruding gut, because it will be catastrophically impossible not to laugh at a person riding a GT 650 wid a pot for a belly.