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The new royals: The return of Royal Enfield motorcycles
Royal Enfield is a blast from the past, says Simon de Burton, with two fresh jewels in its crown...
What goes around comes around – even, it seems, in the world of motorcycles. According to Indian manufacturer Royal Enfield, the two wheeled trend is moving away from plastic-clad, searingly fast sports bikes and reverting to a gentler style of riding that favours traditional looking machines with burbling exhaust notes, classic twin cylinder engines and plenty of chrome.
The Chennai-based manufacturer has been building the British designed Royal Enfield Bullet since 1955 at the rate of up to 500,000 units per year.
But it has just launched its first new models in more than six decades in the form of the Interceptor street bike (top) and its slightly sportier sibling, the Continental GT “cafe racer” (above). Both feature specially designed 650cc, twin cylinder engines producing an adequate 47hp, giving the bikes sufficient oomph to cover long distances while making them ideal for cruising around town.
The bikes are the culmination of a five-year design programme that has seen the opening of a new technical centre at Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire, marking a welcome return of Royal Enfield to the UK where the company was founded in 1901, 50 miles away in Redditch.
Being mid-sized machines, the new models are ideal for carrying aboard yachts as a nifty and decidedly cool form of onshore transport. Of the two the Interceptor, which revives a Royal Enfield model name last used in 1960, would be my choice because of its more upright, relaxed riding position. A range of in-house designed accessories has also been developed, making it possible to customise your Interceptor or Continental GT – although the Sea Nymph blue paintwork available as standard on the Continental GT is entirely suitable for boat life.
Continental GT, £5,000; Interceptor, POA, both royalenfield.com