So how did the ride go? The ride? The 50th anniversary of the ride made in 1964 from John O’Groats to Land’s End on the original Royal Enfield Continental GT. The ride started in appalling weather up in Scotland, and the two teams of riders who brought the bikes down into England had an extremely rough time of it. Frankly, from what I hear, they were lucky to have made it. Or perhaps that simply comes down to the grit and determination of the riders.
The celebration ride of Silverstone Circuit happened with 76 year old John Cooper redoing one of his original laps of the circuit. But by this time, the riders were badly split up and those of us waiting just south of Shepton Mallet had a long wait in front of us. None of us minded. After all, there’s always plenty of chat amongst bikers and it was a pretty and sunny day. No worries, but the clock was ticking on making the same time from John O’Groats down to Land’s End. Just over 22 hours. It was beginning to look unlikely, in spite of the northern riders best efforts.
The first rider came in and Tom, long standing member of the Royal Enfield Club had the privilege of heading out first. He was the only one likely to make it down in time, but only if he hard twisted the throttle of the Continental. So he did and face was saved! Dan on the next bike made it within the 24 hours second target and Sandy Caulfield and I took the following bikes – 3 hours late. But that worked to our advantage. The low sunlight over Dartmoor was spectacular, and we missed all the forecast heavy rain. Tom and Dan hadn’t been so lucky!
Sandy and I did have blustery winds to contend with, and the film crew in a 4×4 who spent most of their time ducking and diving around us as we rode. We split at Penzance and shot down to Land’s End; arriving just as the sun was making it to the horizon. We snapped a quick couple of shots in the gusting wind, and then headed inside to warm up and do as all bikers should do at the end of such a ride, celebrate with a drink!
The last two riders weren’t so lucky. Paul Blezard and Rob, had a very long wait for their bikes – each with a story attached – and didn’t make it down to Land’s End until just before 11pm. A warm welcome waited for them though.
I think that Royal Enfield need to be congratulated for putting this ride together, and one man in particular needs to be picked out. Author and long-time fan of older Brit bikes, Gordon May, was called in at the last minute to pull everything together. So Gordon, well done, and in fact nice one everyone who was involved in this. ‘Top to Tip’? A special ride.
But how was the bike? I have to say this little Continental GT rather surprised me. On the twisties, the bike is nimble, and responsive. The feel of the single cylinder hammering away beneath is great and the bike has a very nice sound to it. You probably won’t annoy the neighbours, but let’s put it this way, it’s a very evocative sound. I found myself changing gear when I didn’t need to, just so I could hear the changes in the sound of the engine. I thought it was a smiley sound; I couldn’t help but grin. I liked the instrument panel which is very clear and as we rode into the dusk I was impressed with how well it lights up. The brakes are simply fantastic! I had to use them hard at one stage; I’d got a bit too carried away with the ride, and they worked phenomenally.
The riding position is very good too. I’m not used to riding a café racer so was edgy about how it would be. I liked it and my arms weren’t complaining by the time I’d made it to Land’s End; neither was my backside, though I have to admit that I did, cynically, take my trusty sheepskin along for the ride. My fingers did tingle though. I won’t (for legal reasons) tell you how fast we went but let’s put it this way, we worked the bikes hard. That single pot tells you it is just that, at anything over 70mph, but I didn’t worry about it because that’s simply not what this bike is for. It’s fun and for buzzing around town or through the lanes and for those rides it stands up well for itself.
I have just had a thought on this. Thinking about it, the bikes had been pretty much thrashed for around 24 hours at speeds they weren’t designed to ride at for that length of time. I don’t know about the others but my bike had obviously coped well with the journey. Good stuff.
All in all, I’ve just had a lot of fun, have ridden a fun little bike and have made some new friends at the same time. That combo works for me. Royal Enfield have now published this Youtube movie from the ride. Fun.