DRIVEN correspondent Bryan Campbell recently took the new Royal Enfield Continental GT for a spin in upstate New York. Hang tight and read on…

With Bear Mountain Inn at my back, I’m faced with a procession of alternating yellow and red Royal Enfield Continental GTs.

As I’m eyeing up the ’60s-styled stunners and wondering which one I’ll be straddling all day, a leather-clad man steps out of my blind spot.

He holds out a tube of SPF 50 and from behind a black bandana grunts, “Never leave the house without it. If I did… I’d be f**ked.”

(c) copyright Mark Jenkinson

To say it was a beautiful day to go riding is an understatement.

Royal Enfield was kind enough to organize a ride on their new café racer along the Palisades and up into NY wine country… well that’s not a bad way to spend a Monday at all, is it?

The brilliance of café racer styling lies in a simplistic elegance that lends itself so damn well to performance

At First Glance: The brilliance of café racer styling lies in a simplistic elegance that lends itself so damn well to performance.

It’s no wonder more than a few brands have been revisiting the idea.

(c) copyright Mark Jenkinson

The Conti GT’s pinched clip-on handle bars, long tank and rear-set foot pegs inspire healthy speed tucks (the staple posture of any café racer).

With Royal Enfield nailing the styling and architecture, my only worry is the lone cylinder taking care of all 535 CCs.

V-Twins are notoriously rough riding as it is, so a midsize single cylinder seems masochistic at best.

The Route: Embarking from Bear Mountain Inn, we point the bikes north and head past West Point along the Palisades where switch backs and sweepers outline the Hudson River 1,000 feet below.

(c) copyright Mark Jenkinson

These are the kinds of roads that make you forget Manhattan even exists, let alone is an hour to the south.

A quick stop at Wallkill Airfield’s Nu-Cavu for lunch and then out on to the snaking roads through NY wine country.

These are the kinds of roads that make you forget Manhattan even exists

The final stint of the day is a blast down the sweeping racetrack that is 9W, back to Bear Mountain.

Consider the gauntlet thrown…

The Ride: At a scant 400 pounds, the Conti GT isn’t a heavy bike by any means, but when you only have 29 hp on tap at 5,100 rpm, it’s not exactly in a hurry.

(c) copyright Mark Jenkinson

But keeping it at 4,000 revs through long bends, the bike seems to find its happy place.

Although it was conceived for commuter traffic, it’s on back country roads where the Continental GT really seems to find its legs.

After a full day of grabbing fists full of throttle and throwing the GT in and out of turns, it’s not the bike’s endurance that’s the question, it’s the rider’s.

Vibrations are constant, and in the top half of the rev range they become torturous.

(c) copyright Mark Jenkinson

But for a simply raw café racer for only $6,000… I don’t mind indulging in a little masochism.

Judgment: Royal Enfield (formerly a British brand, now solely Indian) is looking to gain a foothold in the US to compete with their main rival, Harley Davidson, in the entry-level market.

Royal Enfield’s mission is to bring India’s motorcycle culture to America: motorcycling for the masses.

And they just might succeed with the Continental GT café racer.

Outside, the seemingly intimidating club that is the world of American motorcycling, there’s a yearning for simple, affordable fun.

(c) copyright Mark Jenkinson

Even entry-level bikes nowadays are steeped in electronic tech that rivals most modern cars.

In a world that has automated espresso makers and cars that parallel park themselves (both truly lost arts), the Continental GT is part of a resurgence of people who want to be more involved and get their hands dirty.

The badass ’60s looks matched with mechanical simplicity sets it apart from the rest.

It’s true counter-culture—and a true café racer...

—Bryan Campbell