The holy grail of most custom builders is to develop a signature style. But there’s no exact science to this. It can be deliberate—like sticking to one genre of build or a single marque, or repeating specific details or colors. But it can just as easily be coincidental; a byproduct of the designer’s approach or ethos.
We’ve started to recognize Federal Moto’s builds, and it’s not because they’re repeating themselves. (In fact, we’ve yet to see them use the some donor twice.) Nope, their signature is far subtler.
Bikes from the Chicago shop are marked by their flawless stance, compact proportions and killer lines. This Royal Enfield cafe racer is their latest work, and it ticks all three boxes emphatically.
The base motorcycle is a 2014 Royal Enfield Continental GT. It’s already a good-looking cafe racer out the box, but when RE North America gave Peter Müller and his crew the chance to tear into one, they saw potential for more.
“Royal Enfield invited us to the opening of their flagship store in Milwaukee,” Peter tells us. “We learned about the history of the brand, and sat down with [CEO] Siddhartha Lal to talk about motorcycle design, the state of Royal Enfield, and its future direction.”
This build only took the Federal crew a month, and half of that was spent researching and planning. “We aim to make vintage motorcycles better than when they left the factory,” says Peter. “The Continental GT is an interesting case: it’s essentially the same as a 1960s motorcycle, but with a few modern advancements.”
“Most manufacturers constantly develop new products to compete in the global marketplace. But RE has focused on the same motor they’ve been making for decades, boiling it down to its simplest and most refined form. It’s easily repairable roadside with the most basic skill set and tools.”
Federal set out to make a modernized version of the classic Royal Enfield cafe racer, and started by stripping the Continental GT down to a bare frame. They then lopped off the subframe and tossed it aside, along with the original twin shocks, seat, rear cowl, gas tank, side covers, electrical tray and battery.
They kept the swingarm though, and fabricated a frame to hook up to a mono shock system. There’s now a Triumph Speed Triple unit holding it together, powdercoated in yellow.
Up top is a new, minimal subframe, topped off with a new saddle that’s been upholstered in full-grain leather. Federal embedded an LED taillight in the rear of the seat, and finished off the tail with a stubby custom-made fender.
This GT is sporting a radically different silhouette near the front too, thanks to a mid-70s Honda CB360 fuel tank. Fitting it to the Enfield’s frame meant completely reshaping its tunnel, but to our eyes, it was worth the effort.
Even though the Enfield’s engine had only just been run in, Federal still took it apart for inspection. Then they refinished the exterior in satin black, with hand-brushed aluminum covers, and swapped all the hardware out for stainless steel fasteners.
They also trashed the EFI system, and replaced it with a performance carb conversion kit from Indimotard’s Greasehouse Customs in Bangalore, kitted with a brand spanking new Mikuni carb. The stock exhaust was cut down to a straight-through drag pipe with internal baffling, finished off with a black wrap and a stainless steel heat shield.
The Continental GT comes fitted with Excel rims in stock trim, so the guys saw no need to swap them out. They simply had the rims and hubs powder coated black, relaced them with stainless steel spokes, and spooned on fresh Metzeler Lasertec rubber. The stock Brembo brake system’s still there too, except it’s now running high-pressure lines from Goodridge.
A new wiring harness is linked up to switches from Posh Japan, and a single speedo and tacho combo dial from KOSO. The cockpit’s been tweaked further with lower clip-ons and Biltwell Inc. grips. There’s a vintage-style headlight up front, mounted on custom ears that also house discreet LED turn signals.
The Enfield’s new paint scheme is a nod to the ‘Grand Trunk Express;’ one of India’s oldest and longest railway lines. It spans 1,358 miles, starting at Chennai (the home of Royal Enfield), and ending in Delhi.
The actual livery was taken from the Indian Railways passenger train, and executed by The Iron Stables in Chicago. Federal named the bike after the line too—its official designation is now ‘Grand Trunk Express (FED-011).’
“During the research phase of this build, we noticed that although Royal Enfield has been an Indian company since the 1960’s, the branding and styling are still very much in-line with its British history,” the guys tell us. “We decided early on that we wanted to highlight the company’s Indian heritage with this motorcycle.”
It’s an intriguing source of inspiration, but it suits this Continental GT to a tee. It might not be as fast as a Japanese bullet train, but you’re guaranteed to arrive in style.