The Renard GT is a stunning motorbike, a low-slung carbon fibre frame perforated by two massive cylinder heads, a unique front suspension arrangement finished off with a modern LED headlight, it looks like a bike being prepared to debut at EICMA 2019.
The Renard GT
Looking at the Renard GT in the Renard Speed workshop, it’s hard to believe the bike was designed almost ten years ago; it has not aged at all. In fact it is still well ahead of styling trends, there is no other bike on the market with a derivative look – the GT is in a class all of its own.
The marquee Renard translates to ‘’Fox’’ and was originally making small capacity motorbikes prior to WWII. When Andres Uibomäe, the visionary behind Renard went to resurrect the name, he found it available with no one left to lay claim to the brand. Hence, the new Renard is not so much a continuation or a new chapter as it is a new book in the series. Gone was the small capacity and out went the fox head logo; the new Renard heart beat with an Italian heart, a Moto-Guzzi twin cylinder 1200cc engine. The new logo, an ultra modern and minimalist take on the old. With the roll out of the prototype GT in 2010, motorcycle manufacturing had returned to Estonia.
The GT is a super-exclusive, $96,000 motorbike that launched to relative fanfare. However, sitting in the very chic workshop / cafe / restaurant of the Renard Speed Shop is a far cry from the low volume, highly exclusive factory required for a homologation motorcycle. Recent news about Reynard focuses on the awesome custom bikes coming from the Renard Speed Shop, yet little information appears on what is going on with the GT.
Sitting down with Andres, I wanted to know all about the evolution of the GT, and Reynard itself.
The GT by all accounts has gone through three generational changes, the first being the prototype, Andres found the ride a little too heavy, so for the first road registered bikes measures were taken to lighten things up, however, the bikes were now too ‘’thin’’, the rider had too much communication with the road; the third and current generation are right in the middle.
In its inception, production of the Renard GT took place in a factory shared with another company that manufactured race cars; this arrangement has since dissolved with any current builds being undertaken in the Speed Shop garage. Unfortunately, it looks like the GT may be on its final builds, Andres indicated that enough parts remained in the factory for two more bikes (making sure Renard kept enough spares to support warranties and spares for their existing builds). After that, he does not plan to build any more for the foreseeable future.
The Renard Speed Shop arm of the company has also been running for some time, churning out fine-looking custom bikes at the same time as the GT was being manufactured; and it is now this part of the company that provides the bulk of the Renard business.
The demands of building a homologated bike are completely different to building a custom.
Andres explains that the GT had to go through numerous (read: expensive) tests to be given the go-ahead for production. All tooling as well as the bike itself had to keep to rigorous standards and tests – all of which Renard achieved. In contrast, building custom bikes gives the builder complete artistic freedom of expression. Hundreds of hours went into building the bikes as well as fine tuning innovative solutions, such as the suspension.
Then there is Estonia itself, a big distance from the fertile market offered by the states, it’s located close to Russia which is a much smaller market for exclusive luxury goods such as the GT and it’s distance from the US creates logistical and customs issues. Andres also explained that the sort of buyers who are in this sector of the market are used to getting things quickly, and the build time of each GT further put them off. All this and perhaps a lack of sufficient marketing has resulted in the next two GTs being the final two.
So where to from here? Is the GT dream going to die?
In part the GT lives on in custom bikes all around the world, and I don’t mean in terms of inspiring a new generation of bikes; one of the serendipitous offshoots of building the GT was its intricate switch gear design, mated to a Beringer master brake cylinder. The switch gear has been somewhat of an unexpected hit, in high demand for custom bikes around the world – a way to have a little bit of the GT on whatever bike you choose.
As far as the GT project itself being resurrected, Renard are not ruling anything out; an electric power plant could be a possibility.
In the meantime, as we wait, we are treated to a steady stream of the Renard Speed Shop bikes, typically built around older models, the Renard philosophy here is to create something that gives the rider a visceral experience. Something that embodies moving art paired with emotion and modern features. In fact, its quite apparent that Renard has been building its custom bikes with the same philosophy that resulted in the GT.
Renard Speed Shop workshop & restaurant, located in an old railway depot in Taalin, Estonia.