1969 Norton Commando Cafe Racer

Born in the UK during the 1960’s the Cafe Racer was the answer for British petrol heads, these stripped down and heavily modified bikes were built to race from cafe to cafe at speeds near or in excess of 100 mph. Originally British bikes from Triumph and Norton were favorites for this type of modification, today Japanese, German, and Italian bikes are also used to create cafe style rides.

The Aesthetic is defined by a few key features, all built for speed. Light, low displacement (250 – 750 cc) machines are generally the focus of cafe modification. Short clip-on bars, long low fuel tanks, rear mounted controls, and low flat seats all give the rider an aggressive riding position with little to no thought of comfort. Engines are modded to create more power, thin tires are typical to improve maneuverability, and the bike is lightened by removing any extraneous parts or features.  The idea is to make the bike light, lean, and powerful by any means giving the bikes a very minimalist feel. Purest’s would say black out the wheels, wrap the exhaust, and trim and tuck the rear end, but each builder has their preferences.

1977 Honda CB550 by 485Designs

Yamaha XV750 by 485Designs

Today the Cafe Racer style is returning to popularity with many builders converting 1970’s Japanese bikes (Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki) into Cafe Racers, giving new life and design to popular classic bikes. The style appeals to the home mechanic, where one can source a project bike for <$1000, with a few hundred in parts, some black spray paint, and a bit of cutting/grinding can produce a racer. The blue collar mechanic theme also pervades the rider’s style, leaving behind race leathers for, tee shirts, denim jeans, sturdy boots, and open-face 60’s style bubble helmets.

Sources:

https://rideapart.com/articles/cafe-racers-history

http://www.485designs.net/

http://www.pipeburn.com/home/2013/02/09/engineered-to-slides-08-ktm-250-cafe.html

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2 Comments. Leave new

I’m glad someone posted about this, cafe racers are one of my favorite pieces of art. I am dying to buy myself an old honda cb 750 or cx 500 and begin to work on my own after graduation. I think they are awesome because it takes skills learned in engineering and applies them in an artistic way. It’s also way cheaper, easier, and more appreciated in the two wheel world then working on a classic car or just restoring one. Motorcycles allow for absolute freedom of design which is ironic because it almost resembles how a motorcycle can be ridden. Awesome post and great history research and observations.

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Rachel Grosskrueger
January 24, 2016 10:08 pm

I can definitely see the appeal to this style of bike! With the light weight body and design I am curious what are it’s average and top speeds and how do those compare to traditional style bikes such as a Harley Low Rider? I love how relatively inexpensive this bike is and can see a huge appeal for people that want to custom build their own cafe racer.

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