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Return of the Café Racer

EDITED BY CHRISTINE LABRADOR


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TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S

INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 CHAPTER 1 History of the Café Racer . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Timeline . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Style and Evolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Culture and People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Present Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 CHAPTER 2 Makes and Models . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Honda and Kawasaki . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Yamaha. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Triumph. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Moto Guzzi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Norton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Ducati . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 CHAPTER 3 How to Build a Café Racer . . . . . . . . . 61 Choose Your Weapon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Know the Issues. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 After Your Purchase . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 Make a Plan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Get to Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 Spend on Suspension. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Lightness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Tires. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Brakes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Timing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Rebuilding the Engine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Learn from the Hot Rodders. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78


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INTRODUCTION

Perhaps the most influential motorcycle movement the world has ever seen. Born in the streets of England in the 1950s, its culture still thrives around the globe. There will never be another motorcycle—or rider—quite like it. And yet, most of us have never heard of the café racer. The café racer is both man and machine. With its Spartan appearance and aggressive styling, the café racer is one of the most distinctive and revered motorcycles in the world. Their impact on the motorcycle industry includes legendary high-performance motorcycles like Triumph’s Bonneville, Honda’s CB-750, and Kawasaki’s Z-1. Without the original café racers tuning and designing their ordinary street bikes for power and handling, manufacturers may never have designed the modern sportbike.


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CHAPTER 1

History of the Café Racer The café racer movement may have been born in London in the 1950s, but it has developed into a subculture encompassing a desire for speed, a love of rock and roll, and ultimately an enduring love for a motorcycle that’s being revived worldwide. The human side of the café racer was a perfect match for this type of motorcycle. The riders of these machines were young, and they wanted to go fast. The goal of many of the café racers during the 50s was the ability to hit a hundred miles an hour, better known as “the ton.” Author and journalist Mike Seate has been following the café racer for two decades. “The term café racer came from what’s actually a derisive term used to describe kids who hung out in cafés and raced fast. They would hang out in transport cafés and wait until somebody else came by on a fast bike and challenged them for a race, and they all rushed outside to see who gets up the road the fastest. When they get back to the cafés, which were often oc-


History of the Café Racer

cupied by long distance truck drivers,

the fastest vehicle they could afford,

the truck drivers would laugh and

which over here was a motorbike. In

say, ‘You’re not a real racer, you’re

the States, that was a car, and you

not Barry Sheen, you’re just a café

had your hot rod culture come directly

racer!’ And the kids thought, ‘Well

out of Elvis Presley and that lot, but

you’re damn right I’m a café racer!’

over here, we had a similar sort of

So they would race to the next café,

thing, but all based around motor-

and then to the next one as fast as

bikes because of our different income

they could, and the name stuck; they

levels. And the other great attraction

embraced it despite the fact that it

of cafés, and diners in the states at

was a derisive term,” he said.

that time, was the jukebox.

One of the birthplaces of the café

Certainly in this country, when rock

racer was London’s Ace Café. The Ace

and roll first came around in the

was one of many cafés that provided

mid-1950s you could only hear

a gathering place for teenagers and

rock and roll on the jukebox. There

their motorcycles in the 1950s and

was no radio stations playing it, no

60s. Many, like the Busy Bee and

clubs playing it, so this new music of

Café Rising Sun have succumbed to

youngsters mixed with having their

the wrecking ball, while others, such

own vehicles and their own identity,

as Jack’s Hill and Squires Coffee Bar

um, along comes this Ton-Up boy and

have survived, hosting annual Ton-

his bike, the café racer, it was invari-

Up reunions each year. Avid motor-

ably—the racing would be from one

cyclist Mark Wilsmore, who reopened

café to another,” he said.

the Ace Café to its former glory in 1994, says that rock and roll helped spark the subculture known as “The Café Racing.”

The hunger to make their ordinary streetbikes go faster and resemble the machines ridden by British racing heroes like Mike Hailwood and Geoff

“These kids over here, they have been

Duke was all part of the café racer’s

the generation—rock and roll gen-

character. Doing the “Ton,” or hitting

eration—they went out and bought

a hundred miles-an-hour, became a

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ONE OF THE BIRTHPLACES OF THE CAFÉ RACER WAS LONDON’S ACE CAFÉ


History of the CafĂŠ Racer

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History of the Café Racer

badge of honor—weather you made it back or not. Riders from those days say attempts at reaching the “Ton” on your average 650cc parallel twin were dodgy affairs at best. Riders could consider themselves very, very lucky to reach it as their engines had to be tuned well, but even the best engines could out-perform the skinny, bias-ply tires and meager drum brakes of midcentury design. Road surfaces were not what they are today, with everything from poor road lighting to axle grease from cars and trucks making each corner a potential deathtrap. Trial and plenty of error was the order of the day and the Rockers, experimenting with countless performance modifications, came to create motorcycles that are still respected by go-fast aficionados. Brave? Crazy? Brilliant visionaries? Addicted to kicks? The Rockers were, and are, all of the above, which is why the Café Racer culture still lives not only in the streets on London, but across the globe. Enthusiasts of all ages are once again building custom high-performance motorcycles out of their garages, machines that continue the tradition of the café racer. THE TERM CAFÉ RACER DEVELOPED AMONG BRITISH MOTORCYCLE enthusiasts of the early 1960s, specifically the Rocker (or ton-up boy) subculture. The term describes a style of motorcycle for quick rides from one “transport café” or coffee bar to another. Café Racers were also common in Italy, France and other European countries. In the early fifties, when “Edwardian,” Teddy Boy, styles were popular, most bike industry advertisments were aimed at motorcycle enthusiasts. At that time, bikes were mainly used for transportation rather than for just having a fun time. That all changed with the eruption of Rock-n-Roll. This rebellion of youth saw the need for a special type of bike.

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History of the Café Racer

THE MAIN REASONS TO    HAVE A STANDARD BIKE    CONVERTED INTO A CAFÉ    RACER WERE: The need for speed, and being cool

It was a must that the looks of the

in all the right places (preferably

bike should match with the style and

where you could hear Rock-n-Roll)

appearance of their black leather

as well as being quite simply differ-

clad riders. By the mid-50s, bikers

ent. These machines were not only

started to put Triumph engines into

meant to transport you as fast as

a Norton Featherbed frame. Since

possible, but were also saying some-

Triumph engines were considered to

thing about you and your distinct

be powerful and Norton frames and

attitude. As such bikes were not

forkes to deliver excellent roadhold-

readily available, you simply had to

ing, a new type of bike was born,

build them yourself.

the TRITON. A bike with outstanding

Although there were some pretty fast bikes on sale from BSA, Norton, Triumph or Velocette, there was no

handling and that delivered enough power to let you reach a 100 MPH— “The Ton.”

model bringing the best of these together. A strong bike provided about 40 to 45 horsepower, but generally they did not have the look.

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History of the Café Racer

THE CAFÉ RACER    IS A LIGHT AND    LIGHTLY POWERED    MOTORCYCLE THAT    HAS BEEN MODIFIED    FOR SPEED AND    HANDLING RATHER THAN COMFORT. 14

THE BODYWORK AND CONTROL layout of a café racer typically mimicked the style of a contemporary Grand Prix roadracer, featuring an elongated fuel tank, often with dents to allow the rider’s knees to grip the tank, low slung racing handlebars, and a single-person, elongated, humped seat. One signature trait were low, narrow handlebars that allowed the rider to “tuck in” — a posture with reduced wind resistance and better control. These handlebars, known as “clipons” (two-piece bars that bolt directly to each fork tube), “clubmans” or “ace bars” (one piece bars that attach to the standard mounting location but drop down and forward). The ergonomics resulting from low bars and the rearward seat often required “rearsets”, or rear-set footrests and


History of the Café Racer

foot controls, again typical of racing

By the early sixties, the bike market

motorcycles of the era. Distinctive half

was changing with new traffic laws

or full race-style fairings were some-

and road systems together with

times mounted to the forks or frame.

general changes in society. Those

The bikes had a utilitarian, strippeddown appearance, engines tuned for maximum speed and lean, light road handling. The well-known example was “The Triton”, a homemade combination of Norton Featherbed frame and Triumph Bonneville engine. It used a common and fast racing engine combined with a well-handling frame, the Featherbed frame by Norton Motorcycles. Those with less

who used their bikes principally for transportation, often changed to a car as their prices came down. The bike industry wasn´t developing new designs, just bringing out different versions of the same machines. Also, the public perception of motorcycles and especially of their riders had changed, largely to that of a rather hostile one, being fed by shock stories in the tabloid press.

money could opt for a “Tribsa”—the

This was no problem for the Rockers

Triumph engine in a BSA frame. Other

and Ton Up Boys on their Café Rac-

combinations such as the “Norvin” (a

ers. They enjoyed cracking the ton,

Vincent V-Twin engine in a Feath-

with all the “press” that went with

erbed frame) and racing frames by

it. You could often find phrases like

Rickman or Seeley were also adopted

WOT! NO BIKE? on the backs of their

for road use.

leather jackets.

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History of the CafĂŠ Racer

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THE LATE SIXTIES AND EARLY SEVENTIES SAW ATTEMPTS BY THE British bike industry to cope with a new generation of powerful and modern bikes offered by the expanding Japanese manufacturers. BSA brought out the three cylinder Rocket 3, with its 60 horses, the same engine with a modified cylinder angle powered the Triumph Trident, BSA delivered the latest version of their BSA A65 series with a two cylinder 55hp engine. However, the British bike scene was on a decline, neither the John Player Special Norton nor the Metisse being able to prevent the takeover by the big four. In Europe the bike situation was apathetic. Things had however changed in the US, with more and more people using their bikes “just for fun.” Café Racers, especially those based on British designs were extremely popular. As we know today, this wave came over to Europe, and generated another bike boom, with lots of different makes and models. Still, whatever the bike companies brought out, a Café Racer remained a Café Racer. A bike with style, a bike that tells you it has been made for a purpose, a bike that lets you know when you have reached the ton. A DISTINCTIVE CLASS OF BIKE—THE CAFÉ RACER. MOST OF THEM based on British designs, but with a growing number of Ducatis, Guzzis, BMW’s, with today, Japanese models included, such as early Honda K’s or Kawasaki Z9’s. And there are more and more Café Racers to be seen on the roads, never hiding what they and their riders are about. Today, companies start to build new bikes inspired by the original 50´s and 60’s café racers, some as ‘retro style’—such as Kawasaki W650, and even Triumph brought out their new 800cc Bonneville. Perhaps a perfect example of a café racer for the new millennium... So, all you Ton Up Boys, comb that quiff and dust off your leathers. Rev up your Café racers!


TIMELINE

A café racer knows its roots from the 1960s. It is derived from a group of rockers mainly in Britain although very popular in Italy, Germany and other European countries. These rockers where a young and rebellious group that wanted a fast and distinctive bike to travel to cafés around motorways. Café Racers have this bad boy aura around them and that’s why this style is loved by many. Classic café racer style has made a comeback recently, thanks largely to the increased interest in vintage motorcycles in general. The baby boomers were responsible for a surge in motorcycle sales in the late 1960s and 1970s, and many of this generation now find themselves with the time and discretionary income to recreate the bikes they had—or wished to have—in their younger years.


History of the Café Racer

‘65 ‘50

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 Ace Café, London, UK  Café to Café racing  “Ton-Up” Boys

 Growing market for tuning

and replacement parts

‘70

 Japanese Café Racers  Moto Guzzi Sport


History of the Café Racer

‘75

 Look of Grand Prix racing

bikes evolved

 Square, narrow “coffin tanks”  Suzuki GS750

‘13

 Return of the Café Racer

 Harley Davidson XLCR  Clubman bars, small fairings

and round headlights

‘05

 Ducati SportClassic  Norton Commando 961

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History of the Café Racer

RISE OF THE CAFÉ RACER Just how did the cafés of England’s highways and biways become the centers of a whole motorcycle subculture? Why did these quiet little diners and resturants go from serving a lite snack to motorists to be the gathering place of Rockers and their girlfriends. Where did the name café racer come from? And just what is a Rocker. To answer all this, two seperate things must be explained, the British road system (for those who’ve never been to England) and the rise of youth culture. First you have to look back to the years following WWI. England had come through the war and things were returning to normal. By now the motorways of England were more trafficed with automobiles and motorcycles. No longer were “horseless carriages” or “motorized bicycles” thought of as novelties or fads. They had taken their place amongst the populace as essential additions to the workforce and recreation in general. With this rise in traffic came the creation of a new road system in England. The quaint, old turnpikes and coach roads of yesteryear simply were not able to handle the increase in motorcars and motorcycles on the nation’s roads. They were upgraded and augmented by new roads such as the Cambridge and Southend arterial roads, North Circular Road and South Circular road leading out from the center of metropolitan London. With the nation’s industries back to normal, the business of road-haulage and transportaion grew rapidly on the new motorways. Still no where near the modern highways of today, the new roads allowed for the easy shipment

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History History of the of Café CaféRacers Racer

of goods from one part of the country to another. And with this new industry, came the many café’s, petrol stations, and roadside stops that a weary trucker or motorist might want to visit and rest for a while. Nearly overnight a whole new industry sprung up around the motorways, and catering soley to its travellers. The new motorways had men hauling goods on the “A” roads out and across England to towns like (Manchester, and Birmingham in the North). Now remember, even though these roads were called motorways, they were hardly up to the standard of today’s highways, in England or the United States. They were still small and tight. Some were nothing more than the old dirtroads or tracks paved over and fitted with signs. Sharp turns, narrow lanes, and the occasional farmer’s herd making a unannounced crossing, all made traffic along these routes slow going at best. Not only that, but the vehicles themselves were rather primitive compared to today’s modern hauling vehicles. Some small lorries (trucks) reached speeds no greater than 30mph. So it was common for these haulers to stop every so often along the way. There were usually pullovers every couple of miles along these routes. Often times the pullover were junctions into the smaller villages and towns along the way. At each of these pullovers a café would often be found. For years these café’s and resturants were only open during the daylight working hours. They catered to and served the weary travellers of the roads with a warm meal and hot cup of tea. Some of the café owners, especially the ones that lived on or near the premises, would leave the door open an hour or two later in order to catch a few more customers, but they were by no means social centers or gathering places. They were simple reststops along the new highway system of England. The second essential factor to this rise of the Caféracer and Rocker was the rise of youth culture, although before WWII, this is a very loose definition. By the early thirties, England had come out of the great depression

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History of the Café Racer

and young men who were now back at work. With decent jobs, they found

torcycle enthusiasts. When the war came to an end, it was still seven or eight

themselves with some extra money. Add to this, the sufficient supply of af-

years before the English could throw away the ration books and resume life as

fordable old motorcycles about, and the the result is obvious. Soon scores of

normal, but when it did things would never be the same.

young men were taking to the roads. Some to enjoy a nice Sunday afternoon in the country with their sweetheart, others out for a joyride on their new single. Believe it or not, the rockers and the mods weren’t the first to drive their bikes or scooters down to Brighton to show off. During the 20’s and 30’s, “Promenade percys”, a title given the young men who swarmed English seaside resorts, would ride up and down the promenade on their motorcycles, showing off.

Several things happened at the early part of the fifties that all combined to bring about the rebirth of the café racer scene. Again, young men all over the country returned to work and soon found themselves with a bit of spare cash. The English bike industry was at an all time high producing such bikes as the featherbed framed Norton Dominator, the BSA Gold Star, the Triumph Tiger 110, and the Velocette Venom. Not only could you see these great bikes at the many races scattered up and down the country, you could also buy

As England was retooling after the war, literally dozens of different compa-

them down at the local dealer! And if you couldn’t afford the exact model

nies offered a wide variety of parts and bikes. Racing had again became a

you wanted, well just throw off those tanks and mudguards and replace and

popular pastime and with it came the enthusiasts. Not content with having

restyled them with all the equipment you had just seen at The Isle of Man

a standard bike they would often replace stock parts with more elaborate

TT or Silverstone. With the War ended, young men and motorcycles found

ones they may have seen at Brooklands and other racing events of the time,

themselves together again.

or they would build a homemade “Special” out of parts from the many bike manufacturing companies that were around. This all came to an abrupt halt though and at the end of the thirties, these same young men would have to shed their leather jackets for Army uniforms as England once again found itself at war with Germany. During WWII the English government took control over the bike industry for the war effort. With the end of bike production, so came the slow decline of racing and mo-

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History of the Café Racer

WHAT MAKES A BIKE A CAFÉ RACER? Rocker bikes are only “stock” when brand new. Customizing at a rather primitive level is the absolute rule. First to go are the standard handlebars, which are replaces by clip-ons. Racing type tank and seat are next. Then come modifications to the exhaust system, plus new paint and other minor decorating. The rockers strive for a “racer” image and so rarely hang superfluous goodies all over the machine. Neither do they do much about brake or engine modifications. The aim is therefore to get the best possible performance from essentially stock engines. Since individuality is highly regarded, there were many specials, such as Tibsas, Vinors, and Tritons.

good to know you’ve done it, to know you bike can do it or once did it.” Ad they don’t do the ton on a racecourse on a flat stretch of country road. Likely as not they do it on the North Circular Road, or the Watford By-pass or the M1(one of Britain’s few limited access expressways). They don’t do the ton in broad daylight when there’s no traffic and the pavement is dry. Likely as not they do it at night, when challenged to burn-off (or burn out). The air will be damp and the high beam won’t be good for more than 60 mph and there will be trucks and cars of all sizes on the road. And that, mate, is when you do the ton. There has to be a story in it, for it will be told by a rider and his chums many times over. You have to make it good. Beside the nightly round on the café circuit, rockers occasionally organize what they call a weekend “burn up.” This takes the form of a fast crosscountry ride to some point in the north of England or to Wales of Scotland. Within sixty miles of London lie the Brighton resort area and the Snetterton and Brands Hatch racecourses. These are too close for an all out burn up, and more appropriate destination is Liverpool or Manchester or even Edinburgh(470 miles). Trips take two days, possibly with a layover at a friendly club or possibly straight through. A burn up is a major adventure for the rocker. Like doing the ton, it gets plenty of retelling (and possibly embellishment) in the weeks that follow.

The unannounced but widely understood ritual of initiation into this brotherhood, we learned, is “doin the ton.” As one young rider told us, “You have to do it once. Of course you don’t ride around at 100mph all the time, but its

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“It’s the style,  the fashion,  the music,  the food,  the drinks.   Everything.” Dan Lyle Owner of The Shop Brooklyn

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STYLE & EVOLUTION

Café racer styling evolved throughout the time of their popularity. By the mid1970s, Japanese bikes had overtaken British bikes in the marketplace, and the look of real Grand Prix racing bikes had changed. The hand-made, frequently unpainted aluminium racing fuel tanks of the 1960s had evolved into square, narrow, fibreglass tanks. Increasingly, three-cylinder Kawasakis and fourcylinder Hondas were the basis for café racer conversions. By 1977, a number of manufacturers had taken notice of the café racer boom and were producing factory café racers, most notably the Harley-Davidson XLCR. In the mid-1970s, riders continued to modify standard production motorcycles into so-called “café racers” by simply equipping them with clubman bars and a small fairing around the headlight. A number of European manufacturers, including Benelli, BMW, Bultaco and Derbi produced factory “café” variants of their standard motorcycles in this manner, without any modifications made to make them faster or more powerful.


History of the Café Racer

THE MOST IMPORTANT    FACTOR THAT SHAPED THE    CAFÉ RACER OR ROCKER    CULTURE WAS... ...the 50’s explosion of what is normally called Youth Culture and its new

frequent a local café making it theirs. Often times they would race each other

‘anti-heros.’ The sounds of Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley, and Gene Vincent

from café to café at speeds of over one hundred miles an hour (hence the

was heard on the radio. Rock-n-roll had become society’s new menace. Mar-

term ‘ton up’). This, the late nights, and the ominous leather jackets look

lon Brando and other rebels graced the silver screen in their leather jackets.

earned them a bad reputation in the British Press, the police, and even, funny

All of this soon made the motorcycle and its inherent lifestyle the epitome

enough, the British bike industry and from it all a new youth culture was

of ‘cool’ and, understandably, sales soared. Soon such items as clipons, glass

born: The Rocker.

fiber tanks, rearsets, and swept back exhaust pipes became standard equipment for any rider and, for the suppliers of the equipment, big business. Even with the explosion of Youth culture, there wasn’t any real places for them to gather or call their own. But when this new breed of bike riders took to the streets and roads, the rediscovery of the Café’s was inevitable. Soon certain café’s up and down the North and South Circular road would stay open later and later to accomadate the motorcyclists and their girlfriends. They became the social centers of this new culture. Groups would

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History of the CafĂŠ Racer

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C U LT U R E & P E O P L E

Rockers were a young and rebellious Rock and Roll counterculture who wanted a fast, personalised and distinctive bike to travel between transport cafés along the newly built arterial motorways in and around British towns and cities. The goal of many was to be able to reach 100 miles per hour (160 km/h)—called simply “the ton”—along such a route where the rider would leave from a café, race to a predetermined point and back to the café before a single song could play on the jukebox, called record-racing. They are remembered as being especially fond of Rockabilly music and their image is now embedded in today’s rockabilly culture. The sub-culture continues to evolve with modern café racers taking style elements of the American Greaser, the British Rocker and modern motorcycle rider to create a style all their own. Although slow to catch on, the trend has grown in North America.

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History of the Café Racer

THE CAFÉ    RACER LOOK A Rocker was a motorcyclist first and foremost not a mere fashion or youth music trend. Theirs was a style born out of necessity and practicality and they will generally be seen riding their motorcycles wearing a classic open face style of helmet and aviator goggles, especially the “pudding-basin” short style of helmet such as those still made by Davida Helmets. Davida has been providing helmets for 30 years. They have a worldwide reputation for the quietest, most comfortable, and well made helmets available. These café racers or Rockers wore simple 501 or 505 Levis in blue, dark blue or black, leather trousers were also quite popular. These trousers and jeans were worn with either tall motorcycle riding boots, made by Lewis Leathers, engineer boots or Creepers, as is still the custom for modern-day Rockers. T-shirts and Daddy-O styled shirts were worn under heavily decorated leather motorcycle jackets, adorned with studs, patches, pins and usually an ESSO Petroleum ‘gas man’ trinket hung somewhere from the jacket. Also quite visible and popular was a patch declaring membership to the 59 Club of England, a church-based, youth organization that later formed into a genuine café racer club with members all over the world. Last but not least, while out riding, Rockers would usually wear white-silk scarfs to protect from the cold and cover their mouths while in inclement weather.

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History of the CafĂŠ Racer

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P R E S E N T D AY

Classic café racer style has made a comeback recently, thanks largely to the increased interest in vintage motorcycles in general. The baby boomers were responsible for a surge in motorcycle sales in the late 1960s and 1970s, and many of this generation now find themselves with the time and discretionary income to recreate the bikes they had—or wished to have—in their younger years. Motorbike manufacturers are riding a wave of swinging 60s nostalgia with new models seeking to capture revived interest in the classic looks of the period— with demand helped by fashionista-in-chief David Beckham. Royal Enfield, an Indian-owned manufacturer of British heritage, is the latest to try its luck with a new bike inspired by the “café racers” seen around London in the late 1950s and 60s.

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History of the Café Racer

“Café racing was around in the most beautiful and the best time of motorcycling.” Siddhartha Lal Enfield Chief Executive

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History of the Café Racer

THESE SINGLE-SEATER TWO-WHEELERS WERE  SOME OF THE QUICKEST of their day, modified and driven at the highest speeds possible by their young male riders dressed in the “rocker” fashion of the era. After a trip in search of the mythical “ton”—100 miles per hour—they would retire to the Ace Café in northwest London for cups of tea, making it a famous meeting point for bikers which remains to this day. The looks were very specific and have been reproduced faithfully in the new versions: striped back, dropped handle bars, long fuel tank and a single seat. Leather jackets and open-face helmets come as optional accessories for the café racer. Royal Enfield, whose sales have quadrupled in the last four years thanks to booming demand for its classic “Bullet” model in its home Indian market, is following in the footsteps of other famous British names. Triumph sells a “Thruxton” café racer, a beefed up and modified version of its classic “Bonneville” model, while Norton has a waiting list for its equivalent, the “Commando 961”. With new launches and fashion on their side, both companies are putting past bankruptcies behind them. For Enfield, owned by heavy vehicle and bus maker Eicher, net profit totalled 2.1 billion rupees (34 million dollars) in the nine months to September, up 91 percent on the same period in 2012. Other companies looking back for inspiration for their latest models include Moto Guzzi and its “V7 Racer” and BMW with its recently unveiled “NineT”. Triumph’s sales and marketing director Paul Stroud referred to a “resurgence in classic motorbiking” at a recent company event.

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History of the CafĂŠ Racer

38


History of the Café Racer

FOR MANY RIDERS, HAVING THE

To add more of a racing look, café

café racer look was enough. But

racer owners began to fit a small

when the market for tuning parts

handlebar mounted fairing (as seen

really began to take off in the mid-

on the Manx Norton racers). Full

60s, the list of available and desirable

fairings were shunned as these would

parts grew. Besides engine tuning

cover up the beautiful polished alu-

parts, a number of companies began

minum engine cases and swept-back

to produce replacement seats and

chrome pipes.

tanks. These replacements resembled the current trends in motorcycle racing: seats with humps, and fiberglass tanks with indentations to clear clip-ons and the rider’s knees. More expensive aluminum versions were also available.

Although many riders fitted different rear shocks to improve the handling of their machines, the defining moment of café racer development came when a Triumph Bonneville engine was fitted to a Norton featherbed chassis. Affectionately called the Triton, this hybrid set new standards. By combining the best of the British engines and the best chassis, an urban legend was created.

39


40


CHAPTER 2

Makes & Models A café racer knows its roots from the 1960s, it is derived from a group of rockers mainly in Britain although very popular in Italy, Germany and other European countries. These rockers where a young and rebellious group that wanted a fast and distinctive bike to travel to cafés around motorways. Café Racers have this bad boy aura around them and that’s why this style is loved by many. Before starting to build your own café racer make sure you have the knowledge, time and money to start & complete you project unless you wish to have a useless motorcycle taking space in the garage. The Classics: Triumph, Moto Guzzi, Ducati, BMW, BSA, Vincent. These big names all have great motorcycles to build your bike on, trouble is they aren’t cheap and neither are the parts needed to customize your bike. If money is not an issue start searching for a bike now.


Makes & Models

42


Makes & Models

43


Makes & Models

HONDA

Honda CB 350, 400, 750. This series is one of the most popular when it comes to café racers. This all comes down to their good engines, cheap parts (which you’ll find lots of by the way) and a great community where you can find help with whatever trouble you find with this bike. You can find custom parts here: www.dimecitycycles.com www.benjiescaféracer.com www.cb750café.com

K AWA S A K I

Kawasaki W800, 650, 400. Another good looking motorcycle with a great engine. This beast turns more heads than a tall hot blonde walking down the street with almost nothing on.

44


Makes & Models

YA M A H A

Yamaha SR400, 500, Deus Ex Machina. The Yamaha SR is one of the most flexible bikes around, I love watching people’s creations using this bike. It’s one of the most affordable bikes you can find and it’s also really fun to ride. You won’t have to look very hard to find parts either. This is one of the obvious choices so if you’ve set your mind go find a second hand SR and start pimpin’. Yamaha XS650. This is another incredibly flexible bike for a café racer. You can pick one up for almost nothing, some people have made fantastic customizations using this bike. They are renowned for having a solid engine although their electronics are a bit on the down side. Being one of the best bikes, the community is large and you’ll find an answer to every question you may have about this bike.

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Makes & Models

46


Makes & Models

TRIUMPH

Triumph Motorcycles is the largest

public between March (Trophy 1200

British motorcycle manufacturer. It

being the first) and September 1991.

was established in 1984 by John Bloor

All used a modular liquid cooled

after the original company Triumph

DOHC engine design in a common

Engineering went into receivership.

large diameter steel backbone frame.

The new company (initially Bonneville

The modular design was to ensure

Coventry Ltd) continued Triumph’s

that a variety of models could be

record of motorcycle production

offered whilst keeping production

since 1902.

costs under control—an idea origi-

In the year to 30 June 2012, Triumph Motorcycles, which is the United Kingdom’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, produced 49,000 motorcycles

nally put forward, in air-cooled form, in the early 1970s by Bert Hopwood but not implemented by the then BSA-Triumph company.

and employed 1,600 staff. A range of new 750cc and 900cc triple-cylinder bikes and 1000cc and 1200cc four-cylinder bikes were launched at the September 1990 Cologne Motorcycle Show. The motorcycles used famous model names from the glory days of Meriden Triumph and were first made available to the

47


Makes & Models

THE FIRST MODELS, KNOWN

and Trident 900 triples (3 x 300cc).

generically as the ‘T300’s, all used a

The Trophy 1200 four was the

common piston diameter (76mm) in

largest model (4 x 300cc). All were

a common wet cylinder liner. Basic

remarkably smooth running. The

engine variations were achieved

three cylinder models were equipped

through the use of two specifica-

with a contra-rotating balance shaft

tions of piston stroke: 65mm to

mounted at the front of the engine.

create individual cylinder capacity of

The four cylinder models benefitted

300cc, and 55mm to create a 250cc

from twin balance shafts—unique

individual cylinder. Two 750cc mod-

at the time—mounted beneath the

els were released—and the Daytona

crank shaft.

and Trident 750 triples (3 x 250cc). There was one 1000cc model—the Daytona 1000 four (4 x 250cc). Two 900 cc models were the Trophy 900

48

To the right, an urban style Triumph Café Racer with black wheels and lava exhaust wrap.


Makes & Models

49


Makes & Models

50


Makes & Models

MOTO GUZZI

Axel Budde’s custom motorcycles have been featured several times on Moto Rivista. I have to admit it, Axel’s builds have constantly delivered elegance and performance for those who thrive for more and more from custom crafts. His latest build is this custom Le Mans Mk III aka “Caffettiera d´oro” meaning golden coffee machine. Caffettiera can also be a nickname for an old and deserted vehicle, in Axel’s words “I like the double sense.” The base for the build was a Le Mans III, which already had Le Mans 4 heads and bigger carburetors. The engine was uprated further to 1040ccm with new cylinders. Axel’s personal favorite tuner HTMoto have tuned this Le Mans III with dynamically balanced crank drive, special cam, twin spark heads, electronic ignition and a bespoke exhaust system. At the front the fork got progressive springs, modern dampers and new bleeders. While at the rear this Le Mans Mk III features Ikons shocks, especially built for kaffeemaschine. To clean up the look of the bike the old wiring loom was replaced with minimal wire loom. A Motogadget tachometer was fitted and spokes were laced with Morad wheels. On this custom Le Mans Mk III all the alloy parts were hand fabricated by kaffeemaschine. A lot of fabrication work has been added to the fuel tank to achieve the new design. “I wanted to design a classic, elegant tank, putting emphasis on the Guzzi´s unique geometry and shape.” says Axel.

51


Makes & Models

THE GUZZI V7 IS ARGUABLY THE

THE CLASSIC CAFÉ HAS ACTUALLY

most complete and convincing out-

dropped out of Guzzi’s range now,

of-the-box café racer on the market

but searching around still turned up

today. Look at it. Drop bars, upswept

one or two new or delivery-mileage

pipes, chrome finished tank, red

2013-registered bikes at dealers, so

frame, laced wheels. You even get

it’s in. Basically a V7 Racer minus

race number boards. It covers pretty

the bling, it looks every inch the

much all the clichés, but in a style

part. Better still, if you can find one

that’s perhaps just a bit too bling to

you’ll probably pay around £2k less

really capture the old ‘ton-up club’

than you would for the V7 Racer. If

feeling of a real, home-built café

you can’t, then you can make your

racer. At £8,132 it’s far pricier than

own by buying a V7 Special and

the base V7 Stone or mid-range

adding clip-ons, a humped seat and

Special, too – both more subtle ma-

upswept pipes.

chines that, for minimal outlay, could be made into more convincing retro café racers.

52


53


Makes & Models

54


Makes & Models

NORTON

Norton Moytorcycles return to the

and was capable of clocking speeds

bre seat, air box and front fender and

motorcycle scene has been one of

of over 100mph, a first for pushrod

a handmade aluminium tank gives it

the most exciting announcements

engines of it’s era. The Domiracer

a distinct Café Racer style which was

I’ve covered during the time that

weighed 16kg less than it’s rival

the exact intention. The Domiracer

I’ve been writing this blog. Not

sibling the Manx and was designed

was designed to be a modern inter-

everyone seemed to share my enthu-

by Bracebridge Street Race Shop in

pretation of Café Racer motorcycles

siasm though with the new Norton’s

the UK.

and what better base to use than the

receiving some rather harsh criticism. Personally I couldn’t be any happier than to see the Norton badge being mounted on the tank of a motorcycle designed and built using modern technology in the spirit of Norton’s

The Domiracer took out first place in the 1960 Thruxton 500 and a third

So the Norton Domiracer is a purpose

place finish in the 1961 Isle of Mann

built, high power, bare bones street

TT before the project was shut down

racer but it has one small problem,

when Bracebridge closed its doors.

it’s not street legal.

legendary bikes. Norton played an

Now over 50 years later the Domi-

integral part in the early days of the

racer is set to return in a very limited

Café Racer scene so you can imag-

run of 50 bikes from the new Norton

ine my excitement when news of

Motorcycles workshop in Derby, UK.

the 2013 limited edition Domiracer

The 2013 Domiracer is built around

was released.

the new 961cc Norton Commando

In the early sixties the Domiracer was a heavily tuned Norton Dominator that produced around 55bhp

modern interpretation of a Norton?

engine and features a specially designed featherbed style tubular frame. The new bikes bodywork is made up of a lightweight carbon fi-

55


Makes & Models

THE DOMIRACER FEATURES PLENTY OF TRICK PERFORMANCE PARTS YOU won’t find on a standard 961 Commando. The stainless exhausts are open, the dash features one big tachometer, there’s an additional oil cooler up front, Brembo brakes provide the stopping power, a Ducati-esque trellis swingarm secures the back wheel and the fully adjustable Ohlins suspension uses a monoshock in the rear.

57


Makes & Models

D U C AT I

Here is a beautiful Ducati SportClassic custom by Shed X. According to Neil their client Russell a.k.a. Rusty dropped in his totally stock SC after seeing their first build “ Bastardo”. Rusty wanted his Sport Classic to lose some weight but asked that it visually remain a sport classic, the tank, headlight and rear tail profile had to stay thus making the sub frame was a grinder free zone. Neil and Jim tried two after market sport classic tails but were not happy with either so after a bit of cutting and shunting they laid up their own version (which they now sell), it’s a lot slimmer than stock and hugs the standard sub frame. To finish of the seat they made a suede covered seat base.

58


Makes & Models

THERE IS A LOT TO LIKE ABOUT

mix of builds under their belt. The

the Ducati Sport 1000, beginning

project was started in June of 2011

with its looks. Its minimalist body

and after months of labour this

work, yellow-peril paint, Veglia-

beautiful machine was unveiled.

style, white-faced instruments and

Now don’t get me wrong I abso-

spoked wheels evoke the 1970s

lutely love the Ducati Sport Classic

750 Sport, the valve-spring version

in its natural form, however when I

of the legendary 750 Super Sport

see one that’s been tricked out a bit,

Desmo. You’ve gotta love its engine,

it makes me want one even more.

too: The DS 1000 is one of the great air-cooled, two-valve V-twins, with well-calibrated injection, gobs of torque from idle to redline and not a lot of vibration. The exhaust note emanating from the dual right-side mufflers is too subdued to be menacing, and little of the dry clutch’s ca-chinga, ca-chinga rattle makes its way through the solid cover. But bolt on an open megaphone and a ventilated clutch cover and you’ve got a rockin’ drumbeat with cymbal accompaniment.

In terms of suspension they chose to go with the best, dual Ohlins rear-shocks and Ducati S4R Ohlins front forks. To make this beautiful creature lighter, faster and more responsive besides the Ohlins, a set of incredible Alpina tubeless carbon fiber wheels was the only choice and my oh my those golden hubs are to die for. Since the bike has a lot of go now, it was only logical for the brakes to be upgraded; with Ducati 999 front and rear. This is a pretty good recipe for a Ducati Sport

This Ducati Sport Classic 1000

Classic diet, which also included

was built by Kerozin, a shop out

the removal of the rear fender and

of Toulouse, France. Kerozin

shorty carbon fiber front fender.

specializes in café racers, bratstyle, bobbers, scramblers and bicycles. The company was founded in 2009 and they have a beautiful eclectic

59


Makes & Models

THE DUCATI GT1000 WAS PRODUCED from 2006-2009, and like its sibling the SportClassic it’s mostly the same bike, sharing the air-cooled, fuel-injected L-twin 1000DS engine and tubular steel frame. An extra 25mm fork offset gives the GT1000 a longer wheelbase (1425mm) and combined with a lazier rake and trail offers a more relaxed ride, similar to a Ducati Monster. The 2006 GT1000 got its styling cues from the 1971 Ducati GT750 and while the modern bike doesn’t possess that raw beauty of the original, it’s still a fine tribute, I think. The twin pipes look the part, as do the round, chrome-trimmed clocks, slotted side-panels and skinny 15-liter fuel tank.

60


Makes & Models

61


62


CHAPTER 3

How to Build a Café Racer What Makes a Bike a Café Racer? Rocker bikes are only “stock” when brand new. Customizing at a rather primitive level is the absolute rule. First to go are the standard handlebars, which are replaces by clip-ons. Racing type tank and seat are next. Then come modifications to the exhaust system, plus new paint and other minor decorating. The rockers strive for a “racer” image and so rarely hang superfluous goodies all over the machine. Neither do they do much about brake or engine modifications. The aim is therefore to get the best possible performance from essentially stock engines. Since individuality is highly regarded, there were many specials, such as Tibsas, Vinors, and Tritons. Next is a twelve step guide to building your own café racer.


How to Build a CafĂŠ Racer

TRITON

NORTON

MOTO GUZZI

HONDA

Custom built with Norton featherbed

Commando 750

Griso 8V SE

CB350 / CB360 / CB400

frame and Triumph Bonneville engine

Commando 961

V7 Racer / V7 Sport / V7 Stone

CB750 / CB1100

HARLEY

YA M A H A

R O YA L E N F I E L D

TRIUMPH

Sportster

Deus Ex Machina

Bullet 350 / Bullet 500

Bonneville

XLCR

SR400 / SR500

Continental GT

Scrambler

XS360 / XS400 / XS600 / XS650

Thruxton Triple

64


How to Build a Café Racer

01 CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON

The most affordable motorcycles to customize are the bikes that time and style forgot, and many are Japanese. That means the Honda CBs, in the 350, 360, 500, 550 and 750 capacities. Yamaha has the XS series, in 360, 400 or 650 capacities. Forget the XS500 or TX500, unless you’ve got tons of time and money. Then there’s the SR400 and SR500, and even the Viragos are now getting lots of attention. From Kawasaki, you can pick a Z of any size. But it was Suzuki that produced some of the best air-cooled inline fours, like the GS750/1000s—which is why Pops Yoshimura gave them so much love. And why you see hardly any for sale these days.

65


How to Build a Café Racer

02 KNOW THE ISSUES

All these bikes will most likely have

Lessons were learned and improve-

the same issues, because they were

ments were made. As the bikes were

all manufactured at least 30 to 40

pushed to their performance limits at

years ago. We’re talkin’ about the

the racetrack, improvements gradu-

70s, when bikes were gaining power

ally made their way into production

with each new model year but the

models. These lessons, tricks, new

handling was lagging behind.

parts and tuning secrets have since

By 1972-73, almost every bike was sporting a disc brake up front. Intake

continued to gather, so we now have a huge pool of knowledge.

noise was still audible, and most

I should mention it’s always a good

wheels had wire spokes. Shocks were

idea to choose a bike that has decent

mostly chrome spring holders, and

parts availability—plus a wide selec-

low-hanging mufflers and center-

tion of aftermarket goodies. Putting

stands caused lots of sparks (and

a lot of effort into a bike that you

crashes) when cornering at speed.

can’t even buy a head gasket for is the start of a frustrating journey.

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How to Build a CafĂŠ Racer

67


How to Build a Café Racer

03 AFTER YOUR PURCHASE

Let’s say you bought a 70s bike

the bike isn’t all that exciting or

cheap, with the intent of building

confidence inspiring. Or it’s just plain

something really cool to dazzle your

unsafe. Or maybe there are a couple

friends. Maybe you’ll ride it every

of guys with bikes from the 80s or

day to work or school too.

even the 90s disappearing over the

After many nights in the garage, the bike runs decent and you’ve done

horizon. You’re thinking, “It’s got to get better than this!”

all the things that everyone else

Unfortunately, bikes have been

does to make your bike look cool.

improving at an exponential rate over

But you’re starting to think, “Wow!

the past thirty years. But you’re com-

This thing is like a slow, wobbly

mitted to riding your 70s bike, and

40-year-old buckboard.”

want to be able to say you built it

When you go for a spirited ride in the hills with your friends, maybe

yourself. It’s time to improve it, while keeping a realistic view of how much you can improve it before you’ve depleted your resources.

68


How to Build a Café Racer

04 MAKE A PLAN

You’re gonna need a few things.

external mods. You’ll notice air

Starting with a direction and gather-

cleaners, bigger and better carbs and

ing knowledge is a must. What can

exhausts, and perhaps some sort

you afford? What should you do?

of oil cooler. To get an insight into

How do you find out, and whom can

internal mods, you’ll need to read

you ask?

articles from old magazines that

If you search the web and look at pictures of 70s racing machines and hotted-up street bikes, you’ll find clues. The stance was usually

have hop-up tips pertaining to your bike. And then look for those parts at swapmeets or on eBay if they are no longer manufactured.

changed, as were the tires. Alumi-

Another way to gather knowledge

num rims replaced steel, and generic

about the older models is to attend

aftermarket shocks and fork kits

a vintage race or two. There are

were installed. You often saw braided

classes for all displacements and

stainless brake lines and a second

different eras. The rules are gener-

front disc and caliper. Frames were

ally intended to keep the bikes

heavily gusseted, and so were swing-

period correct, but most of the parts

arms—or they were upgraded with

needed are readily available.

aluminum items. In the engine/performance department, you’ll need to dig a little deeper: Pictures will show only the

69


How to Build a CafĂŠ Racer

70


How to Build a CafĂŠ Racer

05 GET TO WORK

All bikes like Honda CBs, the Yamaha XS and SR series and Kawasaki Zs can be improved with a standard group of upgrades, beginning with the chassis. Inspecting the frame for cracks or damage is the first step. Factor in tapered steering head bearings or, at the least, replace the worn out stockers with new OEM bearings and races. Most of the older bikes came equipped with a plastic swing arm bushing. This should be replaced with a needle roller bearing kit in solid bronze or new-oldstock ones. Another area of concern would be the swingarm pivot shaft and reducing the side-to-side play of the swingarm down to the factory minimum spec. Up and down movement should be without restriction, but side-to-side or axial play should be almost nonexistent.

71


How to Build a Café Racer

06 SPEND ON SUSPENSION

It’s time to cut loose. Namely, new shocks and a fork kit. Getting shocks from Öhlins, Racetech, Works Performance, Hagon or Progressive Suspension can all be an improvement. That said, it’s absolutely critical that the dampening and spring rates are matched as closely as possible to the weight of you and your bike, taking into consideration what type of riding you’ll be doing. Buying a name brand shock that’s mismatched, already used, or designed for a race bike may not yield any improvement whatsoever. I know that Racetech and Works will build shocks to exactly fit your needs. Lengthening the rear shocks eye-to-eye can get you more cornering clearance and better turn-in for corners. But lowering the back end of the bike, as seen in many current custom builds, has the opposite effect. The same goes for forks. Scoring a set of cool USD (upside-down) forks on eBay in no way guarantees good handling. But a fork spring and a dampening kit (or Racetech emulators) can yield great results with your stockers if they aren’t bent or rusted. You can even adapt better forks to fit, possibly from a different model of the same brand.

72


How to Build a CafĂŠ Racer

73


How to Build a CafĂŠ Racer

74


How to Build a Café Racer

07 LIGHTNESS

08 TIRES

Another way to improve the stock

Every tire manufacturer makes rubber

chassis is to lighten the wheels and

donuts in the 18” range that will give

fit better brakes and tires. There may

good grip and great transitions from

be a similar model to yours that

vertical to leaned-over. A lot of the

has a lighter, smaller rear hub, or a

70s-era bikes—almost all except those

smaller and lighter disc.

in the sub 450cc range—came with

Look at lacing up an aluminum rim, perhaps wider, that allows you to use a better tire. Firestones or knobblies on your street bike are a loud, clear signal that handling in the corners is of no concern, and the other things I’ve mentioned to get the chassis to

19” front wheels. These combined a steel rim with a large diameter, and generally speaking, a much more ‘relaxed’ steering head angle. This increases the gyroscopic effect and leaves you with a bike reluctant to lean or steer into a corner.

a higher level will be for nothing.

75


How to Build a CafĂŠ Racer

76


How to Build a Café Racer

09 BRAKES

While we’re up front, how about

bikes will have been converted to

braided stainless brake lines and new

aluminum rims with an 18” wheel

pads? Discs can be swapped out for

at the front and most likely a

a larger disc from another brand or

second disc.

model, or you could even swap the front hub for something that originally came with two discs.

Other factors are the steering head angle and triple clamp offset, which feed into the “trail” part of

Note: make sure you also pick up a

the overall package. That’s a dis-

brake master cylinder intended to

cussion for another time, but it’s

push enough fluid for two calipers!

a huge factor in handling.

Many older bikes had caliper lugs on both fork legs, but oddly no caliper was attached. When you visit the vintage races, you’ll observe that most

10 TIMING

Ok, so now your bike goes straight

and go faster. They keep the stock

when you want it to. It doesn’t

engines or modified engines in top

wobble and the new wheels and

condition throughout the year.

tires—being lighter—feel pretty darn good going into and through corners. Not to mention the dual discs slowing the bike down with much less effort.

They’re in the garage setting the timing over and over till it’s perfect. Or resurfacing the head and cylinder so with a new gasket, it won’t leak— ever. So start by making sure the

But if only it had more power! Well,

engine has good compression on

the solution isn’t as obvious you’d

ALL cylinders. Check the points are

expect. At first, anyway. The guys

in good condition, and the engine

who have been successful at compe-

is timed correctly. The air cleaner(s)

tition over the years don’t just throw

need to be clean, and the carbs jet-

some trick component at the bike

ted properly—since you tossed the airbox and installed the cool “pods.”

77


How to Build a Café Racer

11 REBUILDING THE ENGINE

Most bikes from the 70s are tired, pooped out and thrashed. A paintjob won’t get it down the road any quicker. You may need to bite the bullet with an engine rebuild, and once again, the vintage races could be your best source. The Yamaha TT500s (with the same motor as the XT and SR500s) are probably the most popular bike in all flattrack races, week in and week out. With a 540cc kit, a Megacycle cam, a Sudco 36-38mm round slide carb kit and just about any pipe, you’ve entered another world of performance. Same with an XS650 Yamaha. A 750cc kit, Megacycle cam and some 34mm carbs—and CB750s look out! That is, unless your CB owner got a hot cam, a 836cc big bore kit and some Keihin CRs while building his own café racer, and paid attention to his chassis set-up.

78


How to Build a Café Racer

12 LEARN FROM THE HOT RODDERS

The common thread on all these bikes is giving a crap about the chassis set-up, getting the motor at the least back up to “Blueprinted” stock and then using all the standard hot rodding techniques racers have used since the internal combustion engine was invented. Bigger displacement, more cam, better ignition systems, bigger/better carbs and you can even install exhaust systems that yield more power and are still quiet. There are so many parts available for the older bikes that have evolved over the last thirty years; everything can just be purchased and installed with vendors providing detailed instructions and technical assistance.

GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR PROJECT! 79


80


INDEX

A

R

H

About Café Racers 8 After Your Purchase 66

History of the Café Racer 7

Brakes 75 Build a Café Racer 61

K

Café Racer 7 Choose Your Weapon 63

Ducati 57 E Engine 76 Evolution 25 G Get to Work 69

Suspension 70

Kawasaki 42

L

T Timeline 17 Timing 75

Learn from the Hot Rodders 77

Culture and People 29 D

S Style 25

Know the Issues 64

C

Rebuilding 76

Honda 42 How to Build a Café Racer 61

B

Racing 12

Logos 41

Tires 72

Lightness 72

Triumph 45

M

W

Makes and Models 39

Wheels 72

Moto Guzzi 49 N

Y Yamaha 43

Norton 53 P Plan 67 Present Day 33 Purchase 66


Š 2014 Christine Labrador

Academy of Art University GR 601 Type Systems, Spring 2014 All images and text in this book have been reproduced. Every effort has been made to identify owners of copyright for credit. I apologize for any inaccuracies that may have occurred and will resolve inaccurate or missing information in a subsequent reprinting of the book. BOOK DESIGNER Christine Labrador TYPEFACES Helvetica Neue Rotis Semi Sans Rotis Semi Serif


History of CafĂŠ Racers

83


Return of the Cafe Racer  

Academy of Art University / GR 601 Type Systems / Spring 2014

Return of the Cafe Racer  

Academy of Art University / GR 601 Type Systems / Spring 2014

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