This text is taken straight from The Ace Cafe's website because they say it best. Some of the pictures have been changed to protect the innocent and maybe some of the guilty as well! But the sentiment is there...
was built in 1938 as a roadside cafe to cater to traffic, particularly hauliers, using the new North Circular Road. With its proximity to Britain´s then new and fast arterial road network and being open 24 hours, the Ace Cafe soon attracted motorcyclists.
Once the cafe was established, the owner's thoughts turned to the motor trade. In 1939 he opened a service station with a battery of 10 pumps on adjoining land, with a spacious washing bay, showroom and repair shop.
The Ace Cafe was reopened in temporary accommodation and subsequently rebuilt in 1949.
The post-war increase in road traffic and advent of the "teenage" phenomena saw the Ace booming, and with it, the arrival of the "Ton-Up-Boys". The British motorcycle industry was at its peak, and along came Rock ´n´ Roll. Not played on radio stations, initially the only place it could be heard was at fairgrounds or on jukeboxes at transport cafes.
It became the place to meet, have a meal or cup of tea, arrange runs (often to other cafes or the coast) or simply to mend your bike.
People came to listen to the jukebox, many subsequently starting bands or clubs. Some gaining success and considerable reputation.
From this powerful fusion of motorbikes and Rock ´n´ Roll came the legends of record-racing, "drop the coin right into the slot", and race to a given point and back before the record finished.
The Ace Cafe, with its combination of motorbikes, speed and Rock ´n´ Roll was the launchpad for many famous racers and the birthplace for many bands.
The tabloid press carried many articles portraying cafes as the places where decent people didn´t go.
Changes in the social order, the growth of the car market at the expense of the motorbike industry, and the expansion of the motorway network saw the Ace Cafe serving its' last egg and chips in 1969.
The Ace Cafe in 1969.
The building had been used as a cafe and filling station. The cafe played a leading role in the 1963 Sidney Furie film THE LEATHER BOYS, which starred Rita Tushingham, Colin Campbell and Dudley Sutton, utilising many of the cafes' patrons as 'extras'.
Shooting scenes at the Ace Cafe, Furie, eager to achieve realism, took advice from the local riders. "You'd never find an Ace boy wearing them jeans" he was told one morning.
Furie's direction and strong performances combined to make The Leather Boys one of the great British films of the sixties.
Rita Tushingham, Colin Campbell, Dudley Sutton, and author of the novel, The Leather Boys, Gillian Freeman, were all present for the Grand Reopening in September 2001.
The legend of the Ace Cafe lives on in the minds of those who went there, those who wish they went there and those too young to have been there."
Whilst this is an abridged version of the story of the Ace Cafe, the story has hardly been properly fleshed out here. There has been an explosion of interest in the cafe racer bike and the culture recently.
There are websites like "dotheton.com", "benjiescaferacer.com", "rocitycafe.com" and so many more. The list is long.
Better still, with the price of insurance, cost of new motorcycles and government fees, many young folks are finding that classic bikes are a cheap way into bike ownership.
Let's hope this movement helps create a rennaissance regarding cafe racer bikes, and classic Japanese bikes in particular! And a lot of credit goes to the Ace Cafe London for kickstarting this phenomenon. There's even a new TV series about cafe racers. Google it!
A café racer, originally pronounced "caff" racer, is a type of motorcycle as well as a type of motorcyclist. Both meanings have their roots in the 1960s British counterculture group the Rockers, or the Ton-up boys, although they were also common in Italy, Germany, and other European countries.
In Italy, the term refers to the specific motorcycles that were and are used for short, sharp speed trips from one coffee bar to another.
Rockers were a young and rebellious Rock and Roll counterculture that wanted a fast, personalized 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 (called simply "the ton") along such a route where the rider would leave from a cafe, race to a predetermined point and back to the cafe 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. Rockers on Cafe Racers at Cafe, UK.
A classic example of this was to race from the Ace Cafe on The North Circular road in NW London to the Hanger Lane junction as it then was - it is now the more famous Hanger Lane Gyratory System - and back again. The aim was to get back to the Ace Cafe before the record on the jukebox had finished.
Given that some of the Eddie Cochran tunes that were in vogue at this time were less than two minutes long, the racers had to make the three-mile round trip at extremely high speed.