THE CAFE RACER PHENOMENON by Alastair Walker Format: Paperback Pages: 96 Copyright Year: 2009
The café racer is one of the most enduring styles of motorcycle ever created, epitomizing the rebellious spirit of England in the 1950s. The Café Racer Phenomenon is author Alastair Walker's attempt to capture a strand of motorcycle history through the photos, records and memories of the people who were there.
From its roots in the 59 Club, home-brewed specials and the creation of Triton by Dave Degens, the café racer became the must-have Rockers' motorbike. It then became the template for a new generation of fast road bikes in the 1970s, with the rise of Dunstall, Rickman, Seeley and many more bespoke bike builders. Machines like the Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk I, Ducati 900SS and the MV Agusta 750S all captured the spirit of the café racer. Then the slick, super fast, Japanese sports bikes of the 1980s came along, setting out to consign the café racer special to the history books.
However, a revival had to happen. The Ace Café London re-opened, bike builders as diverse as Wakan, Fred Krugger, Nick Gale and Roland Sands began to create lean, back-to-basics motorcycles, but with their own unique twist on the café racer heritage. From the Buell 1125 CR to the Guzzi V7 Sport, mainstream modern bikes have also re-discovered their street racing soul.
It would be impossible to illustrate the span and influence of 50 years of English motorcycling history in one book, but The Café Racer Phenomenon is meant to provide a taste of this era to inspire a deeper interest within the hardcore classic motorcycling community. Featuring a huge, global café racer directory - listing specialist builders, spares suppliers, Web sites, etc. - alongside a unique mix of personal memoirs, unseen photos, iconic machines and chassis builders in profile, this book takes a look at the enduring cult of the café racer, in all its ton-up glory.
ONE OF THE BEST, most creative aspects of motorcycling has got to be Cafe Racer Motorcycles. Generally, it's accepted that the Cafe Racer movement started in the UK in the sixties with the "Ton-Up Boys" and British counterculture bikers. They modified their British and Italian bikes in order to make them faster and sleeker, with "clubman" bars, single seat conversions and tricked-out motors that strived to propel the cafe (or caff) racers to the magic ton. (The magic being one hundred miles an hour!).
After World War II many in Europe and the UK sought out cheap transport as their damaged economies recovered from that conflict. Motorcycles were the best bet for many and smaller bikes were easy on the wallet. As these riders grew older, and their financial fortunes rose, the idea of owning a bike became more a choice than a necessity and the glory days of the British motorcycle industry were in full swing.
Youth chafing at the Victorian morals of their parents and class discrimination drove the generations farther apart. Rock and Roll and the "counterculture'' movement took hold. And along came the Ace Cafe!
Londons' now famous Ace Cafe was built in 1938 to cater to truckers and motorists using London's new arterial roads and the surrounding main highways. As the Ace Cafe grew, adding service bays and petrol pumps, it became a popular hangout for youthful motorcyclists looking to hang out, chow down on decent grub, have a tea and rip back and forth down the North Circular Road. And listen to Rock and Roll on the jukebox!Cafe Racer Parts and Cafe Racer Kits
Around that movement cottage industries sprang up to service the burgeoning aftermarket. Names like Rickman and Dunstall were the touchstones upon which the cafe racer culture were built. As England was a land seemingly populated by millions of engineers and machinists, cafe racer parts and cafe racer kits were easy to come by. So the cafe racer motorcycles movement grew and despite hard times to come, it thrives today. With biking in the 1970's becoming dominated by the Japanese, it was natural that bikes like the Honda CB750 and Yamaha XS650 would be the next evolution of the Cafe Racer.
Cafe racer clubs, web-sites and magazines abound today with the Fifty Nine Club now claiming to be the biggest motorcycle club in the world!
In fact if you "Google" Cafe Racer parts, clubs or magazines you'll get hundreds of thousands of hits for each. So there's no excuse not to get out there and build yer own cafe!
And speaking of, don't forget to take "before" and "after" pics of your project. Not just for posterity but because you can post your pride and joy on this website! Ok, and others...
I suspect that if your reading this you are already pretty much hooked on cafe racers and/or classic Japanese bikes. Have a look around. Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated.
The Rickman brothers became reknowned for developing, manufacturing and offering high tech frames for racing privateers in English "clubman" racing series.
As the Rickman frames' reputation grew for handling prowess, the brothers explored the commercial and racing markets for Honda CB750s and other bikes such as this Kawasaki.
They were shunned by BSA, Triumph and Norton because they were seen as a threat. What a shame.
If only the Brits could have embraced the Rickmans, but it was not to be. In time Rickman became a name much sought after not just for their frames but for fairings, seats, tailpieces and go-fast parts.
Whatever you think of the style of Rickman body parts, they are an enduring icon of the '70s motorcycle industry for the epitomy of high end stuff!
Orginal Rickman parts are worth mucho $$$ today!
For sure the Yamaha XS series of bikes have become the most favoured series of motorcycles for conversion to cafe racers and bobbers.
The reasons are pretty obvious. Intrinsic good style, great underlying reliability, and cheap used bike prices!
There are thousanda of Yamaha XS series bikes out there for sale today because there were hundreds of thousands of Yamama XS bikes sold between the late '60s and early '80s all over the world!
Possibly the most sold Japanese bike other than the Honda Dream series of scooter/bike.
And of course as a result, there are millions of spares and aftermarket improvement parts to keep your Yamaha XS machines running happily on the roads today. For cheap!
This Suzuki GT550 cafe racer is a rarity but a well put together example of a Suzi cafe. Just like its big brother, the so-called Water Buffalo, or Kettle GT 750, this bike is so very rare.
Some folks would say don't wreck a good original GT bike but maybe the thing was beyond saving as original. Either way, it is what it is. And it's great! I love the air-scoop on top of that engine. Ya think there might have been some middle cylinder cooling issues there?
Have a look at some sweet Suzuki cafe racers and the builders that build 'em.
Lots of readers have asked about this particular Honda Super Hawk cafe. Most particularly the tank! That's why it's shown again here. If you know more than please send an e-mail.
Anyway, there are many Honda models that have been cafe-racerized. Reasons are these; Strong reliable engines, strong reliable engines and strong...umm, you get the picture!
That's not the only reason for sure. Let's have a look at so many more Honda cafes. There are so many brilliant ones to draw inspiration from.
Don't forget to send us your own pics and stories.