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14 May 2017

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Cafe Racers

This section is about CAFE RACERS, which is perhaps the most personal and individual type of all the different types of bikes. Whether you want to know more or just want to see what Cafe Racers are about, here you can check it out!

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.

The main reasons to have a standard bike converted into a cafe racer were: The need for speed, and being cool in all the right places (preferably where you could hear Rock `n´ Roll ) as well as being quite simply different. These machines were not only meant to transport you as fast as possible, but were also saying something about you and your distinct attitude. As such bikes where not readily available, you simply had to build them yourself.

Although there were some pretty fast bikes on sale from BSA, Norton, Triumph or Velocette, there was no model bringing the best of these together. A strong bike provided about 40 to 45 horsepower, but generally they did not have the look.



It was a must that the looks of the bike should match with the style....

and appearance of their black leather clad riders.

By the mid fifties bikers started to put Triumph engines into a Norton Featherbed frame. Since Triumph engines were considered to be powerful and Norton frames and forkes to deliver excellent roadholding, a new type of bike was born, the TRITON. A bike with outstanding handling and that delivered enough power to let you reach a 100 MPH, The Ton.

Accessories like clip on`s, special tail and head lights, racing carbs, exhaust pipes and alloy fuel tanks gave a special and individual touch to every single Cafe Racer. Although there are many TRITONS or DRESDAS on the roads, rarely do you see two that look exactly the same. All are different, tailored to the individual needs and taste of each owner. Here we´re actually talking of the first customised bikes, a trend which find its continuity with all those choppers, cruisers and, perhaps the true inheritors of the Cafe Racers, the modern Streetfighter.

By the early sixties, the bike market was changing with new traffic laws and road systems together with general changes in society. Those 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.

This was no problem for the Rockers and Ton Up Boys on their Cafe Racers.

They enjoyed cracking the ton, with all the "press" that went with it. You could often find phrases like WOT! NO BIKE ? on the backs of their leather jackets.


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 55 hp 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". Cafe 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 Caff Racer remained a Caff 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 Cafe 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 Z 9´s.




And there are more and more Cafe Racers to be
seen on the roads, never
hiding what they and their riders are about.






US Spec. 1978 Triumph T140V

Today, companies start to build new bikes inspired by the original 50´s & 60´s cafe racers, some as `retro style´ - such as Kawasaki W650, and even Triumph brought out their new 800cc Bonneville.

Perhaps a perfect example of a cafe racer for the new millennium...

The French Voxan 1000cc Cafe Racer

So, all you Ton Up Boys, comb that quiff
and dust off your Leathers.

Rev up your caff racers!


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