Cafe Racer: A Brief History

Cafe Racer: A Brief History

Cafe Racer: A Brief History

Café racers have been around for decades. However, not many riders know the full story of this unique type of motorcycle. Below, we take a closer look at the history of café racers. Let’s get into it!

What Is a Café Racer?

Café racers are motorcycles designed to offer decent performance but with minimal extras on the bike. With light weight and high power, these bikes look truly unique while still managing to go very fast!

The History of Café Racers

Origins of Café Racers

Café racers came out of London in the early 1960s. They were simply modified production motorcycles that were adapted purely for speed and handling. Not being designed for long distance riding, the bikes have limited extra features.

Youth Culture

The bikes had associations with ‘Ton-Up Boys’ and urban Rocker culture. Moving between cafes, these bikes had the speed to get from A to B in rapid time. They were usually purchased on the cheap from people that were moving on to buy cars instead.

There are various myths associated with early café racers. One includes the idea of rebellious English youths racing from café to café trying to reach “the ton” of 100 mph. Another claims the riders would try to race from a café to a certain point and back again before a song finished playing on the jukebox!

Speed Over Looks

The main goal of café racers was speed, so riders would take almost everything off their bikes that didn’t help them go faster. This meant lights, unnecessary plating and just about everything else that didn’t make the bike go faster were taken off.

They would also tune their engines, add special handlebars and different footrests too. This helped them ride more aerodynamically, reducing wind resistance and increasing their speed.

Carburetors, mufflers and tires were other areas of café racers that riders would customize to increase their potential top speeds. Riders would create hybrid bikes, like crossovers between Triumph Bonneville engines and Norton Featherbed frames.

The Changes in the Market

British-made bikes gave way to Japanese models in the 1970s. This meant that café racers themselves began to look very different. However, brands themselves started producing their own versions of café racers as well. Two examples are the XLCR from Harley Davidson and the Moto Guzzi Le Mans.

Modern Café Racers

Honda and Yamaha also started building their own café racers in the 1980s. However, this trend also continues into the modern market. BMW and Ducati are two other big brands that have recently brought out their own café racers, and one of the most famous modern café racers is the Sport Classic from Ducati.

The Story Continues

There is no doubt café racers have a rich history, and one that continues to evolve even today. While now not only associated with the youth culture, café racers are found all over the world, ridden by enthusiasts that love the idea of customizing a bike for sheer speed. 

Aug 3rd 2021 Rockford Naylor

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