It is a very old fashion, which has returned to our days to stay. We tell you how it came about, what characteristics its motorcycles have and, ultimately, what is the Cafe Racer that everyone is talking about?
T he Café Racer movement arose in the United Kingdom in the 50s. At that time an urban tribe (of which they have proliferated so much in recent times) dominated the British scene: the Rockers , young lovers of Rock & Roll, dressed in suits black leather, who roamed the country at more than 100 miles per hour on the back of their motorcycles.
A host of circumstances led to the appearance of the Rocker movement. The post-war period brought a certain prosperity to Great Britain which, together with the end of petrol rationing and the rise of the British industrial sector, allowed access to motor vehicles for the poorer classes. The aesthetic was taken from the currents that crossed the Atlantic from the United States, where Rock & Roll was rampant. The improvement of the road network and the appearance of roadside bars (the transport café) did the rest.
Where does the term Cafe Racer come from?
The term Cafe Racer comes from the roadside bars where the rockers would meet, and which in turn constituted the start and end points of their motorcycle races. The youngsters modified their motorcycles, freeing them of everything that was not strictly necessary, so that they could get the best possible performance and speed from their engines. In these races, after all, they were not only risking their money and pride, but sometimes they even risked their girlfriends and their motorcycles, and above all, showing that they had been capable of squeezing every last drop out of the mechanics of their mounts.
motorcycles modified and prepared to run from cafe to cafe, while an R&R song lasted on the jukebox at the roadhouse.
With this premise, motorcycles were created with large tanks, minimal and individual seats, very short handlebars or clip -on handlebars in the style of competition motorcycles, powerful brakes to perform at the high speeds they reached, much shorter suspensions to stick the motorcycles to the ground . , pedals pushed back for a more aerodynamic position… essentially, modified bikes ready to run from cafe to cafe, while an R&R song played on the jukebox at the roadhouse.
No British motorcycle of the time was spared from the transformation, but among all of them, one was elevated to the category of mythical: the coveted Triton ( Triumph + Nor ton) , the result of a combination between the best chassis of the time, the Norton’s “ featherbed ” and the island’s best known and revered engine, that of a Triumph Bonneville.
As if this were not enough, at this time Norton engines achieved great fame mounted in racing cars. The brand refused to sell them separately, so car mechanics were forced to buy the whole bike and remove the engine. This filled the storage rooms of numerous British workshops with Norton chassis without an engine, delighting rockers and lowering its price.
Over time, motorcycle manufacturers, in view of the tastes of their customers, manufactured these cafe racer models themselves, losing part of the essence of the movement as they were no longer unique motorcycles but serial products. Fashion crossed the English Channel, Italian brands such as Ducati or Moto Guzzi launched their own models, and the Japanese did not take long to do the same. Even the Spanish Bultaco Metralla MK2 could be considered the first Spanish serial Cafe Racer.
Are there modern Cafe Racers?
Today, cafe racers are back in fashion, many houses have relaunched models that imitate classic cafe racers , such as the Triumph Truxton, the Ducati Sport 1000 or the Moto Guzzi V7.
Likewise, numerous fans, starting from classic motorcycles, create their own models, adapting new parts from an incipient industry specialized in these modifications, or manufacturing them themselves. BMWs, Hondas, Kawasakis,… no brand gets rid of the transformations.
We have created a 125 cc Cafe Racer and we have told you step by step.
The Ducati Forza is one of the most used motorcycles in Spain for these transformations, although the best results I have found from Mototrans (the Ducati Spain house in the 80s) have been with the Vento or the Road.
If you are interested in the subject, we have written a book in which we tell you everything about the Cafe Racer, from its history to its design guidelines, going through everything you need to know to transform your motorcycle.