Ton Up, Visor Down

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Words by: JPS for duncan quinn

These days people toss about the term “café racer” without really knowing what it means or where it came from.

Apart from being a genre of especially cool motorbike, it comes from a very specific time and place – the iconic Ace Café in North west London, where modern motorcycle culture was born in the 1950s. Originally opened in 1938 it closed in 1969, then re-opened in the exact same spot 30 years later. It’s where the true British motorcycles of the modern era – Triumph, Norton, BSA and the hybrid Triton – really came of age. And it also gave birth to the “ton up”, indicating a bike that could do 100 mph, a necessary accessory for joining the Ton-Up Club.

Another important milestone in moto culture came in 1954 when a California company called Bell Auto Parts created its first motor racing helmet. The stylish and functional lids were soon adopted by the bad boys – and good riders – of California’s car and motorcycle racing scene, including one Steve McQueen. More recently Bell shook up the motorcycling world once again with the introduction of the Bullitt line of vintage-style helmets in a tribute to this famed early adopter. Now Bell and the Ace Café have collaborated on two new helmets that the Ton-Up types would go nuts for. The first is a vintage style open-facer with the Ace logo on the side, the other a full-faced job bearing the Union Jack. Caveat emptor – you’ll need a British bike to pull these off, and put them on. Just the excuse you were looking for….

Words by JPS for duncan quinn