Words and Photographs by: JASON MICHAELS (DIME CITY CYCLES)
Gentlemen like Mark Wilsmore of the Ace Café, and Triton Dave Degens. Degens not only invented the Triton (one of history's most influential custom race bikes), but won against all the factory race teams on a budget that barely afforded him beans and toast on race day.
While the café racer may be reaching its peak some forty plus years after its birth, these men deserve the credit. Custom builders around the world, TV shows devoted to the subject, and thousands of next generation TON-UP boys are re-igniting a dream from the past
At its core, a café racer is essentially a stripped down, customized motorcycle modified with one purpose in mind: to go faster. At the time, some of these machines could barely reach the ton (100mph.) Now, you might not think that's very fast based on modern sport bike specifications, but trust me, doing 100MPH on a teeth chattering, soul shaking speed machine is more than visceral, its vital at least to the man who is seeking authenticity and individuality in a world of plastic homogeny.
The selection of the bike to use as a platform isn't as important as understanding the aesthetic that is a café racer. Dropped bars, a bump stop seat and rear-sets are the single most identifiable elements. Important as well are classic lines and attention to hand-made components, that's the key. AutoCAD junkies and CNC machine users need not apply. The beauty of a vintage café racer is found in its hand-tooledelements that show craftsmanship.
In reality, the original café racers were machines the likes of BSAs, Triumph 650s and Nortons. Finding these machines and hacking them up is not only expensive but also frowned upon given the ever decreasing supply. This will no doubt leave you wondering what your options are. Never mind the fact that some of us simply don't have the time or the desire to cut, weld and wrench.
Oddly enough, your options lie in modern machines created with ease of use and technological advancements that make the experience that much more enjoyable. Remember, café racer has become more of an aesthetic and culture segment than a specific type of machine.
Starting with the modern Triumph platform, a resurrection and improvement on the original Triumph Twin, a host of after market companies have risen offering everything from custom tanks to seats and everything else in between for those looking to either have a dealer or local service shop complete the work. Other manufacturers are now following suit. Royal Enfield is releasing their new Continental GT Café Racer, Harley Davidson just announced their new smaller cc custom platform bikes in the Street series, and Yamaha has shocked the market with their Bolt. It's only a matter of time before we end up back in a time when show rooms are filled with smaller, more nimble affordable machines that lend themselves to customization.
What does this mean for a gentlemen rogue such as yourself? Especially one who appreciates two wheeled freedom? That you now have multiple platforms to exercise your individuality and not only compliment your style, but help define it.
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