Words by: JPS
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 Caf 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.
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