BSA Cafe Racers are not as common as Triumphs & Nortons. This 1969 BSA Rocket 3-based custom is nothing short of amazing. Built right, very fast!
This delicious 1973 Norton Commando CNW recently sold at MidAmerica Auctions' Auction Marketplace event at Pebble Beach for $15,000.
The Cafe Racer originated in 1960s England as part of the Rockers counterculture., although they were big in Europe as well. The name came from the practice of racing from one coffee bar, or Cafe, to another. ‘Racing the Record’ involved starting a song on the jukebox, then racing to a given point & back again before the record ended. This involved some real high speed riding & required a motorcycle that was built for speed & good handling. These machines were typically very personalized, most usually being built or at least modified, by their owners.
FACTORIES CATCH ON
Many factories caught on to the trend & began building their own factory Cafe Bikes. To further add to the fun, many forms of racing required so-called 'production' machines to be homologated (produced & sold to the public in at least minimal numbers to justify calling it a production bike). Original examples of these factory specials are rare, valuable & much sought-after by collectors today.
Cafe Machines come in all shapes & sizes, and while the trend started in England, there are Japanese, European & even American Cafe Bikes. But, we will confine the bulk of our coverage to Cafe Racers which are also Classic British Motorcycles. Some are barely street-legal race machines with full fairings, rearset pegs & oversized tanks. Others are as simple as a set of low bars. But the look is instantly identifiable.
CUSTOM FRAMES & SWAPS
Some have custom frames, like the Egli Vincent, and others swap frames & engines from different motorcycles, like the Triton, a Triumph engine in a Norton Featherbed frame. Or the Norvin, a Norton Featherbed with a Vincent V-twin engine in it. Clearly there is a pattern here. The Norton Featherbed was considered THE best handling frame you could get in the 1950s & early 1960s. The arrival of the single downtube frame in 1963 finally put Triumph's handling on par with Norton's. These cross-brand hybrids were, of course, not built or even sanctioned by the factories. These were often home-built.
THE EGLI VINCENT
Swiss frame fabricator, Fritz Egli started a sensation with the frames he built for Vincent V-twins. Called the Egli-Vincent, they are not just beautiful to look at, the handling & engineering is top notch. This one is highly customized & is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life!!
CAFE RACERS - LEAN & MEAN!
Cafe Racers, like Choppers & Bobbers, are totally unique, like individual works of art. Some are extraordinarily detailed, others are quite simple. Generally, the original Cafe Racers were street bikes with all unnecessary equipment stripped off, making them quite simple, lean & mean. This lovely '75 Bonneville is a perfect example.
MY LOVE OF CAFE RACERS
I am a big fan of Cafe Racers myself, & I built this wonderful 1973 Triumph Bonneville into an award-winning Cafe Racer, which I call "The Yellow Bike", for obvious reasons. It’s impossible to miss...The Yellow Bike is bright yellow! I'll get into more detail on my bike & others below. This is an area that is very close to my heart so it will be even more enjoyable for me to indulge in these gorgeous bikes. Even more so than all the beautiful Classic British Motorcycles that grace our pages. Enjoy.
SO, LET'S SEE SOME PICTURES OF CAFE RACERS!
TRIUMPH CAFE RACERS
Just as most Classic British Motorcycles are Triumphs, most Classic British Cafe Bikes are also Triumphs
. Triumphs have always been known for good handling, lightweight, great power & speed, all vital ingredients for a decent Cafe Bike.
NORTON CAFE RACERS
have always been favorites among the Cafe set (the people, not the bikes). Nortons make ideal Cafe Machines. Throughout the 1950s, the Norton Featherbed Frame was the best-handling frame in the world. Norton did some of its own factory Cafe Racers, like the John Player Special.
ALL OTHER CAFE RACERS
Cafe Machines come in all shapes & sizes, all displacements, all configurations. Many are as unique as their owners. Some are modified with simple bolt-on accessories. Others go so far as to custom fabricate frames, tanks & more. For our purposes, we are only going to cover Cafe Bikes built from Classic British Motorcycles.
The YELLOW BIKE
I built this bike from scratch, rode it hundreds of miles to shows, won some trophies, then rode it home. It's been in some magazines. Its a 1973 Triumph TR7
with a Bonneville head, loads of trick stuff & some cool history. Check it out.
BOOKS ABOUT CAFE RACERS
CAFE RACERS OF THE 60's
HOW TO SET UP YOUR MOTORCYCLE SHOP
MOTORCYCLE ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS
MOTORCYCLE FUNDAMENTALS, SERVICE & REPAIR
MODERN MOTORCYCLE TECHNOLOGY
MODERN MOTORCYCLE TECHNOLOGY: HOW IT ALL WORKS
HOW IT HAPPENS AT THE MOTORCYCLE PLANT
HOW TO PAINT YOUR MOTORCYCLE
HOW TO CUSTOM PAINT YOUR MOTORCYCLE
HOW TO GET YOUR MOTORCYCLE UP & RUNNING
HOW TO REPAIR YOUR MOTORCYCLE
HOW TO RESTORE YOUR MOTORCYCLE
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BACK TO TOP - Cafe Racers
We're adding new pages, new bikes, new photos & text all the time. We're growing fast, really fast. You'll see more than just bikes coming soon. We're moving into covering events like auctions, shows, ride & races, we're interviewing top people in the field & much, much more. And we just started something new: We set up a photo studio at British Motorcycle Shows & take free pictures of bikes, giving us many more eye-popping photos to bring to you. So, please be patient with our dust as we endeavor to build the world's finest website about our beloved Classic British Motorcycles...stay tuned!
Enjoy the ride,