The Triumph Cafe Racer

Triumph motorcycles, Triumph Cafe Racer, Cafe Racer, Cafe Racers

Triumph Cafe Racers are a subject that is near & dear to my heart. As much as I love Classic British Motorcycles, my favorite corner of that genre is Cafe Racers, & I've always been a huge fan of Triumph motorcycles, so my love of Triumph Cafe Racers is a natural. In fact, one of my first true project bikes was a 1964 Triumph TR6 that I bought in high school as a Bobber, which I built into a pretty nice Cafe bike, considering I had virtually no money to do it with. Below you will see, among other bikes, my "Yellow Bike", my most recent project bike & one gorgeous Triumph Cafe Racer. It's won awards, been featured in magazines & taken me many incredible miles.

Below is an odd collection of Triumph Cafe Racers, no particular rhyme or reason to their order. We will add more photos as they become available. In some cases, I had to do my best to determine facts about the bike based on what I can see in the photos, as these bikes are all unique. We've also separated out the Norton Cafe Racers & then grouped Cafe bikes of all other makes together, since Triumphand Norton seem to make up the bulk of the Cafes built from Classic British Motorcycles. Enjoy.


Triumph Cafe Racer, Triumph Bonneville, Cafe Racer, Cafe Racers

Hunkered-down, minimalist, but finished off in fine detail. The Yellow Bike had a look to it that really turned heads. It started out life as a 1973 Triumph TR7 Tiger, I put on a Bonneville head & 2 Mikunis, & called it a "Bonnie". Of course, I always disclosed its TR7 lineage, but hey...who cares, when you're talking Triumph Cafe Racers?

Triumph Cafe Racer, Triumph motorcycles, Cafe Racer, Cafe Racers

Built for riding, great attention was given to comfort & reliability. I wanted to be able to ride it anywhere. Loaded with unique features, like QD handlebar risers, rigid oil & fuel lines & a large underseat storage area.

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Yellow Bike with the fairing added. After a couple of years of riding to shows in the wind, I picked up this fairing out of (believe it or not...) the JC Whitney catalog & painted it to match. It really made the bike much more comfortable on long trips, but I never cared as much for the look.

Click here for more details on Yellow Bike

I've seen this sharp machine at several shows now, including the recent Quail Motorcycle Gathering on May 5, 2012. Built from at single-carb TR6, it has Dunstall-style swept-back pipes with shorty megaphones (reverse megaphones, technically), rearsets, clip-on bars, unique cafe tank & seat with bumstop & a custom oiltank, on a stock frame & forks. Looks great too.

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triumph cafe racers, triumph cafe racer, cafe racers, cafe racer

Let's jump ahead to the modern day. My Yellow Bike is a 70's anachronism. This new 2005 'Streetmaster' Triumph Bonneville Custom Cafe Racer is as modern as it gets, in the world of Classic British Motorcycles. Granted it's a Hinkley Triumph, not a classic Meriden Triumph, but they are lovingly accepted by crusty old Triumph buffs like myself, and so welcome on these pages.

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triumph cafe racer, triumph cafe racers, triumph cafe racer pictures, cafe racer, cafe racers

This Triumph Cafe Racer is being built in small numbers by Streetmaster Engineering out of LA, which spun out of Cal Custom, the age-old hot rodding legends with the "Moon Eyes". These guys build a sweet bike. They had several on display of different types, a street tracker, a flat tracker & this Cafe Racer, all with modern Triumph Bonneville Engines. This bike is as potent as it is beautiful with a custom chassis by "Mule", flow-optmized head, high compression CR pistons & Carillo rods, hot cams, 39mm flat slide Keihin carbs & low restriction exhaust.

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Wow! This one's so gorgeous, it hurts! Lucious nickel-plated Rickman Frame surrounding a breathed-on Triumph Trident 750 triple engine, in this case a 1000cc stroker.

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rickman-triumph, rickman frame, rickman trident, triumph cafe racer, triumph cafe racers

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Rickman Triumph, Rickman frames, Triumph cafe racer, cafe racers, triumph motorcycles

Rickman Triumph, Rickman frames, triumph cafe racer, cafe racer, cafe racers

The Rickman Brothers have always been famous for building excellent racing frames, for dirt bikes, TT/scramblers, road racers & even some street machines. This bike has a Rickman road facing frame & may have been campaigned on the circuit. It certainly looks the part. In fact, it may be more race bike than street bike. But, it is street-legal, so technically we can call it a Cafe Racer. And while its technically a Rickman & not a Triumph Motorcycle, it does have a Triumph engine & so for our purposes, we're going to call it a Triumph Cafe Racer.

Rickman Frames are all nickel-plated (gorgeous) & are known to be very stiff & handle extremely well. However, the twin vertical rear frame tubes behind the engine prevent a splayed Bonneville head with twin carbs to be used, so this bike & every Rickman Triumph I have ever seen, runs a single carb.

This is a wonderful machine with full fiberglass bodywork , large tank, small seat, tank-mounted fairing, (all original Rickman stuff) rearsets (footpegs), disk brakes front & rear. Single carb or not, this must be an awesome machine to ride!

Rickman Triumph, Rickman frames, triumph motorcycles, triumph cafe racer, cafe racer

The proud owner writes: "When I was younger I always thought a small frame single cylinder Cafe Racer was my ideal . Now that I am retired after all these years, I FINALLY built one! I ended up buying a TR25 that needed total restoration as the basis for the bike. The underlying concept was keep it British, true to the vintage.

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1969 triumph tr25, triumph cafe racer, triumph cafe racers, cafe racer pictures, cafe racers

1969 triumph tr25, triumph cafe racer pictures, cafe racer pictures, triumph cafe racers, cafe racers

A number of improvements were required with the over-riding intent to keep the bike's function and appearance faithful to its British origins. The bike is not intended to be a 100-point concours machine, but a example using simple and appropriate disciplines applied to retain the period look from the late 1960s and early 70s. The 250 cc Triumph engine was one of great debate as I really wanted a single cylinder but one with greater displacement of around 500cc. The bike was destined for a B44 motor when I was literally given a BSA Victor that had been sitting outside by a woodpile for over 30 years. Purists may question the non-traditional parts such as the use of stainless fasteners, stainless spokes, and Sun (Akront type) rather than Dunlop alloy rims as examples. However I felt that these decisions were no different than the early British bikes that used a combination of home market engines, frames, clip on bars and low seating positions for their Cafe Racers. This bike was meant to be ridden requiring parts to keep it both looking and functionally running well with regular use. There is little on this motorcycle that has not been rebuilt, repolished, or replaced. Details include such things as switches, wiring harness, shocks, tires, forks, brakes, fenders, exhaust system, seat, grips, rubber bits, cables etc. The worldwide web was significant for information gathering and being able to purchase required parts.

The only work outsourced was the $80 cylinder boring and fuel tank painting. The fuel tank was painted by another friend for the price of pizza and beer! The gearbox, engine bottom end and head have been completely rebuilt. A new .060" over bore piston and rings were also used along with a MX cam. Additionally, there are a number of concealed mechanical improvements to help the bike's performance, rideability and dependability. As an example, the electrics are now converted to a 12 volt negative ground system with a Boyer Bransden Power box and electronic ignition. These have been discretely located under the fuel tank to preserve the period appearance of the motorcycle.

The racer Cafe image that I always wanted over 40 years ago has finally been achieved from its low ace bars , to its large fuel tank, swept-back exhaust, rear set footpegs, and a (rocker correct) theme of black/silver. It has the image of simplicity that I always wanted.


Triumph Bonneville, Triumph Cafe Racer, Cafe Racer, Cafe racers

1971 was the first year for the oil-bearing frame on Triumph's 650 twins (soon to be 750). While unloved by some, 1971-72 Triumphs (& their BSA siblings) offer something that you can't get anywhere else: the most lovely conical brake hubs ever made! I absolutely love the looks, especially the front, with its big air scoop. While the didn't work as well as the units they replaced (and many wonder why they bothered developing a whole new brake & hub when disk brakes were just around the corner), they are wonderful to look at.

This bike also has a nice looking cafe-style single-place seat, low bars & the old-style pre-'71 oil tank & side cover. Simple, clean, probably didn't cost much to build, but what a looker!

Triumph Bonneville, Triumph Cafe Racer, Cafe Racer, Cafe Racers, Triumph motorcycles


Triumph Bonneville, Triumph cafe racer, triumph motorcycles, cafe racer, cafe racers

This handsome 1965 Triumph Bonneville is almost stock, save the low bars & shorty megaphones. Still has the tank rack. But the look is all Cafe Racer. Check out those aftermarket mini-turn signals (winkers). Sometimes a nice Triumph Cafe Racer can be as simple as this & still be worthy of drooling over.

Triumph Bonneville, Triumph cafe racer, triumph motorcycles, cafe racer, cafe racers


Triumph Bonneville, Triumph cafe racer, Triumph motorcycles, cafe racer, cafe racers

This 1978 Triumph Bonneville T140 is sort of a cross between a Cafe Racer & a Street Tracker. Low bars, cross-drilled disk brakes F&R, heat-wrapped pipes, no fenders. Note the left-hand shift & the MkII carbs, this is a T140E. Stripped-down, minimalist, racer-bike look is striking.

Triumph Bonneville, Triumph cafe racer, Triumph motorcycles, cafe racer, cafe racers


Triton motorcycles, cafe racer, cafe racers

Triton motorcycles, cafe racer, cafe racers, triumph motorcycles

A Triton is a Triumph engine in a Norton frame, specifically a Norton Featherbed Frame. Of course, these cross-brand hybrids were not factory-built. Most were home-built by their owners, or by shops. Some of the better ones were built by custom motorcycle fabricators, some of whom specialized in the manufacture of Tritons.

In the 1950s & early 1960s, the Norton Featherbed was probably the best-handling motorcycle frame available to the general public. It was extraordinarily stiff (thanks in part to its multiple-backbone design) & offered race-proven frame geometry. Many wanted Featherbed handling but more power than the Norton Dominator had to offer. The Triumph Bonneville engine was always a popular pick. Another was the Vincent 1000cc V-twin, which became the Norvin (Norton Featherbed / Vincent engine). You can see a red Norvin in the background of the bottom photo. This black Triton is obviously one gorgeous machine & seems to be well put together.

So, is a Triton a Triumph Cafe Racer or a Norton? For our purposes, we're going to show this bike & others like it under both its parent marques. So, in the case of a Norvin, we would display that bike under both Norton & Vincent Motorcycles.

Triton motorcycles, cafe racer, cafe racers


1972 Triumph Bonneville, triumph cafe racer, triumph cafe racers, triumph bonneville, triumph motorcycles

A nice job on this spartan '72 Triumph Bonneville. Stripped of the bulky side covers/air cleaners, turn signals & anything else that wasn't absolutely essential. Stock US tank & rear fender. Nice aftermarket front fender. Gotta' love those '71-72 Conicals Hubs (I don't care if they didn't work as well as the units they replaced, they just look great). Interesting exhaust setup.

1972 triumph bonneville, triumph t120 bonneville, triumph cafe racer, triumph cafe racers, triumph motorcycle pictures

Bradley of Citrus Heights CA sent us pix of his bike, a lovely 1972 Triumph T120 cafe racer. He writes: "When I bought this bike it hadn't been started in years. My friend and I got it running one day. Then I had my friend Ken Heuser helping me fine tune it. Ken was the owner of the Chicken Ranch in the 70's, a shop where he worked on english bikes. He has also been racing for 50 or more years at races like the Isle of Man TT in the 70's. It was already cafe racer style so I decided to go along with it. I put a cafe racer style seat on it, and boyer electronic ignition. I know it is the dreaded oil in frame but I love its look."

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triumph cafe racer, triumph cafe racers, british cafe racers, cafe racers, 1972 triumph bonneville

Proud owner Arthur Gareth of Northants UK writes: "Bought recently in England at a bike auto jumble, in Fair/good condition, been done in cafe racer style, makes rider (me!)look ready for fast action! Straight-thru megaphones, makes a superb rumble behind me, great..!" I agree. Dunstall-style swept back pipes look very English. It's rare, however, to see a US-spec 'teardrop' tank in Old Blighty.

triumph cafe racers, cafe racers, triumph cafe racer, cafe racer

Cafe Racers: Speed, Style, and Ton-Up Culture

Cafe Racer: How to Build Your Own Basic Cafe Racer With Timeless Style

Cafe Racer: The Motorcycle: Featherbeds, clip-ons, rear-sets and the making of a ton-up boy

Cafe Racers of the 1960s: Machines, Riders and Lifestyle a Pictorial Review (Mick Walker on Motorcycles, 1)

Cafe Racers of the 1970s: Machines, Riders and Lifestyle A Pictorial Review (Mick Walker on Motorcycles)

British Cafe Racers

The Cafe Racer Phenomenon (Those were the days...)

Cafe Racers: Rockers, Rock 'N' Roll and the Coffee-Bar Cult

How to Build a Café Racer

Construct a Cafe Racer: Building Your Own Cafe Racer

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