From Trail to Tarmac - Vida Bandida Honda Tornado

As I'm typing this I find myself thinking that it actually makes a lot of sense to use a trail bike as the basis for a cafe racer build. They’re light, lack complicated electrics and are geared for good fun, yet they are often overlooked. This is undoubtedly because it takes a fair whack of work and a good eye to transform a trail bike into a motorcycle that’s worthy of being considered a café racer.

Antonio Lupiañez and Salvador Alasino of Vida Bandida motorcycles are two Argentinian Industrial Designers who devote their spare time to modifying motorcycles. As a personal project, they decided to build a café racer using something other than the “go to” 70s and 80s Japanese motorcycles. They wanted to show their customers that not all builds had to be based on tired old donors and the bike they chose for the challenge was Honda’s 250cc trail bike, the Tornado.

Riding Gear - Dainese Toga72 Jacket

If there's one Italian riding gear brand that's as iconic as the countries most recognised motorcycle manufacturer (sorry Guzzi fans I'm referring to Ducati) it's Dianese. The Dianese brand was founded by Lino Dainese back in 1972 and he still runs the company as its president today. To pay homage to their illustrious past Dainese have just launched the sub-brand "Settantadue". Leather jackets are at the core of the Settantadue range and the boldly styled Toga72 is the embodiment the brand's ethos.

Chalcolithic Café Racer - BMW R100 R Mystic

Mankind has been discovering clever uses for copper since 9000BC. The stuff has been used to fashion tools, tile church roofs, build a supersized lady liberty, conduct electricity and its even cast as currency. At some point, someone also discovered that if you give it a good rub it looks rather nice. Using copper as a decorative finish on a custom bike has certainly been done before, but we've never seen it look quite as good as on Vincent Degano’s copper cloaked BMW café racer.

Unexpected Places - Defined Motorcycles Yamaha XS

For most people, a small capacity Japanese bike probably doesn’t sound like an ideal trade-off for a classic Triumph TR6, but for 'Defined Motorcycles' owner Mick Scott it was a means to an end. While his TR6 sat in pieces he needed a runabout to keep him on the road. Wanting to keep costs down he sourced a bike that could fulfil his needs without breaking the bank and it came to him in the form of a Yamaha XS250. What he never planned for though was just how much fun rebuilding and riding that little bike would be.

Rolling Thesis - Walter Castrogiovanni’s Ducati Valchiria

Do you remember what you were doing when you were 23? It was only a few years ago for me, around the time I got my first motorcycle and I was only just starting to understand how carburettors worked. I was having a few issues with my bike and when I fixed something or made an improvement to the old girl I felt pretty clever. Now I’m sitting here comparing what I was doing then to what Walter Castrogiovanni is doing at 23 and feeling somewhat dejected. The very, very interesting creation you see here was designed and built from nothing more than an engine, a swingarm and a pile of steel by Mr Castrogiovanni himself.

Cafe Contenders - Yamaha SR400 and SR500

At some stage, the tide turned against Yamaha’s SR400 and SR500. It might just be that I’m in Australia and we’ve been saturated with years of Deus-built specials. But there’s been a rising level of snark towards cafe racers built around Yamaha’s evergreen classic. It seems that these days it takes a lot to impress people with an SR. That’s because every conceivable thing you can imagine has been done to them. They've been chopped, hacked, turbocharged, supercharged, bobbed, flat tracked and of course, cut down into cafe racers. Without a doubt, Yamaha has built the default motorcycle of the custom scene - and it seems like every workshop, sooner or later, has a shot at modifying the simple little bike.

But, dear reader, should you? Is it worth tracking down one of Yamaha’s cheerful little runabouts for your next custom project? Has the bike become a staple of the scene because of its own merits, or is it just a cheap, uninspiring start to a project?

Well, we’re here to help you find out, in our latest Cafe Contenders review.

Share this