|Umm... What now?|
1. Knowledge; How much do you know about motorcycle mechanics and fabrication?
2. Time; How long do you have to spend on a project or how long can you afford to have your bike (if it's your only one) off the road?
3. Money; What's your budget and what happens if it blows out?
So knowledge, time and budget are the 3 factors that not only affect your initial decision but will also dictate how your Cafe Racer will turn out in the long run. You may have the time and the money but without the knowledge, your project could end up as an "uncompleted" Cafe Racer auction on eBay. Switch any of those three key words around in that last sentence and the result could end up the same. So do your research, make an educated choice and avoid this somewhat depressing scenario. I'm not saying don't challenge yourself, just be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.
|Diamond Atelier BMW R100R Café Racer|
Some of you, however, may already own the motorcycle you plan to customise and if that is the case you're committing yourself to dealing with what ever limitations that motorcycle may have (if any). At the end of the day though the decision is yours to make and should be driven by passion more than anything else. If you own a motorcycle that you love chances are when you start transforming it you're only going to allow yourself to make it better.
The classics: Triumph, Moto Guzzi, Ducati, BMW, BSA or if you're capable of laying golden eggs, a Vincent. All these great names in motorcycling history have models that would suit your dream Cafe Racer build...trouble is, they aren't cheap and neither are the parts required to restore or customise them.
|Race ready Seeley Norton MKII|
So for the experienced motorcycle mechanic, skilled home bike builder or for those willing to take up the challenge "classic" motorcycles are an exceptional base for a Cafe Racer build. However, for those of us who don't fit into this category, there are other options that will give you just as much satisfaction to own and ride.
|Rebellion of the Machines Honda CB750 Café Racer|
|Dime City Cycles Honda CB400|
There is also a thriving community of enthusiasts online who will offer you plenty of advice and guidance on your CB based Cafe Racer project. If you're chasing aftermarket parts for a custom CB build a few of my favourites suppliers are Dime City Cycles, Benjie's Cafe Racers and Carpy's CB750 Cafe.
|Deus ex Machina Yamaha SR400 Café Racer|
Yamaha SR 400/500: Sydney's Deus Ex Machina single-handedly brought them into fashion in Australia and just about every custom workshop in Japan has modified at least one. What a great little thumper the Yamaha SR is. They've been around for so long that they frequently come up for sale and mechanically they're about as basic as they come. Best of all they are one of the only motorcycles made for the street today that still feature a kick starter!
The Yamaha SR400 isn't a powerful motorcycle by any stretch of the imagination, but they're great fun to ride. They're also a relatively affordable option and if you're looking for parts you won't have to look very hard. Webike Japan is a great source for general maintenance and custom parts for the SR and they are so beautifully simple that servicing them yourself is not out of the question.
The Yamaha SR really is one of the most flexible motorcycles out there. For more about these bikes you can read my Yamaha SR400 writeup here.
|Auto Fabrica's 'Type 6' Yamaha XS650|
Yamaha XS650: The Yamaha XS650 is another incredibly flexible motorcycle for a Cafe Racer build.You can pick up a secondhand one for almost nothing and their engines are renowned for being bullet proof (although their electrics can be a bit fiddly). I have been building my own XS650 Cafe Racer for a while now (way too long!) and I started with no knowledge of XS650 mechanics. A huge online following has enabled me to easily find answers to any question I have. Parts are also very easy to come by thanks to a big custom scene following in the States, guys like Dime City Cycles offer an extensive range of custom parts designed especially for your Cafe Racer conversion. The many different models that came out between 1968-1985 offer different electrical systems, wire or alloy wheels and different brake set ups with early models featuring front and rear drums...oh and they sound great with free flowing pipes!
|Revival Cycles Kawasaki W650|
|The love of my life. My W650 Cafe Racer, completed in 2006 and ridden daily ever since.|
Now as you head off to begin your search the most important thing to remember is to go with your heart. Buy a bike that you love, even in its standard factory form. Having a connection with the bike from the get go means your project will be an exciting one. Research your options, find inspiration, source handy parts suppliers and have fun!
Click here for more features about
Looking for Cafe Racer gear? Visit the...