Cafe Racer Origins and History

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Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Fri Aug 13, 2010 7:22 pm

The begining of cafe racers as a style of bike happened in England in the early 1960's. They were the bike of choice for the Rockers, which was a loosely organized group of motorcycle gangs. The Rockers favored brillo cream in their pompadors, Schott Perfecto (or any black leather) jackets, T-shirts and blue jeans. Their style then is what we now call rockabilly. Rockabilly music is also very closely associated with cafe racers. Another prominent cafe racer organization was the 59 Club. This was a club started by a preacher (Father Bill Shergold) at the Ace Cafe in London. The Ace was the last safe haven for the rockers as every other establishment had banned them. The club has been a very positive influence on the cafe racer movement and is still very active today. If anyone wants any info on joining, shoot me a PM and I'll get you the info. You mail them your dues and they mail you a patch and you get a newsletter. The Ace Cafe in London has become like the Cafe Racer Mecca.
"The Ton" is 100 miles per hour. Rockers were also known as "Ton-Up Boys" which meant that they liked travelling faster than one hundred miles per hour. "Doing The Ton" is taking your cafe racer to speeds above one hundred miles per hour. These are some of the common phrases used specifically within the cafe racer culture.
As far as what constitutes a cafe racer, the defintion is very subjective. They are mostly British, German, Italian, or Japanese bikes. The bikes themselves were built to emulate the race bikes of the time. A cafe racer is usually an older bike with low handlebars and a bum-stop style solo seat. Frequent upgrades include but are not limited to: Suspension upgrades, motor upgrades tire upgrades, modified stock gas tanks or polished aluminum gas tanks or fiberglass gas tanks. Beyond that it's really in the eye of the beholder. It's hard to say "This is a cafe and that is not." Usually if the guy who built it calls it a cafe racer, then it's his cafe racer. Also the cafe racer scene is built upon the sweat of average guys in their garages building their own bikes with their own hands. If anyone wants to know more about cafe racers I suggest they check out www.dotheton.com Anything you could want to know is over there. TwistedWheelz and I are long time members there.
Here are some pics of a few cafe racers just to give you an idea of the kind of bikes I'm talking about.
All of these bikes were built by members over at www.dotheton.com

























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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Dragon on Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:39 pm

Give em their due....Harley and Vincent also had their versions..... Very Happy

The Black Shadow was released in 1948, yet capable of speeds of 125 MPH. Shocked

It wasn't until later that they were truly built as Cafes however when Fritz Egli became involved, but they certainly made their mark in that type of style.
This is a LINK, LOL....

Harley also made an appearance on the scene circa 1978 ( at least notably ) with models such as these:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harley-Davidson_XLCR_1000_Cafe_Racer_1978.jpg


(And a personal note: my damned uncle has a frickin VINCENT sitting in his barn that he will NOT come up off of, even though it has sit there for decades, and has like 6 inches of pigeon CRAP on it, and I cannot get him to sell it to me.... AUGGGGHHHHH!!!!! )
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:13 pm

Vincent HRD was an England based motorcycle company with an eye towards making motorcycles go faster than ever before. And it was more of a drool inducing exotic bike to the Rockers. The Vincent Black Shadow was the world's fastest production bike for more than ten years after Vincent went under in 1955. During World War II due to the metal shortages they were making the motors using the melted down cases from Triumphs and BSA's. It would have been available to very few of the Rockers in the 60's due to its rarity and huge sticker price, although lots of Rockers who made it good probably have them now! And the Egli Vincent is THE exotic cafe racer! It came after the initial wave of cafe's was over in the early 70's. It's like the Farrah Fawcett poster was to adolescent boys in 1977.
Vincent Black Lightning:

Vincent Comet:

The legendary Vincent Black Shadow:

And an amazing Egli Vincent. The Ferrari Enzo of cafe racers.

As far as the Harley XLCR goes, it's only failing was that it was a factory bike and as such wasn't considered a "real" cafe racer. Over time the bike has definately found its following. Looking at it now it was way ahead of it's time. And a step in a direction that I wish Harley would have embraced. They go for serious cheddar now too. And the pipes are probably my favorite factory Harley pipes ever.


Dragon, dude, your uncle has a Vincent?!?! Does he want a four-year-old boy, because I might consider trading my first born!
Get us some pics next time your over there. I'm a total Vincent whore!


Last edited by Deviant1 on Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:32 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : to include some pictures.)

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Dragon on Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:58 pm

Awesome post. And I would give a lot just to RIDE one of those boogers. Very Happy

Yes, Gods strike me stone cold dead, he has one rotting away in his barn. I want to just beat his head clean off, cuz I would damn sure make it something better than a rusting hulk. No kidding.
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:09 am

Nice post Deviant, glad you put this here as many people are completely uninformed of this HUGE motorcycle movement.

Thanks man!

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:45 am

Very Happy
I just LOVE motorcycles!

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by camo on Sat Aug 14, 2010 2:52 pm

that Vincent black lightning really gets my atention..
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:32 pm

Another of my favorite motorcycles of all time is the Brough Superior. Not really a cafe bike, but it's definately a predecessor to the performance bikes that became cafe racers. It was the bike of choice of Lawrence of Arabia, he owned a bunch throughout his life. It's just a classy machine. These cost more than a lot of houses.
Here's a 1931 Brough Superior SS 100. They were 998cc's.

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by camo on Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:02 pm

yes the Brough Superior, I saw watching the tube last night and they has a segment about it, Great bike. Well ahead of its time, the forward front axle was a an innovation to keep the bike stable at high speeds. Alot of techniology far ahead of itd time went into that bike.
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:05 pm

Hey what show was that on camo? I'd love to try and DVR it if they replay it.

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by camo on Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:07 pm

I dont remember, I think it was on the history channel. Just a quick 10 minute segment, the rider actually got the bike to 90 MPH and let go of the bars to prove how stable it was. If I remember I will advise.
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:07 pm

much thanks

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Dragon on Sat Aug 14, 2010 7:50 pm

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by ZombieNNN on Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:26 am

Deviant, very good info. I really liked the fourth photo of the Honda, very nice. Good history lesson, thanks.
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:42 am

That one was built by a dotheton member with the handle Woody1981. It's one of my favorites. The picture before the last one of the white monoshock cb360 is Gretta, she was built by a buddy of mine and Twisted's in B'ham with the handle Kanticoy on dotheton. We're going to visit him for the Barber Vintage Motorsports Festival in October.

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by camo on Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:25 pm

I really like the look of the second bike down, the one with the girl on it. Very clean adn simple. I alos like the big black inline 4. Looks pretty nasty. Good nasty ya know.
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by camo on Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:30 pm

I have been drooling over this since I first found it a couple yearws ago.



I am not a BMW guy as per day, but this bike is very nicely done.
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:09 pm

Dude I love the old airheads. I'm just a fan of any weird engine. A boxer, or a transverse v-twin, or a triple... I've just always loved bikes with engines that are different.

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:11 pm

I love odd ball engines also. I love exposed rocker arm air cooled motors, for bikes or even the real old inline 8's 12's 0r 16's

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Paladin on Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:53 pm

I am not real big on those old traverse mounted v-twins, they just scream to have burnt legs riding them.
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by camo on Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:09 pm

Try the inline motor on the triumph rocket 3. Talk about gettin a hot leg.
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by joeyputt on Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:10 pm

In 1923 the american ACE motorcycle averaged 129 miles per hour and also averaged 48 miles to the gallon fuel economy (naturally not at the same time!) then they bolted on a sidecar and set the record at 106 mph! Just a little known fact on speed!


Last edited by joeyputt on Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:01 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by joeyputt on Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:00 pm

That black & red monoshock bike in the last photo is pure sexy...I can not stop looking at it! Makes we want to go back out to the shop and I just came in!!!
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Dragon on Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:13 am

*Update*

Edera and I went on a visit to see my grandmother in Illinois a couple weeks back. (She is 83 and still kickin it hard. Very Happy )

My uncle and aunt showed up for a little family dinner. Yes, he still has the Vincent. No, he still won't sell me the damned thing.....ARGHHHH!!!!

I almost drove over to his house to take a pic, but I didn't want to make the whole forum cry, it's pitiful how it was stored and has over six inches of pigeon s*it all over it....Sad
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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

Post by Guest on Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:18 am

That is a sin dragon! Did you tell him there is a special corner of hell called the flaming sodomy corner reserved for people who do not care for their classics and will not allow some who would to have the chance. Those people condemned there not only burn for eternity, but they also get sodomised buy BIG demons with flaming barbed members. Tell him that and see if he won't reconsider!

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Re: Cafe Racer Origins and History

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