Since long before I actually started riding, I’ve loved the cafe racer style. This all began in the late 1950’s when young British riders would spend their few hard-earned quid on making their own bikes look and run more like the racers they admired. The modern analogue would of course be the supersport bikes you can buy that, right off the showroom floor, give you the large majority of the performance and style of a World Superbike or even MotoGP racer, and all you need is a set of team decals. But the style of the 1960’s lives on and is in fact growing considerably more popular.
So in my usual method of latching on to a trend as it reaches a critical mass of trendiness and hipsterdom, despite having been interested in the style years before it was accepted as cool by the respected authorities (did the same thing with my fixed-gear bikes), I’m just getting started now on building my own cafe racer.
I don’t even have it home yet but this is what I scored yesterday for a rather trifling sum. Pardon the terrible cameraphone pics. They are caused by my cameraphone being terrible. Click to biggify.
It’s a 1980 Yamaha XS850, an 850cc air-cooled triple, originally made as a touring bike. This is a little odd choice for a cafe bike, and you don’t see them very often. It’s really a bit too new, it’s shaft drive, and it’s pretty big and heavy. But the frame has the straight top that is needed for the true cafe look, and the tank fits the style very nicely. Wire spoked wheels would probably suit the style better, but I don’t think I’ll go to that extent of modification. Besides, I actually wanted something odd. There’s a huge majority of Honda twins and fours in the cafe world, and whilst those are certainly the most abundant as well as nearly the most suitable blank canvas for a racer, I’ve never been one to like to do exactly as everyone else. I prefer my sub-sub-sub-niches, thank you very much. When I decided to set out on this project, I had in mind one of three things: either a small-displacement twin, like a Honda CB360 or a Kawasaki KZ400, but turbocharged; or a two-stroke; or one of these Yamaha triples, mainly because you can’t beat the sound of an uncorked triple (you can match it, but not beat it!).
I was inspired in large part by this:
For more examples of the cafe style, check out the member’s rides section of the website of the Ace Cafe, which is where it all started.