A group of apparent cafe enthusiasts fully clad for a bike-side photo-op. Photo: www.silodrome.com
In recent years, along with the influx in Starbucks locations came too an influx in another type of cafe, that is, the Café Racer. These vintage bikes, recognizable by their low clip-ons and single rearward mounted seat, have begun to nudge their way into motorcycle culture and create a new niche within the market (or at least one that’s now sizeable). At its inception in the late 1960’s, the term “Café Racer” was meant as derogatory, a slant to a young crowd of “Ricky Racers” who wanted to be competitors but instead could be found merely tearing up the streets riding between cafes or bars; the frustrated actions of the passionate but uninitiated.
Of course many of the café racers of today (the bikes not the riders) are bred by Craigslist entrepreneurs who buy an old CB350, spray it black, throw on some clip-ons and flip it for twice the cost. But that’s only part of the Café Racer parable. A real, authentic culture is being redeveloped, even (maybe notably) among the younger crowd. Suddenly kids who would have been riding R1’s, are now seen straddling bikes half the size and a fraction of the power.
But the truth is they’re loving it. Whether it’s the look, or the light weight or simply the vintage feel, the new café racers are in a way even more subversive than the originals because these days they are choosing the very dated, very antiquated technology of nearly half a century passed over the incredibly high performance, tightly tolerated technology of modern sport bikes. And let’s not forget the “cool factor” of the newer bikes, while the café racer tends to be an esoteric genre.
And anyone who hypothesizes this groups’ preference for the elderly is only about money doesn’t know who I know; people who have sold off modern bikes just to build their favorite version of a café racer for the same or more cost. Personally I take solace in the café culture. To see a grassroots movement take hold simply for an ideological nostalgia and without corporate endorsement can be refreshing, and I applaud all the enthusiasts wrenching away in their garage on projects that could have been hot items in the day of their parents or grandparents.