What is a cafe racer and what is cafe racer style?

harley davidson cafe racer

Picture: Harley-Davidson.

People often ask, “what makes a motorcycle a cafe racer?” A cafe racer is a sports motorbike that originated in London in the late fifties and early sixties.

Back then, cafe racers were standard production bikes which had been modified by their owners and optimised for speed and handling for quick rides over short distances. 

The Ace Café to the Busy Bee

Cafe racers were mostly ridden and shown off on rides from biker café to biker café. One famous route for cafe racers was the Ace Café on London’s North Circular road to the Busy Bee on the A41 in Watford. You can read a brief history of the Ace Café in this blog. 

Minimalist in style, the cafe racer would typically have low-mounted clip-on or “Ace” handlebars, with rear-set footrests which enabled the rider to “tuck in”, reducing wind resistance and improving control. Non-essential features such as side panels, rear chain enclosures and mudguards were replaced by lighter items, or ditched completely.

Occasionally, cafe racers would be fitted with half or even full race-style fairings. Some bikes had swept-back pipes, TT100 Dunlop tires, and larger carburetors. Occasionally the standard dual seat would be replaced by a solo saddle.

Manufacturers now offer ready-to-ride cafe racers

Today, cafe racers are popular around the world and many manufacturers produce ready-to-ride factory models in the style of the original machines. 

Modern cafe racers from motorcycle manufacturers include:

cafe racer

Picture: Ducati Motorcycles.

The cafe racer influence is even apparent in the design of some electric motorcycles. For example, the Super Soco TC is commonly referred to as a cafe racer.

Read this blog to find out more about classic cafe racers

What is cafe racer style?

Cafe racers have developed one of the most devoted followings of any custom bike genre, so when people ask “what is the cafe racer style” there are many influences to consider.

Back in the fifties and sixties, the fast stripped-back cafe racers were symbols of rebellion. They were associated with mutinous young riders, rockers and ton-up boys” with a need for speed. 

Today, those who own cafe racers are likely to be somewhat more mature riders, perhaps reliving memories and aspirations from their youth. Expect them to be wearing vintage leather jackets, riding their bike at the weekend, and driving the family saloon during the week.

The cafe racer is still minimalist and remains a symbol of cool and a reminder of the past, but with today’s tech and riding assistance gear, they are bikes very much for today.

Outstanding insurance for your standout cafe racer

If you have a cafe racer that stands out from the crowd, you’ll be looking for stand out insurance too, so it’s good to know the team at Bikesure can help find custom motorcycle cover that meets your precise circumstances and needs.

If you own a cafe racer, call 0333 270 1403 for a swift no obligation quote — 79.5% of all customers receiving an online quote in July 2020 could have obtained a cheaper quote over the phone, based on the information they provided.

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August 8, 2023