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Building a cafe racer is a fascinating and rewarding process, but choosing the wrong base model could cause the process to become infuriating and costly. That’s why we’ve picked out the best base models for you to choose from to get your journey started. 

We’ve looked at a range of different bikes you can purchase to get you started, whether you’re looking to add a more powerful engine, change the frame or shed weight, we’ve put together a list no matter your skill level. 

If this is the first time you’ve customised a bike, an important tip to remember is to choose a mainstream bike that has a lot of available parts, just in case something goes wrong with a part you purchase, or you fail to install it correctly.

Honda CB Series 

A perfect bike for beginner cafe racer builds is the Honda CB Series, whether you’re getting the 350, 500 or 750 model. This classic line of Honda motorcycles is often seen as the world’s first superbike, but the CB’s are perfect for custom projects, due in large part to the number of places you can buy parts from. 

Go on any custom project forum and you are bound to see countless messages of fellow bikers discussing ideas and stories about tinkering with this legendary bike. However, this also has its pitfalls as the 750 models are becoming somewhat of a rarity due to buyers looking to purchase and keep it in its original specification. 

Honda CX500

Staying with Honda, another model you can try from the Japanese manufacturers is the CX500. Fitted with dual CV carburetors and a liquid cooled motor, the CX500 might require more work than the CB Series due to its higher front end, which doesn’t have the same styling as a cafe racer. This model is also less popular than the CB Series, which means you will have to search a little harder for the parts, but the ease of the build makes it a fantastic option for beginners.   

BMW R-series

BMW is a tremendous manufacturer to choose when it comes to your base for a cafe racer. Due to the popular nature of the German giants, there are a plethora of places where you can source information and purchase the parts you need. The R-Series is also one of the most reliable bikes on the market, due to its shaft drive needing less maintenance. 

Not only are they reliable, but the low centre of gravity of the bike makes it handle like a dream. There are a lot of options out there ranging from 500cc to well into the thousands, but one we would recommend is the twin boxer, mainly because of the roar of the engine.  

Yamaha XS650 

Yamaha makes some of the cheapest, most reliable bikes on the market and if you’re looking for a flexible cafe racer then the XS650 model could be the base for you. The X650 has a huge online community which can answer almost any question you have on a query. 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 specifically for your cafe racer conversion. 

Kawasaki W650

If you’re looking for a bike that has a modern engine, excellent handling and already looks superb, then the Kawasaki W650 is a perfect choice. These bikes already turn heads before they’ve been altered and with parts easily acquired due to their popularity, particularly in the Japanese market, you will have no problem shopping around for the part you need. And what’s even better is that, with the release of the Kawasaki W800, the price of the W650 will continue to decrease, making them an even more affordable option for your cafe racer build.  

An insurance quote to please

If you think that building your own cafe racer is a little too tricky, take a look at our blog on the best factory-built cafe racers.

Whichever cafe racer takes your fancy, the custom motorcycle insurance experts at Bikesure will have an equally pleasing quote for your machine. Call 0808 588 1010 to find out how much you could save. 

Retro Motorbikes