Honda cafe racer bikes
In the cafe racer community, there are many bikes to choose from as a base frame. You have Yamahas, BMWs, Suzukis, and even the rare Harley Davidson to choose from. But none of these are probably as popular as the Honda Cafe Racer.
The Honda CB series is actually a very popular choice based on the basic form it already possesses. A few tweaks here and there and you have your own Honda cafe racer. It’s a very easy platform to start with which is recommended for people who are just getting into the cafe racer community.
The next logical question would be: “Which one is the best base Honda bike for a cafe racer project?”
Honda Bikes 1982
You might want to look into the CB Series. The CB Series is comprised of a very extensive line with varying displacements from the CB50 to the CB 1300. To make it easier for you, let’s go with the more popular choices in the CB series which is composed of the CB500, CB550 and the CB750
The CB Series has a short wheelbase and also possesses that basic Cafe Racer foundation that makes it aesthetically pleasing. There’s that flat line from the front of the bike to the back which gives it that distinctive look. The pair of 18-inch wheels that it comes with stock balances the entire look almost immediately. This gives you a bike that from the get-go looks the part of what a cafe racer should look like.
Honda cafe racer displacements
Now let’s go into the different displacements these bikes possess.
The CB500 has a 500cc engine which will take you up to a 100mph without any effort. This is a very simple bike to work with and only requires minimal alterations to get that proper cafe racer look. A simple front fork replacement should take care of that slightly extended rake to give you the proper cut-off look.
The CB550 possesses a slightly bigger engine which means that it will take you to where you’re going faster and with a slightly lesser effort than the CB500. The CB550 also shares most of its parts with the CB500 so alterations are basically the same as that of the CB500.
The CB750 on the other hand is a whole lot bigger than both the CB500 and the CB550. But this does not mean that it is a whole lot difficult to turn into a Cafe Racer. In fact, the CB750 is actually the more popular choice to turn into an Honda cafe racer for the ease of modifications you can make to it. The bigger engine also means better performance.
These three can benefit well form a fork swap to tuck the front wheel in and give it a slightly more aggressive stance.
To emphasize the flat line, a seat swap is also highly recommended. Go for low profile seats as these can also emphasize the swoop from the gas tank to the rear light enclosures.
Aesthetics are entirely up to you. Just take note that most cafe racers were constantly being worked on every weekend so paint was the last thing on anyone’s mind back then. In fact, cafe racers were of the same mind-frame as hot-rodders then.
People thought that most cafe racers sported matte paint. In reality, that was just rust protector because the bikes weren’t finished yet but the rider just wanted to take it out for a spin. So glossy paint is good but not really necessary, if you really want to look the part of a cafe racer, opt for matte paint or retro colours.
As an added bonus, there is also another Honda motorcycle that is a popular choice as a cafe racer.
This is the Honda CX500. The CX500 has the same body lines as a CB500 which makes it an excellent choice to turn into a cafe racer as well. Like the CB500, the important aesthetic lines are already in place.
You have the flat line from front to back, the swoop from the top and the aggressive stance that makes it very intimidating to look at. There is almost nothing needed to turn the CX500 into a cafe racer save for a seat swap and a fork replacement.
Honda has long espoused the motto
Power your dreams
And for the cafe racer community, Honda has actually done just that.
And before we part ways, here are some words to live by as a cafe racer:
If you dream it, you can build it.