A look into Cafe Racer History

A look into Cafe Racer History

The beginnings

There were 3 major factors in the history of the European nations which led to the rise of cafe racers. The history of Cafe Racer dates back as early as 1930s which created the series of events that eventually led to the rise of cafe racers of today.

1. Retooling After War

Similar to how the “choppers” of America came to be, the first seed of cafe racers was during the retooling after the First World War. Many companies sold parts and bikes which gave the people the opportunity to buy and personalize their own motor sets. Since various veterans and soldiers customized their bikes to make it faster by scraping unnecessary parts, racing soon became one of the most beloved past time.

The start of customization and the love of racing was the first seed in the history of cafe racer.

2. Rise of the Rockers and the Alternate Rock n’ Roll Lifestyle

When the early 1960s came, during the rise of Rock n’ roll music, the scene style of Cafe Racers started to emerge. Cafe racer history began with this musical genre caused an eruption of scene styles which created the need for new kinds of bicycles and an alternative definition of what is “cool.” As these motorcycles became a fashionable and distinctive mark for this genre, people then started to build their own bikes which appropriately represented themselves and how much of a “rebel” they were. Aided by the rising fame of motorcycle enthusiasts who naturally adopted the fad, people started to meet and race at various transport cafes. The emerging fad began in the UK and slowly started to be adopted in the nearby European nations.

3. Development of Road and Motorways

The motorways across these countries slowly developed and transport cafes for trucks and for pit stops then started to boom. This meant more rode and spaces to race. With the rise of the arterial motorways in the UK, the rise of cafes for pit stops later became ideal areas for these enthusiasts to stay so to challenge others or to have a little contest among friends. These bike enthusiasts started hanging out in the transport cafes and would do the drive from one transport café to the other.

All of these factors pooled in together with the youth clothed in leather jackets and started to wait in transport cafés and challenging others who rode their own bikes.

The history of cafe racer terms also changed as time passed.

Cafe riders were originally used as an insulting remark explaining how these youths were not real racers but simply “cafe racers” as they raced around in café. Since most of these youths accepted this as a compliment and challenged more and more as they transferred from café to café, the term was later used to refer to those who only owned bikes and did not race. Eventually, it started referring to the actual bikers who raced and were the real bike enthusiast.


History of Cafe Racer Customization

History tells us that cafe racers primarily had customized bikes. Customization became the new fad at that time since these rock n’ roll rebels wanted to emphasize how they were “different.” In order to look “cool” speed also became an emphasized trait for these motorbikes.

The factory-produced motorbikes at that time were mainly made to emphasize transport and comfort and thus customization and a personal tune-up of the motorbike became the only possible methods to become a fully-fledged cafe racer.

There were stories that in their desire to race, cafe racers would play a song in a jukebox and race from the café to a certain point and back again before the song ever ends. This is only one of the many proofs of how customizing for fast motor vehicles began in the roots of cafe racer history. The goal of the racers was to achieve a speed of 100mph. This meant customizing bikes and creating hybrid bikes which were effective. Bikes that achieve this speed are welcomed to the Ton Up Club and was considered to be one of the coolest things in that era.

At the height of the era of customizing bikes, a specific configuration became common among all customized bikes and was widely adopted throughout the UK.

The design usually followed a low handlebar bike with the seat to the rear which caused riders to ride it in a slightly crouched position. The handlebars followed the “Clubman” and “clip-on” design. Both designs allowed the riders to easily control the vehicle. Mainly, the design was meant to minimize the weight of the bike making it faster. With that mindset, various variations of the bikes were made. Combining two different brand bikes to produce faster results also became a hit in cafe racer bikes.

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Manufacturers eventually created factory produced cafe racer bikes to cater to the new market during the late ’60s and mid ’70s. But even then, customization was still a common practice. Various European brands developed bikes based on what cafe racers would want following a low ride bike which allowed tight control over the bike and an emphasis on speed.

The seed of the Cafe Racer Movement

This genre produced one of the most influential movements the world of motorbikes has ever seen. The love of motor racing may have endured due to this culture. Since customization and designs were done by people outside of factories and brand names, the inspiration for the modern sportbike may find its beginnings in cafe racer history.

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Even today, various bike enthusiast build their own design or even save up to buy a factory-made cafe racer as it also provides amazing speed. These factory-produced bikes have even reached a point of being elegant and prominent in their own right.

Today, London’s Ace Café holds the best place for motorbike enthusiasts to gather and even race. There has been a notable increase in the number of people who may be classified as cafe racers as the older generations are now coming back. Basing on the cafe racer history timeline, experts suggest that they left the scene since they had a family to race but is now back with the time and money to support their hobbies. It is proof that the seed sown in the history of cafe racing continues to live on today.

Images by Triton Rocker and Reg Mckenna