When it comes to designing a cafe racer, it is about art as it is science. Each bike has its unique personality of a kind. The design reflects the era, environment and the owner of the bike. Yet there are a myriad of things that we can do to ensure that the result will look solid and professional.
We can all agree to the fact that a great custom bike is far much beyond the sum of its parts; each cafe racer tells a story about the life and times of the machine and its builder, woven together by the one who will call the keys their own.
Every rider dreams of owning a powerful cafe racer to zip quickly between events either in town or hangouts with buddies in the city.
While some riders clock on and clock off, others are bold enough to live their dream. They go an extra mile to customize their bikes according to their individual taste.
They strip these bikes and personalize almost every aspect of their design for a focus on speed and performance over comfort.
One of the hallmarks of the cafe racer is the specialized style of the cafe racer tank. And the good news is riders can make their own at home.
Cafe racer tanks with side indents
There are a myriad of styles of tanks but the most notable alterations are side indents at the end of the tank. Whether you decide to keep your original tank or purchase a new one, you will have to decide whether you want it to be with or without knee indents.
So what’s the fuss about tanks with indents and those without?
Well, originally, cafe racers used dented and elongated fuel tanks for the fuel tanks and the sole reason that led to adopting this design was so that bikers’ knees could easily cling or hold on to it.
Another reason was to increase the fuel holding capacity of the tanks for the bikes that needed to run certain races and the larger tank would not clear the rider’s tucked in pose. Additionally, indents help the rider to bring their legs closer together and therefore creating less wind drag.
These indents closer to the front of the bike are for accommodating the closer and more swept back bars which allows the rider to turn the bike as normal.
Whether you want to have you cafe racer’s tanks with indents or without them is a function of individual style, taste and preference.
Here are two ways to make your side indents.
a. Ensure the paint is removed completely and then cut off a paper template of your desired knee dent shape then mark the tank and shape it hammering patiently with a rounded nylon hammer (teardrop mallet).
b. The second method involves a similar procedure as the one above but this time the tank once marked will be cut both sides following the line instead of hammering. Then weld the sides back in flipped position.
Take note of the fact that signature cafe race indentation reduces the internal volume of the gas tank!
Other cafe racer fuel tank options
– Use a stock tank from a different bike If you decide to replace your original tank, make sure to select a tank that fits both the general style and the other motorcycle of the base bike. The design should flow as seamlessly as possible. Get a tank that fuses naturally with your cafe racer’s seat you plan to use and provides plenty of fuel holding capacity.
– Buy an aftermarket gas tank There are many cafe racer kits available on the market today and you may find the one that perfectly fit your project.
– Polished alloy tanks There are also Companies out there that make superb vintage style fuel tanks out of polished alloy but make sure you have plenty of money.
It is also common to see people using rubber pads to avoid paint wear from constant contact with rider-tank.
Cafe racer gas tank stripping and painting DIY
Once fuel tank selected the next step involves stripping the paint from the surface with fine-grit sand paper/power sander or with paint stripper(if required).
With the 1st option make sure you are gentle on the tank as the scrubbing involved can result into deep scratches that are difficult to hide and using too much force can damage the tank. It is important to sand away the paint during this stage as it makes it easier to repaint the full unit later after you put the indentations in place.
Is there any rust that has remained after sanding? Use a chemical solvent to break down and remove all the rust that remains. If you find large rust spots in the tank that you intend to use, it could be a sign of an underlying problem that may render your tank unusable.
Finding and repairing these problems early in this stage can save you time and an effort in the long run. You should perform a thorough rinsing of the tank with alcohol and mineral spirits to ensure that the structural integrity of the tanks remains solid.
Check for any leaks and ensure that the inside of the tank stays dry after rinsing. Wipe the exterior of the tank with spirits to remove any remaining rust solvent or loose paint.
After all is done, match the look of the tank to that of your cafe racer using a high-quality automotive paint kit, customize it to your style by including everything you need for base coats and glossy or matte finishes. You can now unleash your creativity matching colors and using a unique paint schemes.
Your ultimate cafe racer should take the look of a cohesive piece and not appear as a conglomeration of parts that likely is. Allow plenty of time for the paint to set and dry before attaching the tank to your motorcycle.
At this stage you should have your cafe racer tank sorted and you should be one step closer to your dream bike project.