The great cafe racer controversy

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Appropriate, ain’t it, that a two-stroke with a trio of angry expansion chambers should incite a hornets’ nest of online commentary? It started innocently enough – me sending snaps of my 1970 Kawasaki H1 cafe racer to BikeEXIF, but it wasn’t long before the boo-birds started flingin’ feces. The Kawi’s period-correct Tracy bodywork, a one-piece fiberglass tank/seat/fender structure, got smeared the most. The main argument seemed to be that this H1 simply didn’t qualify as a cafe racer due to the lack of clip-ons and a bullet seat. That begs the obvious question, what exactly is a cafe racer anyways?

 

“Solid bones but please remove that hideous bodywork!” implored one comment. “A fad that has obviously not withstood the test of time,” said another. “That bodywork is absolutely disgusting and completely ruins the wonderful lines of the H1,” stated a third.

In the 1970s, before Edwards’ ownership, the Kawasaki was Production-class roadraced, even saw duty at Daytona. Now with Tracy bodywork it’s a period cafe racer…oops, sorry, make that a period “American-style” cafe racer.

To be fair, many complimented the bike and its Age of Aquarius vibe. Bigger picture, though, some argued that the H1 was not even a “proper” cafe racer, mainly because its low-rise tubular handlebars weren’t Marquis de Sade enough. Reader Steve, apparently an Ace Cafe original from Jolly Olde, led the charge.

“Cafe racers first appeared in the U.K. in the late ’50s, were road-going copies of clubman racers with ace/clip-on bars and rearsets, abbreviated mudguards and noisy exhausts,” he stated.

“Touring bars on racers were strictly U.S. practice, and cafe racers did not originate there. I don’t need to look at period pics, I was there.”

Well, okay, do tell. Testify, my good man.

“Cafe racers were a fashion, ridden by Rockers, also a fashion. They both had rules of appearance and behavior. The Rocker dress code went pretty much as follows: pudding basin or no helmet, chin rag, black leather jacket, badges and studs optional, heavy denim jeans, knee boots over thick white socks. For bikes it was low bars, ball-end levers, sweptback pipes with meggas, rearsets and skimpy mudguards. Bumstop seats were very acceptable, unless your sex life involved other people you might wish to pillion. Comfort and practicality were not considerations. We didn’t have highways, had lousy tires and brakes and broke down or fell off regularly. Quite a few of us got killed. That scene was pretty well all over by 1967. So that’s cafe racers, guys: take it or leave it.”

My friend Mick Ofield, a transplanted Brit, was in on the tail end of the Rocker craze, still rides a Norton Commando indecently fast in vintage roadraces, and confirms that no self-respecting “caff racer” would be fitted with anything but clip-ons or ace bars – standard handlebars mounted upside-down to mimic clip-ons. A talented artist and designer, Mick has done a series of line drawings that includes several cafe-racers (that’s his Manx Triton illustration leading off this story; to order prints or commission a drawing contact Mick at ofieldtn@blomand.net), and recalls the bits that gave the bikes their flash.

“Big deal, late ’60s and early ’70s, in cafe-racer style,” he says, “were engine-turned motor-mount plates, chrome ‘stoneguard’ grille on the headlight (I don’t know why!), Dunstall-style headlight brackets, sweptback exhaust pipes, Tickle/Dunstall-style rearsets, hump-backed single seat (upholstered Matchless G50-style looked cool), Amal racing velocity stacks, alloy speedo and tach brackets mounted under the upper fork nuts, polished-alloy top yoke was the ‘bee’s knees’, and a central gas-tank strap with a chin pad was another sign of a real cafe racer.”

Paul Dunstall was among the first to see the commercial aspect to cafe-racers. With the Brit bike biz going tits-up, he moved on to Japanese multi-cylinders – which to the crowd at the Ace Cafe must have been akin to Dylan going electric.

Appreciate the coda, Steve, and I get where you’re comin’ from. You guys were the originators – go-fast innovators who came up with the first repli-racers 30 years before Suzuki’s GSX-R750 was born. Good on ya. You paid the price, too, in blood left on the asphalt, either from crack-ups or being set upon by squadrons of angry Mods on their circus-wagon Lambrettas. You say clip-ons do a proper cafe racer make, I’m onboard with that. Not going to fit the H1 with ‘em, though. To me, low bars only make sense on a racetrack – or maybe flat-out in the pouring rain on London’s North Circular Road trying to make it back to the Ace before “House of the Rising Sun” stops playing on the jukebox.

But need the definition remain stagnated in the 1960s or could the fundamental principles of that original movement be what’s really important here? Can what made cafe racers special then be applied to motorcycles that are fast today?

BikeEXIF’s Chris Hunter doesn’t qualify a period or type of handlebar, simply saying, “The cafe racer is the sweet spot of form and function. Less is more.”

To which we’d like to add something of the original spirit. Someone riding a Manx Triton to the Ace Cafe in 1967 wasn’t doing so out of some sort of devotion to a bygone era or the kind of bikes his dad rode. He was riding it because it was the absolute fastest thing on the road. The closest thing he could buy to what was going around race circuits that weekend. He was riding it because it was fast, dangerous and because it pissed off his parents.

That “absolutely disgusting” H1 with the “hideous” bodywork was a production roadracer before it was my road bike. It’s also a motorcycle pared back to its essence, Tracy bodywork or no. No parka-wearing scooter rider has ever duffed up The One Armed Bandit of New York’s Fastest, but his S1000RR also seems to fit the racer-for-the-road, essentials-only cafe racer mantra. It too is a machine built solely to go extremely fast and leave blood on the asphalt. Is there a difference between this BMW and an old Triton other than era? And is that difference aesthetic or is it mechanical or because one traveled down a modern production line?

The problem is, this raises a further question. Are cafe racers about simplicity, purpose and going as fast as possible or are they about style? Do we prefer to remember cafe racers for what they were or learn something from what they taught us? Can a cafe racer be more than a memory?

  • dux

    Jeez. I thought this was gonna be an article about motorcycles, not fashion.

    • http://www.smartcycleshopper.com/author/doug-dalsing/ DougD

      Every social “movement” includes elements of fashionable dress. Radical movements seem to embrace new dresses while conservative movements embrace common appearances. Motorcycles are no different.

  • Brian

    Cafe Racer-

    Buy motorcycle.
    Remove extraneous parts.
    Make as fast as possible.
    Race other people.
    Beat them before the song ends.
    Win.

    Fashion? Go sit on the curb. As much as everyone loves the nostalgia, the point was to make the fastest thing on the road and beat other people. It just happens to be that the movement was followed by many like minded people which created the stereotype and those that want to continue to follow it. The bike itself is based on those above points though, and I guess that’s all we should be caring about at HFL. If you want to run vintage do it. If you want to follow the cafe racer mentality that was developed, DO IT. Lighten the piss out of it and go run it to the limiter.

    • Ben

      Unfortunately the mantra of lightening doesn’t really work as well in today’s day and age as it did back then. Now we understand the importance of aerodynamics. Fairings are there for a reason, and at the speeds street bikes are now able to achieve, they’re quite necessary. It seems that today’s cafe racers are actually who we call squids. Dangerous, fast, and not so much in it for the riding as the style. They grab a sportbike and slap on an aftermarket can and, if they’re actually somewhat smart, an ecu and dyno tune. The days of the cafe racer are gone.

      • Penguin

        Seems somewhat poetic doesn’t it? Technology killed the cafe racer.

      • fasterfaster

        I sort of agree, if you try to apply the exact formula of the cafe racer: take race replica, remove everything that doesn’t stop or go, ride. Kind of useless since today’s race replicas are designed for 150mph tracks and rarely make it out of 3rd gear on the road if you’re actually using the power.

        But if you take the spirit of the original cafe racer, which was about creating the fastest bike for an URBAN course, I think the modern supermoto is the true descendant of cafe racers. Cobbled together from other other race bikes, stripped down to the essentials and optimized for tight, dangerous, unpredictable, asphalt courses… they unquestionably have a unique and distinctive aesthetic that results purely from function, not fashion.

      • seanslides

        If you want to see modern day cafe racers, go to the snake (on mulholland highway) on a sunday, or get in touch with NYCF.

  • Ilya

    Absolutely, David. I was asking myself the same question looking on the latest reincarnations of V7. One can build something Scrambler/Cafe-looking from just about anything, but what’s the point?

  • James Dean Meyer

    Labels are for file cabinets.

    • aadmanz

      hear hear..

    • http://www.footshifted.com Footshifted

      Agree – I could give a shit less what ‘category’ a bike falls in

    • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

      true. creativity doesn’t come in categories.

  • http://pics.zenerves.net/index.php?gallery=vehicules tropical ice cube

    Totally agree with Edward’s piece right here.

    Forget the bike. Isn’t all about the driver?

    Technology didn’t kill the Café Racer, the Café Racer invented the technology, now available to all: lower, nimbler, lighter, and much more powerful; same recipes apply today!

    “A thoroughbred Cafe Racer will ride all night through a fog storm in freeway traffic to put himself into what somebody told him was the ugliest and tightest decreasing-radius turn since Genghis Khan invented the corkscrew.”
    [Yes, from H. S. Thompson's Song of the Sausage Creature, of course]

    • Ben

      I’ve read the article, but I forgot that quote. Thank you for reminding me. Also, technology didn’t exactly kill the Cafe Racer, but also in a way it did. There’s a reason the term is now used to describe something retro. It’s a fashion of the past. Technology may have killed the Cafe Racer and replaced it with what we have today.

  • eric

    I hate genres, a fast motorcycle is a fast motorcycle whether it has clip ons or not.

  • Corey

    Hey, this is fun. Next, let’s debate the Chopper vs. Bobber vs Cutdown. There are cafe racers from all ages that look like the bikes in the black n’ white pics from Brighton or at the old Ace Cafe, etc. Those are cafe racers. If the bike conjures up the notion of urban hustling via shaved-off weight and inexpensive mods, it echoes the Rockers’ creed, but it doesn’t mean the bike is a café racer (even if it has a fiberglass tail pod). I think bikes that blur the line are simply “café style.” Easy enough. In the case of the Kawasaki, if you told me your café racer was a 2-stroke triple with a bitchin’ one-piece body kit and comfortable upright handlebars…well, I’d be confused. (But I’d want to ride the heck out of it.)

  • aadmanz

    Guys, the same thing is happening all over again with streetfighters.. Guy comes up to me: “nice bike” (not finished and at that time ugly as f#ck) but then tells me off because it was neither a rat or a proper ‘fighter..
    All I did was take the fairing off, put superbike bars on, and temporarily rattle can paint it flat grey..
    Not nice, not sophisticated, not on purpose to make it ugly, but just a halfway point during the conversion to something else that was unclear at the time.. (and still is I guess)
    I guess my point is:
    Sometimes things just are what they are and don’t need a label or a fixed set of rules to make sure you are the period correct rebel as described in the manual..

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

      Most labeling arguments have less to do with the objects and more to do with psychology. Us versus them, the elite versus the ignorant, blah blah blah. It’s as if there is something sacred. We all have things we take too seriously, though.

      The safe way to avoid some of the arguments is to not use the label. That’s sadly impossible for owners of a Ducati Streetfighter.

  • occam

    I’m not into café racers at all, but if I was old enough to have lived the actual thing I would be pissed too if a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies just started to distort and corrupt the original meaning. And someone saying he is against “labels” makes about as much sense as saying he is against words.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

      There are certain people who absolutely make me feel like I’m against words. It makes perfect sense.

      There’s a difference between a label being a broad generalization and a convoluted mess of rules for the sake of themselves. Look at the difference in music genres between your average fan and the music elitist. What one would call “rock” another would cry, “Nay, you damned ape! That’s indie folk rock! Do you need a diagram? Can you even read?”

      • occam

        One thing is the attitude people have towards labels and another thing entirely is the usefulness of labels. And labels can be very broad or very narrow. A very specific, restrictive label allows you to discriminate between closely related concepts, which is why someone who’s very knowledgeable in a certain subject will tend to find them useful. If that person is arrogant about it that’s a different issue altogether.

        Can a 4-wheeled vehicle pulled by a horse be called a “motorcycle”? If you believe that only engine-powered, single-track 2-wheeled vehicles qualify as motorcycles are you being elitist?

        • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

          In my prior message, I should have said, “…a convoluted mess of rules enforced for the sake of themselves.”

          I can think of all sorts of silly examples, but we agree.

          • nick2ny

            My sister wrote on her blog that it would be lovely to go for a drive in a “vintage” car. It sounded wrong, so I looked it up and apparently “vintage cars” are built between 1919 and 1930. Classic cars mean cars that are 25-40 years old. Now, I’m not a total pedant, but there is no way that she was referring to cars built 90 years ago.

  • BATMAN

    Mmmm. Love the running gear, not real big on the bodywork. Just looks like someone took an old classic triple and added some newer bodywork on it. I’d rather have it back in stock form. Cafe racer? No.

  • aristurtle

    I wonder if, fifty years from now, we’ll be idolizing today’s squids and trying to modify random bikes into looking like a “classic” Gixxer with a too-loud aftermarket exhaust.

    • Ian

      fuck I hope not, but unfortunately you’ve made the most intelligent comment so far.

  • Scott-jay

    Period bodywork begs a period paint job: plenty of metal-flake & colors with “candy” names.

    Cafe racers are NOT:
    Crated-up at the end of assembly-line.
    Garage queens, concept bikes, or show-only customs.

  • Peter.C.

    Great Article, def bringing a sensible view to this for once. We aren’t civil war re-enactors. And I just want my bike to be the coolest, look tough, act tough and be fun daily for the $0 i have to spend on it.

  • Myles

    Fashion and labels are for my girlfriends obsession with purses and shoes.

    Anyone who get’s in a tizzy about how that (awesome) Kawi is labeled needs to spend less time posting/wrenching and more time actually riding.

  • MotoRandom

    “Contrary to the popular summary, the simplest available theory is sometimes a less accurate explanation.” From the Wiki article on Occam’s Razor. Therein lies the problem with labels as well. We do not live in a black and white world. There are many shades of gray. Labels are used as a matter of convenience for efficient communication but they do not denote accurate descriptions, merely a generalization. Unfortunately within subcultures, there always tends to exist self appointed elites who feel they must defend the purity of their class. They lack the flexibility to accept diversity of concept. But evolution depends on mutation. Change brings about survival. Adapt or perish. Sadly, motorcycle subcultures, especially those dominated by the these so called “purists” (another label) are often doomed to extinction by their own rigidy. Or, worse yet popularity. We are now watching the chopper community go through it’s death throws. A few too many boomers with disposable income exploded it into something grotesque. The recession executed the fatal blow. But again, that is a generalization. The actual explanation is far more complex.

    The resurgence of the Cafe Racer and Scrambler style motorcycle makes perfect sense for this time. Money is still pretty tight for a lot of folks and stripping a bike to it’s essentials, maybe make a few cosmetic changes is pretty easy on the budget. This is exactly the evolutionary force that brought about streetfighters. Crashed race replica sportbikes can be pretty expensive to restore with full body work. Better and cheaper to strip it all off, throw on some flat track bars and a small headlight. You now have a bike which is far more suited for urban street riding.

    It’s pretty amazing to watch the knee jerk reactions to labels that we see happening now in the custom motorcycle world. “That’s not a proper scrambler, the pipes are too low.” “That’s not a proper cafe, it doesn’t have clip ons” The Internet has become a grand platform for whiners to let the world they do not approve. To me, it’s all so very pointless. Creativity needs a lot room to just happen. Maybe the end result will not be very pleasing to everyone. But for the amazingly awesome creations of pure motorcycle art to happen, we need to account for that. There are going to be some stinkers and there are going to be really nice bikes that don’t quite fit the label. There will not be black and white solutions that meet your expectations every time. Learn to live with it. Open your mind and look at each example for what is. Some fellow motorcycle enthusiast trying to build their vision. Maybe you’ll find some small detail that is the perfect solution for your bike. And maybe your bike is not going to fit everyone’s idea of a desirable motorcycle. That doesn’t matter. Love the hell out of it. Ride it as much as you can. Change things. Stock is boring. Make it your own and unlike any one else’s, even if it’s just the small details. But also, show a little respect for others creations. It’s not such a bad thing to say that it not to your taste. It’s also totally lame to rip on the creator and claim they have violated some sacred decree for doing something different. Civility may be going out style but it’s still the right thing to do.

    • tomwito

      Agreed.

    • RpM

      +1

    • Philip

      Amen!

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    It seemed to me that most people posting were just having a simple discussion on a very often used, but not precisely understood, term. Posts on the internet lack all the other information humans communicate when talking face to face, so its easy to imagine everybody shouting or getting their panties in a bunch over something as silly as handle bars.

    It certainly seems like the term “Cafe” has evolved over the years. Yes, the term originated in the 60s with Tritons and blue-collar Britons with black leathers and a death wish. But consider other historical terms, like “hippy”. Historically, you’d have to be a long-haired, bandanna’d young person rocking out to Santana in the back of a fishbowled VW bus. But if you saw an old guy with grey hair in a corduroy suit with suede arm patches driving around in a Volvo station wagon with MoveOn.org stickers on it, wouldn’t you also call him a hippy?

    So, yes, that awesome 2-stroke Kawi up there? Its a cafe racer. Language evolves. Luckily, fast bikes are always in style.

    • ike6116

      +1

  • tomwito

    I thought “Cafe Racer” started out as a derogatory term to make fun of guys riding psuedo race bikes from cafe to cafe? I have a CB550 that I am building and I guess its not going to be a “Cafe Racer” more a resto-mod as they say in the car world. Classic chassis with modern suspension and brakes so it actually works. I wanted it to be a cafe but I am growing so tired of labels that I guess it’s just a custom bike. Buy the way don’t anyone think if the guys back then had a chance to have a modern sport bike that they would have thrown their Norton or BSA in a dumpster for the modern bike?

  • David Edwards

    The term “cafe-racer” did indeed start out as derogatory, a slight from older riders about these greasy kids bombing from one transport cafe (read truck stop) to another.

    • ike6116

      Oh boy… I can’t wait till Im old and grey and all the kids are trying make all their shit look “squiddy”

      • dux

        Haha! I can only hope…

    • Ian

      interesting insight, indeed

  • Devin

    1st, Very nice bike.

    But if you were to ask me to describe it, I would use the word standard before Cafe Racer. Not that it is either a good or bad thing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

      This encourages my belief that someone needs to create Encyclopedia Motorcyclica so we can all get on the same page and win some debates.

      • noone1569

        This sounds like a great ideal for HFL to compile. Could be HFL subscribers crowd-sourced. Illustrations for all a definitions a must.

        • Devin

          Haven’t they already started that, in “Pirates vs. Hipsters” complete with drawings ;)

  • David Edwards

    Could always fall back on a classic John Ulrich line, “Meet me in Turn 5 at Willow Springs,” and I’ll show you who’s got the real cafe-racer…

    • whoisthor

      Im with you and John on this one.

  • Kurt

    When it comes to labeling a bike, I can’t get much past 2 categories, bikes I like, or bikes I don’t.

    • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

      This is where I live. If it goes fast, I tend to like it.

  • Brendan

    Personally, I got into motorcycles for the strict rules about fashion and posturing.

    oh wait.

  • Richard

    Who really gives a poop about what a cafe racer is and isnt? Its over. Elvis has left the building. Oh right, its the guys that are too busy typing to ride. Cafe Racer, Streetfighter, CafeFighter, SuperSport, RepliRacer, Chopper, Bobber, Standard, Cruiser, and on and on and on and on. Blah Blah Blah.

    I dont know about you guys, but I ride a motorcycle. I think its kind of fast. I know its a whole lot of fun. Stop thinking so much and start riding.

    *Above statements not directed at anyone in perticular. Just a rant. Now go ride you heathens!

  • http://rohorn.blogspot.com rohorn

    Thoughts/reactions:

    Funny how “Cafe racer” has more to do with style than function, even if they claim it is all about function. The end will be near when Cafe Racer Barbie comes out – can’t happen soon enough.

    When I was a kid, I heard people using the term “Cafe racer” as a substitute for “wannabe racer”.

    When ever I saw proper B&W pictures of the “cafe racer scene”, extremely few bikes were kitted up like the ones in the drawings. I guess most cafe racers back then weren’t real cafe racers, either.

    The price of a fully kitted Triton wasn’t at all cheap back then – I ain’t buying the “working class bloke” crap – even if that somehow inspires some phony righteousness today. Nor did they build them all themselves.

    If you are creating something that has been done before and everyone knows what it is, then you aren’t creating anything at all.

    • tomwito

      Right on!

  • Ed

    This is pretty funny. I’m sure most of the guys taking old beat up UJMs and customizing them these days don’t know all the silly little rules about how to be a “real” cafe racer. They’re just taking cheap, easy to acquire bikes, stripping them down and making them go faster. Of course, that was what started all this right?

    It is human nature to form groups of common interest. Sadly the very next step is to establish a dogma by which other’s can be kept out. Personally, I wouldn’t want to belong to any group that would have me as a member…

  • Kerry

    This is really all you need to know about café racers:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgpGy8e2Ghc

  • seanslides

    I’m pretty much convinced that a “cafe racer” is one of two things. It could either be a bike or rider, from way back when, when those bikes were new and fast, or, it can be applied to the latest fad in motorcycling. Cafe Racers aren’t fast by today’s standards, and just hearing them called ‘Racers’ makes me giggle a little bit. They’re neat to look at, and I can certainly appreciate them as art, but as usable and fun piece of transportation (especially when speed is a priority), I think I’d rather have my new sportbike.

    Besides, how do you justify performance modifications to a crusty old stone age bike in the name of functionality and speed when you can buy any 80′s sportbike, slap on new tires, and be miles ahead for almost no money?

  • gofaster

    Ring ading ding. Cafe racer whatever, those old Kawi 750′s were rockets at the drag strip. Great bike.

  • Don

    As a proud and protective H1D owner, I support anyone who has the desire to modify as they see fit. It is a thing, after all. A really cool and compelling thing, but a thing after all. If this guy steps back, cracks a beer and says “That is what I wanted when I started”, good for him. Life is short. The critics can criticize, then admire their prose. Life is short. Good for all of you.

    • slowtire

      +1

  • Tim

    Cafe Racer is attitude not machine. Strip it down, get low, it don’t matter as long as you go for the ton.

    • Ian

      dude, in aught eleven 23cc mopeds made in Uzbekistan can do “the ton”

      • Liquidogged

        bwahahahaha

        True.

  • Terry

    From watching the Cafe Racer TV episodes, what I take away is that modern “cafe style” is an approach, not a dogma. Take an older bike, strip off anything that isn’t strictly necessary for it to go (and hopefully stop!) under its own power with a rider on board, and maybe add back a pinch of style in the paintjob if you are so inclined. I don’t get a sense of dogma from the movement at all – “You have to buy X parts and fit it to Y” – that’s not the point.

    There’s an English guy working at a local gear store who rides a Burgman with a “TON UP” license plate. I admit that I didn’t know what it meant until after I started watching the show.

    I kind of like the cafe thing, I hope it doesn’t get too overblown. I really don’t want some knucklehead TV producer to get the bright idea of, say, throwing a bunch of custom shop people together into a Miami beach house for our amusement, or however it is you put together a “reality” show these days.

  • ezblast

    I’ve always thought of my Blast as a modern cafe – its pretty stripped and modified. Is a 1125 CR (Cafe Racer) a cafe? Compared to the race bike?
    EZ

  • Cajun58

    It’s still a beautiful machine and I’m still hoping David will see his way clear to race it under the HFL livery. And bring on the 2T cafe racers there are loads of Yamaha’s, Suzuki’s and Kawi’s waiting to hit the road again.

  • Lawrences

    Don’t those expansion chambers and gold rims look the business or what?

    • Aaron

      saaaaaaaaaaa

  • Rosario

    I think I have this argument weekly. I cannot wait for this ‘fad’ to get old so I can ride around and be lame. It’s less infuriating.

    You can keep your slow ass 400cc singles you ride to look trendy in. Give me that kwaka any day. 3 Screaming chambers sounds a little more ‘race bred’ to me IMHO.

    Don’t listen to the hipster douche bags. Bike Exif is Australian any way. Might want to read up on this…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_poppy_syndrome

  • Liquidogged

    Chalk up the modern cafe racer movement as another desperate attempt by those in modern motorcycling society to attain some sort of authenticity. Every culture and sub-culture has the “no, it has to be this way” group. That said, there are plenty of people into cafe racers just because they enjoy the style – good on them. Ride what you like.

    As far as performance goes… it goes back to the general division of motorcyclists. There are those primarily concerned with the aesthetic and the statement, and those primarily concerned with the ride. The cafe racer question is an interesting one because the older bikes have a ride quality that is unique, due to their relative primitiveness and simplicity. There are performance guys who own late model sportbikes and still ride their 70′s UJM cafe conversions or 60′s Nortons because they like the change of pace offered by a simple machine reduced to its bare elements. I get that.

    Me personally, I have daydreams of making my bikes look the way I’d want them to in an ideal world, but realistically I’m poor and I buy the latest model quickest bike I can get my hands on, then keep good tires on it and ride the shit out of it. Questions of which fork ears are period correct for a blah blah blah are completely academic to me, as they probably are, I’m guessing, for most of us. With that in mind, I do enjoy a quiet chuckle to myself knowing that my thrashed first gen ZX11 is faster and more capable at $1500 then many hinckley triumphs will ever be, even at $10k OTD and sporting the entire contents of any performance part catalog you can find. Yeah, the Triumph is going to look hotter, and truth be told, the ZX11 is kind of a fat ugly pig in some ways. But what the hell do I care? I’m off riding!

    Sweet, sweet Kawi by the way. Unique, strange looking, likely very quick for its age. Ride the shit out of it.

  • Erik

    Ah the seventies, Bee Gees, disco, polyester leisure suits with bell bottoms, platform shoes, mullet perms with sideburns, Evel Knievel, Richard Nixon… If ya asks me the bike is a perfect historical artifact illustrating everything what made the seventies the decade that we (who participated) are too embarrassed to remember. Don’t change a thing David, this bike must remain as a warning!

    • David Edwards

      I was thinking of gluing a mood ring to the top triple-clamp…

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