Custom: Streetmaster Brighton cafe racer

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Café-racers, cool, yeah? I’m with ya on that. But have you spent any time on a pukka (sorry, Brit-speak for genuine) example? I have. Start speed-tuning on an old Triumph motor, say hello to unreliability, not to mention pesky oil puddles wherever it’s parked. And while my ample ass is pretty good at prodding a kickstarter, I’m up to snuff on the Ceremonial Tickling of the Amals, know how to divine TDC, hold my tongue just right, etc., every once in a while the bitch just won’t light off – usually when a crowd of gawkers has assembled to view your expert technique at the lever.

Think of the Brighton, then, as a café-racer without the cross to bear. Says Streetmaster boss Richard Varner, “We wanted the style and panache of what the Rockers and Ton-Up Boys used to ride back in England, but with the power, reliability and push-button starting of a modern motorcycle. We think we’ve struck the perfect balance between heritage and haul-ass.”

Unveiled alongside the So-Cal Miler at this weekend’s Quail Concours, the Brighton is named for the British beach town famous in the 1960s as the end point for café runs and the site of many a punch-up between Rockers and the scooter-riding Mods. It was fabricated by Richard Pollock, best known for his Mule street-trackers, of which he’s built 75-80, mostly with Sportster or Yamaha XS650 motors. He’s also turned out a few trackers with new Bonneville motors, but the Brighton is his first café-racer. The goal is to go into limited production, with the bike being sold in Streetmaster’s catalog along with the Miler and a line of accessories for stock Bonnies. One of those parts is a primary cover that incorporates hydraulic clutch actuation, as seen on the Brighton.

Streetmaster’s proprietary frame is used, along with alloy tank, tailsection and sidepanels. Those are left bare with panels painted Amaranth Red, an old Triumph color. The bike hasn’t been put on scales yet but it shouldn’t weigh much more than the Miler’s 350 pounds dry. Moving what mass there is down the road is the 790cc version of the Bonneville engine, hotted-up with headwork, flatslide Keihins, re-mapped ignition and free-breathing exhausts to produce 74 hp.

The paint was still soft on the Brighton prototype at the concours, so the price tag is still being figured, as is the number of bikes in the production run. Next stop for Brighton and Miler is the Dutch TT at Assen to gauge European reaction.


  • tropical ice cube

    Aw, those first few lines… So much _me_ with my Enfield India 350 Standard… And then my Dnepr MT11… And then my Ural… all sold since then, I must confess. Get your kid at school? Won’t start. Get the GF at work? Won’t even blurp. Why do I keep buying those?
    Hmm, maybe because they are somewhat the real deal. On my way to check on a ’82 BMW+Watsonian Monza. On my way to just, well, more of the same I guess.

  • Mattro

    beautiful bike. the drum brakes are good-looking, but a little troubling.

    • Gene

      I love the looks, but yeah, I want real brakes. Kind of like when OEMs make naked bikes, then chop 15hp off just for the fuck of it. Please. I just want a CBR-600 without the shitty plastics and chiropractor-on-speed-dial riding position.

      You can’t have nice looks AND modern performance at the same time, I guess.

      • bluegrass

        usually the missing horsepower is because the OEM says the motor is tuned for more lowend/midrange. I often wonder if is simply some tool in marketing thing that they need to maintain a brand hierarchy with sport bikes atop the pile, kind of like what GM did with corvette and the F-body.

      • Ben Incarnate

        Contrary to bluegrass’ suggestion of maintaining dominance of sportbikes, I think there are three main factors. First, a good street motor should have power focused on low and midrange. Second, developing a separate engine that will shine in the street environment is a drastically more expensive endeavor. Third, few engines retune well.

        Without fairings, triple digit speeds are uncomfortable. If you maintain power delivery focus on top end, as is seen on sportbikes, you’re only getting to use the meat of the power in low gears on the street. So, the idea is to beef up the low/midrange, but the execution is rarely perfect.

        The best example of retuning is the Daytona 675 engine in the Street Triple. While down on peak numbers, the Street’s torque is full-on at 4K, ~3500 RPM earlier than the 675. It makes a big difference. The 675 engine was already made to be a better midrange performer than it’s I4 competition, so perhaps that’s why it works out so well in this application.

        On the other hand, retuning an I4 sportbike engine is rarely successful. Look at the Z1000, which had two generations of modified ZX10R engines and the latest generation has it’s own engine. Both modified engines underperformed their donor motors across the board. The purpose-built ’10 Z engine is a different story. It’s down ~30 HP at peak versus the ’10 ZX10R, but low end and midrange is drastically improved. The meat of the power is accessible as low as 3500 RPM on the Z. That’s 3k earlier than the ZX10R. Also, the equal peak torque hits ~1250 RPM earlier. It’s a better street engine, just like the Speed Triple’s engine. That suggests that the right way to do it is to make an engine platform focused on low/midrange, rather than retuning an engine that’s focused on top end.

  • wwalkersd

    Yeah, I’m with Mattro. Going with drum brakes just for the look, on a bike with a modern powertrain, i.e., that’s intended to be ridden in modern traffic, seems a bit counterproductive. And I’d like a cover over that countershaft sprocket, please.

    But it sure is purty!

  • Archer

    I wanted to say that “Complaining about one aspect of style over substance (drums) on a bike like this while ignoring the rest is just silly”

    Then I got to thinking about the whole package. Do people who REALLY like leaky shaved-head Nortons and Triumphs and BSA’s REALLY want “push button starting” and “reliability” as part of their chosen bike lifestyle?

    Would people who WANT this blend of styling and “practicality” really, in a strange twist, be nothing more than a subspecies of the assless chaps wearing piratical HD poseurs that we love to make fun of?

    If you want push button starting, total reliability and modern power then buy yourself a CBR. I would venture to say that you aren’t fooling anyone who cares with this thing.

    • Joe

      This comment is not directed specifically to you, but to the general attitude I’ve been seeing on this site. On one hand I would agree with your assessment that these types of bikes are just as bad as other posuer bikes. On the other hand, I say we should stop berating Harleys and these types of bikes anyway.

      People on this site seem to be so concerned with hating hipsters, but also hating those that aren’t as “authentic” bikers as they are. This is nothing but a “hipster” attitude in and of itself, with a disgusting amount of smug added in for good measure.

      Who cares? These products fill a want for people, historic looks and modern performance. Is that so bad? Not everyone has hours of time and the space allowed to work on vintage Triumph, BSA’s, and even Harleys, but still appreciate the aesthetics.

      It’s okay to enjoy the looks of a bike over the performance even if it is made to look old. I would go so far as to say that people that buy a bike for maximum performance, and then ride them only on the street, are just as poseurish as those we deride that buy Harleys and these types of modern retro bikes.

      It’s high time to admit we all are “posuers” in one way or another, and stop deriding others for choices that we would not personally make. We all love motorcycles in one way or another at the end of the day.

      • brutus

        amen. my brother rides a harley with 14″ apehangers, with a cut and a three piece patch on his back, and i ride a chopped up CBR. And we ride together. and have fun. I ride with his mc and they really dont seem to care. Run what you brung and fuck the attitudes.

      • Wes Siler

        +1. less hurt butts more bikes please.

      • stempere

        Agreed. Just like the articles about gear that is to expensive, hipstery, etc. Much of it is not to my personal taste but who cares. More options = more happy bikers.

        About the bike, absolutly love it, the tank’s shape and paint are gorgeous. I do find the blue anodized bits a bit tacky though…

      • Debrando


      • Ben Incarnate


      • slowtire


  • Mule

    Concerning the comments on the drum brakes, looks, poseurs and not being a real rider that deserves to be able to ride a motorcycle, let me say this.

    The customer of this bike (Richard Varner) asked for certain things because thats what he wanted. He has a fairly extensive collection of bikes(every model from Triumph from the year 1969, a mint CB750, a 69′ H-1, Bultaco Pursang, a Velocette which he rode in the 120 mile Quail ride on Saturday and finished without incident), with “Character” that require fettling, maintanence, care and feeding will beyond the time that most people would ever care to spend.

    For me, I like to design and build stuff. Not do maintanence. I’ve got enough character already. Doing regular repairs and maintanence that occupies all your spare time just so you can go for a ride or worse yet, not be left sitting by the side of the road is a romantic myth. It seems much more attractive to the people that have never done it than to the people that have lived it. It’s not near what it’s cracked up to be.

    The new Triumphs run well and even better with engine mods and are reliable as hell! Reliabilty does not make you a poseur in my book. Ass-less chaps? Not for me! But electric starting? Hell yes and I no longer watch black and white TV.

    I’m torn concerning the drum brakes, but let me say this. The rear is from an XS650 Yamaha and has served them very well for 41 years without a design change. The front 4 leading shoe Grimeca has about as good a braking as you can get in a drum and for the way this bike will be ridden about, it should be fine. This is not an R-1 and takes you back to a time (you want myth and nostalgia?) when you strived to keep up corner speed and riding was less about creaming the brakes on corner entrance and pulling the trigger upon departure.

    This bike is intended to be a finese ride with style and quality. You want and R-1? Buy an R-1. You want to tour Europe? Buy a Beemer. You want style and class in a cafe racer that has modern reliability? Operators are standing by.

    On the sprocket cover up front, I agree and the decision has been made to install one. If you know these motors though and I’ll assume you don’t becuase you wouldn’t have asked, they are very wide and and the c/s sprocket is set way, way inboard of the peg position. Like 4-5″. So even though the side view looks like your toes would get eaten, the distance before contact is huge. But a cover will be installed.

    We appreciate your input, good or bad.

    • Joe


    • Gene

      > You want an R-1? Buy an R-1.

      But I want a *pretty* R-1! That’s all I’m askin…

      • Mule

        Got somethin’ in the works there too!!!!

      • Phil

        want a pretty & functioning streetbike?
        buy a Duc 1198 / MV F4. looks cost.

      • Scott-jay

        Have a go at building your pretty R-1, Gene!

    • Liquidogged

      I see where you’re coming from, and it’s a gorgeous bike. As someone who works on his own machines I can really respect the level of craftsmanship and the amount of hours that went into this. The HFL audience is particularly performance-minded (or at least, the most active posters tend to be) and so there is going to be some crap thrown at any new high-end custom that includes extremely outdated technology like drum brakes. For my part, I don’t really think drum brakes look very good, so I think I’m missing the point here. All that aside, this bike is a total have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too ride – classic looks, better than classic performance, and way way better than classic reliability.

      Someone down here wants a “pretty” R-1… well, if you want it bad enough, build one yourself. Then you’ll find out exactly how much you *really* want that pretty R-1.

  • Thom

    So explain to me all ye naysayers . What’s not to love about a Resto-Rod Cafe Racer ??? ( new mechanicals in a classic platform )

    Sheesh . You get the feeling there’s a lot of folks here that’ve forgotten how to have …. now what’s that word ? Oh Yeah .

    FUN !!!

    PS; I’ll match your Rice Rocket . Raise you this ” Poseur ” And at the end of the ride , lets see who had more ……. Now what was that again ???

    Oh excuse me . Middle Age you know .

    FUN !!!

    • HammSammich

      Heehee…Thanks for the chuckle, Thom.

      +1, btw.

  • Denzel

    It’s a bit of fun to talk about, disect, classify the whole biker universe taxonomy, but really, the more the better. There’s too few of us anyway. A rising tide raises all bikes, and all that.

    Richard Pollock, this is a beautiful bike, well done.

    It makes me think of my dad and his restoration of his ’69 Norton P-11 (but done in more the Commando style). A purist at heart, I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded a button to push now and then.

    BTW – “Commando” – one cool bike name…

  • David Edwards

    Funny how Hailwood, Agostini, Read et al managed to survive evil drum brakes all those years. A good drum like the newly built Grimeca four-leading-shoe used here provides plenty of stopping power.

  • Archer

    It’s rather delightful to read the comments caused by my impertinent post. Carry on, good people.

  • Mark D

    Haterz gonna hate. That thing looks like an absolute hoot to ride.

    • Ben Incarnate

      Agreed. Beautiful bike that I’d love to have in my garage.

  • HammSammich

    Gorgeous. Now I’m daydreaming about a tank like that on my Bonnie ( with black and silver instead of Red/Gold)…

  • Mule

    A few more responses. Personally, I’m in favor of the blue/red fittings and here’s my take on them. To me, there are two components in the world of “Performance hardware” that have their own, unquestionable colors. That would be high end mag wheels in different shades of gold and the other would be blue and red mil-spec type AN hydraulic fittings. When you look at a bike, a NASCAR, a dragster, an INDY car, wheels on a Ferrari, Lambo, MV, a Duck, etc, you see these colors and to me anyway, the response is, “Oh yea….the good stuff!”

    The intent on this bike is to project “High end” and quality. Yes the fittings could be black or silver and I’ve used both in the past. Color matching every single part on a bike says to me that looks are the most important factor, not performance and to me it also says the builder needs to re-evaluate his priorities. The look I always go for is what I call “High Function”. MS bolts, grade 8′s, stainless washers, safety wire where applicable, cad plating not chrome, polished stainless, not steel, powdercoating for duability and Titanium when budget allows.

    As Dave Edwards said, Hailwood and AGO have done hundreds of 100mph laps at the Island with drum brakes and I doubt there is a soul on this forum that could do a single 100mph on any bike currently available. Are discs better? Of course they are. Are drums good enough for 99% of the street riding people do? Yes.

    If a person insists on dics, a bike like this could be built in the identical form and layout as this one except with disc brakes. There! Problem solved and this customer is still happy with his drums.

    Please take what I say with a grain of salt and this is just one person’s opinion. I have no more or less credibility than any other soul sitting at a computer.

  • HammSammich

    Also, just to wade into the disagreement a bit here, the comparison has been drawn between these bikes and the raked out chopper fad of the last decade. It seems silly to argue point by point, how much more functional these bikes are, but if resto-mods are a fad that’s fine with me. I love classic cafe-racers and someday, I’d like to own some classic British iron, but as a 30-something guy with two small kids, and all of the expenses and time constraints that comes with that, I can’t yet afford to have a garage filled with a large collection of bikes, nor do I have the time to perform necessary maintenance and upkeep on a classic bike. My 07 Bonneville (which has been customized a bit to look more cafe-like) is probably 70% daily commuter vehicle and 30% weekend amusement, and it admittedly allows me an outlet for personal expression. With it’s reasonable maintenance schedule, and simple construction, I can perform most of the scheduled maintenance and infrequent repairs myself.

    My hat’s off to this motorcycle’s creators for building something beautiful and fun that can be ridden daily. For those who are interested in seeing some great examples of Hinckley Triumph based Resto-mods check out and Some of their customer bikes are great, and run the spectrum from bobbers to full-on race replica cafe bikes.

  • Todd

    Stunning bike! Well done.

    Were I the customer I’d probably opt for keeping disk brakes (and yeah, lose the blue anodized fittings), but I can appreciate the aesthetic of the drum and how it gives the bike a more period look (even at the expense of outright performance).

    For me, the combination of modern a drive-train with classic good looks is a winning combination. Again, well done! I just hope the owner rides the hell out of it.

  • Cajun58

    It’s a shame people don’t make the aircraft quality braided hose connection with the anodized fittings. Beautiful machine.