2011. The Year Of The Cafe Racer.

It’s a long time that fashion evolves in multiple trends running in parallel, not as a unique way to dress for one season or two. Same for the custom motorcycle scene. After an overdose of new too long radical choppers being almost the only type of bike being built between 1999 and 2004, since then, board trackers, bobbers and dressers have re-emerged almost as the same time as the preferred styles to be built, rebuilt, customized and ridden. The reasons of such different bikes being simultaneity cool again are multiple: opportunism of some builders (looking to build and ride something different), socio-demographic (getting older), economic (tighter budget) nostalgia (the style of my youth), etc… or all of the above.
After all, the essence of custom bike building is to build and ride only what you like, not what is imposed as the new motorcycling fashion statement. After a discreet return during the last 2 years, Cafe Racers are now back in force and will almost certainly be the new big trend to join the others in 2011.
And I think that this new trend has a lot traction: increased interest in vintage motorcycles in general, post world war II nostalgia for baby boomers, symbol of counterculture, can be bought, built or re-built for a reasonable price, fast and good handling susceptible to attract youngsters whose goal may be a good road racer, not necessarily a sport bike riding at 140 mph.
The success of the late Triumph models and the return of the Norton brand in the US with their very appealing Commando models will be a big help to make Cafe Racer styling very popular again. In 2011, look for a new generation of motorcycle designers and builders to use this style as a fresh alternative to what has been built during these last years. (Top & bottom pictures: Cafe Racers by Santiago Chopper, top Kawasaki to be auctioned in Orlando Jan. 26-30, 2011 to benefit Curing Kids Association)

56 Responses to “2011. The Year Of The Cafe Racer.”

  1. 1 alan Dec 20th, 2010 at 8:30 am

    fun to built and fun to ride

  2. 2 Englishman Dec 20th, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Loved em then, love em now!

  3. 3 Eric K Olson Dec 20th, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Great new trend in motorcycles. Nice to see people appreciating something that doesn’t cost $45,000 to buy.

  4. 4 Keith Stone Dec 20th, 2010 at 11:43 am

    They are FUN…. parts are cheep and very easy to work on.. Hammer yourself out an aluminum tank and go have a blast with all that 35 Hp… Been working on ‘this type bike’ that is 40 years old as a fun side project.. Its been a blast ! I encourage anyone to go grab one, and screw with it when ya have time. Nice change from the expensive, high pressure cars & bike builds in your own shop.


  5. 5 K Dec 20th, 2010 at 11:55 am

    They’re great bikes but cheap … well …

    Choppers were born around the same time as cafe racers.

    Cheap choppers were rampant through the US as were cheap Cafe bikes.

    Choppers became expensive because someone decided it was worth it.

    Now – choppers are near death (economically).

    Cafe racers are coming in.

    People will try to make money with custom building Cafe Racers.

    American Chopper builders like Jesse James, and Roland Sands have already built cafe racers, but it’s up to what people are willing to spend.

  6. 6 1550tc Dec 20th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Jesse Rooke had some great looking bikes, same with the one Garth H was rinding in sturgis last summer!!

  7. 7 mike corbin Dec 20th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Loved them in the 60 s + 70 s, love them now..

    Good way to get new blood into the industry ata reasonable price..

  8. 8 Keith Stone Dec 20th, 2010 at 1:49 pm


    I agree 100%… I came at it from the angle of just for fun… no bling.. not to sell.. not to machine every custom part….. just as a fun bike to kick around on…… But your right, where going to see some crazy “cafe” bikes here soon….. LOL prolly trying to sell for $20-30-40-50K
    I think there something to be said for just riding a 40/50 yr old bike that someone has $1000 bucks into,, and ride the hell out of it for the love of motorcycles… Not cuz its gold plated… LOL

  9. 9 alan Dec 20th, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    For my part i start to built Cafes in Europe in the 70s and moved to choppers. I’m very glad to be back
    to the Cafe

  10. 10 Jeez Dec 20th, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Cyril has the pulse of the industry and is probably right about this prediction. As mentioned above, watch out for many builders shifting their skills from bobbers to cafe racers with full blown custom cafes pushing prices up and up. Part manufacturers are going to jump on this too.

  11. 11 WT Dec 20th, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Where have all you guys been? Cafe racers have never disappeared…..and they have been around a lot longer than your beloved and over done choppers. For most of you HD loyalist, this is just another “trend” that will help the motor company sell t-shirts…..time to throw away the dark custom shirts you’ve bought over the last few years!!!!

    BTW….unless it’s an English made bike….it’s not a cafe racer…….not to mention England has enforced speed limits so no more racing from cafe to cafe like they once did.

  12. 12 gustian Dec 20th, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Cyril, you make my heart beat dubble speed …….

    reminds me my café racer, Rickman Honda 750 Four, back in the seventies…..

    As Englishman sais, me also, I loved em then, love em now,………and forever !

    Peace Gustian

  13. 13 2Low Dec 20th, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Builders are always looking for new platforms to express their skills. They went back in time as far as they could with the boardtracker bikes. But along the way, they forgot the Cafe Racer. And the Cafe Racers are seventies bikes, perfect to fullfil the nostalgia fix of the 35/45 yo. generation. Logically the Cafe Racer revival comesfrom Europe. It was born there and it’ was a big biker culture. Young American bikers discover it. Cafe Racers are riders, easy and cheap to build or rebuild. If we talk about what’s in and what’s out, put Harley (except Sportsters) and Big Dog (except their bagger model) in the list of bike styles that are no more desirable and wanted.

  14. 14 vince Dec 20th, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    That SOHC 750 looks like the bike I rode my first race at the old Riverside Raceway. I am sure its probably just as fast. Glad to see someone still loves em. Its great to see lots of styles.

  15. 15 Aaron Dec 20th, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Cyril. Because you are such a voice in the motorcycle industry, now that you stated that Cafe Racer is the new style for 2011, all builders will want to build one! You are responsible. Ha, ha.

  16. 16 Johny Dec 20th, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    You are right Cyril. The perfect style to attract younger riders keeping the rebellion atttitude that they want. Rockers unite.

  17. 17 Jesse Semper Dec 20th, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Harley missed again a marketing opportunity with younger bikers. Hello Buell, hello MV Agusta!

  18. 18 Quint w/HogRadio.net Dec 20th, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    While the cafe racer never really went away, it still brings back great memories. Loved em then, love em now. You are “The Man” Cyril.

  19. 19 CC Rider Dec 20th, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    For those of us who have been enjoying our cafe racers and rocker culture for the past 15+ years, this kind of proclamation is like the kiss of death. While I appreciate younger riders cutting their teeth on cafe racers, I also hate to see this go mainstream and become simply the next commercial flavor of the month.

    A lot of us gravitated towards this style, joined clubs like the 59 Club, Ton Up Boys, Brit Iron Rebels and participated in events like Mods vs. Rockers reunions so we could be unique. Well, the cats outta the bag and now with pseudo-reality shows, down-on-their-luck chopper builders and retailers like Macy’s and Target all cashing in, there’s gonna be 3 million wannabes buzzing around on old Jap bikes with bolt on crap sold through Drag Specialties… Not sure what part of this is good.

    I guess the best part is seeing a lot of these $40K custom choppers fade into the woodwork. They were overpriced, under-ridden and dangerous in the hands of the tools who bought them. It’s nice to see things becoming “real” again.

  20. 20 fredp Dec 20th, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Cafe racers are back and getting popular because that’s the next T.V. shows producers want you to follow.
    Ya gotta love marketing execs! Hey, American “cafe” choppers tv show with the Teutels?

  21. 21 Woody Dec 20th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    That red one looks a lot like Steve Carpenter’s style, he’s been quietly knocking out some sweet cafes for quite a while now. Love his SOHC CB750’s. Cyril, maybe an interview with “Carpy” is in the future?

  22. 22 Zipper Dec 20th, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Way Cool

  23. 23 Caldoggie Dec 20th, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Amazing what goes around comes around. My first cafe was a 250cc Zundapp Super Saber back about ’61. Hope it all hangs a round awhile.

  24. 24 Tim Hanlon Dec 21st, 2010 at 1:39 am

    I can see it coming….and it’s going to be tough for the aftermarket.

  25. 25 Blue Dec 21st, 2010 at 5:51 am

    When did the caff racer go away??

  26. 26 Sparky Dec 21st, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Blue. Of course they went away. Not many were built during the last 30 years if you compare to other styles, especially in the US. You know very well. In proportion, how many did you feature in your magazine?

  27. 27 krugger Dec 21st, 2010 at 7:04 am

    I agree with you Cyril ! You still always very clever… 🙂

  28. 28 Marcus Holster Dec 21st, 2010 at 7:27 am

    From time to time I surf the web for motorcycle websites and blogs to see what’s going on. Yesterday evening in about 1 hour I found 4 websites (they call themselves magazines?) who have already copied Cyril’s above article. Some giving credit to Cyril, some not (!!!). Coincidently after reading Cyril’s article, all of a sudden these “journalists” make the same prediction. Talk about Cyril being influential!

  29. 29 Jeez Dec 21st, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Cyril is just smarter, reason why I read him.

  30. 30 Harry Dec 21st, 2010 at 7:49 am

    I met with Cyril for the 1st time at his hotel during Sturgis. He told me during 1/2 hour his predictions for the industry, builders, vendors, show organizers, medias, etc. He told me his predictions and justified them with strong arguments. I thought several times about what he said. It’s up to him to publish what he thinks but now I completely agree. The guy is very intelligent. The motorcycle industry is going to go through several more earthquakes and the landscape is going to be changed forever. Everybody has to change its way about building, fabricating parts, marketing, selling bikes, reporting, etc or death is certtain. Thanks Cyril for your time in Rapid City.

  31. 31 Doc Robinson Dec 21st, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Alan from Santiago Choppers has been a top flight builder for many years, a former factory racer in France and a cool all round guy. Why he never got chosen for the Biker Build Off series I will never understand. Tho maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing … Cheers Alan, and Merry Xmas.

  32. 32 A 1 CYCLES Dec 21st, 2010 at 8:31 am

    i know thew cafe’ scene has helped my business. a lot of the guys are 40 plus years old with minor mechanical skills, so wheel lacing, welding of frames, mounting of tail sections..it has all helped business. i like cafe’…nuff said

  33. 33 industrial biker Dec 21st, 2010 at 8:36 am

    For you guys that haven’t heard of ’em


  34. 34 Mikey D. Dec 21st, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Have to agree with a lot of the above. Café never went away to need a ‘comeback’. Someone mentioned cheap and plentiful parts… not any more. There’s been a stirring of new interest in vintage bikes the past few years. Prices of parts and prices of beater bikes have already increased, even in a ‘niche’ market and supposed horrible economy. Sure the super custom, glitzy aftermarket parts from are going to be expensive. That’s to be expected. I’m upset at the looming dark cloud… that my standard, OEM replacement parts from my old time vendors (Klempfs, British Cycle Supply, Baxter, etc.) are going to increase in price and decrease in availability.

  35. 35 Johny Dec 21st, 2010 at 8:50 am

    2011 money recommendation. Stock on all old British parts. Resell in 2 years for a 300% profit.

  36. 36 Greek Dec 21st, 2010 at 8:52 am

    V-Twin American industry, you are going to suffer even more. It’s what you can read between the lines.

  37. 37 That Motorcycle Show Dec 21st, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Just a matter of time before the chopper world took notice. Cafe racers and choppers/bobbers have a lot more in common than you would think! Both born from necessity and for speed and style. Thanks for the story!

  38. 38 Woody Dec 21st, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Hmm, I’ve got an almost cherry ’71 Lightning, maybe I can sell it to the Discover Channel for a million bucks for the new series, “Oil in Frame Cafe”? Who needs a 401k when they have old bikes?

  39. 39 Brian Hamilton Dec 21st, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Is it true that Cyril is building one? It would be the best ever done, but for probably for 75K.

  40. 40 aft customs Dec 21st, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    This is going to be a really fun era to experiance. It will merge all age groups wich the industry needs right now. I like the cafe scene because it about performance & handleing & less about looking like a thug. Every era in the custom scene brings in new inovation & creativity. It paves the way for that next “new trend & style” so quit bagging on the chopper scene. It brought a lot of people into motorcycling & a lot of new technology. It also brought back metel work wich was almost dead. The cafe style will run it’s course like everthing else. You’re going to see some high dollar cafe bikes so get over it. Why is it that people have to be haters when it comes to someone pushing themselves to create something they are proud of? Those same negative minded people have no problem copying an idea for their own project off of one of these bikes. There is room for everyone.We are predominently a sevice shop & the cafe scene will be good for business. I bought a ’75 CB750F my senior year in high school in ’78 & I still have it. Every time I ride it it reminds me why I love motorcycles. Simple is better. That’s the beauty of the cafe style. It’s a simple motorcycle in a complicated world.

  41. 41 Taimoshan Dec 21st, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Cyril you are right on the money, this is the exact view that I have been telling people for the last 2 years a least.

    I build cafe racers here in the UK, all with there own twist and as many have commented already the great thing about cafe racer can range from cheap as chips bikes built around old 60/70’s and early 80’s brit bikes and now jap bikes all the way to some out and out big buck customs like we are starting see from the likes of Roger Goldammer and “Notorious” and his other championship winning bikes….

    Whatever happens, the trend spotted by Cyril is a good one and hopefully it will gain momentum and we will see the end of choppers !!

    Merry Xmas to all Cafe Racers

  42. 42 Taimoshan Dec 21st, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Long Live the Cafe Racer…. Cyril I love your trend prediction.

    Taimoshan Cycle works

  43. 43 Taimoshan Dec 21st, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Check out “Taimoshan the Super Cafe Racer” and some of the other cafe racer projects I am working on at the moment. Enjoy the Ride Cafe Racer fans !!!

  44. 44 Iron Horse Dec 21st, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Almost any bike can be turned into a cafe style bike. Just strip off the unnecessary crap, bolt on a solo seat, some clip-ons and rear sets and viola, one sweet cafe bike of your own making. The stock tank would get you by till the you got time to get the aluminum tank and tail section done. Harley actually tried to jump on the band-wagon in 77-78 with the XLCR. I had a 650 Triumph and a 900 Kawasaki back in the day…looks like at least one more thing to add to the ever growing list of retirement projects.

  45. 45 nicker Dec 21st, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Yes, what goes around comes around. That’s undeniable.
    If ya wear the same clothes long enough you’ll eventually be back “in style”…. 🙂

    How far back cafe-racers go, depends on where ya were.
    But the issue at hand is, can this trend be sustained?
    And how long will it last?
    Will it be as big as the contemporary “production custom” market?
    I’m think-n not quite.

    There is a hell of a difference between the Cafe-racers and custom-cruisers.
    Certainly if the target demographic is the 40-50 year old boomers, there will be issues.
    Lets face it, a contemporary custom cruisers demands rather little of the rider beyond “looking good.”
    They’re slow steering.
    They don’t invite very aggressive cornering.
    And they suggest a very measured approach to getting down the road (about all the average cruiser jockey can manage anyway).

    Exactly the opposite is true of the cafe racer.
    The image projected is one of an aggressive rider who has his stuff together and is up for a good thrash on the back roads. Matching these parameters to the average boomer is a recipe for disaster.

    The “boomers-on-custom-crashing-statistics” would not be good for those riding 40 inch triumphs. But put these people on a hopped-up 750 Honda, with crisp steering and suggest that they go flog the back roads with it…… your talking carniage.

    Even for those who know how to ride, aging backs and wrists don’t like cafe ergonomics at all.
    (about all i can do is look at the 5-gallon-tank, clip-on-bared, Italian egg motored scooter i rode to High School in the early 1960’s)

    There certainly will be a market for cafe racers (there always has been), but i doubt it’ll ever get to what the “production custom” market has been.

    No, i think the current trend of boomers heading to roadsters, hot-rods, and muscle cars is more likely to expand (see Barret Jackson, Meekum and Auto-trader).

    That’s MHO anyway.

  46. 46 ray c wheeler Dec 22nd, 2010 at 5:20 am

    My Kinda Hot Rods. K.I.S.S. theory.
    Happy Holidays!
    ray c wheeler

  47. 47 Woody Dec 22nd, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I think Nicker has a good handle on it. From the increasing age demographics to the Country’s expanding waistlines, at least you could ride a chopper a decent distance if it was even halfway designed. The cafes’ similarities to sportbike riding position may make it a hard sell for the 50Y.O. crowd. (At least that’s the way it is at my house)

  48. 48 jamesandrew2000 Dec 24th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Year of the Cafe bike? Whoever wrote that statement needs to get out more. To proclaim custom street bikes that go fast, stop quick and actually turn to be a trendy is laughable to readers with a passion for motorcycles extending beyond a freshly laundered HD bandanna. If you think a 30″ front wheel is ‘totally awesome” and completely unaware of anything not tack-welded to fender at OCC, this blog is aimed directly at you apparently.

  49. 49 Zipper Dec 24th, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    True Cafe Racers were British

  50. 50 Conrad Nicklus Dec 24th, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    I agree, I hate the bagger phase and honestly feel that the styles need to change! I think the cafe racers are a long time coming and 2011 is the year for them to shine! Skinny tires, tall frames, high cleareance.. I think this is a must for everyone who loves to ride corners and also have great handling, just beware of any grooves in the road!

  51. 51 nicker Dec 29th, 2010 at 12:55 am

    The re-emergence of Cafe-racers could be a sign that “popular custom motorcycling” is returing to it’s roots, back into the hands of comitted motorcyclists….. don’t think there were any “poser Rockers”….. Why?

    Because it’s not possible to pretend to know how to ride while actually riding hard.
    Can you imagine a toy or poker run with EVERYONE hard on the throttle, scraping foot pegs, elbowing each other out-a the way, between stops……???

    Welcome back to the “Good Old Days”…. 🙂


  52. 52 Kari Shaffer Dec 29th, 2010 at 3:09 am

    The re-emergence of Cafe-racers could be a sign that “popular custom motorcycling” is returing to it’s roots, back into the hands of comitted motorcyclists….. don’t think there were any “poser Rockers”….. Why? Because it’s not possible to pretend to know how to ride while actually riding hard. Can you imagine a toy or poker run with EVERYONE hard on the throttle, scraping foot pegs, elbowing each other out-a the way, between stops……??? Welcome back to the “Good Old Days”…. 🙂 -nicker-

  53. 53 ha ha ha Jan 6th, 2011 at 3:00 am

    Love Cyril’s writing/blog but I’m afraid he’s at least 2 years late “discovering” Cafe bikes as a coming trend. The whole motorcycle world doesn’t revolve around V-Twins/V-Twins segment of “the business”, you guys should get out more. There’s already numerous aftermarket cafe parts designers/producers as well as over the top $100,000 custom cafe bike builders and lesser dollar builders/manufacturers.
    Not a cafe bike but even Honda has brought back a CB 1100 Retro, same for Kawi (800cc), Triumph, Norton and multiple Triumph, Norton custom production bikes, Hyde Harrier, Triton etc, etc,

  54. 54 Cyril Huze Jan 6th, 2011 at 7:36 am

    To You (ha, ha, ha) , in St John’s, NewFoundLand, Canada

    Regarding your comment. My Blog is about the V-Twin Industry. What I wrote is about Cafe Racer Customization done by V-Twin custom builders who never.touched a Cafe Racer before. And this is a new trend. I am of the generation who rode Cafe Racers in Europe in the 70’s, so I know them very well.
    (why do you hide behind a fake email?). Best, Cyril.

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