Café Racer Forty-Eight

ThunderbikeCafeRacer1ThunderbikeCafeRacer2ThunderbikeCafeRacer3ThunderbikeCafeRacer6ThunderbikeCafeRacer7The Sportster Forty-Eight® was born from Harley-Davidson looking like an urban brawler with the right attributes to be easily turned into a modern Cafe Racer. And if it’s the direction you are looking for, here is a good example of what you can achieve for a reasonable customizing budget without compromising your Harley factory warranty. Since the birth of the Cafe Racer, the style has evolved, taking influences not only from the original British Rocker sub-culture but also from the American Greaser scene…and from the Harley-Davidson XLCR.

ThunderbikeCafeRacer7bis ThunderbikeCafeRacer8ThunderbikeCafeRacer9On this new creation by official Harley-Davidson dealer Thunderbike, you can regret that the fuel tank was not modified, elongated, with recessed panels to allow the rider to squeeze it between his knees. But you find other elements faithful to the Cafe Racer signature: narrow handlebars that allow to “tuck in” to reduce wind resistance and tighter steering control , mid-controls (factory unit comes with forward mounts), half racing style fairing, humped solo seat on shortened rear fender, shorty exhaust, etc.

ThunderbikeCafeRacer10ThunderbikeCafeRacer11ThunderbikeCafeRacer12ThunderbikeCafeRacer13Ok, for this budget, it will remain a custom Harley. It would cost you much more if you want to build a pure Cafe Racer like a Triton (a combination of Norton Featherbed frame and Triumph Bonneville engine), a Tribsa (a Triumph engine in a BSA frame) or a Norvin (a Vincent V-Twin engine in a Featherbed frame.) But riding this Sportster painted in silver (to replace aluminum) adorned with black racing stripes, and with a little bit of rockabilly attitude you be able to remember or imagine how it felt to race the ton (100 mph or 160 km.h) from café to café. Thunderbike Germany. (photography @ Ben Ott for Cyril Huze)

ThunderbikeCafeRacer14Thunderbike Café Racer II
Base: Harley-Davidson Sportster 48
Rear Fender: Thunderbike Cafe Racer Kit
Front Fairing: Thunderbike Cafe Racer Fairing
Seat: Thunderbike
Wheels: 4.5 x 16 & 3 x 16 Spoke wheels
Tires: oem from H-D Fat Bob
License Plate: Thunderbike sidemount short
Headlight: H-D
Taillight: Thunderbike Alcatraz Open
Footpegs: Thunderbike Alu
Grips: Thunderbike Base Alu
Exhaust: Roland Sands
Air Cleaner: Thunderbike Drilled

33 Responses to “Café Racer Forty-Eight”

  1. 1 Real Jun 2nd, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Like both (bike & girl)

  2. 2 Will Dowty Jun 2nd, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Yeah, that’s a really good look

  3. 3 REV.JIM Jun 2nd, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Well it’s got a mini fairing and a wannabe rear section. other than that there is nothing café about it. another sportster slightly modified. you could take it to the drag strip it might pull a 16 or 17 sec et>

  4. 4 SIGFREED Jun 2nd, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Authentic talent does not require a big budget.

    This is one of the best examples to vindicate the statement above.

    TB is by some measure the ‘BEST IN CLASS’; cannot remember anything they have touched – at any budget – that was not über cool…


  5. 5 Rodent Jun 2nd, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Not bad looking!

  6. 6 Esteves Motorcycle Design Jun 2nd, 2014 at 10:06 am

    That’s a tasty custom job. I like the drilled-out chain guard, and there are many interesting details all over. I would love to see them use our rocker box covers to round things off on this racer.

    Well done!

  7. 7 Larry Lamonaco Jun 2nd, 2014 at 10:47 am

    I LIKE IT !!!!!!!!

  8. 8 18Bravo Jun 2nd, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Die Karre – Spitzenklasse
    Die Braut – nicht so…

  9. 9 Kansas Joe Jun 2nd, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    I would much rather have this bike over some orange Honda 750 built by a bunch of Hack’s, that didn’t even know the carbs had plastic jets…

    Kansas Joe

  10. 10 Roger Davenport Jun 2nd, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    We all going to see a lot like that in the next 12 months.

  11. 11 Necron99 Jun 2nd, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Rev Jim couldn’t agree more. I’d like to see somebody try to put that through a tight corner at 100mph, if it could even reach that.
    When will people understand “style” and “substance” are two different things?
    This is what really depresses me about the rise of “café racers”: They went from a form derived from pure function to who “who cares if it functions” mentality, as in Firestone tires, lowered bikes and ridiculous riding positions (clip on’s and mid mounts or worse forward pegs? WTF?)

    So so sad….they will never know the joys of pure hooligan riding. Putt putting along at 35 mph from coffee shop to coffee shop, dressed in your best biker/café racer/hipster costume ain’t biking.

  12. 12 Kansas Joe Jun 2nd, 2014 at 2:03 pm


    you do realize you are agreeing with a guy that built one, again, one bike, that was exactly what you are describing to be a substandard “Cafe” Bike.

    He is no expert to anyone but himself.

    Kansas Joe

  13. 13 Necron99 Jun 2nd, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    He made a valid point. I don’t know Rev Jim nor do I really care who or what he is, nor do I care what or if he rides.
    Debate the issue Kansas Joe if you want.

  14. 14 Kansas Joe Jun 2nd, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    The issue is there is nothing wrong with this bike. It is what the builder wanted and that guy has no right to judge another persons build, he is a pure hack Wanna-be trying to pretend he knows Cafe Racers.

    Debate that

    Kansas Joe

  15. 15 Kansas Joe Jun 2nd, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Unless a person grew up in Europe in the 50’s and 60’s, owned and rode the bikes that were available then, Well it’s pretty simple, there is no way to be a Cafe Racer Expert then is there. Stop criticizing something you are not qualified to criticize.

    Debate That

    Kansas Joe

  16. 16 Woody Jun 2nd, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Ignoring the need to give the bike any specific type classification, that’s a great-looking bike with a nice consistency of concept from front to back. Regarding performance, in general, all stock bikes perform best about 5 minutes before someone touches them with a wrench to customize them, yet we’re never gonna stop. I really like it.

  17. 17 skinny denny Jun 2nd, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    As far as Cafe Racers go, the only one I’ve ever really cared for came stock off the showroom floor. No, not the XlCR H-D, but the BMW R90S. A perfect blend of style and substance. A timeless motorcycle that looks as good today as it did back in the 1970’s. This 48 Sportster to me is just a poser that’s trying to be something it’s not. But to each their own. Opinions are like orifices.

  18. 18 Necron99 Jun 2nd, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Whoa Kansas Joe you da man!
    Too bad you’re totally clueless. You don’t know who I am or how many of my bikes have been in magazines or calendars etc. But yes an Internet cowboy with a name lie Kansas Joe, must be an expert.

  19. 19 Kansas Joe Jun 2nd, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    if it makes you feel better, say what you will, facts are facts, I never claimed to be any sort of expert in any way shape or form, Just stating the truth about the bike featured, and the “expert” that posted the original negative comments about the bike.

    Kansas Joe

  20. 20 BCinSoCal Jun 2nd, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Rev Jim, back to the jungle of Guyana, got news for ya pal, Sportys run faster than you think. In ’72 I took a new 1000 cc electric start Sportster engine put it in a Century Eng rigid frame and with nothing more than an S&S carb and a set of pipes I made , with mufflers, it would run 12.60s at 104 in the quater every run, did it many times, it was a street bike, I rode it up and down the west coast several times. As to necron99, have you ever actually road raced raced ? I have, it’s back to the coffee shop for you and your hooligan riding….. Just get so sick of reading people bad mouthing every thing that Cyril puts on this blog. Great looking Sporty , to me at least !

  21. 21 john reed Jun 3rd, 2014 at 12:04 am

    I grew up in Europe in the 50′s and 60′s, I owned and rode the bikes that were available then

    At that time Harley were considered a joke amongst the cafe scene,they were slow,didn’t handle even close to the British bikes ,and couldn’t be modified to look like the road racing bikes every one wanted,but I think that if this Sportster was around then, there would have been a good chance it could have kicked a lot of butts,( with the right rider ).

    If anyone knows any of my old friends, please don’t tell them I said that.

  22. 22 Pat Simmons Jun 3rd, 2014 at 1:03 am

    I really like the bike. Not crazy about the non-rider chick in the advertisement. I think having a good looking woman in riding leathers, ready for the road would be a better way to market a bike that could obviously appeal to both sexes. Kinda shows a lack of awaremness about the market place. Probably a turn-off to women riders, who now account for about 15-20% of Harley sales these days. Still a nice looking machine that I know has been a good selling bike for the company.

  23. 23 Necron99 Jun 3rd, 2014 at 1:14 am

    Yes I have raced, on a track at a sanctioned even.
    Oh sorry there goes your theory. Now you’ll call me a liar which is typical of blowhards like you. Go back to being an Internet champion.

    I never disagreed than a 1000 cc Ironhead was slow either. Evo Sporties however, are boat anchors.
    The best we ever got out of an 883 with some “tuning” was a 10.13….on the eighth mile! Funny enough a guy on a late model 1000 Ironhead was running consistent mid 9’s and he could barley check the oil.

    Since we are talking Sporties here, the old 1203 Buell showed what was possible. I was really disappointed when the XR1200 didn’t get a Buell spec engine. It felt like what it was: A parts bin special.

  24. 24 Dr Robert Harms Jun 3rd, 2014 at 6:09 am

    ” I like the drilled-out chain guard, ”

    Hate to say it but I don’t agree The idea is OK but the execution is horrible. He might consider using a divding head or rotary table or even just time and a drill press . Looks like someone went nuts with the 3/8″ hand held Black and Decker

  25. 25 SIGFREED Jun 3rd, 2014 at 6:12 am


    Dude, I am somewhat dumbfounded by your tact here, what is it that you are actually trying to achieve?

    Firstly – I am not interested to engage in a electronic-word-hurling contest with you (or anybody with your attitude for that matter), so I will NOT respond to you irrespective your retort (or not).

    Respectfully – you are missing the point, not by a 1/4 mile, but by a country mile. A 125cc Wespa, will be more fun to ride in town (viz a built-up area), than the USAIN-BOLT-ON-ACID machines you (seemingly) worship…

    I have raced motorcycles since 5th Grade, from tracks, to the strip, to the dirt and every combination in between. So lets not even go there.

    Equally I have met more Sporty riders (ie not Ironheads – but late model types), with bikes from standard to full hardtail re-engineered things, all hopelessly in love with their little incongruities. I am NOT one of them – but so what???

    I don’t know who TB’s client is, but if he/she rides it around München, Berlin, Hamburg or alike, the owner will be smiling from ear to ear after very ride. On top of that there will be more cellphone selfies featuring this ‘poser’ than anything you have ever owned (trust me on that one). And that is what it is about – ie what makes the client happy/content (as others have noted above).

    Sure the bike featured here is a ‘poser’ – but a ‘poser’ compared to what..?? Your new leather jacket? A decent pair of boots? A wild tattoo? Your time sheets?

    If you are such a functional control-freak, then wear animal skins, it is about as basic as function can get. But you don’t, because there hides a poser in all of us, it is just how we are made…

  26. 26 KD Jun 3rd, 2014 at 7:48 am

    I like this style more than any of the old style cafe racers I’ve ever seen. Different strokes for different folks as they say.

  27. 27 Steve Carr Jun 3rd, 2014 at 8:18 am

    I happen to think there is nothing wrong with the bike, and don’t really understand the need for the negative comments from people.

    Cyril said it best once, and I paraphrase here….

    Bike building is like writing music, there are only so many notes, but we all use them in different ways to create our own songs. Each one is beautiful in it’s own way.

    Steve Carr

  28. 28 Doc Robinson Jun 3rd, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Onya Steve Carr!

  29. 29 Jusmecuz Jun 3rd, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Well said, Mr. Carr! I LIKE THAT!

  30. 30 skinny denny Jun 3rd, 2014 at 10:48 am

    @John Reed: John, 1960’s era XLCH Sportster(magneto models) were not slow. You probably didn’t see many of them in Europe. They didn’t handle or stop very well. They were notoriously hard to start. No one called them girl’s bikes back then because very few girls could start them. A 1969 XLCH with a decent rider could run a 13 second 1/4 mile. They were the two wheeled equivalent of a 1960’s muscle car. They looked good, sounded good, and had lots of character. In my opinion they were the last true Sportster. AMF bought out H=D in 1969 and things changed for the worse.
    As far as the drilled out “chain guard” goes, it’s actually a belt guard. Sportsters have been running secondary belt drive for approximately 20 years. And as far as the music I motorcycle analogy, there is a lot of useless noise out there today masquerading as music.. I preferred the motorcycles of the 1960’s and the music of the 1960’s to what’s out there today. As far as the model is concerned, I don’t find the model all that attractive. I was shocked she wasn’t inked out. If everyone agreed on everything, this world would be a very boring place! Have a good one everybody out there and I hope I haven’t offended too many people.

  31. 31 Heavy Metal Jun 3rd, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Cool bike, I would like to own it. How do we know the model isn’t a rider? Because of her shoes?

  32. 32 Woody Jun 6th, 2014 at 6:49 am

    obviously she’s a mechanic, see how she’s getting ready to plug the rear tire 🙂

  33. 33 Blackmax Jun 9th, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    I’m not a fan of Sportsters, but you know what ??
    This is one BAC (Bad Ass Cycle) !!!!
    I do like the looks of if & if it rides half as good as it looks it’s a winner
    Again I say, “What is one man’s dessert is another man’s garbage”
    live & let live, ride & let ride !!!!

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Cyril Huze