(Sent to us from Jorge Damico and published without edits)
Stylish and original ideas always excite me. When I was introduced to the Cafe Racer style of motorcycles I was immediately hooked up by the concept and history behind of it as well its unique look. There is something in this style that lights up a desire for emotion and adrenaline. From that very moment I knew that I had to build and ride one.
After a long and extensive research analyzing all the possible donor bikes, years and types, I came across with the 2015 Yamaha SR400. It is the very same motorcycle being built since 1978 by Yamaha with a few modern improvements like fuel injection and front disk brake. The idea of using a brand new bike as a base of my project had its pros and cons. Yet a few strong arguments made me to decide in favor of using a 2015 motorcycle instead of an old beat up one. Not having to worry about potential and expensive issues on the engine, transmission, electrical parts and brake system were some of them, leaving me with room to invest time, energy and effort on the other aspects of the machine; allowing me to add my own flavor and ideas to the project.
In order to achieve a more compact profile look the shorter front and rear fenders played a major role. The horizontal line of the bike had to be lowered; a Triumph clubman type handle bar, thinner seat, repositioned meters and head light made the job, promoting a better alignment with the gas tank imaginary line. A new set of blinkers, mirrors and shorter muffler gave the final touches showcasing my re-interpretation of a classic and reliable motorcycle on a vintage look.
The end result was a leaner, cleaner and louder motorcycle that turns heads wherever we go. People get so enthusiastic with the bike that they stop by, ask questions and spend time admiring each detail; from teenagers to old dudes, man and women. However, more rewarding than all of this, is to have the sensation that I was able to spark in them curiosity and astonishment for Cafe Racers and vintage motorcycles.
By the end of the day, the conclusion of the project wasn’t what gave me the feeling of “mission completed”. The emotion of being able to motivate and encourage others to do similar things was the ultimate prize of this project.
Glen builds bikes for himself and for his friends under the name ArtMoto. After riding a friend’s Ducati Sport Classic, he developed a lust for a café racer. “I was liking the power of the v-twin of the Ducati, but I didn’t really want a Ducati. So I decided that a Suzuki TL1000s was the best option and was able to find a 97 model just 20 minutes from my house”, said Glen.”
Glen says the motor seemed strong but the body work had seen better days. So he was able to get it at a good price. “No point cutting up a minter. I road it around for a few months to make sure all was good with it, and it gave me time to collect parts for the build. Once the cooler days of winter set in, it was time to take her off the road and start the build.”
The plan right from the start was for him to do everything himself. “This meant I was going to have to learn a few new skills. Once I had the front fairing mounted, I started work on the tail. I shaped the tail out of clay, then glassed over the top. I made two tails, the solo one and a two up one so I can take the wife and kids for a ride. While I was at it, I had a go at making some carbon fiber parts. I made the tank protector, dash mount, chain guard, and the solo tail. I fitted a Ohlins shock in the rear and the front end from a 04 GSXR1000, to give a lot better suspension and better brakes”, said Glen.
At work, Glen has a powder coating booth. So, he was able to powder coat the frame and all other parts in dark metallic grey. “I powder coated the wheels and all other blue bits in a candy blue. I made a spray booth in my shed from plastic drop cloths and called on the advice of a couple of painter friends. With them giving me guidance, I sprayed the body work in metallic grey with matching blue highlights and metallic grey pin stripping. This is the one area I haven’t attempted to do myself in the past, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out,” Glen told us.
Glen went on to say he made the seat base and foamed it, but he did pay to get a professional upholster to cover it. “It was all back together and running a couple of days before the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride where it got its first public outing. The reaction was pretty good, and I’m a happy man.”
For Tim Gerst, owning a cafe racer style motorcycle is a dream come true. After getting married and starting a family, he just kept thinking about getting another bike. The funny part about this story is it goes against everything you’ve learned about trusting anyone on the internet.
“I started looking for a builder that would be able to interpret my design and bring it to reality. I didn’t have a bike to start with. So I had to find a builder that would be able to find and buy a donor bike. I searched the internet for about a week or so and found decent builder, but the builder wanted to sell me a donor bike without a title and Florida is one tough state to register and plate a bike so we could not move forward with the build,” Tim said.
He got discouraged and decided to buy an already built cafe racer on Craigslist. “That’s when I came across an ad for a Honda CM 400 in Florida that was posted by a guy in Connecticut. Thinking this was a total scam I decided to call and see what was up with the ad. So I called and some guy answered, told him I was not really interested in his CM400, but looking for a builder to build me a Honda CB550. He seemed very legit and was extremely knowledgeable about building bikes, asking the right questions and not really trying to make a buck!! We talked about ideas, pricing and design for weeks. I think he was more enthused about the bike than I was. I sent a large check to a guy I have never meet that’s three states away that I found on Craigslist that was going to find a donor bike and build a cafe racer.
After I sent the check, I thought what the hell did I just do!!”
But, as it turns out, the guy wasn’t just legit, he turned out to be great. He went above and beyond for Tim. Bill Docchio of Sin City Vintage Cycles drove 10 hours each way from Connecticut to Ohio to get the CB550 he needed for the build. “One of the nice aspects of building this bike for Tim was that he had an overall look that he wanted but left most of the visual styling up to me. This enabled me to build a bike that looked like a bike I personally would want, that is to say a bike that is super clean, functional, and have just the right amount of shine to make the trailer queens jealous.”
When Bill called Tim about the bike, he was shocked. “I thought to myself…Ohio, the builder is in Connecticut, I’m in Florida and this is getting crazy!”
Bill was up for the challenge. “One of the aspects of cafe racers in general that I wanted to address with this bike was the open area in the frame where the airbox would normally go on a stock bike. I like the open area but always felt that the frame rails now looked way longer and out of place. So we made changes to that and the end result fixed that gap but also gave the illusion that the seating position is way more aggressive. Another cool aspect of this bike is all the one off machined parts I made for the bike. Having a Bridgeport and a lathe in my shop is huge in that I’m able to give customers a bike that is truly one of a kind. That along with the hand made sheet metal and to me it’s a no brainer that cafe racers are the sweetest customs on the road.”
Tim is now riding in style and thrilled with the way things turned out. “Got to tell you, the builder kept the build on track and true to the original simple idea of a old school cafe racer even when I tried to add so-called trinkets to the bike. The Motorcycle came out so well, it’s just incredible. It’s hard to ride the bike because people of all ages, and I mean all ages, especially the older guys stop me and want to talk about the bike, at traffic lights, stop signs and run after me when I’m trying riding!! Still to this day I have never met the builder, but will return so he can build another kick ass bike!!! Thanks Bill of Sin City Vintage Cycles!!!
The classic part of this for Bill is that two weeks after that 20 hours in the car his brother bought 4 cb550’s from a guy who lived ten minutes away.
Check out these before and after shots sent to us by Philipp Dewies. He’s a 23year old mechanical engineering student at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. He got some great practical experience in his field while working on this Cafe Racer project with his dad. The idea to build a Cafe Racer was born out of necessity. Philipp says that he didn’t have enough money to buy a cool bike from a dealer.
He bought what he calls “a cheap” BMW R65 and started to unscrew the whole bike. He and his dad built new parts, fixed problems and enjoyed the time together in their garage. They had so much fun, they decided to build another one, a better one. They bought the 1985 BMW R80 RT you see pictured above. They worked on it every weekend for about nine months in their home garage.
“My dad and I were in scale modelling for many years, so we had all the tools we needed already at home,” Philipp told us.
The paint is the original Porsche Aetna Blau from the legendary 1960 Porsche 356B. They integrated a Motogadget Tiny Speedster in the lamp body, powder coated the engine, and many other parts. For the perfect clean shape of the seat they decided to put on a very small Kellermann indicator/backlight combination. He used the leather from the seat to cover the handles. The helmet was painted also in the Porsche Blau. Philipp grinded it in spots to get a cool design. Then he put a clear lacquer on it. The helmet makes a great touch. Tell us what you think. If you have a project you’d like to show, just send it to us through this Contact Us form .
We wanted to give you some insight and advice about insuring your Cafe Racer motorcycle.
So, we interviewed an expert.
Peter Laczko, who owns InsureYourToy.com, works with various insurance vendors and specializes in insuring
motorcycles and other toys. Here are a few of his answers to our questions. Have questions of your own, let us know
or email Peter at Peter@InsureYourToy.com.
1) What’s the most challenging thing about insuring a Cafe Racer motorcycle?
If the bike is not a common bike like a Harley or Yamaha or Honda, you’ll need a appraisal or bill of sale if it is a new purchase.
But any bike can be insured, even if it is homemade.
2) Why is it so important to insure your motorcycle? Is it more about coverage or liability?
Both are very important because you are always responsible if you hurt
someone and if you are carrying a passenger. Coverage is also important
if you have a lot of accessories on the bike or have a lot of money
invested. But if you don’t have a lot of money in the bike, then you
might consider just liability.
The most important coverage is the uninsured motorist coverage, which covers you
for medical and lost wages if you get hurt by someone who has no insurance or not enough insurance
to cover your medical bills. For example, if you were hurt in an accident and it was the other person’s fault,
and you were laid up in the hospital for six months, do you have medical insurance and do you have disability
insurance to coverage your lost wages?
3) Do all insurance companies offer coverage for motorcycles?
No, very few companies offer motorcycle insurance. InsureYourToy.com represents six major
companies and has the ability to shop the rate with all of them.
4) What types of questions should motorcycle owners ask when they are looking for the right insurance company?
Can I get replacement cost on the bike in case it is stolen or not repairable after an accident?
What are my deductible options?
Usually you have the option of $100, $250, $500, or $1,000. Going to $1,000.00 can usually save you a lot of money.
After an accident is the company going to give me new parts or are they going to give me refurbished parts?
Can I get a discount for the motorcycle safety course, experience discount?
Can I get a discount if I have insurance now
with another company?
5) What are some discounts that Cafe Racer Motorcyclists should know about?
Motorcycle license discount
Riding group discount
Anti lock brakes
We hope these answers have been helpful. Please let us know about topics you’d like to see covered.
We love to hear how our Cafe Racer fans built their bikes. So, please keep ’em coming.
Here’s a build we wanted to share.
Powder coated frame and swing arm, done by Redditch Shot BlastingPainted wheel hubsRebuilt wheelsFitted clip onsNew wiring harnessNew clocksFitted new controlsFitted Suzuki SV 650 front brake caliperSuzuki GSXR 600 brake, clutch lever and master cylinderYoshimura 466 piston kitMotad ExhaustHome made fiber glass seat humpBridgestone tyresSteering damperPaint by Plastic Surgery
Kevin Stanley, who runs his own chop shop in L.A. sent us these before and after shots.
The Honda Brat:
What did he change? “Custom frame hoop, new dime city cycles brat style seat, clubman handlebars, new lighting, new lowered shocks, new tires.”
This week’s #tonuptuesday entrant is named “Cathy” and she comes from the gorgeous lake city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Chad Daly picked up this 1981 Yamaha XS650 Special from the original owner for only $400! It was his first project and he spent five months working on it in his garage when he wasn’t traveling the Northwest for his day job, which is building cell phone towers.
Here is the straight story, right from Chad:
“I personally crafted every portion of this bike, except for paint, powdercoat and upholstery,” he said. It’s a one owner, low mile classic! To cut or not to cut? She spent her first year being ‘old reliable’ spending most of her time running to the parts house, or the occasional lap around the lake!
“Then winter came;
“Time to cut, I mean it’s an ‘81, the most produced XS650 ever, hack it! Right? I hacked the back half of her off, and with the help of my good buddies at Villalobos Choppers, bent up a new subframe for her. I put her up on the jig and aligned everything to the moon, and mig’d her into place.
“I HATE fiberglass, so I knew my tins would have to be well, tin! I don’t own sheet metal tools, and this was my first real go at it. I had to 2 piece the rear cowl section to get it just right! It fits perfect, and is easily removable. I built the seat pan with the electronics box stashed inside of it, and then had the aged leather stitched up by Todd Van Houton out of Spokane, WA. I wanted underseat pipes, so after lots of beers, figured it out and made up a set, that are also easily removable.
“I fabricated a mount for the steering stabilizer, added the revalved RFS shocks, and added the Racetech internals to the stock front forks. I also built the fork brace, and under-swingarm battery box. The dual disc setup was almost factory bolt on, and I refaced and drilled the rotors out myself with a hand drawn pattern.
“The motor is bone stock with the addition of the Mikuni VM34s, Pamco ignition and a deep sump oil pan. This winter she’s back on the bench getting a 700cc upgrade. I love this bike. She handles awesome and has a ton of power.
“Now, as for the name… Have yourself a couple of pints and repeat the word Cafe’.. eventually as the night progresses, it will slur into Cathy. Trust me, I’m living proof!
Find Chad on Instagram at: @idaho_chad