Some would argue that it is impossible to replicate the iconic “Cafe Racer” culture found on the streets and in the cafe’s of London. Certain integral elements of the lifestyle simply do not exist outside the tightly woven brick-laden streets of small English towns. Fortunately, the defining characteristic of this unique culture subset is one of individuality. The desire to twist the throttle and say goodbye to everything and anyone behind you has something to do with studded leather jackets, slicked back hair and pints of Boddington’s…Nevertheless, there’s more to it than that.
It is the innate thread of speed woven into the fabric of men which some are fortuitous enough to experience that really defines the “cafe racer.” The persona knows no bounds, cares not what type of engine he progresses forth on, or whether the road he travels is a dusty barren one without a coffee house in sight, or a congested highway where weaving between cars is an expected element. Moreover, in America, the personal independence of the “Cafe Racer” is symbolic of everything Americans choose to live for…and the idea that freedom is worth dying for.
You see, there is no argument to be had; that is the beauty of fast, loud, teeth-chattering machines of yesteryear being piloted by men pursuing the unknown. Sure, he may wear a leather jacket with patches and he may choose a Triumph Bonneville as his valiant steed, but in the end, the root of the term is “racer” and cafe or not, he will still be piloting his two wheeled ton-up machine closing in on the 100MPH mark no matter his surroundings.
And with that, I introduce you to Scott Toepfer and his dream to chase that illusive mark of speed and individuality through his project:
It’s Better In The Wind.
It was almost this time a year ago when I first came across Scott’s project. I was up late one night late editing photos and in an effort to rest my eyes from the barrage of metal and paint before me I started surfing some of the regular BLOG sites I visit. It was only when I came across a photo of a Triumph full speed-ahead into the wind that a certain inspiration filled my soul. The composition of the shot and what it inspired, a lone rider on the road with nothing but blacktop and white lines ahead took a hold of me. Saddle bags and a full ruck sack told the story of adventure and the image gripped me. My mind told me they were out of place on the Triumph Bonneville setup in classic cafe racer trim, but my heart told me otherwise…
I had to know more, so I reached out to Scott about his project and after a few conversations had setup a time to meet with him in LA. The meeting place would be a little diner just outside of town that serves steaks the size of Texas for breakfast and coffee with a different kind of kick than one would get at the Ace. When Scott arrived he was not what I expected, yet somehow, everything I thought he would be. Full of passion and obvious tenacity, we spent the first little while trading stories about what we grew up riding, where we’d been and the scars we acquired over the years.
As we began to talk about Its Better In The Wind, the speed and context of the conversation both evolved rapidly. It was if Scott and I had been friends for years and we were just catching up. Never-mind the fact that we were completely foreign to one another, this was a testament to the power of the project and the common thread that binds us all, no doubt.
The project outline was simple really. Get together with your closest friends, load up your cafe bikes with what you could strap to the sides and on your back, and head out into the unknown. No maps and no GPS, just intuition guiding you along the way. Oh, and document every cold day and winding road of it.
Scott told me that initially he wasn’t sure what to expect. Would people dismiss the project as just another group of young radical punks searching for existentialism and recognition through motorcycles, leather jackets and dirt roads? Or would the intrinsic beauty of the project transcend boundaries and culture subsets, somehow reaching the masses and inspiring a generation? I am confident the latter was the result…
In a recent conversation with Scott after the completion of Its Better In the Wind: Part 1 (that’s right, there’s more to come) He shared this with me:
I think it has been a challenge to describe the greater impacts of this project to people. On occasion I receive an email from someone in Michigan, or Italy, telling me that they feel like the project spoke to them in a unique way. And at some point I realized that in this project, I wasn’t just telling people a story, and they were listening…they were sharing in it with us. There is something special about feeling connected to a group of people you’ve never met, and the project has done that for some people. It has brought motorcycle culture to a broader audience of worldly travelers. Cafe culture, at its roots has been portrayed largely through urban culture, while big comfortable cruisers are for the open road. But, I guess to me, and to us…whatever you have is whatever you have be it a Cafe’d Triumph or Honda, or anything else for that matter. The roads of America aren’t exactly the same roads in Bristol, England but we have wide open spaces, and although we might live in the city, we love taking off.
It’s Better In The Wind exposes a vantage point that some may never have experienced otherwise. While paying homage to the iconic heritage that is cafe racer- worn leathers, air cooled twins and speed, Scott has somehow managed to simultaneously blend that of the American dream to explore open spaces with the roots of two wheeled ton-up splendor straight from England.
Keep your eyes open, the second half of the project is right around the corner and I am confident it will put a smile on your face.
Photos provided by Scott Toepfer
– Paul Henry Harrington