Cafe Racer Week 13 – It’s only the beginning.

Coasting to the end of our first season on Café Racer means it’s time for a look at how far we’ve come and what to expect down the road. The buzz about the show has been tremendous, with viewers and plenty of would-be viewers from around the world contacting us, asking whether the show will air in their area. Well, be patient, contact the folks at HD Theater and eventually, the roar of megaphones and tuned engines just may turn up on your TV!

If you’re digging this site from overseas, chances are Café Racer will start turning up on your cable or satellite provider in the near future, and we’re all hyped to share what we’ve seen, experienced, learned and ridden with folks form remote parts of the globe. It’s amazing how far-flung the café racing cult is, with e-mails and letters pouring in from as far a field as Indonesia, Mumbai and even Colombia in recent weeks. Quick note- if you build and ride café racers in the frozen arctic, please do not invite us by for a visit- it’s been one cold enough winter for us already!

Cafe Racer TV - Week 13 BLOG Photo

We’ve enjoyed checking out the legendary sites and rockin’ events that help keep café racers from becoming some staid, dusty old museum piece. Mods and Rockers rides and custom café shows may not be as mainstream as say, NASCAR night at your local burger joint, but the scene is growing. Please let us know of any choice happenings in your neck of the woods so we can keep current on what’s happening out there in the realm of greasy hair, fast bikes and roots rock.

And if you’re looking to have a custom café bike built for yourself or just want to better understand how these incredible machines are designed, built and- most importantly – ridden, contact one of the show’s talented builders. Many of the builders have bene toiling away in relative obscurity for years, perfecting a custom genre that’s managed to combine traditionalism, race-inspired performance and post-modern aesthetics and technology all at the same time. That ain’t easy, folks. And due to the generosity of these shops, teams and hard-working individuals who eagerly shared their time, their work spaces and their precious, hard-earned trade secrets, there’d be no Café Racer TV and no future for the kind of motorbikes we love.

Hang tight because we’ll be back soon with more of the stuff that gets your throttle hand twistin’ and the wind back in your face. Just as we expected, it has been one hell of a ride.

– Mike Seate

Cafe Racer Week 11 – Potent Quotables

Looking back over the past episodes of Café Racer, I’ve come to realize there’s been some incredible, insightful people interviewed. Spending a few days with veteran motorcycle enthusiasts always reveals some fascinating thoughts, humorous anecdotes and stories so good, you find yourself asking later whether they were real. The best ones always are, of course. Many of these nuggets of wisdom, unfortunately, failed to make it on the air. Lucky for us, I kept a diary of the people we’ve interviewed, the incredible motorcycles we were lucky enough to ride, and all of the banter that passed between us during the past year.

Not surprisingly, some of the funniest moment that happened all year came when the cameras had stopped rolling and the equipment had been packed away. And a few of the genuinely most interesting sound bites have been good enough to end up printed on T-shirts. Wherever they end up, enjoy!

– Mike Seate

Hugh Mackie, 6th Street Specials, New York City

“In the books you see all these young British rockers riding Tritons, but to tell the truth, you needed a lot of money to have a Triton back in the 1960s. If you saw someone on a bike that had a new Triumph Bonneville engine inside a fairly new Norton featherbed frame, well, that person was probably a thief because nobody could afford two brand new motorbikes that they’d tear apart and just use one piece of.”

Marcel Nistor, Motorcycle Builder, Michigan

“Having a café racer is a lot like owning your own private roller coaster. Only you’re in charge of how fast it goes and you have to know where the shut off the fun in certain places.”

Mark Wilsmore, Ace Café, London

“A lot of today’s riders don’t realize it, but back in the day, when you attempted to wring The Ton from your motorcycle, all sorts of things happened to the riders. The old goggles didn’t fit very well and after about 80 miles per hour, they’d come off your face and were wrapped around your neck, threatening to strangle you. Your eyes were tearing and your helmet strap was cutting off your air as the helmet rose a few inches above your head from the windblast. Your white silk scarf blew off miles ago and is now wrapped about your drive chain – it was all pretty frightful, but I understand the lads loved it.”

Joe Stitch Deluxe Barbershop, North Olmstead, OH.

“People forget the most important ingredient in any pompadour is hair. Maybe I can just get you a hat.”

Blair Powell, Rockabilly band Highway 13, Pittsburgh, PA.

“I like the way café racers build their speed- it’s not scary, tear-your-arms-off, oh-my God-I’m-going-to-die-in-a-fiery-crash-and-it’s-going-to-hurt-a-lot fast like the new Triumph Speed Triple or a sportbike. They’re just fast enough.”

Greg Hageman, Motorcycle Builder, Davenport, IA.

“I think young people are embracing café racers because they’re fun and they’re cool and the bikes are recession proof to a point. I mean where else can you get into a custom bike for a few hundred dollars?”

Derek Harris, Lewis Leathers, London

“It was amazing to see all the skulls and death’s head imagery from the Rocker era actually was available as decoration to put on leathers back as early as the 1930s. Before that, early aviators wore the same type of insignia because of the danger of flying and the kind of glamorous flirtation with death and destruction. It’s amazing that it’s carried over to this day, pretty much unchanged.”

Martin Menucci, Mod, Dallas, TX.

“It wasn’t as bad as the films made it out to be- a lot of us mod lads came from the same schools as the rockers and they’d help us learn to maintain our scooters and give us tuning advice. You couldn’t help running into each other at the coffee bars or pubs so there couldn’t always be these vicious punch-ups you read about. Sure, the lads could get stroppy with each other and the East London mods, they were a rough bunch and liked a punch-up on Friday night after they’d had a few pints. But I think a lot of the rockers hated us because us mods always had the better-looking birds riding pillion with us.”

Cafe Racer Magazine Issue #12 AVAILABLE NOW!

Alright folks, just in time for the Holidays!  Cafe Racer Magazine issue #12 is now available and it’s packed full of ton-up goodness!  If you don’t feel like fighting the holiday traffic just swing over to the Cafe Racer Store at Dime City Cycles and they’ll get it right to your door!

Click Here to order!

Week 10 – Cafe by any definition

“You call that a café racer?’ These six words are familiar in our ears, minds and e-mail in-boxes, and they emanate from readers of all stripes, nationalities and specific motorcycling preferences. It appears there are more individual definitions of what constitutes a true café racer than there are backaches from too-low clip-on handlebars, but that, as they say, is the beauty of the thing.

To the purists we meet, a café racer can only be British, air-cooled and imbued with certain character traits including but not limited to, leaky crankcases, dodgy electrical systems, kick starters and a mechanical lineage that can be directly traced back to Guy Fawkes and Bracebridge Street. We heard lots of this while filming the Café Racer series in the United Kingdom, a place where, very often, café racers are locked in a place and time that hasn’t moved forward technologically since pints cost pocket change and smoking was permitted in pubs. These machines are, beyond debate, the true essence of the café racer, but I’d like to think the term can have a much broader definition these days.

In other parts of the world, for instance, people held equally strong opinions about just what quantifies a café racer, but their differing views make for a wild, unpredictable genre of custom streetbikes that, to be honest, is as malleable as a block of billet aluminum. In Germany, stripped-down, high-performance streetfighters are considered the natural, 21st Century heirs to the Café Racer mantle, while in Japan, rockers tend to favor small-displacement Japanese retros and commuter bikes, dressed up in throwback bodywork that makes Yamaha SR 500s and Honda GB’s resemble everything from Manx Nortons to Matchless’ stunning G50 and everything in between.

Here in the States, at risk of sounding chauvinistic, we seem to enjoy the broadest possible re-defining of what a café racer can be, as builders across a vast age and cultural range continue to amaze us with their creations. Attend a cutting-edge streetbike rally like Milwaukee’s Rockerbox or one of the many Mods and Rockers events happening these days, and you’ll be blown away by the sheer, unbridled enthusiasm and experimentation that’s happening right here, right now. I’ve spent long moments staring at bikes that were so odd they defied description, only to ask myself, “is it stripped down, unique and faster than it was stock?” Well, that, my friends is a café racer. As we say on the show, the cool thing about the café racer is there really aren’t any steadfast rules about what constitutes the prefect machine, which is a large part of what makes these motorbikes so fascinating.

Some of my favorite ton-up motorcycles seen during the past few years have, surprisingly, been powered by American-made V-Twins. This is a development not many of us could have anticipated, as Harleys are very often, associated with anything but performance riding. But the way a V-Twin motor fills a café racer frame, the sheer length of the mill lending itself perfectly to the stretched-out riding position, the ominous rumble of a pair of megas holding back wads of torque. – it all seems somehow, well, proper.

There’s also lots to dig about how the café racer craze has helped resurrect and in many cases save, old, otherwise discarded Japanese strreetbikes. I can honestly recall- which is a nice way of admitting to being over the hill – when mid-1970s Hondas, Yamahas Suzukis and Kawasakis went for only a few hundred bucks each, mainly because few North Americans realized their remarkable mechanical resilience and timeless style. Today, you may pay upwards of a Grand for clean, running examples of these ideal café donor bikes, but the fact that they’re being rebuilt, ridden and cherished by a new generation of custom builders means they’ll be around for another 30 or 40 years. And though purists may turn their noses up at newfangled sportbikes and water-cooled machines being turned into café customs, well, until you’ve ridden one of these nitro-charged road-burners at full-throttle with the wind rushing by at warp speed and your senses overloaded with adrenaline, you really shouldn’t knock ‘em.

So what, after all does make a motorcycle a café racer. Well, we put that question to Dave Degens, racer, engineer and serious builder who has cobbed together several hundred café racer specials over the years, and his answer was as illuminating as it was direct.

“A café racer is a racer for the road. A race bike you can ride to work and ten take to the track or backroads on the weekends and race against your mates,” he explained. That about covers it for me.

– Mike Seate

Santiago Chopper’s KZ1000 Cafe Racer – Auctioned off for Curing Kids of Cancer

That’s right folks!  You saw it last night on Cafe Racer!  Alan Bernard of Santiago Choppers has joined forces with Cafe Racer, The Esteemed Mecum Auto Auctions and Curing Kid’s  Cancer based in Atlanta, GA to help raise money and awareness to fight forms of Lukemia and Cancer found in children.

Santiago Choppers KZ1000 Cafe Racer

Alan’s beautiful Martin framed Kawasaki KZ1000 custom Cafe Racer is set to be auctioned off live at the Mecum Auto Auctions taking place in Kissimmee, FL Janurary 26-30th.  Please help this wonderful cause and share this information with your fellow riders and collectors via email, Facebook & Twitter.  This is a chance to not only own a piece of history built buy one of the best Cafe Racer builders in the industry, but a chance to make history and change the future for children fighting for the lives.

Santiago Choppers KZ1000 Cafe Racer

About Curing Kid’s Cancer:

Grainne and Clay Owen created Curing Kids’ Cancer only a year after losing their nine-year-old son Killian to leukemia.

Grainne was the driving force behind starting the charity. She launched Coaches Curing Kids Cancer during an appearance on the 2004 WSB Care-a-thon raising money for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The idea: Asking kids’ sports teams to donate money in honor of their coach instead of buying a gift. Coaches didn’t go without a gift however. In return for a donation, coaches were sent a t-shirt and a personalized certificate.

“I hoped that we could raise $5,000 that first season,” Grainne said. “We raised $45,000 – and knew we had a great idea on our hands.”

Grainne has raised more than $1 million since that time.

Mecum Auto Auctions Details:

January 26th-30th, Auction LOT #F264


Osceola Heritage Park
1875 Silver Spur Lane
Kissimmee, FL 34744

Click Here for Mecum’s website

*For more information on how to bid please contact us directly,

UPDATE – From the Cafe Racer team – Viewing Options

To all our viewers (and those who are patiently waiting for coverage in their area),

We have received all the requests as it pertains to viewing options for Cafe Racer. We appreciate everyone’s interest and want to ensure you all that we’re working to have expanded viewing options down the road.

However, in an effort to help the cause, please take a moment and call your cable provider and ask them to consider adding Discovery HD Theater. The more interest the better!

Just like building a Cafe Racer, some parts take longer to get than others…but in the end the result is Ton-Up goodness at it’s best and help from the community only makes it easier!

Thanks for being patient and thanks for support Cafe Racer!

– The Cafe Racer Team