For a series just working its way through its second year, I’m often amazed to find the wide and disparate range of people who dig Café Racer TV. I’ve had little old grandmas approach me in my neighborhood grocery store to gush about how much their sons and grandsons enjoy the show and I always appreciate the unexpected surprise when some guy in a suit and tie rushes over to my motorcycle in a parking lot to tell me that he’s planning on building one just like it- only faster, of course- because he’s seen café racers whizzing across his TV screen every week. OK, there is a downside to becoming more recognizable to the public-at-large; if one more person mistakes me for professional stunt rider Jason Britton – who happens to be a good six inches shorter than and a decade younger than, myself- I’ll burst a blood vessel. That said, one of the cooler and most memorable experiences to occur during the current season’s shooting schedule happened last spring down in Florida where we had a chance to check out a Philadelphia Phillies pre-season game and meet some of the players. I used to frequent a pub near my Pittsburgh home that catered to members of the Pittsburgh Pirates who played nearby and the players often stepped outside to se me off, asking endless questions about my custom café racer. So it was no surprise to see how many of the Phillies were Café Racer fans. We got a blast out of talking clip-ons, rearsets and ton-up tales with the team’s manager Charlie Manuel who told us he never misses an episode, while some of the team’s top talent, including ace pitcher Roy Halladay got a chance to sit aboard the custom Harley-Norton hybrid special built by Alan Bernard of Florida’s Santiago Choppers. After filling in members of the team on the Norley’s impressive performance specs, we tossed some sports analogies at the players, explaining that the 1200cc Norley could travel about 50% faster than Halladay’s 90 MPH fastball. While shooting the breeze with several team members including Cole Hamels, groups of Phillies fans drifted over to check out the motorcycle and it was a gas to overhear them guessing what sort of machine it was.
What was a shocker came later when several players learned that the motorcycle – which appears in tonight’s episode of Café Racer TV – would be auctioned off to support the Curing Kid’s Cancer charity. Several pulled us aside and explained how much they’d like to add a custom café racer to their toy collections, but they did so out of earshot of team manager Charlie Manuel as Major League Baseball forbids its players from riding motorcycles while contracted to play. One player, who shall remain nameless, told us that he already owned several high-performance sportbikes and a few cars capable of approaching the double-ton mark, but if the men in the team office found out, the bikes would have to go. “I plan to build me one of these the week after I retire,” we were told more than once, a statement that provided a rare insight into the world of professional sports. Sure, it must be great to throw a 90 MPH pitch and make tens of millions, but me? I’d rather have my motorcycles, risks and all.
– Mike Seate