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.”

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