It’s hard to fathom right now, with the trees doing their paint-by-numbers thing and riding season just about over here in the Northeast, but the Café Racer series was actually started nearly a year ago. Back then, we visited what seemed like (and still does) the remotest rural section of Virginia we’d ever seen to film interviews and the building of the electric-powered Norton road racer of Brian Richardson. The Richardson family sheep farm is located in an area so far off the map that coyotes need G.P.S. to find it; located on the property, however, was some really boss British biking gear, including the barn – seen on last week’s episode – and an old smokehouse transformed by Brian into a Norton-themed man-cave of extraordinary detail. There was n old Coke machine filled with cold beer, a computer monitor running Norton advertisements from the 1960s and a talking, life-sized Austin Powers – yeah baby, indeed!
Meeting students from Brian’s Virginia Tech engineering project was a blast as their enthusiasm and can-do attitudes could shame a Moto GP paddock. And we really, truly regret not getting to taste the lamb stew that Mrs. Richardson made for us because we were too bloody busy. Well, there were a few minutes to good off like when director Ed Coughlan rode pillion behind Brian on a tiny off-road bike to herd the sheep. And the townsfolk- what few there were- turned out throughout the shoot to welcome our crew and let us know that, way back in the day, a Clark Gable movie was shot on location here. Me? I just wish I’d had time to come back to Blue Grass as the roads snaking through the Appalachian Mountains were some of the best twisties I’ve seen in 30 years of motorcycling. Give me a fast Triton with sticky tires and I may end up farming sheep here myself.
It was quite a contrast to our next shoot at York, Pennsylvania’s J&B Moto Co. where the streets were filled with the throb and rumble of Harleys- hundreds of them. Most of The faithful come to tour the production plant in York, which we’re told is the factory tour capital of the world. That’s all fine and dandy, but I gotta wish more folks would stop by and see what the boys at J&B are up to, as they’re building some of the most unique café racers around. We really dug the fact that Jeff, Brian and the boys are just good old school gear heads who appreciate all sorts of badass machinery, whether it’s new, old, fast or slow. There’s a stripped-down Vincent Black Shadow project bike currently in the on-deck circle at J&B and with their ability to lay down hand-made fiberglass bodywork and tune a motor, I can’t wait to see what becomes of this baby. Their struggles to adapt a Jon Britten-style suspension system on a traditional Yamaha XS 650 was inspiring to watch- the guys worked like rented mules to sustain their ambitious dream and we consider ourselves lucky to have been a part of the process. My favorite bit of the shoot? Gearing up and heading out for a brief ride, we passed a bunch of aging outlaw biker types gathered around a local saloon. Despite their insistence of behaving like extras from Clint Eastwood’s “Every Which Way But Loose” some of the gangsters smiled and waved when they saw the café racers buzz by, probably remembering when they themselves rode British and Japanese bikes years before. Café racers have a way of doing that to people.
– Mike Seate