What is a Cafe Racer?

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by Lucky13, Jan 7, 2011.

  1. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Well,

    I know what a cafe racer is, something built of BSA, Norton, Truimph or anything else British, Norton Featherbed (?) frame with Triumph engine etc., etc...from the '50's and '60's.
    Do your best to hit the 'Ton' I think that it was called 100 mph or the race during the 3 minute tune...
    Now, nowadays paople are building 'cafe racers' with those Japs contraptions etc...

    :rolleyes:

    Does that make it less of a cafe racer, what is a cafe racer to you?

    :D8)
     
  2. Torch

    Torch Well-Known Member

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    I think some of the custom cafe's are cool, since so many of the older brands are so rare I don't mind seeing older Honda's etc being converted, it was all about the spirit of it also. Plus with the bennies of new suspension,brakes etc the newer ones are way more reliable. I think the Triumph Thruxton kinda got it kick started here....
     
  3. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    #3 mikewint, Jan 7, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2011
    Lucky, You have almost all of it. The Cafe (Kaff) racer craze started in the 1960s with the British counterculture group the Rockers and quickly spread to Italy and Germany. The goal of the group was to race from one coffee bar to another during the time it took to play 1 recorded song. Since most songs took about 2 minutes the roughly 3 mi trip required the bike to reach about 100mph or a "ton"
    The bikes were highly modified and stripped down for speed and handling rather than comfort. They tended to have long fuel tanks and a small rearward mounted seat. Probably the most identifiable feature was their low, narrow "clip-on" or "clubman" handle bars which allowed the rider to assume a tucked in position.
    The bikes tended to be the featherbed framed Norton or the Triumph Bonneville "Triton" (Norton frame Triumph engine) or the less expensive "Tribsa" (Triumph engine BSA frame)
     

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  4. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Ah, memories! No helmet, but an Irvin jacket picked up for a pittance in the local Army Navy store, and leather flying boots and white silk scarf - all ex-RAF items worth a fortune today!
    Nearest I got, in the late '60's, was an AJS. Seemed big and powerful back then!
     
  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Ah, memories! No helmet, but an Irvin jacket picked up for a pittance in the local Army Navy store, and leather flying boots and white silk scarf - all ex-RAF items worth a fortune today!
    Nearest I got, in the late '60's, was an AJS. Seemed big and powerful back then!
     
  6. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Airframes. you motorcycle devil you, an old AJ Stevens bike or just the AJS name applied to a bike made (by that time) by Villers which had split from Norton?
    As I recall most of those Villers bikes were meant for Off-Road rather than racing
     
  7. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    AJS 7R or and Manx Norton....mmmmmmm! :oops: :lol:
     
  8. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    My first motorcycle about 1954 or so was a 200cc Triumph Tiger Mountain cub. You could climb trees with that sucker
     
  9. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    A couple of my friends at my old work in Sweden, was going to help me build a racer. I had already decided for a Norton Fetherbed frame, was going to buy a new built one, I still hadn't decided for either a single 500cc or a parallel 650cc engine...

    Was to be a Manx lookalike with megafones.... 8)

    But then me and few others lost our jobs, which in the end got back again, a or two before we were supposed to leave! :lol:
     
  10. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    #10 mikewint, Jan 7, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2011
    Lucky, the single piston engines are usually called "thumpers" which is exactly what they do. the twins can move one piston down while the other moves up so the action is much smoother. So decide on how you want to ride. the Cafes are uncomfortable from go so you're not going to cover +700km per day in any case. The cafes are "look cool in front of the bar" bikes not tourers
    Norton Manx
     

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  11. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    mike....the older triumphs both pistons moved in unison. they werent 180 degrees to each other...which give you a tad bit of vibration. i am in the midst of putting together a 76 750 bonne that i bought in a basket. was actually clearing off the work bench to start breaking the engine down. the big club in the uk for cafe racers was club 59( started in 1959). i believe it was started by a clergyman who was trying cool things to keep the kids out of trouble. club 59 is still in existence and is quite large.

    as for rice burners as cafe racers...some of their frames and engines lend themselves to that kind of customizing. an old honda or yamaha looks good that way. but nothing beats an old snort'n norton. <<< my next big project.
     
  12. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Back in the 80's, I had a full race Katana 1100...it was virtually unbeatable...

    One day, blasting through Turnbull Canyon (Southern California) I saw something closing in my mirrors, so I stepped it up a bit, and this bike kept closing on me. We got into a series of real tight corners and this bike caught me and held with me for a few more corners before i backed out of it and let them get ahead...

    At a turnout at the top of the canyon, we stopped and BS'd for a bit...turns out that one of the few bikes that could match me was a vintage Norton Commando!

    Still have alot of respect for that bike and the guy that rode it.
     
  13. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Well, when I was at it back then, I was going to buy a new Featherbed frame from these guys, among other things....

    Welcome To Unity Equipe
     
  14. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    dunstall was a big cafe racer parts manufacturer and had some great norton stuff. a couple of these are for sale....
     

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  15. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Aaahh.....remember the Dunstall Nortons, weren't they the fastest bikes in the world at some point?
     
  16. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    #16 mikewint, Jan 8, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2011
    Bobby, at the time i'd have given my left nut for a Bonnie but it was never to be. My next bike was a brand new 1970 Suzuki T-500 III which I still have by the way and it runs like a champ. My son and I did some major cosmetic rebuilding on it about 5 years ago.
     

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  17. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Btw, wasn't it the Honda CB750F that 'killed' the British motorcycle industry...?

    Nice.....eeerrrmmmmm.....'bike' mike! ;) :D
     
  18. cocky pilot

    cocky pilot Member

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    The origins of the cafe racer are buried in 1950s culture, the world was emerging from the depression of the second world war, young people were getting increasing amounts of money and the motorcycle was changing from a cheap means of transport for the poor to a means of showing off for the new young rich. The pill had not been invented and so the cafe racer was a representation of youth rebellion and contraception.

    The Youth rebellion on both sides of the Atlantic took different but similar routes. In the UK which is a small Island they developed a motorcycle which could not be ridden for more than 3 minutes without severe cramps or injury but endowed it with a 6 gallon tank which is sufficient to travel the length of the Island. In America which is almost a continent they developed a motorcycle which could cruise comfortably from state to state then put a 2 pint tank on it so the looks would not be spoiled.

    The essence of a cafe racer is therefore as follows.

    1 It must crush the riders gonads as much as possible in as many was as possible so that condoms arn’t necessary, therefore making the rider extremely attractive to the opposite or maybe even the same sex.

    2 It must annoy as many people as possible in as many ways as possible before it breaks down or blows up and has to be rebuilt.

    There were many aspects to the perfect cafe racer and these are detailed briefly below, performance was not important but being cool was everything therefore the design parameters of the perfect cafe racer differed from the normal racer in many ways.

    1. ENGINE
    This of course should be noisy in every way. The job of the engine is three fold
    1.1 to put the maximum amount of unburned fuel into the exhaust to produce backfires.
    1.2 to transfer oil from the sump to the combustion chamber in order to produce smoke
    1.3 to produce some residual power for forward motion approximately once per month.

    The Engine had many parts all of which had potential "cool" value which can be explained below.

    2.1 Pistons. Pistons had to be of high compression crowned type with massive valve cut outs. The high compression and cut outs were not a performance feature they were to induce pre ignition so that the engine ran on after the owner turned off the ignition and walked away.
    2.2 Pistons.... had to be fitted with worn rings and all oil scraper rings were removed to allow maximum transfer of oil from the sump to the exhaust.
    2.3 Valves..... Valves should be big enough to allow small coins to pass straight through.
    2.4 Rockers..... At least one rocker should be lightened with a grinder showing a knife edge for high rev performance. To view this, the relevant rocker box cover was omitted which allowed people to view and oil to be thrown everywhere.
    2.5 Cams....Cams should be as wild as possible, this is not a performance feature but to fill the exhaust with fuel and then ignite it on the over run (more later)
    2.6 Timing.....some cafe racers experimented with electronic ignition but this proved reliable and reduced backfires and so was rarely used. Timing covers were always of the alloy finned type to dissipate the massive heat generated on a 3 minute blast.
    2.6 Clutch....The clutch was rarely used but was fitted with springs from a WW2 truck suspension the object was to pull the wrist tendons of any none owner who tried to use it.
    2.7 Gearbox. A Quaife close ratio 5 speed with high ratio rear sprocket was the minimum but not for performance. Cafe racers had to leave a cafe and get to thye next set of lights /roundabout in 1 gear so the noise slowly increases to agonising levels. On arrival at a cafe the cafe racer must change gear as many times as possible in a few seconds deafening and blinding customers with backfires and sheets of flame from the exhaust.
    2.8 tuning .........All cafe racers were tuned to maximise their annoyance, sometimes this reduced performance but it was a price worth paying.
    2.8.1 Carburettors, all joints were loosened to leak petrol over everything. The idle jet was blocked so the owner had to rev the engine constantly.
    2.8.2 Carburettors were fitted with velocity stacks or bell mouths on extended inlet stubs this was nothing to do with gas flow but to collect loose coins and keys from the rider and suck in the gonads of anyone foolish enough to hang off the seat. Extended inlet stubs showed off the carbs and made seating difficult they were 100% cool.
    2.8.3 Machining ....all joined surfaces were machined to ensure they leaked, a leaking engine was known to be "tuned" The Cylinder head had to be machined to induce pre ignition, cause a leak and ensure the tappets could never be correctly adjusted.
    2.8.4 Sump plug. The sump plug never leaked, ever. Oil was removed from the engine past the gaskets and piston rings, removing the sump plug as a last resort brought ridicule to the owner.
    2.9 Exhaust
    The exhaust was the most important part of a cafe racer It had to produce massive noise, collect unburned fuel for backfires, leak at every joint to give the owner a smokescreen at traffic lights. A correctly adjusted exhaust would allow the police to follow a cafe racer without actually moving.
    2.9.1 Lubrication.... Cafe racers had to run on Castrol "R" because its stinks and leaves a blue cloud. Parking at a traffic light would fill the car behind with a blue haze for the deafened owners to sit in. Castrol R was the final back up in case police couldn’t find the bike by noise or vibration.

    3 Brakes
    3.1 Front brake ... must be as big as possible but the only important part of the front brake was the scoop, this had to be big enough to fill the drum with grit and ensure an annoying squeal if ever it was used. In wet weather the scoop should fill the drum with water to allow steam to come out when the bike stops.
    3.2 Front brakes had to be 4 leading shoe so the rider had something to adjust outside the cafe. The lever had to be adjusted so that only a baboon with 7inch thumbs could operate it (to compensate for brake fade)
    3.3 Rear brakes had to as small as possible and modified by machining to lock whenever used, this proved the rider was on the "edge".
    4.3 Petrol tank. This was the key part of a cafe racer. It had many functions.
    4.3.1 To stretch the rider out so that all his weight was on his gonads.
    4.3.2 To provide a barrier ensuring every time the brake is pressed the riders gonads are crushed.
    4.3.3 To hold a weeks wages in petrol (cafe racers were very active but little known traders on the energy exchanges) All cafe racers had the tank secured with a leather strap to allow the rider to rescue his weeks wages if it fell over. If a cafe racer could be picked up with the tank still on it had been badly put together.
    4.3.4 Alloy tanks were heavier than standard but allowed the owner to admire the blonde birds chest without being slapped.
    4.3.5 fibreglass tanks were light and really cool, knowing you could be engulfed in flames at any time marked you as a danger man.
    4.3.6 All tanks were there to minimise steering lock, this was to make everybody move away while you did a 60 point turn to get out of the car park. The ultimate cafe racers could not negotiate small roundabouts they were the true rocket ships.
    5.1
    Electrics
    5.1.all electrical connections were badly soldered so they broke after a few minutes
    5.1.1 Headlight, the headlight must have a massive dish, cafe racers were patriotic and carried a searchlight about in case a Heinkel 111 tries a sneak attack. The bulb was only ever fitted for the MOT test. In actual use the headlight had a Christmas fairy light, anything brighter meant you were frightened of the dark and couldn’t remember your way around town which wasn’t cool at all.
    5.2 The rear light was never connected to any switches, all cafe racers had the ignition wired into the rear brake switch in some way this could mean boiling the battery or shorting the capacitors. The rear running light however was on all the time and operated as a red strobe flashing at engine speed.

    6.1 Riding position had to be agonising at all times, body weight could only be carried on the gonads and wrists, the neck should be bent so far that forward vision was restricted to 30 seconds every 5 minutes. Footrests were adjusted to cut off blood supply to the feet and make sure brakes and gears couldn’t be operated without pressing gonads into the oil filler cap.

    To summarise, the perfect cafe racer should render parenthood impossible after 3 minutes, annoy everyone within 3 miles of the rider, leave a trail of oil smoke petrol and rubber to allow the police to stop the rider. If a cafe racer is not stopped by the police within 3 minutes and the rider asked "who do you think you are Geoff Duke" it has been badly constructed. If a cafe racer is still running on both cylinders and hasn’t crashed after 4 minutes it is not a cafe racer at all.
     
  19. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Cocky pilot, absolutely excellent. I well remember buying my brand-new triumph, riding it home, parking it, coming out the next morning and finding a large oil spot under it. My dad called the dealer about the oil leak. A proper british mechanic replied "Sir, it IS a motorcycle" Also who can forget those Lucas "Lord of the Dark" electrics
     

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  20. cocky pilot

    cocky pilot Member

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    #20 cocky pilot, Jan 8, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2011
    I have just been surfing the net and found an article which says the whole "cafe racer" thing, that is racing against a record was a myth invented by a reporter for the daily mirror, after he published his myth people tried it and a few were killed so it became a reality. Ill try to find it in the history.

    To look at the 500 triumph pre unit in a slim line featherbed frame were the neatest but the best of breed was the rickman matisse triumph, weslake 8 valve head, quaife box nickel plated reynolds frame and the first bike ever with discs front and rear as standard
     
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