70 years across the world, the Cafe Racer culture that never fades

Cafe Racer, some say it's a style of motorcycle modification, some say it's a group of rebellious motorcycle riders. And I will tell you that Cafe Racer is a cultural phenomenon that has had a profound impact on future generations. Learn more about it today.


The post-World War II recession was the starting point for the birth of many things, and the Cafe Racer was no exception, born on the streets of Britain in the 1950s.

Although it was the victorious country, Britain, the main battleground in Europe, suffered a huge blow in the war. The infrastructure was damaged and industrial production was difficult to recover for a while. The prosperous scene of limousines running all over the streets seemed to be gone, and the relatively cheap and convenient motorcycles became the preferred means of transportation. Some World War II veterans began to form motorcycle clubs, roaring by on their wartime military vehicles. This atmosphere began to influence the youth of the time.

Origin of the name Cafe Racer


Young people from well-off families began to gather in cafes every day, listening to rock music and doing nothing to find excitement, and motorcycles became the best way to vent these young hormones. They found a way to get a heavy motorcycle and raced with their friends on the streets of the café. The adrenaline rush brought by the speed stimulated them, and they called themselves Racer, finding the meaning of life in racing.

In Britain in the 1950s, there was no law requiring street riders to wear helmets. There was certainly no culture among the young "racers" to wear helmets. The lack of protection, the complexity of the streets and the high speeds of the cars made street racing accidents a common occurrence.

The high accident rate, coupled with a cynical attitude, made these young boys in the cafe every day suffer from a lot of negative comments, people ridiculed that they are not considered Racer at all, but at best is considered Cafe Racer, the birth of the slightly derogatory name so appeared.

Cafe Racer's change of reputation 

At its inception, Cafe Racer was commonly thought of as a group of dudes who raced cars on the streets, fighting and doing nothing. That image slowly changed with the birth of a club.

The 59 Club, a Church of England club founded in 1959, had nothing to do with motorcycles, but church pastors Bill and Graham Hullet were worried about the cafe racers who had nothing better to do.

The two priests turned the 59 Club into a motorcycle club, and while providing a place for these young people to have fun, the club also started to promote "Riders for Good" activities, organizing CafeRacer to help and serve orphanages and nursing homes. Under the guidance of the club, more and more riders joined the ranks of helping others, and "Riders for Good" became a trend that slowly spread among Cafe Racer.

These good deeds have greatly improved Cafe Racer's image in people's mind, and slowly, Cafe Racer's reputation has become positive.

Cafe Racer's motorcycle

When it comes to Cafe Racer's motorcycles, one might ask: Why are all Cafe   Race's motorcycles European-style retro street bikes instead of American cruisers? That's actually quite a good explanation.

Norton, BSA, Triumph and other local British motorcycle brands have been mainly riding crossover street bikes, and all of them produced military vehicles for the Allies in World War II to be used in the European battlefield, so the influence can be imagined. Compared with the cruiser motorcycles developed on the American continent, the European street bikes with round lights, oval fuel tanks and flat seats were naturally more popular among young British people.

Cafe Racer who loves racing naturally will not be satisfied with the original car, modification becomes a necessary part. We now know the classic Cafe Racer style modified vehicles with split handlebars, humped saddles, "piggyback" windshields, and even belly modifications, all of which originated from the exploitation of the original vehicle's performance at the time.

The split handlebars lowered the riding position to increase handling agility; the humped saddle supported the sitting posture after the low slump; the small windscreen reduced wind resistance, and the hollow modification reduced the weight of the bike. This is all for one purpose: faster.

Of course, no young person likes the same thing, and Britain in the 1950s was no exception. That's why there are different styles of motorcycle modifications in the Cafe Racer, which is the convenience of a balanced European-style retro street bike.

The handlebars were widened to improve handling stability; the long-travel shock absorber was used to raise the body to increase the passability of the vehicle; large-grain tires were used to solve the problem of grip on bad roads; and the exhaust was raised to improve the ability to cross water and solve the trouble of bumping the exhaust on bad roads. This way a European-style retro street car will get a stronger ability to pass through bad roads, which is the familiar Scrambler style now.

Modifications are also based on the American Bobber derived from the British Bobber style and so on. Only the classic low-lying humpback seat style is more representative. Became a synonym for Cafe Racer.


Cafe Racer's "Gear"

To play the Cafe Racer style well, only a handsome motorcycle is not enough, but a matching outfit is also important.

The classic Cafe Racer dress code has been influenced by war, movies, motorcycle racing and other cultural influences. Among them, the 1954 movie (The Wild One) starring Marlon Brando had the most profound influence.

In the movie, Marlon Brando is wearing a slash leather jacket, white T-shirt, jeans and engineer boots, leaning on his motorcycle. This handsome and practical outfit became the object of imitation for the Cafe Racer.

The leather jacket from the pilot's suit is especially suitable for blocking the wind and cold during the ride, and the thick cowhide can also provide good protection; the jeans made of twill cotton are strong and durable, and can be worn for many years; the engineer boots, which combine the characteristics of logging boots and riding boots, have a clean upper for easy shifting, and the cowhide barrel can protect the calf from exhaust burns, so they are highly favored by Cafe Racer.

The standard Cafe Racer look is complete with a white silk scarf derived from the pilot's scarf. Don't underestimate this scarf, as the smooth silk material allows the rider to be comfortable when the collar is tied by the sloping leather jacket.

Traditionally, CafeRacers didn't wear helmets, but that's not a good habit. Nowadays it's important to wear a retro-looking helmet, both in terms of fashion and laws and regulations.

Cafe Racer's Now

Street racing and brawling are a thing of the past. The name Cafe Racer no longer carries the connotation of ridicule. Except for the "chivalry" of riding for good, Cafe Racer's former bad behavior has been eliminated by history.

After 70 years of baptism, Cafe Racer has gone from the streets of Britain to the world, gradually becoming the mainstream of motorcycle culture, changing the course of motorcycle culture around the world together with American motorcycle culture.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published