Friday, July 20, 2012

The Oddball Café: Café Racers with a (Figurative) Screw Loose

Not to crash the party on the custom motorbike crowd, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Café Racer styling. Now before some of my readers decide to run me out of town, allow me to emphasize that there’s nothing particularly wrong with Cafés. I’m just a bit surprised that modern builders and modders have latched on to the Café styling out of all the grand history of motorcycle design.

That being said, I’ll admit there’s something really striking about a good café racer—downswept handlebars, aluminum bodywork and fenders, knife-edge tires leaning into the wind…

It’s hard to really hate anything that (at least in looks) seems so relentlessly bent on neck-breaking speed.

Still, trends being what they are, it hasn’t taken long for designers to reinvent the wheel ten times over and come up with some incredibly original, and incredibly mad, Café Racer builds. Here’s a selection of the oddball bunch, collected from around the net.

Take the racing bike aesthetic of a Café, crank it up a notch, and you get this creation from Studio Motors. Specs list a number of Suzuki parts in the forks and suspension, but the bodywork is all custom. Say what you like about it, but it’s strikingly different from any stock Triumph Thruxton.

Initially launched as a kickstarter program, the Badger stands out from the crowd with it's unassuming "Rat Cafe" styling. Everything about this bike is an oddball, including the name. Some have said they hate the styling… but to take a stock Royal Enfield Bullet and modify it to go cross country and race? That takes real gumption.

Where to even begin? Steampunk motorcycles have cropped up on the net every now and then, but this is probably the best build I’ve seen in a while. Everything about this bike has been modified, stripped off, ground-down, or completely fabricated by hand. That gorgeous chesterfield café seat? Knott hand crafted it after watching a couple tutorials on the web. The fuel lines were bent into shape using a champagne bottle. Needless to say, ‘Isabel,’ as her creator has named her, is a unique thing of beauty. You can see the whole build unfold here

Hammarhead Industries, creators of the Jack Pine and equally stellar Ural Solo X, seem to pride themselves on making highly practical, functional utilitarian bikes. Which is why their less-publicisized Volta seems so far out of left field. Replacing the Bullet’s 500 cc engine with a hub-mounted EnerTrac electric motor, the Volta will reportedly scream along at 75 MPH… which is about what a stock Enfield will do. 

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