Building A Cafe Racer? Here Are The Best Bikes To Use

Updated on September 27, 2022

Creating a cafe racer may be a rewarding and taxing experience all in one go. However, if you choose the wrong donor bike it can be frustrating and plain unpleasant.

No matter how experienced you are, starting with the wrong bike will cost you more money than the project is worth, and the finished bike will not be what you envisioned.

Thank goodness we’re not in the 1950s anymore and don’t need to make a monster bike by fusing two smaller motorcycles together. A stable and predictable ride is less important in modern cafe racer builds than lowering weight and eliminating unnecessary components.

You want to give the impression that the design and colour scheme have been carefully considered.

Fortunately, the conversion procedure can be sped up by selecting a bike with a wide selection of readily available aftermarket parts. It can be difficult to find the right bike for your first ride. The consequence of this is a list of the best cafe racers.

Any Honda CB will do for a cafe racing build. For the most part because there were so many motorcycles for sale during those decades. Aftermarket support for the CB group is also extensive, and the engines are known for their longevity.

First-time bike builders will find the CB series to be basic and straightforward. When it comes to making one of these motorcycles, there are numerous online resources and forums at your disposal.

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Best Bike for Cafe Racer Build

1. A CB550 Cafe Racer by Sin City Vintage Cycles

As a result, we’re pleased to introduce “Class Act,” a 1977 CB550 custom constructed by Bill Docchio of Sin City Vintage Cycles and currently owned by Tim Gerst of Boynton Beach, Florida.

When we saw it last weekend at the Vintage Iron Club’s Iron & Clematis 3 event in Palm Beach, we were blown away. Bill Docchi is a master craftsman who works out of a well-equipped garage, and his attention to detail is second to none. The attention to detail on this bike is astounding, from the custom-milled velocity stacks to the hand-formed seat pan and tail section to the handmade tank (welded to the bottom of the stock tank to retain the original rubber mountings). The bike was also Dyno-tested to fine-tune the carburetors.

To give you a little background about Sin City Vintage Cycles and myself. My family owned and operated Doc’s Motorcycle Parts in Waterbury, Connecticut, where I grew up.

From the time I was a small child, I spent a great deal of time in the shop with my father, where I developed a lifelong fascination with motorbikes.

When I was a kid, I was hooked on motorbike racing, from drag racing to motocross to hill climbs.

Motorcycle racing was one of my favourite sports.

So, when I grew older and began working on and manufacturing bikes, I continued to draw inspiration from racing and tried to apply that straightforward approach to the designs I created.

In addition, the Harley-Davidson culture is a huge source of inspiration for me because of the emphasis placed on overall aesthetics when creating these motorbikes.

There are three main goals in the design process for me when it comes to making a bike: make it perform and handle to the best of its ability; make it simple to build; and create a bike that is both visually beautiful and functional for its intended use.

This is what I set out to do, even if at times I had to make sacrifices to each of those qualities.

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2. Will Hight’s Honda CB350F Cafe Racer

Arkansas. The water must be tainted. As soon as One-Up Moto Garage’s “neo-vintage” designs like this CB600 shown on Return of the Cafe Racers appeared on our Instagram feed, we knew we had to showcase them.

Will Hight, a native of Arkansas, produced this “barn-built” cafe racer: a 1973 Honda CB350F.

As you may be aware, the CB350F was a wholly distinct model from the standard CB350. The CB350F was a 347cc four-cylinder that was only produced from 1972 to 1974, whereas the CB325F was a 325cc parallel twin.

Designed by Honda executives and engineers, it was the world’s smallest four-cylinder motorcycle at the time.

On paper, the small inline-four had 34 horsepower and could do 98 miles per hour at redline speeds of 10,000 revolutions per minute. CB350F’s brilliance was in its engineering; the CB350 twin was lighter, faster, and cheaper by $300. In 1972, Cycle may have expressed it best:

@oneupmotogarage’s Taylor Henschell sold me the Honda. He gave me a wonderful deal because it was something he was going to put off for a while.

The only place I have access to a garage is at my girlfriend’s farmhouse, so when we loaded it, I drove it there.

My goal was to make it look more aggressive by raising the shocks or ripping the back-end off and starting from scratch, but I didn’t know exactly how to go about doing it at this time. Because there were no shocks that went higher than a quarter-inch, I cut the back of the car and installed a mono shock.

I had originally planned to build a top mount and then reinforce the swingarm, but I changed my mind. When I finally had the top in place and sat all the weight on the spring, the spring completely compressed.

I had to rethink my entire strategy because the swingarm had a lot of leverage on the modest 10′′ shock. Reusing both the top and bottom mounting points that had already been welded into place, I made a second swingarm brace.

A few custom and factory motorcycles have already used this design so I felt more confident going for it this time.

On a poultry farm, I had access to all kinds of steel tubing that would ordinarily be utilised for repairs. This allowed me to create the bike with ease. So, armed with a pipe bender and welder, I set out to experiment with several designs until I found one that worked.

My previous Triumph Bonneville project provided the back fender for this build. I figured it was meant to be there because it bolted easily on without any modification.

It was just a matter of time until I had to create a new seat. I just winged it and bent pieces till I got the look I wanted for the seat.

I was able to fix an eBay-purchased 350f tank that had a small dent after that. Installing new Shinko street tyres was the first step. Then I constructed a foam seat pan. In the end, I attached the LEDs to the head and tail. It came out looking something like this:

The seat was upholstered by a place my girlfriend located nearby called Belton’s Upholstery in Rogers, AR. They did an excellent job.

A pearl white with gold accents would have been a better choice if I had to do it all over again.

I felt it would be interesting to photograph the bike in its natural habitat during the farm photo shoot. For both handling and braking, I’m still considering a front-end switch, but I’m extremely happy with the final outcome.

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3. XS650 Cafe Racer by Auto Fabrica

Design theory based on the aesthetics of Japanese culture In the Wabi-Sabi concept, Kanso embodies simplicity in both material and living. This is the fundamental idea.

It is possible to cultivate virtue and civility through cultivating a love of and skill in the arts. There is a strong connection between aesthetics and ethics in Japanese culture.

All of the bikes created by Auto Fabrica in England feature Kanso’s philosophy, and the Type 6 may be their best example yet.

Basically anything that displays Kanso is built around something that already exists. The Type 6 is no exception. Owner Bujar Muharremi of Auto Fabrica claims that the Type 6 is based on…

Yamaha XS650 one of four we rescued from farm in Cornwall’s countryside. It was a serendipitous discovery that basically launched our business.

Using Auto Fabrica’s Type 6

In order to create a motorcycle that embodies everything we value in a’real’ custom motorcycle—simplicity in form and complexity in detail—we worked tirelessly.

Wabi-Sabi and Kenso were the driving forces behind the project. You can tell just by looking at the bike that they nailed it!

The Auto Fabrica builders meticulously arrange their projects. They begin with a pencil sketch, go on to Photoshop, and then consider using the grinders and benders. The designs and graphics for this structure called for a lot of panel bashing. Muharremi says this,

Our goal was to create a clean yet intriguing design by balancing clear visuals with highly intricate and organic surfaces.”

By reducing extraneous line breaks and lowering the existing frame headstock by two inches, we were able to achieve much of that balance, creating a single line that sweeps from headlight to rear cowl.

The Yamaha XS650’s engine was already a work of art, but Auto Fabrica took it to a whole new level. An symmetrical line of sight from the intake to the exhaust tip was one of the design goals.

A single carburetor conversion was necessary, but the main design challenge was in producing the line.

‘To establish an asymmetrical balance, place the single inlet on the side opposite to the exhaust outlet places.’

Excessively large pistons have been installed in the engine as a result of it being bored out.

The bike was blasted in the blast cabinet to obtain the matte finish. The engine casings and metal parts were aqua-blasted by Auto Fabrica.

So, stainless steel was bent into perfectly round shapes, and then custom-built baffles were concealed inside the exhaust tips.

It has a 19-inch alloy up front and an 18-inch alloy in the back. They’re both made up of spokes. Set of unbelievably slender bars at the front completes the design. You’ll be left scratching your head in awe when you see them. Of course, there are many pieces of art that leave the viewer feeling the same way.

4. V750 Virago by Cafe Racing Team Down and Out (XV750R)

The custom bikes built by Down and Out Cafe Racers are some of the best in the world. Is this Virago any different? Rear shock by Mick Gardner racing is one-of-a-kind and features R1 forks. MotoLanna seat unit is also included.

In addition to owning and building the bike, Simon Krajnyak also manages the D&O website. The Bike Shed has all the specifics on the construction.

Classified Moto No. 002 was built for Sunny Zhao, a wonderful friend and talented filmmaker. His film, “Reciprocity,” was inspired by the 1980 XS850 that I had seen while working and mingling with friends in Richmond, Virginia.

An assassin who was terrifying and brilliant was set against an attractive young woman who was determined to avenge the death of her father. Our turbulent connection with the Yamaha XV platform began with the old 750 Virago.

Even though the film was put on hold due to Sunny’s hectic schedule, the bike is still waiting in hair and makeup for its day in the spotlight.

We had Seth create a bespoke stainless steel exhaust with a crazy box muffler a long back because we were insane. In addition, Sunny has a few fresh ideas of her own to share. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to call this one finished, but that’s part of the appeal.

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