The current fascination with the old school Cafe Racer design is understandable. Riders of a certain age remember the cover shots on the motorcycle mags of the 70’s and 80’s. Even back then, the Cafe Racer was inspiring design. Frame builders like Harris were building street bike/cafe racer hybrids. Before the world became track bike crazy, there was a healthy mix of designs—thankfully, those days seem to be back.
Almost all motorcycle brands are now offering a Cafe Racer design. A modern cafe Racer has a lot of advantages over a classic. Which of these cool bikes would you choose?
Modern Cafe Racers
1. Ducati Scrambler—Cafe racer Edition R—£9,995
Hashtag joyvolution is the tagline used in the official Ducati marketing. It’s a word that captures the spirit of the Ducati Scrambler range. It’s all about the joy of the ride. And looking at the new Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer Edition, it has certainly evolved. It possesses a more purposeful stance, a beautifully designed exhaust that sweeps from the compact V-twin engine, and sporty clip on handlebars. Yet somehow manages to retain its Scrambler heritage.
Practicalities include an improved riding position, LED headlights and improved safety. Ducati’s sporty intentions are clear to see, as the new classic spoked aluminum wheels are shod with Pirrelli’s Diablo Rosso 3 tyres. It’s sure to be a joyful ride!
|0 to 60||N/A|
|Top Speed||125mph (est)|
|Power||73BHP / 54 (kW) @ 8250 rpm|
|Weight||206 kg (Dry)|
2. Kawasaki Z900 Cafe Racer—£11,000
Before the Ninja reigned supreme, the Z series was turning heads. The classic Z900 was the stuff of dreams for many a teenager. The in-line four engine and throaty roar was a stark contrast to the thumping twin engines offered by British manufacturers of the time.
It is true the Z900 was too late to be considered a Cafe Racer in its first incarnation. Maybe it was more of an early streetfighter. Kawasaki have put things right in 2019, with the Z900 Cafe. With all of the hallmarks of that early classic, the Z900 cafe is a dream machine indeed.
|0 to 60||3.4 secs|
|Top Speed||135 MPH|
|Power||111 BHP @ (51 kW) @ 8500 rpm|
|Weight||215 kg (Dry)|
3. Yamaha XSR 900 Cafe Racer—£7,950
Yamaha entered the world of triple engines back in 1977 with the XS 750, shaft driven machine. A series of variants followed, and decades later the MT-09 was born. The 900cc cafe racer takes the MT-09 as a base, and gives it a retro makeover. The result is an honest nod to the Cafe Racers of the sixties, whilst it retains a modern and distinctive look.
The XSR900 is a serious motorcycle, not just a budget machine using parts bin components. This fact is reflected in the price. Quality components abound, and there are many official Yamaha after-market parts to choose from should you decide to go crazy with the credit card. Yamaha have run out of the limited edition version of the XSR 900, the Abarth. Expect to see the odd 0 mile XSR Abarth in collections tucked away in 30 years time. Only 695 bikes were built.
|0 to 60||3.3 secs|
|Top Speed||130 MPH+|
|Power||111 BHP @ (51 kW) @ 10,000 rpm|
|Weight||195 kg (Wet)|
Modern Street Fighter Motorbikes
4. Ducati Streetfighter (848)—£9,995
The Ducati Streetfighter 1098 was the big daddy from 2007-2012. The 848 version of the Streetfighter may have seemed to be a step backwards for the ageing 1098. In fact, the punchy 848 Testastretta engine is perfectly suited to the task at hand. As a road bike, the Ducati 848 streetfighter is a fearsome beast. We wouldn’t mind betting that it is no slouch on the track either.
The chassis is a tried and tested design. Handling is courtesy of a single sided swingarm, Marzocchi USD forks and Sachs rear shock. There are enough settings to satisfy even the most inquisitive of riders. You will soon find a setting to suit your riding style. Brembo radial callipers make sure you will stop as fast as you take off. Pirelli Diablo Corsa 3 tyres complete the package. The result is a sporty motorcycle that is capable of slaying the twistiest of A roads, and putting one huge smile on your face.
|0 to 60||2.9 secs|
|Top Speed||150 MPH+|
|Power||132 BHP @ (97 kW) @ 10,000 rpm|
|Weight||199 kg (Wet)|
5. Honda CB1100—£9,799
The 2019 CB 1100 is a clever motorcycle in that Honda have managed to retain an air cooled engine and still meet Euro emission requirements. To accomplish this, the engine has been tuned to a lower level and the engine design ensures hot spots have maximum air cooling.
There are two different models available; the EX, and the RS. The EX is the roadster version, and the RS is the Honda cafe racer. Both bikes are true to their roots with aesthetics echoing the big fours of the 70’s and 80’s. Both models are well equipped with quality components. In either variation, the ride is as good as the very distinctive look.
|0 to 60||4 secs|
|Top Speed||130 MPH+|
|Power||88.5 BHP @ (64.6 kW) @ 7,500 rpm|
|Weight||255 kg (Wet)|
6. Kawasaki Z1000R—£11,799
The new Kawasaki Z1000 has a unique look. Described as Sugomi inspired. A translation of this is, the embodiment or spirit of a predator on the hunt and ready to strike its prey.
The R version is a real treat in terms of quality hardware. The impressive list of of trick parts includes; Brembo M50 callipers, 310mm Brembo disks and Ohlins rear shock. The Z1000R adds up to one serious motorcycle. It has all of the ingredients to make a great handling, aggressive, sports bike.
|0 to 60||2.5 secs|
|Top Speed||160 MPH+|
|Power||142 BHP @ (104.5 kW) @ 10,000 rpm|
|Weight||221 kg (Wet)|
Three reasons you might choose a modern Cafe Racer or Street Fighter motorcycle
1. Cheaper Motorcycle Insurance. Supersport class motorcycles are inherently more expensive to insure than less appointed bikes, for obvious reasons. The new flock of supersport models all boast 200+bhp and are capable of pretty much the same figure in mph. With Cafe Racers and Street Fighters running detuned engines, and most being unfaired, this leads to a lower powered package. They are certainly no less fun to ride, but the retro bikes will save you a few pounds when it comes to premiums.
Cafe racers and Street fighters are also less likely to have policy restrictions on them. This may well translate into less expensive security products, or the need to garage the bike overnight. If you want to compare the cost of insurance for a cafe racer or street fighter to your current bike, why not do so here with our partner QuoteZone.
2. Reliability. In the old days, if you wanted to ride Cafe Racer or Street Fighter, you would have had two choices. In the case of a Cafe Racer, you would be riding an old classic, with all of its inherent problems. Leaky engines, breakdowns and dodgy wiring were all a part of the experience back then. A Street Fighter would most likely have been a supersport that had been heavily crashed.
To save losing the bike completely, riders would remove the fairings, fit high bars and a twin round headlight unit and use the bike as a fun street bike. Of course, this means riding a machine with a fairly checkered history, and that has likely sustained significant damage. Today you can buy both types of bike, straight from the showroom. These machines will give you many years of trouble free riding, with none of the issues associated with modified bikes. Plus, you get a guarantee!
3. Superior ride and safety features. The modern Cafe Racer or Street Fighter is going to have equally modern running gear. The benefits to you are more effective brakes, better suspension and newer tyre designs. This ultimately means a much safer ride.
As we have seen, some of these newer beasts have the highest quality components. Modern variants handle so well. machines, many of them holding their own on track days with riders of all abilities.
Classic Cafe Racers and Street bikes
With every retro trend, there is a very defined history. Before we look at the history of the Cafe Racer and Street-fighter Motorcycles, have a look at a collection of the best classic bikes we found in just one dealership in Devon. Photographer Guy Harris and Nimblefins had a wonderful afternoon shooting this amazing collection of bikes. In fact all of the new bikes were there, too!
You can visit GT Motorcycles and see these bikes, along with an impressive collection of MotoGP and superbikes. They even have a retro cafe.
1. 1960’s Triton Triumph/Norton cafe racer
The Triton is the name given to a Triumph/Norton Hybrid. Take the best of both British bikes and this is the result!
In the 60’s and 70’s it became popular to combine the legendary “featherbed” frame from the Norton, and the best engine of the time, Triumphs parallel twin engine, often the Bonneville. Initially these bikes were built in sheds, but later, some dealers started offering complete bikes. The bikes were popular with racers and cafe racers alike, and original bikes fetch a lot of money, if you can find one!
This particular example belongs to Mike Grainger of GT Motorcycles.
2. Ducati Cafe Racer. Paul Smart 1000cc twin
The Ducati Scrambler/Cafe Racer made our modern list. No Classic Cafe Racer list would be complete without the Paul Smart 1000 twin from Ducati.
Paul Smart is a motorcycle racer famous for winning the Imola 200 in 1972. The bike he won on was Ducati’s new 750 racer. In 2006 Ducati released the Paul Smart 1000 LE in recognition of the successful win at the Imola 200. The win was instrumental inDucati’s continued quest for racing success.
As you would expect, the styling echoes the bike that Paul Smart won that legendary race on. The tyres are the Pirelli Phantom, which have a retro tread pattern and were made especially for the 1000 LE. The Devil is in the detail.
3. Triumph Trident and BSA Rocket 3
These classic bikes were a collaboration between the two British manufacturers in 1965. The prototype was produced in 65, but manufacture didn’t get underway until 1969 due to a cosmetic redesign.
Eventually the Trident was ready for market, but unfortunately for the two British manufacturers, Honda had introduced the CB750. Honda’s groundbreaking in-line 4 promptly stole the superbike crown from the Trident/Rocket 3. To this day, the Honda CB 750 is regarded as the first ever Superbike. Die hard British bike fans would argue that the Superbike crown belongs to the Triumph/BSA collaboration.
What makes a motorcycle a Cafe Racer?
Back in the sixties, motorcycle racing was as popular as it is today. Motorcycles played an intrinsic part in the development of pop culture. The motorcyclists of the day could be seen riding their machines from London, and all down the South Coast of the UK. Ace Cafe became a regular haunt, as did the many seafront bars and restaurants.
As the Cafe scene developed, so did the bikes. Young riders took to the spanners, eager to make their machines handle better and ride faster. The trend became one of stripping excess components, customising exhaust systems and adding dropped handlebars, just like the racing bikes of the day.
The Cafe Racer was born…
The style has become and iconic part of motorcycling history. The current trend is towards more modern interpretations of these early bikes. There is no denying that the original custom bikes were, and still are, works of art.
What makes a motorcycle a street fighter?
Once upon a time, a guy riding his slab side GSXR 1100 ran out of talent on the local twistys. Not wanting to claim on his insurance, and not being able to afford new fairings, he stripped the bike of all its plastics, bolted on high bars a twin headlamp and the Street Fighter was born!
Ok, we don’t know that this actually happened, but one thing is for sure, the Street Fighter was born in a shed and not in a factory. Home built Street Fighters have been built by spanner wielding enthusiasts with varying degrees of success for decades...
...And then the manufacturers caught on. Take your latest supersport race rep, leave off the fairings, tidy up the wiring loom, fit high bars and a new headlight and you have a very capable motorcycle. A street fighter can be hustled through the twisty’s and even taken on track. If you prefer a higher riding position, a Street Fighter might be for you.
A thank you to GT Motorcycles of Plymouth, Devon.
If you're a biker living in Devon or Cornwall, it is likely that you have heard of GT Motorcycles. GT is a modern dealership with all the services you would expect and more. Offering the top marques of motorcycles, they also have a clothing department selling all the latest riding attire.
“The Legends” cafe is a centre for like-minded bikers to meet for a coffee and a bite to eat after a Weekend rideout. The cafe also houses some interesting classic motorcycles that belong to Mike Grainger, the owner of GT Motorcycles.
The tuning department boasts a rolling road for tuning your machine for maximum performance. They are RC30, NSR and RS250 specialists and offer many tuning services including Full blueprinting, cylinder head boring, valve seat replacement and cutting, and much more. On display are some real gems for anyone who is interested in exotic classic race machines.
A must see if you find yourself in Plymouth with an hour to spare.
Insuring your Classic Motorcycle, modern Street Fighter or Cafe Racer?
One of the main advantages of choosing a modern cafe racer over an original classic is the ease of buying insurance. When comparing motorcycle insurance quotes it is easier to find listings for factory produced models. The increased safety feature and modern designs also make the bikes a lot safer than their old school counterparts.
When insuring a classic bike, you may find certain restrictions are put in place. For example, there may be a mileage limit and so on. It also may be more expensive to insure an original classic—and insurance is already the largest annually recurring cost of owning a motorbike. (Motorcycle insurance premiums start from around £350 a year for a 30-year-old rider and ramp up from there depending on the bike, driving record, etc. With the market ever changing, there are a whole host of progressive insurance companies offering various packages to suit your needs.
If you'd like to see how much insurance would cost for your bike—or a bike you're thinking about buying—you can get a wide array of quotes from our motorcycle insurance partner QuoteZone below.
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