A World of Difference

March 4, 2021 | By Mike Seate


Whether you’re a regular visitor to Instagram or not, the photo-sharing app has proven endlessly useful in helping us see new custom bikes. case in point, Instagram’s software¬† is designed to nudge viewers towards postings containing content that someone out there in cyberspace assumes a user will pretty much dig. For my feed, that means custom cafe racers and oddball motorbikes in general. Recently, a photo came across my phone of a crazy, Kenny Roberts-inspired Yamaha motorcycle that really piqued my interest. As you can see, the yellow-and-black machine is dressed up i Yamaha’s 1970s “speed block”: graphics, and looks like a true race-replica custom. When the builder was contacted, he informed me that the bike in question is based on a Yamaha R15, a model I’d never heard of before. It turns out the donor machine is a small-displacement single-cylinder sportbike that’s hugely popular with youthful Asian riders. The funky Roberts replica was built by Insan Moto Besaki,¬† a small custom bike shop in Indonesia, a place where customized motorcycles are a highly-popular way of life. It’s easy to forget, but building cafe racers from large-displacement streetbikes is mostly a western concept. In the rest of the world, especially countries with large numbers of youthful riders, smaller is considered better when it comes to streetbikes. The thought of developing a full cafe racer bodywork kit for a 150cc bike is alien to us oversized, horsepower-hungry North Americans, but while getting drawn deeper and deeper into a n Internet wormhole of Asian custom bikes, I learned that a lack of cubic centimeters is no detriment to fast riding. One website’s comments section contained an observation that the love of small, quick bikes around the world explains why so many emerging GP riders call Asia home these days. Seeing images of teenagers, many dressed in sandals and shorts, skimming knees on the asphalt as they get near-horizontal on their buzzy, high-revving mini-bikes is truly inspiring. Some of the machines have been re-designed to resemble everything from Manx Nortons to Kawasaki Z1s while weighing scarcely a couple hundred pounds.

Cafe Racer magazine plans to run several pages of these new school, low-displacement customs in our June/July issue, and the feature should be a real eye-opener for most of us who believe horsepower is the key to speed and mechanical creativity. Seems like there’s always something new to learn about motorbikes!