Swap Meet at Show

After nearly a decade in business, spare custom parts have tended to accumulate at the CRM HQ in numbers that could surprise the most dedicated pack rat. Our Tech Section has chronicled the construction of nearly a dozen motorbikes over the years and during the individual builds, bits and bobs that either didn’t fit or somehow got cast aside have filled every spare section of shelving. During our August 12 Reader’s ride-In Custom Bike Show, we’ll be staging a swap meet area where attendees can buy, barter and haggle for some of these very pieces. Our faithful staff have been busy cataloging and labeling the parts so expect a windfall of everything from tank bags, riding gear (men’s and women’s, new and used) to bike locks, engine oil (new, of course) and even a complete, disassembled and totally fresh Triumph 650 Bonneville engine for just $750. Get there early for the best bargains and bring a carry-all!

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Who’s Watching the Road?

Just recently a morning traffic tie-up on my street caused several rush-hour commuters to, well, wait in line for a few moments. This being the age when waiting for most anything means instantly grasping for a smartphone, the panicked motorists all grabbed their electronic security blankets in unison. Granted, it being the morning rush and with most of these folks, I can assume, driving to work, sending a quick message to the workplace about impending tardiness seems smart. But after a few minutes, as these photos reveal, most of them continued pecking away at their text buttons, keeping one foot on the gas, both eyes on their phones and not an iota of concentration on their fellow motorists. After more than 35 years of riding streetbikes, it’s safe to say (no pun intended) that this era is the single most dangerous I’ve yet ridden in, all due to the addictive qualities of hand-held devices. Somebody do something…

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Best of the Midwest

We were happy to set up shop at Chicago’s annual Motoblot street festival a couple of weeks back where we’d promised to have our cameras ready to capture the custom bikes in attendance. More than 12,000 punters visited the show created by Larry Fletcher of Chicago Ton-Up, and though V-Twin cruisers were everywhere, CRM managed to snag pics and tech details on some truly tasty cafe racer customs. A half dozen of the best of these stripped-down road rockers are slated to appear in our upcoming August/September issue, which, by the way, is dedicated to the purchase, personalization and running of low-buck custom bikes. In a world where a running classic car will set you back at least $30,000, it’s a true pleasure to cover reader’s rides built to a fairly high spec for less than $4,000. For example, rest your peepers on this crazy, metalflake Suzuki two-stroke special, built by Chicago’s Motorcycle Mania. This baby rolled away with the Best Japanese Custom award at Motoblot and full tech spec awaits you come August.

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Cool Off, Chill Out, Catch a Classic Ton-Up Flick

It’s been seriously, tropical island hot around these parts for the past couple of weeks. It’s the time of year when wise riders will choose to hot the streets in either early morning before the heat and summer humidity rise, or wait until near sundown, when evening breezes cool the atmosphere. We’re anticipating similar weather come our August 12 Reader’s Ride-In Custom Bike Show, so in the interest of keeping things comfortable for our attendees, we’ve added a cool-off room just adjacent to the bike show area at Sewickley’s War Memorial Park. The room is actually the Sewickley YMCA’s events center and come Saturday, August 12, it will be your location to kick back, drink something cold and catch one of the classic rocker movies we’ve scheduled to play continuously all day. The first flick, 1964’s The Leatherboys” starts running when doors open at 10 a.m, followed by the coming-of-age rocker drama “Some People” at noon, followed by “An Ace Day” a rollicking 1994 documentary chronicling the unlikely resurgence of England’s most visited transport cafe at 2. So even if Ma Nature decides to do her Heat Miser impersonation, this year’s event as your (sweaty) back covered.

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Name This Jacket and It’s Yours

Among the many attractions and cool things to do at this year’s August 12 Reader’s Ride-In Custom Bike Show is a chance to win a completely new leather riding jacket from British Motorcycle Gear. BMG’s Paul Brooks knows a thing or two about quality motorcycle kit, having proffered top UK brands for years. This time, we’s served up this most excellent new full leather, padded riding jacket to any CRM reader who can invent a suitable name for the garment. Take a good, long look and then send your submissions to us at rockersrule@caferacermag.com. The winner will be announced at the close of festivities after the trophy and prize presentation at the show, with BMG providing a jacket in the winner’s size soon thereafter. Put on those thinking caps (or should we say thinking helmets) and good luck!

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Triple Threat

With their odd, whirring rumble of an exhaust note and their sturdy engineering, Triumph’s first-generation triples are amazing pieces of machinery. We’ve been running a cool black 1996 Speed Triple since buying it new and, at 40,000 reliable miles, it continues to prove itself a capable, well-rounded mount, as comfortable at quick, backroads scratching as it is touring or commuting. We were quite surprised to find several customized Hinckely Triumph triples at last year’s Ace Cafe Reunion and were further stupefied when spotting this sleek, silver bullet, made from an ordinary 1995 Trident 900 on the Web. We’ve been busy formulating a customized Triumph 900 in the CRM garage with plenty of help from Britain’s Cafe Racer Kits (wwww.caferacerkits.co.uk) who have concocted a well-engineered kit that covers much of what we’ll need. Gathering parts from far and wide, the kit utilizes the stock frame, suspension and wheels, while a new subframe, bodywork and ancillaries are courtesy of CR Kits. Though heavy by today’s standards and bereft of all the latest electronic gadgetry, the 900 triple makes a fine-hndling, sharp-looking cafe custom as evidenced here. We’re doing a mock-up of what ours will look like come the August/September issue so stay tuned.

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Tools, Road-Ready

If you ride a vintage motorcycle, experience will soon teach you that having a set of tools handy on the road is not only a necessity, but one of the only things standing between completing a planned ride and spending time at the roadside, admiring the (static) scenery. Our good friends at Portland, Oregon’s Langlitz Leathers have created a finely-crafted tool roll seen above and they’ve even helped out by donating a cool half-dozen of these babies as prizes for August 12th’s Reader’s Ride-In Custom Bike Show. Featuring brass hardware and made from 3.5oz cowhide just like Langlitz’ top flight riding jackets, the rolls have room for just about any hardware needed to keep your wheels turning. www.langlitz.com is the place to gear up and see you at the show!

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Era of Domination

It’s been nearly a couple of years since we started restoration work on a weatherbeaten, timeworn 1959 Norton Dominator and we’re proud to announce that she’s ready for the road. The job couldn’t have been possible without the remarkable skills and acumen of CRM staffer Nick Coumos who has been riding and building Norton twins since the late 1960s. Nick painstakingly rebuilt the 600cc motor, welding on broken cooling fins, rebuilding the battered top-end and basically making the Dommie roadworthy for the first time in decades. The bike came to us for a measly $600 at the Vintage Motorcycle Days Swap Meet a few years back when some impatient youth, unaware of what treasures he had, unloaded it in hopes of making a down payment on a new sportbike. There are very few of the original, 1950s Norton twins on the road in North America, as New Jersey’s Berliner Brothers didn’t import them in large numbers. With their lovely, understated monochrome finish and mid century design, the Dominator is, on our humble opinion, the best Norton twin ever made. Final build details are available in the current issue with a road test coming in August/September. Roar on!

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Factory Cafe Road Tests

It’s a truly magnificent time to be into retro streetbikes. The current issue of Cafe Racer focuses several road tests on the current crop of factory cafe customs, a breed of streetbike barely known a decade ago. One of our faves is Ducati’s new Scrambler cafe Racer. The 800cc L-Twin combines the lightweight handling the very popular Scrambler line is revered for with more beefy suspension, an altered chassis and tasteful, gold and black styling inspired by Ducatis of the 1970s. We were lucky enough to attend the recent launch in Bologna, Italy where Ducati had us put the new machine through its paces along the incredibly twisty, scenic mountain roads of the Apennie Mountains, a place where Julie Andrews belting out “Sound of Music” wouldn’t have seemed impossible. The pace was intense and the SCR more than held its own. Read all about it in CRM issue #51, out now.

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Two Months ‘Til Showtime

The days are quickly counting down until the launch of our Tenth Annual reader’s Ride-In Custom Bike Show. We’ve been receiving all sorts of amazing images of bikes that our readers are creating for entry and the competition promises to be stiff. We’ve a whole weekend of events planned- more details are just a click away on our shows page- including a Friday night cocktail party at Sewickley’s Slippery mermaid sponsored by Rebel Yell bourbon. The restaurant is adjacent to CRM’s headquarters, so we’re leaving the doors to our secret skunk works open so folks can check out some of our current custom cafe builds in progress. After the party, join us for a bucket of popcorn and a screening of “Quadrophenia” at the nearby Tull Family Theater at 9:30. Hope to see you and your machines there!

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Pandemonium Police Bike

Dig this the bloody most! This sweet, green metalflake green Kawasaki Z-1 was built by Pandemonium Cycles and is featured in our June/July issue, on sale Tuesday. The former Police Special was already plenty fast, but the shop transformed it with upgraded wheels, brakes and front suspension, lending the big four a purposeful, racebike appearance. We’d begun featuring our own staff build of a vintage Z-1 a while back, but builder and staff test rider Keith Reed had to bail on the project die to unforseen circumstances. As a result, bikes like this one are fueling thoughts of diving into our own 1970s Kawasaki 1,000 build sometime in the not too distant future. Stay tuned and keep on tuning!

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Middleweight Mash-Up Completed

Just a couple of weeks until our 100-page June/July issue hits the stands and we’re quite proud to be concluding yet another of Cafe Racer’s custom build features. Over the last couple of years (yes, it’s been that long) we’ve chronicle\d every nut, bolt and mishap of the complete rebuild of our 1972 Honda CB500 Four, and the howling little Honda is finally roadworthy. Editor at Large Blake Kelly does the honors of racking up the first shakedown miles aboard the red and white Honda and his comments are, well, for the books to to speak. Like all custom motorcycles, the CB500 is far from finished with the latest ride revealing much that still needs to be done. However, just hearing the engine growl and seeing the wheels turn in anger for the first time in years is well worth the wait.

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Mouth-Watering Pork

We just had to offer a serving of this tasty piece of Milwaukee pork, rendered to perfection by Barnes Performance Cycles of Endwell, New York. Reader Abdrew Barnes did the do on what was a stock 883 Sportster, after watching episodes of Velocity’s “Cafe racer TV,” he says.

“I took interest in cafe racers a couple years ago and decided to build my own. My Cafe Racer started with a basic 2002 Harley Davidson XL883 Sportster. This one had been sitting outside most of its life before finding it on Craigslist. With having less than 6000 miles, but a lot of cosmetic damage, I knew it was the perfect bike for my project. Everything you see was created in my head,” said Andrew who included as few bolt-on bits as possible.
Upgrades include a 1,200cc big bore conversion, along with high-lift cams, a new carburetor and ignition unit. Along with a new wiring, the Sporty was rebuilt from the powdercoated frame up with a new, cafe tail section and fuel tank, both bearing eye-popping custom paint. Rumble on, Andrew!

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Two Wheels on Two Reels Movie Night

Mods and Rockers On the Big Screen

The weekend of August 11-12 is the date for our Tenth Annual Reader’s Ride-In Custom Bike Show and we’re proud to announce a few fun events before the actual custom concourse at Sewickley War Memorial Park. In conjunction with Sewickley’s Tull Family Theater (418 Walnut St.)Cafe Racer magazine has arranged a special screening of the 1979 motorcycle classic “Quadrophenia.” The flick, with a groovin’ soundtrack by The Who, is the first to chronicle the crazy world of British mods and rockers during 1963 and brings the period vividly to life. Best of all, the screening takes place Friday evening before Saturday’s bike show, and will begin at the conclusion of a special motorcycle-themed evening at the nearby Slippery Mermaid bar and restaurant, sponsored by Rebel Yell bourbon. Check out the theater’s website – www.thetullfamilytheater.org – as advance tickets will be on sale shortly and seating, just like on a cafe racer, is limited!

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Swingin’ Single

There are few types of streetbies that float our collective boats like single cylinder thumpers. The mechanical simplicity, the mad, raucous exhaust note and their ability to create thrust from so little make singles some of favorites. Case in point is reader Matthew Blaylock’s Royal Enfield Continental GT. The Indian-made 535cc marvel is a massive seller overseas clocking somewhere near 400,000 units annually. The classic cafe racer looks and salty performance were enough to see Matthew who took the wrenches to his GT and came up with a spritely middleweight custom.

“The first thing I did was ditch the dinosaur-thigh stock pipe and replaced with a light, wicked-sounding open pipe with reverse cone silencer from D&D Performance. There’s a Stage 1 breather kit with K&N oil case filter a Hitchcocks’s
venturi to help air flow, a Dynojet Power Commander mapped for the stage 1 kit and the free-flowing exhaust.” He also bolted on a CNC alloy fork top and bottom yoke also from England’s R.E. specialists Hitchcocks, along with alloy bar-end mirrors, foam grips (to lessen vibration)and a tasty, 1960s-style fairing. The fairing required that the clip-on bars be dropped three inches,but the riding position remains civil thanks to custom CNC machined rearsets. Sweet!

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Calling All Custom Bike O.G.’s

After spending the majority of this month on the road attending more new retro streetbike launches than you can shake a datalogger at, it’s a shame I won’t be able to attend this new shindig happening on the West Coast. I’m talking about the first-ever Outlier’s Guild Motorcycle Show slated for May 8th. The event has all the promise of a top-notch day of handmade iron and takes place at the Container Yard in smoggy Downtown Los Angeles. Besides seeing show entries from some of So Cal’s brightest amateur motorcyce fabricators, there’sll bemachines on display from some legendary names as wel including An all-star roster of builders will be participating including: Michael “Woolie” Woolaway, Shinya Kimura, Mitsuhiro “Kiyo” Kiyonaga, Don Kott, Aaron Guardado, Michel Valle, Roland Sands, and Len Higa. The day’s festivities are free and open to the public with things kicking off at noon through 9 PM at The Container Yard located at 800 E. 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013.

For more information visit, www.ogmotoshow.com

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Meet us at Motoblot

Bring your handbuilt iron to Handbuilt and appear in Cafe Racer magazine

The warming weather brings our team back to the open roads where we’ll be checking out the latest home-brewed custom motorbikes from one end of the country to the other. Two of our photographers will be attending the annual Handbuilt Show in Austin, Texas come April 22 so if you spot anyone wearing CRM shirts and bearing a fancy camera, stop by and feel free to show ’em your ride. Likewise, when June rolls around, you can meet up with us at the Motoblot show in Chicago where we’ll have a booth filled with nifty CRM gear plus a couple of our own latest custom builds. Bring your machine by as we;ll have a backdrop set-up where we hope to shoot feature bikes for upcoming issues of the magazine. Feel free to send us a pic ahead of time at rockersrule@caferacermag.com

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New Bikes Galore


Tis spring and besides the budding greenery and start of riding season, the release of new motorcycles from the major manufacturers is at hand. 2017 promises to be a banner year for retro-flavored streetbikes with nearly all the OEM’s busting out with cafe-inspired models, new naked performance roadsters and machines that will fill the pages of upcoming issues of Cafe Racer. Just last weekend, we were in Los Angeles throwing a leg over the saddles of several new-for-2017 machines including Honda’s groovy Rebel 500, Triumph’s wicked-fast Bobber 1200 Bonneville (pictured above being ridden by comedian ace bike tester Alonzo Bodden) ) showing off it’s amazing handling and mind-blowing torque and the surprise find, Kawasaki’s Z650 . The parallel twin Z proved nimble, fun and far more powerful than expected, tearing through the So Cal canyons like a panther with an energy drink jag. Stay tuned for full road tests and exciting action images by the brilliantly talented Kevin Wing starting June 2.

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Beautiful Beemer


It’s not everyday that an independent magazine gets a scoop that beats the big guys to the punch, but this time, the stars aligned in our favor. CRM contributor Paul Rudolf makes his daily green at European Motorcycles of Pittsburgh, a local shop that just happens to have an early-release model of BMW’s wicked-cool R Nine T Racer. We’ve been lusting after a ride on the new Boxer retro cafe since hearing of its imminent release some months back, and Paul, with the help of the shop’s new owner set up a test ride just for CRM. The official launch of the sleek, white beauty isn’t scheduled for another three weeks or so (which we’ll bring you coverage of) so our April/May issue’s sneak preview is a definite coup. On sale April 6, we’ll reveal just what’s so special about this much-anticipated Bavarian beauty.

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Bike of The Week


Jurgan Hillenbrand’s BMW

Hailing from Braunschwag, Germany, Jurgan rode his hand-built BMW Boxer custom all the way to London for the most recent Ace Cafe Reunion, pressing all the way back to the European continent even though his hand-made five-gallon fuel tank suffered a vibration fracture in the process. In fact, we were alerted to the bike’s presence by a face in the crowd due its small petrol leak and Jurgan, once alerted, calmly replied, “Ja, it’s a problem I’ve noticed.” Many handmade componets make the Beemer a standout while Jurgan topped off his creation with plenty of top-shelf modern bits including the Acewell digital gauge, fully adjustable Wilbers forks and YSS racing shocks. Das rocks in any language!

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Bike Show Is A Go!


Get those polishing rags and wrenches humming as we’re announcing the date of our 2017 Cafe Racer Reader’s Ride-In Bike Show. This, our tenth annual meeting of the custom builder tribe, will take place on Saturday, August 12 at War Memorial Park in Sewickley, PA. As you can see from the image below, the event has drawn an impressive and diverse collection of hand-made iron from across the country with the level of craftsmanship continuing to wow us again and again. There will be trophies awarded and prize packages for the following classes: Best British Cafe Racer, Best American/European Cafe Racer, Best Japanese Cafe Racer, Best Bobber/Street Tracker, Best In Show, Wildest Engineering and People’s Choice. As with the 2016 event, there will be Second Place awards as well, plus a day filled with food and accessory vendors, live demonstrations on installing the latest custom motorcycle parts and accessories, a small swap meet area and a damn good time. No pre-registration is necessary for bikes- just turn up at 10 a.m. and join the fun.

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Lost In Translation


The funniest moments in life, we’ve come to learn, are seldom scripted. Come next issue (on sale April 4) we’ll reveal why this is true with the latest installment of our regular Stylin’ humor column. Many of us on CRM’s staff are avid collectors of misspelled, poorly-interpreted translations of the English language and seldom does the distance between tongues reveal itself more fully than in motorcycle product literature. With the profusion of foreign-made parts and accessories on the Internet, its one of life’s goofiest pleasures to open a box covered in some foreign script or another and laugh our way through instruction manuals that appear to have been written by participants in a 1960s LSD test. The item below, culled from an early Honda motorcycles rider’s manual is typically side-splitting. Wot- no Google Translate?


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Rockers, Texas Style


One of the most inspiring and downright fun events we’re ever attended is the annual Rockers VS Mods rally in Dallas, Texas. The crowds the event drew were impressive to say the least, with equal numbers of restored, vintage scooters and way-happenin’ cafe racers on display. This is a true rider’s rally, with around 4,000 assorted two-wheelers arriving from throughout the region, and we met some committed riders who had traveled hundreds of miles- low bars and all- to make the scene. Among our faves was the crew of local Mods who each dressed as a character from the Who rock-opera “Quadrophenia” right down to the bags of mock bennies hanging from their handlebars. This year marks the 6th staging of the weekend-long party, which kicks off on Friday,  March 30. There’s custom motorbike and scooter shows and live bands plus plenty of massed ride-outs at venues including the Belmont Hotel, Bryan Street Tavern, Vespa Dallas, Randy’s Scooter Museum, RPM Cycles, SMOKE and The Dub. Slap on that parka or pudding basin and see what all the fuss is about and click on www.rockersvsmods.com for more.

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Web Upgrades and New Content


A few of you faithful readers may have noticed a few bumps and glitches on this website as of late. For a couple of days during the past week or so, the site you’re now reading may have proven inaccessible, but thanks to our skillful and hard-working tech crew, we’ve been resurrected with all the upgrades due a newly restored classic motorbike. Though on the surface caferacermag.com may look largely the same, in the weeks to come, we’ll be adding new components such as weekly video feeds of us testing and building our project bikes, in-depth reviews of new products that represent the latest must-have kit for you and your custom ride, plus expanded photo features of our new Bike of The Week contest. We’re also just days away from announcing the mush-anticipated date for our 2017 Reader’s Ride-I Bike Show which roars to life come August in Sewickley’s War Memorial Park. Thanks for your patience. Also, be sure to pick up a copy of our upcoming April/May issue which marks our 50th printed magazine, something of a milestone in today’s fractured print media market. The saucy Triton pictured above is just one of four fine feature bikes to look for come the first week of April. Now, with temperatures reaching the high ’60s for the second day in a row, we’re off to play on the salt-covered Pittsburgh backroads!

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Bad Boy BMW


Father and Son Custom

Showing an impressive 28,000 road miles on the clocks, CRM reader Ben Gurerro is understandably proud of what his son Afriano has done with this 1978 Beemer. The R100 Boxer twin was purchased last summer and the previous owner had begun an unsuccessful attempt at turning it into a cafe racer. “With questionable results,” Ben says. Several months later,   Adriano turned the neglected German steed into this subtly cool, stealthed-out machine which he rides on the streets of West Hollywood.

Afriano performed all the work himself, following a few words of advice from his old man, mainly to stay classic and clean.  We especially dig the matt black finish on the bodyswork matching the engine and the cool brown leather solo saddle and matching grips. Adriano, who works as  a valet in Beverly Hills is just 21 and has a bright future turning wrenches, from our perspective. “I have to admit he did a good job on his first build having just turned 21,” his Dad says.  Sweet job, guys and look for a Cafe Racer magazine prize package coming your way this week.



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Popcorn, Movies and Cafe Racers


Host of the long-running motorcycle radio program “Two Wheel Tuesday” Larry Ward has caught the low bars, high-performance bug, big-time. He’s spent the past few weeks building his own custom road-burner, a 1979 Honda CB650, which he’ll reveal on Tuesday, February 28 at the iHeart Medias Complex , 7461 South Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio. The evening includes a screening of our own documentary on the ton-p phenomenon, “Cafe Society” as well as a look at a couple of new, 2017 Triumph factory cafe customs. There will be a Q&A session before the flick with staff from Triumph of nearby Warren, Ohio, with doors opening at 6:45 p.m. And get there early as free food and drink will be provided for the first 50 folks in attendance.



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Viva Vegas Auction



Just back from the Mecum auction in Las Vegas, the annual celebration of classic and vintage motorbikes and collectibles.  This is our third year at this event and the emerging trends are always fascinating to watch. The must-have machine for the past couple of years has been anything bearing the vaunted Vincent label, with prices last year nearing or topping the six-figure mark. This year, that alarming trend seems to be dissipating a bit, as was predicted in our special report, “The Vanishing Vincents” in CRM issue #42 (Dec./Jan., 2016) At the time, the nation’s leading Vincent expert Sommer Hooker told us that, like Model T Fords a few years back, the relatively small market for these British-made singles and V-twins would eventually dry up as most of the folks lusting after them were already in possession of their dream bikes. Most restored Vincents ended up not being enjoyed on the roads where they excel, but stored in private collections, which is a real shame in our opinion. This has left few for would-be collectors., until, that is, those collector’s bikes slowly began to re-emerge into circulation. That appears to be the case at Mecum last weekend as a nice, 1,000cc Rapide sold for just $36,000– and that’s a good 50% less than such a bike would have sold for a year ago. Some other 1950s and ‘60s classics continue to draw top-dollars, such as BSA’s Gold Star singles  ($30,00) and a 1978 Harley-Davidson XLCR cafe Racer topping $23,000. It’s odd to see such prices for what, back in my high school days, was an unpopular bike that sat unsold on showroom floors for years. This may be the time to invest in a 1970s BSA twin as these machines have blossomed from $3,000-$4,000 sellers to bikes worth twice that these days. Custom cafe racers were thin on the ground for whatever reason, with a very nice Ducati ST3 sport-tourer that had been re-born into a sweet cafe custom, failing to garner the owner’s $10,000 or so reserve price (see image above.) If you’ve never attended one of these rolling showcases of vintage two-wheelers, they’re quite worth checking out with the next Mecum event slated for June 1-3 at the South Point Casino. Bring your checkbook- you will be tempted.

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Bike of the Week






Overwhelmed- but in a good way. That’s how we’re feeling around the CRM offices after the flood of entries rolled in for our Bike of the Month contest. We’re seen so many choice custom speedsters, in fact, that we’re now serving up a new one this and every Monday for you, our throttle-happy readers.  This, the first of our weekly winners of a Cafe Racer Magazine prize pack come thanks to Huntingdon Beach, California’s Larry Horn, owner of not one, but two beautiful Norvin specials. The Norvin was and still is considered the ultimate British high-performance custom, combining the torquey, 55-horsepower Vincent V-twin engine in one of Norton’s sublimely capable featherbed frames.

Larry’s red Norvin is a Norton Manx Wideline frame with a 1950 Series C 1000cc Vincent engine. He’s owned and built this bike since 1968 and, being British and vintage, Larry  has rebuilt it many times. It’s no trailer queen, Larry ensures us, with the Norvin still clocking the road miles every year. The green Norvin is a reproduction Norton feather bed wide line frame from England and a 1948 series B 1000cc Vincent engine. Dig on the massive, four leading shoe front brakes which are reproduction Yamaha TZ with disc-like stopping power.

Both bike are heavily modified with modern fuel and electrics and both Vincent engines have modern components inside including upgraded cams and valve trains says Larry who also owns a 1957 Ariel Square Four and a 1955 Velocette MSS. Nice way to amass a cool $250,000 in custom metal, Larry!

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Beer, Bikes and More Beer

Garage Brewed 2017


Come Saturday, January 28, Cincinnati, Ohio’s custom streetbike scene will host one of the biggest indoor shows in the region. The annual Garage Brewed Show is a unique day-long celebration of custom bikes and even more highly customized beers. The whole thing goes down (sorry- unintentional beer drinking reference) at the Rheingeist Brewery (located at 1910 Elm Street- from noon until Midnight. Last year, CRM covered the show and we’re glad to have arrived early- with the crowd eventually soaring to a walloping 7,000 attendees, there was barely room to photograph the assembled bobbers, street trackers and many excellent cafe racers. Garage Brewed is organized by Tim Burke of the Cincinnati Cafe Racer Club and offers entrants some cool prizes as well as awards called “Grophies” which are draft beer growler bottles embossed for the winners. Sound like fun? Get there early and look at www.garagebrewed.com for more. Hic, burp…

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One for The Lady Riders

If You happen to be in the Los Angeles area  this coming weekend and you’re a female motorcyclist it’s a good bet to make your way to the Lucky Wheels Garage where the Second Annual Women’s Motorcycle Show is set to open. Hosted by Alicia Elfving of the Moto Lady Internet site, the event is a day-long celebration of today’s female bikers. On hand will be custom rides built by and for women riders, raffles of riding gear and music provided by DJs.  The fun kicks off at 6 p.m., but those planning to attend should RSVP at the Moto Lady website beforehand.  This is a great, growing event with over 200 showing up last year so make your way there this Saturday.



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Cold, But Not Forever




Days like these, when the temperature struggles to breach 22 degrees can test the patience of many a motorcyclist. Here at CRM, our idle minds drift back to warmer days when the only worry is whether rain may interrupt a nice, day-long ride or which bike needs maintenance before being kicked to life. As you can tell from the image above, even the local critters outside our office window would rather be indoors. We’d hoped to break the winter tedium by attending the Progressive IMS event in Washington, D.C. this weekend, but staff illness scuppered that plan- our apologies for anyone who stopped by looking for our missing booth! Nevertheless, we’ve decided to double down and giveaway both the prize packages we promised to award one lucky punter with in D.C. this weekend at the upcoming Cleveland IX Center event come month’s end. Just stop by our booth and fill out a form and we’ll contact the two winners via e-mail at the end of both Saturday, Jan. 28 and Sunday the 29th. In the meantime, those of us living in the snow belt can count on at least a couple of warm(ish) days before the spring thaw come April. Brr and all that…

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One Cool SR 400

wilder sr400Few modern motorbikes can boast of the lineage and authenticity of Yamaha’s SR400. The venerable air-cooled single has been in continuous production since 1978, changing only a little in the nearly four decades hence. Yes, the 2016 models offer electronic fuel injection and maintenance-free batteries, but the kickstart-only thumper remains gloriously unchanged. As a result of its longevity, the SR has spawned a customization cult like few, if any other Japanese motorcycles. There’s enough parts available to make an SR resemble anything from a Manx Norton to Matchless or, in this case, something truly unique. This images comes our way from Richard Wilder of aftermarket parts supplier Wilder Factory. His work transforming this ordinary SR into a quick, eye-catching custom is impressive to say te least. Many of the bits installed on the SR are one-offs fabircated by Wilder and full details will appear in the April/May issue of Cafe Racer magazine, so keep an eye our singles fans.

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Our Favorite Bikes #2

pakistan suzuki savage




We hear from some faraway riders customizing their bikes into cafe racers all over the globe, but our latest winner is perhaps the most unexpected of all.  22 year-old Hamza Azeem Butt hails from bustling Karachi, Pakistan,  a city with a burgeoning custom retro motorcycle scene. Hamza is well-connected, having helped organize last September’s Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride in Karachi, and as you can see from the pics, it was well-attended with all sorts of machines. Hamza’s ride of choice is a mildly cafe’d Suzuki GS 150 cc which is being locally manufactured in Pakistan. “No more bike above 150 cc is being manufactured here locally. So this is the max I could get for my custom project,” he tells CRM. Working with a budget of just $2,100 and the help of local shops and friends from the area’s only custom bike club Throttle Shrottle, he created a sleek, unique custom, the details of the build available on Hamza’s blog http://habcustomz.weebly.com/savage-the-cafe-racer

The Suzuki was outfitted with new clip-on handlebars, a wider, 4.00×18″ rear tire, retro-fitted fuel tank and a new seat cowl, plus bold, burgundy metalflake paint and a new, brown leather saddle.


Way to go, and a Cafe Racer magazine prize package is on its way to this cool, inspired Suzuki single rider!

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Prizes Galore at Cafe Racer IMS Gveaway


dec 2016 059


More than a few readers have contacted us asking what’s on tap if they sign up for our prize giveaway at the Cafe Racer magazine booth at the upcoming Washington, D.C, and Cleveland IMS events so here’s a sneak peek. Some of our advertisers have chimed in with some boffo prizes that one lucky winner will receive – by mail – just for stopping by and signing up. The list of goodies includes;

Workshop Hero rust remover kit

Design Engineering exhaust pipe heat wrap and hose covering kit

A Big Kahuna back issues package of magazines

DVDs of all five seasons of Velocity’s Cafe Racer TV

Stomp Grip gas tank traction pads

A Scottoiler automatic chain lubrication system

Cafe Racer magazine T-shirt

One Liter of Motul 20/50 motorcycle engine oil

All this plus we’ll throw in a few stickers and maybe even a free beer if time allows. Just sign in with your name, T-shirt size, mailing address and e-mail (which is how we’ll contact the lucky winners) and we’ll do the rest.








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Roll Up, Custom Motorbikes!


OK, at first we promised to run a Bike of The Month in our regular blog, but in the weeks since our initial announcement, things have changed. The overwhelming response to the online competition has brought in so many amazing responses, that we’re now planning to run a different reader’s bike every two weeks. Just hit us up with some high res color jpegs of your custom or vintage (or both) cafe racer along with a few graphs of tech info, your home address and T-shirt size and our team of editors will select a winner every 14 days. The lucky winners will find their mail boxes bursting with a prize package including a Big Kahuna back issues box, a Cafe Racer T-shirt, a DVD and some other swag. Be on your A game as the images we’re receiving are top-shelf. Look here in one week for winner number 2.

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Showtime Washington, D.C

issue 44 004

It’s always a buzz to catch up with our readers and reveal the latest custom builds from deep within the skunk-works that is S.H.A.M.E. (Sewickley Home for Aged Motorcycle Engines, by the way.) We’ll be doing just that when the Progressive International Motorcycle Show rolls into the Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. come January 6, 7 and 8. Our stalwart staffers will be on hand to answer your questions, queries and yes, talk turkey about nuts, bolts and all things shiny, two-wheeled and fast  for all three days. Plus, you’ll get first glimpse of our nearly-completed Middleweight Mash-Up Honda CB500F custom straight from the pages of CRM. Our long-term Yamaha SR400, fresh back from its record, 100.3 MPH top-speed run will also be on display, proving small displacement and high velocity needn’t be strangers. There’s new T-shirts including one for the girls plus a chance to sign up to win a free year’s subscription along with a new set of Stomp Grip tank pads and a roll of Design Engineering exhaust heat wrap, just for stopping by.

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rolled car

Oops, They’ve Done It Again!

In my column appearing in each issue of CRM, I often lament the general lack of skill, diligence and just plain common sense displayed by the car-driving public. Most drivers, especially those under 40, seem too addicted to their so-called smartphones to pay attention to the very serious business of making their way from Point A to Point B, making riding a streetbike a dicey proposition these days. If you’re a streetbike rider, I’m not sharing any news here, but the daily displays of poor driving are a source of endless frustration and hair-raising frights for us motorcyclists.  And to literally illustrate my point, this image was captured just a mile from the CRM offices one sunny fall day, by Muzzy, our resident custom painter. Muz works part-time for local municipal services and was directing traffic in a construction zone when this distracted motorist managed to get all Evel Knievel on us, rolling her car just a few yards away from where my Manxter cafe racer sat idling. I can only wonder what part of cyberspace her head was lost in to so completely lose her bearings. Needless to say, let’s be ever-so-careful out there!


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Our First Bike of The Month Winner

chase cycles honda

Lots of technically inspired, downright beautiful motorbikes rolled into CRM HQ after we announced the creation of a Bike of The Month contest, and after careful deliberations over several pints, a winner has presented itself for the month of December. 

This clean, customized DOHC Honda CB750F was built by Shawn Chase of Chase Custom Cycles. He radically re-worked the 1981 CB by chopping off the back half of the frame to accommodate a 2007 Ducati Multistrada single-sided swingarm. The modern front suspension hails from a 2010 Honda CBR1000RR superbike, while our friends at Virginia’s Cognito Moto supplied the necessary bits and bobs.

The custom dual headlight fairing was shaped by Shawn with Corey Nygard of Porkchop Garage providing the paint while t seat is upholstered with a clever combination of both  leather and waxed canvas by Roy Baird.

The bike’s owner is Paul Oandasan who added  Motogadget electronics throughout the bike while power comes courtesy an Antigravity lightweight battery and a Cycle X power arc ignition and charging system. Engine mods include a quartet of Keihin CR carbs with custom air boxes by steel Dragon performance and a reverse megaphone muffler by Cone engineering. 

Both the owner and Shawn at Chase Custom Cycles will receive a custom CRM prize package including a T-shirt back issues package, DVDs and more. If you’ve recently built a bitchin’ piece of high-performance retro cafe art, send pics to us at rockersrule@caferacermag.com and you may see it here.

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Best Tips for a Commanding Norton Commando

It’s been the better part of five years since we completed the comprehensive rebuild of our 1973 Norton Commando and we’ve nothing but good news to report. The Commando, Norton’s last and final production machine is still popular with both restorers and custom Britbike enthusiasts for many reasons. Out machine started life as a raggedy basket case, but through the thorough application of top-end new components, she’s become a reliable, exciting daily rider. Add to that the way the custoYVE_6856mized 750 turns heads and it’s proven a genuine winner, all for about half the cost of a new, 961 Norton Commando. Sure, the 2017 bike is faster (by about 25 MPH with its top speed of 140 MPH) handles a bit sharper (thanks to its Ohlins suspension) but the parts and service back-up for the new Nortons has proven spotty at best.

Closer to home, our Commando starts on the first kick nearly every time thanks to a Tri-Spark Ignition system supplied by our friends at Colorado Norton Works.  The addition of a single, 34mm Mikuni carburetor has also helped make this a more modern-feeling classic as the Sudco-supplied carb provides the perfect amount of air-fuel mixture. Avoid, at all costs the temptation to install twin Mikunis – as we’ve recently learned on our Triton, they cause far too much air for a middleweight British twin. Lastly, we bolted on a pair of Hagon shocks to aid the rear damping which have proven adept at everything from corner-carving to 200-mile days of touring. Whereas older Norton twins which lack the Commando’s vibe-smoothing Isolastic engine mounting system, these motorcycles can be ridden at highway speeds without the classic bike worries about shedding parts or numb hands.  Besides regularly checking the oil and every nut and bolt after a long ride, the Commando is about as maintenance-free as  a 43 year-old motorcycle could be. Readily available on the market in running (if rough) condition for under $6,000, the Norton Commando is a bloody steal!

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Do You Own Our Custom Bike of the Month?

New Website Bike Competition

We’re regularly inundated with images of reader’s custom motorcycles, far to many to share with you in copies of Cafe Racer magazine. During one of our staff’s routine pints and pondering sessions, some bright bulb happened upon the idea of featuring the choicest, sweetest home-built cafe specials on a dedicated website page. Not only will Cafe Racer Magazine’s Bike of the Month be featured on our web page where it will be viewed by tens of thousands of punters from around the globe, the monthly winner will receive  a bulging gift bag from us filled with groovy swag including DVDs of the Velocity series “Cafe Racer” and “Naked Speed” but T-shirts, key fobs, back issues and more. Send your high res (1 MB minimum) color jpeg photos along with a few graphs of technical details of your ride (plus your T-shirt size and home mailing address) to us at rockersrule@caferacermag.com. The first winner will appear on Thursday, December 1.

Sierra Exif JPEG

Got a custom machine of this sort of way-gone style and performance. Send it our way!

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California Groovin’

DSC_0387The upcoming December/January issue of CRM covers a lot of ground- literally- as we offer up a collection of features culled from the past twelve months of biking road trips. One of our favorite playgrounds for two-wheeling is Southern Cali, a place where networks of canyon roads make for very memorable, very exciting riding. The image above was shot along fabled Mulholland Drive’s Serpentine, a place where the skilled, the brave and the foolish gather on all sorts of bikes every weekend. We’ve seen some incredible riding on this amazing stretch of pavement, like the mad, knee-down antics of sportbike jockeys makes for some entertaining viewing.  Our coverage includes a stop by the nearby Rock Store, perhaps the most popular motorcycle gathering place in all of the Golden State. We also point your front wheels towards some of the region’s other bike-friendly joints where cold beer, hot BBQ and rare cafe bikes are always on view. Look for it, plus a visit to Italy’s Moto Guzzi Museum with ace photographer Kevin Wing, plus a road test of our original Triton special, on sale Dec. 5

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Ton-Up Weekend With Cafe Racer Mag at London’s Ace Cafe

2nd – 4th September

Independently acclaimed as the world’s coolest motorcycle event!
Three Days, Three Rides, One Reunion!

Friday 2nd September from 6pm – The Continental Run Ride-In.

Saturday 3rd September – Cafe Racer & Rockers Ride-Out.
Depart: 10.30am
Destination: Battersea Park (Central London)

Sunday 4th September – Brighton Burn-Up & Ride With The Rockers
Depart: 10.30am
Route: A406 – A40 – M25 – M23 – A23 to Madeira Drive, Brighton Seafront

Taking place over three days in September and first held in 1994, the 23rd annual Ace Cafe Reunion Weekend & Ride With The Rockers celebrates the unique history, culture and style of Ace Cafe London and what it represents.

This annual event acts as a focus in the motorcycling calendar for all those who are not only interested in the Ace Cafe, Ton Up and Rocker heritage, but also for many others who enjoy a weekend full of rock n’ roll, fun and a day out at the seaside!

Over the years, Ace Cafe London has forged lasting and strong links to the global motorcycling and rockin’ community, which is reflected by the many visitors from overseas, gathering numbers en route to the Channel Tunnel and ferries, arriving at the Ace late Friday afternoon, and culminating in an evening of rock ‘n’ roll!

The Brighton Burn Up & Ride With The Rockers, has been an integral part of Ace Cafe Reunions since 1996, and is a free, grand day out at the seaside on Brighton’s famous seafront road, Madeira Drive. With trade and club stands and displays, live music and special guests, it’s an experience not to be missed!

Friday 2nd September – In addition to the spectacle of the arrival at the cafe of the “Continental Run”, firing up the party weekend, there will be live rock n’ roll with the band Gene Gambler & The Shufflers, with Jimmy Guntrip spinning the wax.

Saturday 3rd September, at 10.30am, the Cafe Racer & Rockers Ride-Out to London’s historic Battersea Park will depart from the cafe, led again this year by the Limited Edition Ace 904S Thruxton Special, returning to the Ace for the 8th annual Cafe Racer Review, with prizes for the “Best Ridden Cafe Racers”, “Best Classic Cafe Racer”, “Best Modern Cafe Racer”, “Best Triumph Cafe Racer” and “Best Harley Cafe Racer”.

Sponsors of the competitions also include Triumph, Lewis Leathers, Red Torpedo, Pacto Helmets, Prison Blues, Veetone Records, Jukebox & Retro Fair, Black & White wax, Cafe Racer Magazine (USA) and Warrs HD, with awards and prizes being presented on the Ace stage from 2.30pm where the evocative and seminal Joe Meek produced track, Telstar, will be celebrated along with Mike Sarne’s Ton Up anthem “Just For Kicks” as the soundtracks of cafe racing and the 1960’s!

Returning for Ace Cafe Reunion 2016, we are again delighted to host Mike Seate, editor and publisher of Cafe Racer magazine and the author of 13 books on motorcycling. He created and hosted the Discovery Channel TV series “Cafe Racer” and Naked Speed” for six seasons and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The feisty London Rockin’ Rollers who have been rollin’ with the punches since 2007, will be with us again, raising funds on Saturday 3rd September for The Samaritans, the cafe’s chosen charity and which was founded in 1953 by the late Rev. Chad Varah.

At the Ace 10.30am on Sunday 4th September, the annual “Ride with the Rockers” will once again be flagged off by the Mayor of Brent, destination Brighton where, as well as an array of club, trade stands and displays, and live bands, the annual short seafront service and blessing is being kindly undertaken by Father Scott of the 59 Club, which, as well as being a church charity, is also a motorcycle club, following a visit to the Ace by the late Father Bill Shergold in 1962.

There will also be a “Best Scooter” competition on the seafront at Brighton with prizes to include courtesy of Dr Martens and for all those that “Keep the Faith” with “All or Nothing”, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the seminal 1966 sound of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”, this year Ace Cafe London has not only got a pair of DM 8 eyelet cherry reds, but also a copy of the Dr. Martens book “A History of Rebellious Self-Expression”, both up for grabs as prizes for the “Best Scooter” on the seafront!

This exclusive 256 page soft bound book, by Martin Roach, is illustrated with over 220 photographs, many previously unpublished, and chronicles Dr. Martens “AirWair”, one of Britain’s most diverse and influential brands.

The book is the definitive work on one of modern cultures most unique, complex and authentic brands – there will always be Dr. Martens as long as rebellious self-expression continues to exist. www.drmartens.com

As part of the lead up to Battle of Britain Week, the cafe’s chosen charity, RAFA  “Wings Appeal” will be in attendance on the seafront.

Ace Cafe Reunion Weekend Entertainment (yes, it’s all free!)

Friday 2nd (at the Ace) Gene Gambler & The Shufflers + DJ’s Jimmy Guntrip

Saturday 3rd (at the Ace) The Rhythm Bombers, Race With The Devil, Lewis Chamberlain & The Converters, and Si Cranstoun & His Band+ DJ’s Bill & Jimmy Guntrip & Flattop Dave.

Sunday 4th (in Brighton) The Accidents & The Neutronz + DJ’s Bill & Jimmy Guntrip.

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Showing Up is Everything

With just a few weeks remaining before our Ninth Annual Reader’s Ride-In Bike Show, everything – including the weather- is heating up quite nicely. Our vendors and support staff have gone the extra kilometer to ensure that the August 13 event will top all those preceding it and then some. CRM regular and So Cal custom king Dustin Kott is shipping in not one but two amazing new custom Honda café racers, neither of which have been seen by the public. Dustin, who is serving as one of this year’s show judges alongside biker and funnyman Alonzo Bodden, will be around all weekend answering your queries about handcrafting way out motorbikes, so make sure to say hello. The prize packages are also leaning towards the gi-normous this year, with each of the show class winners to receive gift packages from sponsors Design Engineering, Spectro Performance Oils, Cognito Moto and Workshop Hero; Joe Rocket has pitched in with a pair of their excellent Café Racer Gloves and our newest advertiser Magura, will be on hand with a display of their high tech braking products for all sorts of streetbikes.

Wildest of all, team CRM has decided to spice up the pot (no silly 420 references, please) by creating our first-ever cash prize fund. The winner – or winners- of our Best in Show award and People’s Choice will ride away with checks for $300 and $200 respectively. Just how they plan to ride home carrying oversized, six-foot checks is anyone’s guess, but it should prove a genuine incentive to polishing off those hidden treasure customs and bringing them to Sewickley War Memorial Park on Saturday, August 13. See you there!

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Where’s The Bikes Come Monday?

Headed to the West Coast recently for our annual escape the winter and test ride new streetbikes week. The journey from Pittsburgh to L.A. was full of anticipation as team CRM relocated for the week in Agoura Hills, the hilly, arid region where endless paved canyon roads make for some of the best riding memories available. The machines we tested will appear in the magazine over the next few issues and two of our stalwart testers, Rob Bupp and Paul Rudolf, had yet to turn a wheel in this motorbiking paradise and came away duly impressed. During the weekend, the roads around the fabled Rock Store biker hang-out were chock-a-block with two-wheelers of every description and we even managed to photograph a couple of incredible cafe customs along the way. There were, in fact, so many riders cranking along the canyons that we wondered whether So Cal truly was the one place in the U.S. where motorcycle enthusiasts rode their bikes all year rather than just on weekends which is very often the case.

Well, Monday morning put paid to that theory as the five of us were taken aback by the sheer lack of two-wheelers to be seen anywhere but along L.SA.’s hideously clogged freeways. Though California leads the nation in motorcycle registrations, we struggled to spot many streetbikes being ridden as transportation here on weekdays. Like everywhere else, you couldn’t miss the huge number of pick-up trucks plastered in Harley-Davidson bumper stickers and bloke walking around wearing T-shirts festooned with the logos of their favorite motorcycle brands and models, but it seems that even here, in our biking Mecca, commuting by motorcycle is just not the done thing. Some blame the cheap availability of $2 per gallon petrol while others claim that it’s virtually impossible to commute on a bike as only baggers and full dressers offer enough luggage capacity to make two-wheeled commuting worthwhile. Who knows- riders in Asian and European countries seem to find bikes just fine for everyday riding, a concept we Americans just can’t seem to grasp.

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2016 Reader’s Ride-In Bike Show Is Go!

Recently confirmed is a new location and date for this summer’s must-see custom cafe racer show- the Cafe Racer Reader’s Ride-In Bike Show- our ninths- is set to roll on Saturday, August 13 at Sewickley, Pennsylvania’s War Memorial Park. The lush park setting will fill with some of the country’s top custom builds and this year, we’ve added a bobber category after witnessing the amazing field of un-sprung customs that rolled in last year. Prizes and awards will be presented to first and second place entries in six categories including; Best Japanese Cafe Racer, Best American/European cafe Racer, Best Bobber, Best Japanese Cafe Racer, Wildest Engineering, People’s Choice and Best in Show. The fun starts at 10 a.m. at the park, located on scenic Blackburn Road (next to the WMCA) and keep cranking’ until the trophy presentation at 3 p.m. Look for some tasty food trucks, new parts and accessories offerings from some nifty aftermarket providers, some incredible riding in the near vicinity and all your favorite faces from the pages of CRM.

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Winter Projects Real and Imagined

Eve though we’ve experienced one of the mildest Novembers and, judging by the coming forecast, Decembers on record, this remains a time of year when the mind focuses on building more than riding. Most of the bikes in the CRM stable require end of season maintenance by now, having covered about 11,000 collective miles during the past eight months or so when the weather gradually became warmer. Some, like our 2015 Royal Enfield Continental GT are only in need of a basic service – you know, oil, valve adjustment, safety checks on all nuts, bolts and fasteners – while some of our other customized bikes will be in for some serious upgrades. Once such bike is a motorcycle that we didn’t even know ourselves to be in ownership of: a 1981 Yamaha XV 920 Virago. It came into our hands through sheer serendipity thanks to the generosity of Greg Hageman, the Iowa-cum-Florida custom builder who’s been featured on both Velocity’s Café Racer TV and on the cover of CRM not once but twice. Greg, for those not in the now, has made a cottage industry out of fettling and beautifying Yamaha’s long-running air-cooled V-twins, having perfected a sleek steel subframe and several other bespoke bits that transform the ugly ducklings into some of the most amazing café racers currently on the roads. Greg offered to create a unique Virago for us, built on the bones of this very tired-looking example and we’re pleased to announce the entire process- from initial tear-down to completed road test- will be featured in Café Racer magazine starting with the February/March, 2016 issue. We’ve cleaned out our shop’s spare arts shelves, shipping to Greg a host of long-unutilized bits including a hefty, 48mm Showa front end from a 2000 Ducati 996 track bike to a new Hagon monoshock and a set of Sudco’s 34mm Mikuni carbs and an old Yamaha Seca II rear wheel we picked up who knows where. The end result should be a real head-turner of custom café racer with the added punch of modern, superbike brakes and suspension. Want to see her in person? We’re planning a big reveal at our 2016 Reader’s Ride-In Custom Bike Show come August, so stay tuned.

– Mike Seate, editor, Dec. 2015

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Jettas and Smokers

Sept. 24, 2015

An unusually warm fall in these parts has meant riding the regions many challenging backroads nearly every single day. The weather has been dry in addition to unseasonably warm, so the odometers are rolling like its mid-June in the CRM garage and we’re actually wearing out sets of tires on our fleet bikes (meant both as a noun and adjective here) like we seldom get to. Among the more memorable roads we’ve ridden as of late: Route 50 West from Bridgeville, PA. is a well-known motorcycle artery as it winds through Cecil and Washington County before feeding onto West Virginia’s undulating, asphalt roller coaster that is Route 88. This one winds its way through postcard farmland with amazing hairpin turns, quick sweepers that are a slice of two-wheeled heaven (if taken around 55-65 MPH: anything more and the suicidal deer can make life hazardous!) and pulls to a stop in scenic Olgebay Park in Wheeling, a great place to grab a bite before heading back to Pittsburgh. Many of the turns are fairly tight in radius and you seldom find your bike moving very fast so the route is a dream for vintage bikes that are comfortable in their engine’s torque-happy midrange. If you run, say, a British twin of the 1960s which doesn’t feel at home on the Interstates, roads like these are your cuppa.

With several colleges located along this route, I’ve been noticing an unusual number of youngsters driving extremely fast in Volkswagen Jettas- the diesel sedan seems to be the car of choice for a generation of go-getter twentysomethings and they’re nearly always being driven as if the owner has seen one too many Vin Diesel movies. The others vehicle that’s been making its collective presence known in recent months are oversized Dodge Ram pick-ups. Inevitably equipped with USNC stickers and loud, smoke-belching exhaust stacks and driven by a slight, twentysomething man with a backwards baseball cap, these jokers hiog the road and ride the rear wheel of our motorcycles as if to challenge us to a race through whatever twisty road we happen to be on, despite the scientifically-proven fact that four-wheel drive trucks, especially those equipped with tall profile tires and high-lift suspension systems don’t corner very well. This is a lesson these usually catch onto after we wick the throttle and zoom away, but damned if it isn’t growing annoying teaching this one ad nauseum. Oh well, at least the youngsters make riding interesting…

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The Big Show

To say that we’re overwhelmed and truly stoked by the amazing number of custom cafe bikes and people who showed up last Sunday for our 8th Annual Reader’s Ride-In Bike Show would be an understatement. This was the first time we’d staged the event at our Sewickley HQ instead of at Mid-Ohio during AMA Vintage Days and to be honest, we were unsure whether we’d see three or four motorbikes come rolling in at most. Instead, the turnout was nothing short of gi-normous with all sorts of radical machines filling – more like overflowing- from our Beall Way address and onto the surrounding streets. Supportive, smiling and full of fun, the crowd truly cheered on each of the seven class winners who deserved all the credit they received and then some. We won’t ruin it by revealing too much in the way of visuals from the event as we’ve set aside a good ten pages in our upcoming October/November issue to cover this year’s blow-out. Thanks readers- you made this year’s show a real winner and we can’t wait to stage an even bigger, better event in 2016.

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Steel City Mods vs. Rockers


Known as the mods and rockers rally that could, Pittsburgh’s vintage motorbike and scooter gathering has soldiered on despite crappy weather, venue changes and a local riding population only recently getting hip to the joys of classic machinery. This year’s edition should prove to be the biggest yet, so get off your butts and ride on over come Saturday, August 22.

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Assumed Dangers

CRM pal, comedian and damned quick rider Alonzo Bodden has a bit he does about the strange phenomenon of non-motorcyclist’s bad habit of telling us creepy stories. “Why is it,” he asks, “that when people realize you ride a motorcycle, they feel the need to tell you the worst crash stories they can imagine?” His is a good question, one borne out recently during a ride along one of my favorite country roads. I headed up the traffic tangled Route 79 North from Sewickley about 40 miles to the Porterville-Prospect exit where the roads get interesting and the traffic thins out. It’s a eat place to get one’s two-wheeled groove on as PA. 528 runs alongside scenic Moraine State Park and its waterways, but just before running through the fast bits, I stopped at a local convenience store for a sports drink. About 12 ounces into my Powerade, a chap parks near to my bike and emerges from his car. He’s wearing enough camo to make him feel at home at a NATO live fire exercise and has what appears to be a handgun capable of slowing most armored fighting vehicles strapped to his belt. “That looks like one fast ‘sickle,” he says approaching my Norton. “The problem is,” he continues, “those things will kill you. Dead.” Now I’m in the mindset of having a nice, mind-clearing motorcycle experience, and, as non-riders never seem to realize, is not an activity that’s in any way enhanced by endless tales of death, dismemberment and other asphalt-inflicted mayhem. Nevertheless, my well-armed friend would not be deterred from the task at hand. “I saw a guy who was cut clean in half when he sped off his crotch rocker into the path of a big-ass semi truck,” he continued, before explaining in gruesome detail how many headless, limbless and, apparently luckless bikers he’s witnessed all coming to grief while attempting to enjoy the sport of motorcycle riding. After attempting, unsuccessfully, to deflect the course of this one-sided conversation several times, I offered back my own insight. “You know, lots of folks- about 35,000 every year- get offed by that high-velocity hole-puncher strapped to your belt, but I don’t really feel the need to remind you of how dangerous those things are,” I said. Being uninterested in the how’s and whys of an explanation, I promptly nicked the Norton to life, successfully drowning out the next round of two-wheeled horror stories. Ear plugs. In the future, I’ve got to start riding wearing ear plugs…

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