Show Stoppers

Our 11th Annual Reader’s Ride-In Custom Show is in the history books now and despite a weekend-long threat of rain and thunderstorms, the event was a smash. The collection of antique and custom iron on display was far different in its scale and scope than before, proving there’s more innovation and mechanical experimentation going on than even we may have suspected. The show’s coverage, due in our upcoming October/November issue will fill a full 10 pages and presents both the first and second place finishers in each class. So many amazing, unexpected machines rolled in on Saturday, August 11 that we met in the days immediately following the show to implement a couple of new classes come 2019, including Best Restoration and Best Bobber/Chopper as so many bikes deserving of their own trophies showed up.

Much props to the Sewickley P.D. for helping keep things organized as well as our show team who put in long hours and much sweat equity to make things happen. Contributor Blair Powell has, again, kept the troops boppin’ by deejaying with his unmatched collection of rockabilly, swing and early R&B tunes, while managing editor Kim Love deserves a long vacation for her organizational skills and guidance. Look for some sneak peeks of individual class winners in the weks to come.

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Classic Bike Crystal Ball?

There was a long discussion recently within the CRM garage about which classic and custom machines will become the top money sellers of the near future. As anyone who has restored a vintage motorcycle can attest, such project are generally undertaken for a love of doing so, not for any prospective profits that may or, most likely, may not come. Of course there have been some genuine exceptions in recent years, especially among 1950s British bikes, some of which ave accelerated in value as if equipped with turbochargers.

On the office bookshelves I found several copies of Miller’s Classic Motorcycle Price Guide, a handly little hardcover that I started collecting while visiting the UK during the 1990s. Millers has been in existence for decades and their exert researchers have long held a firm grasp on the street value of collectible British motorbikes. Looking back at a mid-1990s edition reveals just how unpredictable the market has proven in the ensuing 25 years.

Back then, clean, running Vincent twins could be had for a mere $15,000 to $20,000 and WWII era Harley WLA models commanded less than half that much. Attend any Mecum auction today and the sticker prices for either of these rare steeds has more than quadrupled. Japanese classic were far from valued back then as they are today, with unmolested Honda CB750s worth just $6,000, or roughly half what they fetch today. Cafe Racer custom values have experienced perhaps the most startling change with beautiful, 1960s-perfect Tritons listed by Millers as being worth just $3,000-$5,000, but that was before the global resurgence in specials just a few years ago.

What’s the smart buy fr investors looking to make money on a classic bike? Well, recent Mecum auctions have proven that Kawasakis from the 1970s are definitely on the upswing, particularly the line of H1 and H2 two-strokes, while the venerable Z1 four is likely to keep climbing in value as original bike supplies dwindle. Just don’t hold on to your two-wheeled investment too long experts warn, as sooner or later, everybody who ever wanted a specific bike will own one, leaving values plummeting.

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Hogs of The Future Have Arrived

With North American streetbike sales lingering in the toilet, manufacturers are growing increasingly clever when it comes to increasing sales and broadening the market. It’s taken years for the OEMs to realize that simply cranking out big-bore machines has limited appeal beyond the Baby Boomers who’ve long desired heavyweight motorcycles. Milwaukee’s Harley-Davidson, for example, have just announced their long-range plans for drawing in a new generation of potential riders and at first blush, the new Hogs look like winners. In the next couple of years, the Bar and Shield plan to unleash a trio of all-new machined that appear aimed at the future instead of the past. In addition to a series of smaller-displacement bikes in the 250cc to 500cc range, there’s been an announcement of a revolutionary, water-cooled, 1,250cc V-Twin engine that will be utilized to power a new line of factory customs. Our favorite among the three is the eye-popping Streetfighter, a funky, stripped-down machine that should shoulder its way into the very popular performance naked bike market alongside such perennial top-sellers as Triumph’s Street Triple and Speed Triple, BMW’s wicked-fast S1000R and Kawasaki’s Z900. The Harley Streetfighter has cutting-edge looks and ticks all the boxes you’d want ticked when looking for a modern performance bike, from upside-down forks to radial brakes, and what promises to be a real stump-puller of an engine. Announced alongside a new adventure bike, a low-slung, futuristic roadster and an electric ride, this is truly a big time for H-D. Yes, we’ve already asked for a test ride, so look for it in the pages of Cafe Racer sometime late next year.

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Our Lame Duck Story

Been busy tearing into the crashed Ducati 999 track bike as of late, discovering some fascinating mechanics behind this 170 MPH road missile. Having read a hardcover book about the creation of this, the bike unfortunate enough to relpace Ducati’s iconic and much-beloved 916/9996 series, the 999’s futuristic styling was not to everyone’s tastes. The complex interworkings of even the 999’s fairings is a thing of genius, as the entire unit was engineered to fit together for maximum aerodynamics. Hidden beneath the lovely torpedo-shaped nose cowl, for instance, is one of the largest and most bizarre headlights in motorcycling history; resembling a Star Wars villain’s intergalactic breathing device, the cast magnesium nacelle holds two weird projector-beam headlamps. Removing the piece took several hours, but revealed the sturdy and very handsome steel trellis frame that all Ducati superbikes (well, until recently) are based upon. Once the bodywork was tossed aside, the bare bones of what should prove a funky and original streetfighter custom really began to emerge. We’re looking to our friends at Spiegler USA to supply a replacement headlight, extended hydraulic cables and a few other choice bits, while much to our surprise, several late-model Ducati parts we just happened to have lying about the CRM garage came in handy. To point, a top fork triple clamp from a 2005 Multistrada front end bolted right onto the 999’s forks, allowing the use of tubular handlebars. This will go a long ways towards making the 999 a more comfortable ride, and easing the wrist, neck and back pain so inherent in sportbikes. Stay tunes and this is going to get more complicated before the Old Duck roars to life again.

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Naked Italians -Va Va Voom!

Rocket Garage of Italy whipped up this 999-based beauty. Bellisimo!

Streetfighter styled customs have long been one of our faves here at CRM. The audacious, bold idea of resurrecting a crashed sportbike into a unique, fast-moving special is borne of pure mechanical practicality and a can-do approach to customizing that we all admire. Just recently, my old, reliable (well, for a Ducati) 999 track bike took a fall during a weekend ride, prompting much soul-searching about the Italian superbike’s future. getting well into my ’50s, riding the cramped, ergonomically-challenging machine was a constant test of patience for my poor aging knees and the warp-speed velocities I used to enjoy on local racetracks with the 999 are seldom enjoyed on the street. Still, after removing what was remaining of her bodywork, a very interesting and even aesthetically-pleasing naked motorcycle started to emerge. Doing a bit of on-line research revealed that some truly tasty specials have beee built from the venerable and much-maligned 999, a few of which, pictured here, are among some of the most handsome streetfighters we’ve yet seen.

Starting with Cafe Racer magazine’s upcoming August/September issue, we’ll be tearing into the Ducati project to see what sort of fast, red road-missile we can crate from its still-formidable remains. Stay tuned and ciao!

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Can You Top This?


With less than one month remaining before the 11th Annual Reader’s ride-In Custom Bike Show, we’re gearing up to see some of our regular show entries again this year. For several of the past few events, starting back when the event was still being stages as party of Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio, Dave Williams has rolled away with a People’s Choice or Best in Show trophy for his far-out T140 Triton. Dave, a bodyman from Upstate New York, has continually wowed the crowds with his wideline special, a bike that’s both dazzling for its intricate details and groundbreaking for Dave’s refusal to follow assumed rules about just what British ton-up bikes can be.

We hear endless compliments about the dual running lamps molded into the Triumph/Norton hybrid’s fuel tank, culled from a classic Buick that Dave was also restoring. There’s even tiny propellers mounted in the reverse megaphone mufflers that spin- naturally- whenever Dave wicks the throttle. Are there Tritons or other hand-built specials out there capable of de-throning Dave’s workmanship? Turn up at Sewickley’s War Memorial Park come Saturday, August 11 and we’ll find out together!

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Mechanic’s Master Class

More than once in recent years folks have asked me why continue to pursue knowledge in the classic motorbike field, especially when motorcycle sales are in the collective toilet in the U.S. and the demographic who remembers when Nortons and Triumphs ruled the roads is quickly becoming a non-riding one. One explanation is practical: if you’re going to own and build these kinds of mid-20th Century machines, knowing how to fix and rebuild them is a necessity (unless you want to go broke!) That and there’s an undeniable magic to sorting out and then riding old bikes, an exhilaration you just don’t experience with modern metal. Take our recently completed 1967 Norton Atlas for example. The basket-case 750 was picked up for just $2,500 a couple of summers back and the trials and (many) errors of building it with CRM pal Nick Coumos has proven an education like no other. Now slowly getting on the road with a series of 10-20-mile shakedown runs, when everything goes well, the brief rides are sensory overloads, with the warm, summer air, the various mechanical sounds and the sensations of a big, air-cooled parallel twin booming away beneath you an unforgettable slice of two-wheeled fun. The downside? After each and every ride, we spend a few minutes tightening every nut and bolt on the bike re-torqueing the head bolts, axles and other bits to ensure that everything we’ve spent two years attaching stays in place for the next ride. This used to seem like a major hassle, but having accepted the risks and responsibilities of being a classic bike owner, it’s now about as mundane as filling the gas tank. It’s, in ways, the ultimate trade-off; wrench time in exchange for a chance to ride a historical motorcycle.

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Boxing Clever

Our on the West Coast, BMW custom parts specialists and CRM pals at Oshmo (www.oshmo.com) have put together a pretty cool Summer Sale on some choice bits to make your air-cooled R9T twin really roar. These guys have done for both new and late-model BMWs what few have in the past- found a bolt-on means of making Bavaria’s best-known bike look cooler, go faster and shed pounds all at the same time. Among the stand-outs is Oshmo’s new R Nine T Breast Plate Engine Cover. Machined from a block of 6061 T6 aviation grade aluminum, it takes some 60,000 plus lines of CNC coding and seven hours to make this baby shine. There’s even a 20% discount available if you enter the code SUMMER2018. Send CRM a pic of your Oshmo-outfitted Beemer when you’re through and you may see it in the pages of this mag.

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Bold In Blue


We’ve been going through images of previous Reader’s ride-In Custom Shows trying to determine whether any of the highly skilled builders who’ve won past awards will be back this August 11. We came across this amazing piece of classic Honda workmanship that rolled in completely unexpected two years ago. The owner was youthful Andy Frederick who- shock of shocks- had never before attempted to crate his own custom motorcycle. The sleek, heavily modded CB350 proves that you don’t require decades of experience and a mortgage-sized budget to roll on a set of remarkable wheels. Just eight short weeks remain to get your entries ready for this year’s event and we’re hoping to see a few more Andy Fredericks come Saturday morning. Oh yeah- in case you’re in town the night before the show, stop by the Slippery Mermaid sushi restaurant, located at 613 Beaver Street, in the heart of Sewickley for a free glass of quality bourbon whiskey courtesy of Rebel yell, one of our proud sponsors. There’s be a few of the choice machines that we’ve built in the pages of Cafe Racer magazine on display and a chance to meet the staff. It all starts at 5 p.m. sharp.

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Promising Progress

As regular readers will know, CRM shies away from running start-to-finish build stories unless the motorcycles in question are constructed here in our home garage. Many folks contact us eager to share pics of their machines from the moment customization begins to the proud day when that tetanus-shot inducing pile of rusted metal becomes a sleek, functioning cafe racer. However, space limitations (read: print is bloody expansive!) and time constraints mean we generally can only show off your finished motorbikes. However, as we’re deep in the build of our own Honda CB450, this shot sent in by Erin DeVega is well worth sharing. DeVega’s Honda twin is far from running condition, but already showing signs of turning out to be a real head-turner. The 450 parallel twin motor was one of Honda’s early masterpieces, resembling a more modern version of the classic British twin of the era, only offering high-tech (for 1968, anyway) improvements like double overhead came, counterbalancers to smooth vibration and electric starting. The way the engine fills the frame’s engine cradle is, in our opinion, a thing of industrial beauty. We’re experimenting with several types of aftermarket bodywork for our CB450, some of the choices to be revealed in our August/September issue. Who knows where our bike will end up, aesthetically, but this image proves there’s loads of inspiring options.

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Loss of an Original

We received word today of the passing of a longtime CRM pal and superb custom motorcycle builder, Cyril Huze. Huze relocated to the U.S. from his native France with a deep appreciation for the American V-twin scene, having worked for years at some of Europe’s top advertising agencies while keeping an eye on the motorcycling world here across the Atlantic. After moving to Florida, Huze began customizing his own Harleys and those ridden by friends, eventually developing a unique style that’s never been reproduced elsewhere. His bikes were imbued with an art deco gracefulness that ignored the prevailing retro chopper trend and instead, looked to American design iconography including classic cars, architecture and advertising. A generous man to a fault, Huze constantly promoted our annual Custom Cafe Racer Shows on his well-read blog that started back in 2005. He notified his readers that he was ill just a month ago before writing his final column. Ride on, Cyril.

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Show Nuff

Just about two months remain until our 11th Annual Custom Bike Show and we’re received some very interesting pre-entry photos from builders both professional and amateur. Our man Sean Skinner will be up from his shop, Moto Relic in Virginia to display has latest creation, a stunner of a Yamaha RD400 two-stroke that he’s just recently finished. Skinner’s machines- which exhibit a wild combination of futuristic cafe racer tech with old school rideability – have twice rolled away with our Best in Show trophy and a hefty sack full of prizes. There’s plenty of worthwhile competition in each of our six judged classes, but Skinner always seems to bring a bike that grabs the public’s attention. Speaking of attention, lots of it has been paid to where exactly attendees can park their cars – we’re happy to announce that there’s free parking for cars in the upper lot of the adjacent Sewickley YMCA on Blackburn Road all day, with room for your trailers if you happen to be towing bikes in. Get those wrenches ready as August 11 is fast approaching.,

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Parts Just Got Scarcer

One of the best aspects of restoring antique British motorcycles, I’ve learned, is the readily-available supply of parts. Weather searching for NOS bits to complete a drivetrain or engine rebuild or using used parts to save a few bucks, locating the necessaries to breathe life back into a classic bike has never proven terribly difficult. Unfortunately, the job just grew a bit harder as California’s Raber’s Parts Mart has announced it will be divesting of its massive British motorbike parts inventory. The vast stockpile of parts for Norton, Triumph, BSA and other timeless brands will be sold off in an auction at Raber’s San Jose, California location come August 4. Owner Bob Raber is also letting go of his sizable classic bike collection which is sure to be worth checking out whether your particular garage has room for a new addition or not. The shop, which has long supported Cafe Racer magazine is still set to provide service for vintage British bikes of all makes, but the Raber’s team has decided to pull the plug on supplying the tens of thousands of parts that make them whole. The field of classic parts suppliers is undoubtedly thinning, but lucky for us old bike freaks, there’s still enough of a pipeline to keep the classics rolling.

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Achieving The Impossible

Blake hard at work electrifying the T140 Triton special.

It’s been a couple of months since I received the diagnosis that I may not be capable of kickstarting motorcycles any longer. Accepting the vagaries of age and time (not to mention three-plus decades of damage to my foot from doing so) I didn’t waste any time learning about my options. For the past couple of years, if not longer, there have been riders looking to convert their kickstart-only British bikes into modern, electric start machines with varying degrees of success. Some companies, like Colorado Norton Works have perfected a brilliant, bolt-on push-button starter for these beloved British parallel twins, and owner Mat Rambow has been generous to toss one our way. CRM’s resident Norton guru Nick Coumos has been busy adapting the comprehensive kit to our yellow, 1973 Commando 750, and besides requiring the replacement of some minor components- the stator, battery and a few clutch bits- it appears the bike should be back on the road in just a few days time. It’s an interesting commentary on the state of the late 1970s British motorcycle industry that neither Norton, BSA or Triumph could manage to install reliable electric starters on their new bikes, even though Honda, BMW and Harley-Davidson had done so years earlier. That still leaves us to adapt a similar kit to my beloved T140 Triton, though CRM’s uncannily talented tech Blake Kelly already has a head start on that job, which is far more complex being as there’s no ready-made install kit with professional instructions in existence. Trial and error? Oh hell yes. Stay tuned….

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California Screamin’

Basking in the 91 degree dry heat and taking in the sights and sounds of countless fast motorbikes whizzing about, our annual journey t test ride new bikes in Southern California is always a mind-bender. The visit is even more meaningful having spent what proved to be oe of the coldest, wettest winters and springs on record at home in Pittsburgh- at times I got the weird feeling that warm weather would never fully return. No such issues here as year-round riding conditions make for some seriously skilled and aggressive motorcyclists, evidenced by a scene we took in just yesterday on Mulholland Highway above the vaunted Rock Store motorcycle hangout. At a popular overlook above the winding mountain road, a group of youthful riders were staging some of the most spirited runs down the canyon we’d ever seen, with one particularly bold fellow racing his Harley-Davidson Dyna Glide straight at a wicked, 45 degree downhill apex where he drifted the bike through at an impossible speed and lean angle. I never even knew such things were possible on a 700-pound cruiser, but as they say, the riding is different in California.

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Chitown Rocks

Typically, we’re far too busy in the editorial offices or garage to attend many motorcycle rallies. Thanks to our talented contributors, we still manage to cover quite a few events on both sides of the Atlantic. However, there’s one annual two-wheeled get-together that’s a must-see for team CRM and that’s the upcoming Motoblot weekend in Chicago. Borne from the ashes of the Windy City’s Mods and Rockers celebration, Motoblot has evolved into the sort of funky, multifaceted street festival you just don’t see much of these days. In addition to some of the best custom bike show classes around, the three-day sioree is awash with amazing live bands like locals Three Blue Teardrops, cutting edge art displays, riding gear and used bike vendors, and enough god grub and beer to stretch your kidney belt by a few notches. The motorcycles both ridden to and entered in Motoblot’s custom shows are as eclectic as the crowd itself, drawing in streetfighters, blinged-out sportbikes, Harleys, bobbers, antiques, choppers and naturally, cafe racers of every size and description.

If that’s not enough of an encouragement to dust off your leathers and head to Motoblot this June 22-24 consider the weather- Chicago tends to be seasonably warm, windy and comfortable making both the ride there and the time spent groovin’ to the event as laid-back as a biking weekend gets. See you there!

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Haggle With Me


Though my wife believes motorcycle parts swap meets to be a product from the Third Ring of Hell, I’ve long dug them. Sure, perusing row after row of dusty, rusty milk crates filled with obscure bike parts isn’t to everyone’s liking, I’ve unearthed some of the best bits for restoring and customizing old bikes at swap meets. Unlike online auctions where most of those involved are expecting to get rich quick on their unused motorbike bits, swap meets are places where sanity and pragmatism still rule. Folks are still willing to haggle over prices and they’r eoften realistic about wanting to move parts on, especially to another enthusiast with big plans for those old forks, brake rotors or frames. With far, far more unused parts lying around the CRM garage than we every expected to have, we’re staging a swap meet of our own at this August’s Reader’s Ride-In Custom Bike Show in Sewickley, PA. The swap area will be located just left of the shelter where our CRM swag booth is located, and we’re cleaning out every nook, cranny and broom closet we’ve got. A quick inventory of what will be on offer includes:

A set of new, alloy cafe racer bodywork

Honda CB500 and 750 fork parts

Used leather jackets and pants

Original promo posters from the Velocity “Cafe racer” TV series

A Dime City Cycles reverse megaphone muffler

Cafe Racer seats and fairings from Airtech

Loads of cafe handlebars

1971 Triumph 650 Bonneville engine, un-assembled

Check out more details as the event draws nearer at www.caferacermag.com/bike-shows

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Ride ‘Em Don’t Hide ‘Em

After over seven months of regular wrenching on our 1967 Norton Atlas project bike, the big, black beast fired to life on the second kick yesterday, promoting a n outbreak of grins around the CRM garage the likes of which haven’t been seen since the first keg of Fuller’s Extra Special Bitter was tapped last year. The project, if you’ve been following the regular magazine installments, started out a good 16 months back when Alex Puls, chief tech from Billy Joel’s 20th Century Cycles helped us retrieve the long-idle 750. The bike had been sitting in storage in a warehouse that’s home to a still-considerable collection of machines owned by Sonny DeFaeo, son of Pat DeFaeo who ran Long Island’s Ghost Motorcycles back in the day. The Atlas was surprisingly clean and complete for a bike that hadn’t turned a wheel ion nearly a half century and we were instantly struck by how easy (well, relatively) the restoration promised to be.

Thanks to the knowledge of local Norton guru Nick Coumos and some generous help from advertisers including California’s Raber’s Parts Mart, the Atlas is about to rule the streets again, just a few weeks shy of its original, 1968 sell date. Check out more details in the June/July issue.

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SHOWTIME

Ah, what a difference a year makes. It’s taken us nearly all seven months since our last Reader’s Ride-In Custom Bike Show to both recover from the 2017 event and to launch a plan for this year’s rally. Come Saturday, August 11, we’ll once again throw open the gates of Sewickley’s War Memorial Park for the cafe racer faithful, and this event should be the most fun of all. Since moving our annual custom show to our hometown a few years back, the enthusiasm and crowds have only grown for this, the nation’s only outdoor cafe racer judged event. The number of top-level entries has neared 100 bikes in each of the past two years and with even larger prize packages on offer, the 2018 event should bring the low-bars/high-performance crowd in from all corners of the country.

Among the highlights to look forward to are:

A walloping $500 cash prize for Best in Show winner

A display of new machines from sponsor Royal Enfield

A Riding Leather Giveaway from Joe Rocket

A Swap meet and Custom Bike Sales Corral

Over $30,000 in total prizes given away in the following judged classes:

Best British Cafe Racer

Best European/American Cafe Racer

Best Japanese Cafe Racer

Best Bobber

Wildest Engineering

Best in Show

People’s Choice

It all starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 11. Check out more details at www.caferacermag.com/shows

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Coolest Places on The Planet

One tends to do a lot of reflecting upon reaching ten years in business. Lately, I’ve been looking back at some of the more remarkable places and events Cafe Racer magazine has been to over the past decade and one London spot comes up time and again. On a quiet, shadowy side street, we found Lewis Leathers, the world’s coolest motorcycle riding gear emporium on the planet. Not only does Lewis offer high-quality riding kit with decades of development and history behind it, the place, run by our pal Derek Harris, is a veritable rocker culture and motorcycle leather museum. Inside visitors will find themselves entranced by the racks of thick, black leather jackets, pants and classically-styled boots that I dare anyone, regardless of how cheap you are, to resist buying. There’s a display case filled with rocker badges to decorate your new jacket with and above the racks are dozens of antique racing and street riding jackets representing more than a century of British motorcycling. I’m not much of a fashionista- though my wife would attest otherwise- but the simple act of donning a piece of hand-made riding kit from Lewis actually makes one feel more confident during a ride. If you’re in London and dig leathers, motorcycles or ton-up culture, you MUST take a side trip to 3-5 Whitfield Street and check out Lewis-your motorcycling experience is incomplete without it.

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Unlikely Hero

There’s a genuine thrill involved in opening new photo files from our staff photographers as we seldom know what to expect. Working primarily in his native UK, chief shooter Simon Everett somehow manages to unearth incredible custom bikes issue after issue. Some are traditional British specials comprised of air-cooled parallel twin engines and the sort of intense, detailed mechanical acumen that can keep a punter engrossed for hours. At other times, Simon captures hand-made bikes that defy category, history and tradition like the cover bike of our upcoming April/May issue. This time, the esteemed Mr. Everett snapped a rare and wholly unexpected Suzuki Savage cruiser that’s been reborn as a modern cafe special. The story details how firms in the U.S. have capitalized on the growing popularity of this ungainly Japanese single, transforming it into a modern successor to the vaunted Gold Stars and Manx Norton singles of the 1950s. Check it out and try not to become inspired to build your own low-buck, big-fun Suzuki Savage special.

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Calling All Amateur Builders

If you’re the type of person who enjoys fiddling with the looks and performance of your bike but does such things as a hobby rather than a vocation, dig this- Indian Motorcycle Company has launched a new contest called The Wrench: Scout Bobber Build-Off. This nationwide competition basically asks for a trio of amateur bike customizers to step up and create wild, unorthodox versions of Indian’s Scout Bobber.

Indian will be accepting submissions from March 15-30, the top submissions will be showcased online for fan voting. Those selected will receive a 2018 Scout Bobber and $10,000 build budget from Indian. The finished bikes will be unveiled in July, and again open for a fan vote to select the winner. The top vote-getter will be announced at this coming August’s Sturgis rally in South Dakota and while hanging out at the party, the lucky builder will receive a grand prize of $10,000.

If you’ve got a head full of custom bike ideas and some unrecognized skills, get thee to the website below and take your chances: www.indianmotorcycle.com/en-us/the-wrench/

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New Sportsters A Real Drag

2018 Parts and Accessories Spring Supplement

Harley-Davidson has just released images of their new-for 2018 Iron1200 Sportster and it’s a real corker. We especially dig the moody, black-on-black finish extending from the burly, 74 cubic inch engine to the shrouded forks. Inspired by the many street customs you’ll see in places like Los Angeles, the Iron 1200 even rolls with a bikini fairing a la “Sons of Anarchy” and a set of optional drag bars for excellent low-speed control. The folks in Milwaukee are smart to borrow trends from the street custom scene and re-interpret them for their factory rides, as we expect this bike will be a hit not only here in the U.S. but globally. There’s some notable tech upgrades to this year’s XL line-up as well, from the adjustable emulsion shocks in the rear to new fork internals and anti-lock brakes as standard. Yes, we intend to ride one and will bring you a full riding evaluation later this spring.

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Spring Flings

Last Year’s Outlier’s Guild Show

Spring is nearly upon us- you can tell from the flood-like rains and stink bugs crawling out of the office woodwork- so here’s a few must-do events to get yer motor runnin’ for the new year.

What’s On: 5th Annual Moto Chop Shop Party
When: Saturday, March 10.
Where: 6859 Valjean Ave, Van Nuys, CA.
What To Expect: New School cafe racer and custom garage invites its deep following of gearheads to show off their rides in afternoon soiree in cool urban setting. Rolled up jeans and flannel a must. www.motochopshop.net

What’s On: Daytona Bike Week
When: Friday, March 9 to Sunday, March 18.
Where: Daytona Beach, Florida
What To Expect: Big, loud custom V-twins by the tens of thousands and loads of exposed flesh, some of it even female. If allergic to un-muffled exhausts, steer clear, but hidden within the manufactured mayhem are some real gems including the wild and wacky customs on display during the Afro-American biker gathering near Mcleod-Bethune College, MotoAmerica roadracing at the Speedway and naked creamed corn wrestling. Honestly- this is a real thing.

What’s On: 2nd Outlier’s Guild Motorcycle Show
When: Saturday, March 31
Where: Downtown Los Angeles
What To Expect: Organizers and custom bike kings Roland Sands and Jay LaRossa staged the first O.G. installment last fall to unexpected success, prompting a second day of “hey, look what I’ve been wrenching on” reveals in Downtown LaLa Land. Bike-related art and photography exhibits will also be on offer.This is the unparalleled epicenter of the new custom scene and to miss it is to miss out.
www.ogmotoshow.com

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Must-Ride Bikes

The Hyde Harrier Bonneville- A Must-Ride special For Certain

This is a great time to be a motorcyclist. Or, more to the point, a motorcycle byer as sales are down across the board, making used machines a steal in most cases. With a bumper crop of new, retro-flavored streetbikes now filling showrooms, choosing the perfect mount can be a confusing process. To address the many, many selections facing you, the new or used streetbike buyer, Cafe Racer magazine has launched “25 Must Ride Bikes” a new series of features apearing in the next, well, 25 issues. Though our popular “used bike buyer’s guide “The Market” covers the best of current and historical wheels on offer, the new articles will serve up a more direct and passionate take on why some of the used buys out there are worth your saddle time. Over the years we’ve thrown our legs across some truly incredible wheels, motorbkes that provide a riding experience that sticks with you for miles and years on end. It’s these unforgettable rides that will fill the “Must Ride” pages every issue and we believe some of our choices will surprise as well as influence your decision on what bike to chose. As someone once said, they don’t really make crappy motorcycles anymore ad seldom in history have those words seemed more true. Catch the fist installment in Cafe Racer’s April/May issue and be sure to send us your thoughts on your personal faves.

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Not Dead, Just Yet

Our Humble Beginnings, Nearly Ten Years Old and Still Kicking

The death of print may be greatly exaggerated in these digitally-obsessed times, but my, what a strange era in which to publish a motorbike magazine. Case in a very large script point: the country’s largest circulation motorcycle magazine, Cycle World has just announced a switch to quarterly publishing, reducing from twelve to four the number of magazines it will print each year. For those keeping score, Cycle World was gobbled up by the European media conglomerate Bonnier Corporation a while back and the voracious firm’s appetite didn’t stop there. Shortly thereafter, Bonnier feasted upon most of the biggest motorcycle titles in existence, adding Street Chopper, Motorcycle Cruiser, Motorcyclist, Sport Rider and Dirt Rider to its impressive portfolio. Many of these titles have previously been owned by large, publicly-traded corporations, but bringing them all together under one umbrella – and forcing previously competing journalists to work side-by-side in one office -was about as unprecedented as a right-side kickstarter.

I have something of a inside line of all this business having once had an extensive telephone meeting with Bonnier’s Andrew Leisner, the bigwig running their motorcycle magazine division. He informed he that Bonnier considers print journalism so post mortem that they’d decided as early as 2015 to kill off all their paper magazines in a few short years, convinced that Internet content is the wave of the future. That struck me as odd as in today’s rapidly-changing media landscape, new platforms are introduced and disappear faster than you can say MySpace. Bonnier is so convinced that Americans are through thumbing magazine pages that they’ve decided to kill print editions of off-road bible “Dirt Rider” and “Sport Rider” while they’re also combing cruiser/V-Twin titles “Baggers” and “Hot Bike” into a single bi-monthly magazine.

Now, if you’re in our particular pair of boots, this is a bold- and some would say, foolhardy move. Mr. Leisner has not noticed the continued growth in both circulation and advertising sales of many print magazines from fashion titles to sports and special-interest publications. Sure, the population’s appetite for print has diminished, especially among Millinneals who are fairly addicted to smartphone and loath to look beyond their palms for much of anything. But we at Cafe Racer really dig the permanence and tactile feel of traditional magazines, which provide a source of factual information, gorgeous imagery and convenience that a three-inch cellphone screen can never match. WE still get giddy at the arrival of our favorite print titles in the mail which is far more than we can say about attempting to maneuver the clutter ad advertising scrum that is Cycleworld.com. The future of all this is, like last night’s Super Bowl, hard to predict, but as long as folks are reading Cafe Racer, we’ll keep the paper coming.

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The Things We Did For Money

When young, ambitious and perennially penniless, we tend to accept all sorts of oddball offers to make a buck. Just last weekend, Blair Powell, a frequent CRM contributor and longtime riding buddy, sent me a You Tube clip of an old Iron City Beer commercial I appeared in some 25 years back. I’d forgotten all about the advertising spot, even though at Pittsburgh Pirates games I’m a frequent imbiber of Old Red Eye as we affectionately call it. Back then, when my writing career was still in its early stages, I’d take on all sorts of odd jobs, some of which were truly deserving of the term. How odd, you ask? Well, I once served as bouncer at a wedding staged between two warring Italian-American families afraid that a post-nuptial punch-up might occur (it didn’t, but I’ve never been propositioned by so many middle-aged women) and I once even “worked” as an extra for an ABC crime drama where I was cast as not one but three different outlaw bikers in one episode. Talk about your low budgets!
Still, the silly musical commercial, filmed at long-gone biker bar the 31St Street Pub – is a fun look back at the past. Kinda makes me want to pump an Iron as the ad says…

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Gavels Down

Though the CRM team is, unfortunately, stuck here in frigid Pittsburgh this weekend, if you’re anywhere near Las Vegas, you’ll want to make a beeline to the South Point casino. That’s where the Mecum Motorcycle Auction is going down. This is a veritable toy box of classic and not-so-classic motorbikes, all of which are for sale at some surprisingly reasonable prices. Of course, not everything that passes before the auctioneer’s gaze is a cheapie- the focus on Pre WWII Harleys, bevel-drive Ducati twins and anything bearing the HRD Vincent label will be commanding mortgage-like bucks. However, this year’s sale, which began yesterday, has a large number of affordable Japanese and British bikes going up for bidding and if you’re in the market for a budget custom build project or restoration Mecum is the place to be. In previous years, we’ve enjoyed covering the event as there are machines on display that we’d previously only seen in books or museums. It’s a fun, carnival-like atmosphere in the massive auction hall which is outfitted for the duration with gear vendors, food stands and yes, a bar. We plan to get busy with a few of our magazine’s cafe racer builds which will be up for sale when Mecum returns to Vegas come June- hope to see you all there.

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A Real Kick in the Starters

Leathers? Check. Cool helmet? Check. Kickstarter refusing to cooperate? Surely!

Aging, as they say, is surely the ultimate humbling experience. I just left my doctor’s office where I was unhappy to learn that, after nearly four decades of kickstarting motorcycles, my right foot is throwing in the towel on such activities. That means the sizable collection of classic British cafe racers in my garage will need to either be converted to a series of very expensive electric starters, or be sold off at auction. Naturally, the former seems the sensible course of action, though forking over the cash to install push-button starters on my old iron is a daunting proposition. Whenever I tell folks about the reason I’ve been limping around in an awkward-looking (and feeling) cast boot for the past couple months, they sigh and relate tales of others motorcyclists who’ve suffered similar fates. When perusing websites for information about electric start conversion parts, I was surprised to find forum after forums filled with testimonials from veteran British bike riders who, for one reason or another, could no longer utilize kick starter systems. A neighbor even stopped by, a Kiwi bloke named Roman who rides and builds antique British bikes, explaining how he’s perfected a kiskstarting procedure with his left foot because he’s suffered a similar injury to mine. We’ll be covering the various technical difficulties of eliminating the kickers on our 1973 Norton Commando and, hopefully, the T140 Triton recently rebuilt in the pages of Cafe Racer magazine over the next year. Even if both of your feet are still capable of thrusting through with a kicker pedal, this could be information worth checking out.

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The Home Stretch

OK, the first successful kick-start of a newly completed custom bike project is one of life’s great pleasures, but this photo illustrates another garage high of sorts. We’ve been working furiously on our 1967 Norton Atlas 750 project in recent weeks and we’ve made so much progress that the bike may well be on the road well before Winter’s over. Chalk up the rapid progress to CRM’s resident Norton Guru Nick Coumos who has shepherded the build along with a confidence and mastery that only comes from five decades riding and working on these brilliant British twins. This is my third Norton build in the past five years and the progress is starting to feel downright familiar in places though there’s still much to learn. The anticipation is reaching a fever pitch as, having spent a few hundred miles aboard the 1959 Dominator 600 Nick helped us construct, we’re all eager to see how the bigger, badder 750cc version compares. Testing this, the last of the featherbed Nortons against the 1973 Commando we’ve built should also prove a blast. Check out the progress come Cafe Racer magazine’s February/March issue, on sale Feb 4.

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Low Bars and High Performance

Perusing images from the past couple of tripe to London’s Ace Cafe, we noticed how many riders across the Pond were building cafe racers equipped with handlebars that, well, let’s just say will please the chiropractor community. It’s rather impressive to see custom speedbikes still being built in the tradition of the early Ton-Up spirit; that is, inspired by racing motorbikes and form and purpose. Back in the day, old timers will tell you that a visit to any short circuit for a race meet was enough to have the lads busily altering their machines in the shed, trying through ingenuity and a growing performance parts aftermarket, to replicate the svelte, no-nonsense machines they’d just witnessed on track. For a time during the 1960s, there seemed to be an unofficial competition among cafe racer builders to mount one’s clip-ons the closest to the front wheel spindle as possible. The winner was rewarded with the envy of his riding buddies and, due the relative youth involved, not much in the way of stiff necks or lower back pain. In today’s custom cafe world, extremely low clip-ons are a rare sighting indeed, though it’s – perhaps comforting isn’t the right word- at least inspiring to see the tradition of two-wheeled aerodynamics still alive.

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Hardasses Need Only Apply

Ah, ’twas but a few days before evidence of last week’s post critiquing a new generation of cafe racer builders who favor designing rides that are basically intended to wow in custom shows instead of zoom along the roads began to roll in from readers. This is a prime example of the movement getting dangerously close to a Jumping The Shark moment as British custom shop Death machines recently posted images of their newly-completed 2007 Triumph Thruxton 900 that’s been fitted, inexplicably, with a seat crafted from polished American Walnut. No notice of the twin’s performance, handling or roadworthiness could be found, though precious, dainty details abound from the matching wooden fuel tank panel to the original 1940s magneto culled from a WWII Spitfire fighter plane. ‘Tis enough to make one wonder when a genre of streetbike built by riders craving improved go, with just a tasty bit of show, started to become precisely the opposite. Maybe there’s a new line of matching Walnut riding jeans on the way for anyone gullible enough to try and ride something this…silly.

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Avoiding The Shark Tank

By now, the phrase jumping the shark has become common vernacular. It originated, folks say, in the wake of an old “Happy Days” TV episode where the series resident biker, Arthur Fonzarelli, jumped a Great White shark, a move so cheesy, many viewers and critics felt it forever sacrificed the integrity of the show. The current issue of Cafe Racer magazine features my regular editorial which covers how the current custom streetbike scene is in serious danger of following Fonzie’s lead. How? Well, in my humble opinion, by proffering a succession of customized cafe racers, trackers and other machines built not for speed or even rideability, but for the bragging rights of the individual builders. Sometimes called Instagram Bikes, these are the sorts of motorcycles on display at indoor custom shows where oil stains beneath the entries are rare, but ornate custom touches like wooden bodywork, brake-less front wheels and paint jobs that resemble the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are common. In the two weeks since the column was published, we’ve received quite a few missives from readers about the subject, most being passionate agreements that, once a streetbike ceases to be functional, can it still really be called a bike at all. Below you’ll find one of the more interesting e-mail’s we’ve received and if you have thoughts on the subject, please send ’em along to us at rockersrule@caferacermag.com

Hi Guys. Just got done reading the new Open Mike and had to give a big thumbs up to Mike for his editorial about bikes being for riding. I can’t agree more. His reference to choppers coming and going was spot on, but not entirely correct. Honda did a fair job of making a functional chopper with the Fury, which to me was a slap in the face to all the “artists” that made big gaudy “works of art” with hard tails and fat tires, only to keep the local chiropractors in business with all of their back problems. I think you guys do a great job with the mag, and it is refreshing to know that rideability is king in you builds. I only wish my back would still allow me to ride café bikes. I was at Kissel Motorsports in State College recently and Josh tried his best to get me on an RnineT, but I couldn’t sit on it hunched over for more than a few seconds without back pain. Donnie at Westmoreland Moto Guzzi tried his best to sell me the V7 Verde Legnano he had in his front window a few years back, but I couldn’t take the riding position. I went for the Stornello when it came out because I could ride it comfortably. I have been riding, working on, and customizing bikes all of my life, and I tend to find the articles in Café Racer to be very enlightening and very informative. It is very comforting to know that all of the bikes featured are rideable I like the way you always describe how the bikes handle and ride in the articles. Very important to those of us that put on a lot of miles. Even though I can’t comfortable ride café bikes any more I still love the style and culture. You guys can make fun of me for riding a scrambler, but at least I’m in for the entire day! Keep up the good work.

Lou Casadei

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The Hardest Part

This bloke had to feel silly in this gear!

Likely the most common question leveled at us magazine makers is what’s the toughest part of our job. Well, keeping the damn enterprise solvent in this day and age of Internet-digital media is always a challenge. But the regular installments of our humor page, known to readers as the Stylin’ Section, seems to prove a tough job issue after issue. Humor, after all, is highly subjective and locating – and then striking- the collective funny bones of thousands of readers each and every issue is not a task for the faint-of-heart. Raised on a steady diet of irreverent humor from “National Lampoon” and “Mad” magazines and huge fans of stand-up comedy, our staff manages to share a few creative laughs in a magazine genre that’s not been renowned over the years for its sense of humor. To be honest, I’ve always dug the wacky, bad-boy British sporbike magazines like “Superbike” and “Performance Bike” monthlies where the contributors are damn sure to include the latest on-bike tech info with a wry sense of mischief that never fails to put a smile on my face. This issue- our December/January offering- tackles the, ahem, “history” of motorbike crash helmets with some gut-busting images and copy. Check it out and feel free to share you own humorous takes on biking with CRM via rockersrule@caferacermag.com

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Royal Enfield Twins for 2018


The Interceptor


Continental GT 650

Regular readers of Cafe Racer magazine will know how fond we are of Royal Enfield’s single-cylinder Continental GT. The spritley, 535cc thumper has long held a place in our garage fleet, serving us well as a backroads scratcher par excellence and a sturdy, everyday commuter ride. The Harris Bros. designed chassis and top-notch Italian Paoli suspension makes the GT a true factory cafe racer, while the 1960s styling brings smiles to the mugs of bike enthusiasts and everyday Joes. We’ve been hearing rumors of a new series of parallel twin Enfields for years now, as the company is eager to delve into the rich history it created back in the ton-up era with their quick, handsome Interceptor 750. Well, feast your peepers on the newly released Continental GT 650 and the classically-styled Interceptor, both due in dealerships for 2018. The bikes are based on the earlier GT’s Harris chassis and suspenders though they’re now fitted with six-speed gearboxes, anti-lock brakes and what’s said to be a 47 horsepower output at a smooth, untroubled 7,000RPM. The Interceptor’s lines are evocative of the original bike’s classic British design, but 21st Century updates include a hex-stitched brat-style flat saddle and orange, red or silver paint. The more racy GT looks very similar to the single of the same name, but boasts a true ton-plus top speed as opposed to the single’s 80-ish MPH max. We’re eager to throw a leg over both and RE has just informed us there’s a U.S. launch scheduled for early spring, so stay tuned.

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Hell Bent for Honda Issue

Coming up in our December/January issue, we explore the always fascinating world of customized vintage Honda motorcycles.There are many theories concerning why Big red has become the default cafe bike for the 21st Century, from those who say it’s the sheer volume of machines imported by the firms during the 1970s, to the inherent build quality and resilience of Hondas that keeps them running strong seemingly forever. We take a global view of the current Honda customizing craze with a wicked-fast Rickman-framed special from Germany (see above,)a sweet Chicago CB750 from youthful builders Federal Moto and the much-anticipated feature on the Sallings family’s inspiring work on a quartet of early Honda air-cooled twins. We’ll take a look at which classic Hondas may become tomorrow’s custom creations with a price-guide on a few models you may not have considered for your next project bike while our resident Tech Editor Matt Wiley begins disassembling the factory carburetors on our own CB500 Four project bike to reveal some common problems with these early ’70s flyers. If you’re not a fan of Hondas now, check out the next issue which should surely change your tune. One sale Dec. 4.

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Get Yourself Heard on Driverless Cars

Like most transportation policy in this nation, decisions are made by elected officials and lobbyists without a single nod towards the concerns of us two-wheelers. Case in point- transportation providers like Uber are busy working to produce technology that would make driverless cars commonplace on our roads, but as they and several automakers do their bidding to rush legislation through Washington, D.C. no one has considered whether these vehicles will be safe to operate around motorcycles. We even spent several weeks tracking down Craig Ewer, a spokesperson for the famously interview shy Uber who admitted that no one from the motorcycling lobby- not the AMA, not the Motorcycle Industry Council- has been consulted on the matter, which is not surprising. Lucky for us, the AMA has issued the following press release aimed at getting riders active in making sure we don’t get steamrolled- literally and figuratively- in the rush to make autonomous vehicles a reality.

Federal regulator requests comment on updated automated vehicle policy Voice your concerns today! On Sept. 15, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested comments on its updated federal automated vehicle policy – Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety. The deadline to submit comments is Nov. 14. Take Action This issue is of vital importance to motorcyclists nationwide, as carmakers and technology companies deploy ever-more-sophisticated vehicles on our roadways. The American Motorcyclist Association needs your help to ensure that this new technology and infrastructure recognizes motorcyclists and reacts appropriately to your presence. Help us keep you and our fellow riders safe by responding to this message.According to the NHTSA notice, “as automated vehicle technologies advance, they have the potential to dramatically reduce the loss of life each day in roadway crashes.” Reducing traffic crashes involving motorcycles and decreasing the number of motorcycle operators and passengers injured or killed each year is a top priority of the AMA. Through a comprehensive approach of promoting rider education, the use of personal protective equipment, increased motorist awareness and discouraging impaired motorcycle operation, the AMA seeks to enhance motorcycle safety in transportation and recreational activities.While the AMA is heartened to see that motorcyclists are mentioned in the Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety document in which they encourage entities to consider “external actors with whom the ADS may have interactions, including other vehicles (both traditional and those with ADSs), motorcyclists.” We feel more should be done to ensure automated driving systems can properly interact with motorcyclists on the road.To protect the safety of our nation’s more than 8.5 million motorcyclists, the AMA is urging NHTSA to work with manufacturers, software developers and other entities to create testing procedures that can verify the ability of this technology to safely interact with motorcyclists on the road.Additionally, the AMA is concerned that vehicle operators will become increasingly dependent on these automated systems and complacent with regard to their proficiency in operating their vehicles, subscribing to the mindset that “technology will rescue me from any bad decisions I make.”Therefore, the federal automated vehicle policy should include a comprehensive consumer awareness campaign to educate the public on these new technologies and their limits.Advanced crash-avoidance warning systems technologies used in motor vehicles must not supplant an operator’s responsibility to operate the vehicle in a safe and responsible manner. While technology can, and should, enhance the actions of the operator in maintaining control of the vehicle, safe operation of a motor vehicle should remain the operator’s highest priority.With the safety of motorcyclists the utmost priority of the AMA, we urge you to voice your opinion before Nov. 14.

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Three Fast, Talented Females

We really dig breaking new and unusual stories at CRM mainly due to the fact that interesting custom bike stories are so much fun to uncover. Next issue, we’re presenting a generous spread on three young women from Arkansas who have waded deep into the DIY custom bike building game and, as you can see, come up winners. Each chose a vintage Honda as their donor bike and, under the skilled guidance of veteran builder Jan Sallings (the only bloke in the photo) they’ve tackled everything from engine rebuilds to welding and everything in between. These aren’t just polish-and-peek showbikes they’ve built, but a trio of hard-ridden road-burners, stripped down for extra performance and everyday reliable. It’s a true inspiration to see youngsters of any gender embracing the hard work and time=consuming arts of designing home-brewed special, so be sure to check out CRM’s December/January issue for the full story. Keep on wrenchin’, ladies.

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A Hero, Still Inventing

I’ve been aware of the meticulous work and innovative designs of Swiss cafe racer engineer Fritz Egli ever since seeing one of his ultra-rare Vincent-powered specials at a London bike meet some 20 years ago. At the time, I was so blown away by actually seeing a Vincent Black Shadow cafe custom that I didn’t know exactly how special this particular machine was. After much research, it turns out that Egli, now 80 and still involved in the operations of his shop near Zurich, was the bloke who revolutionized Vincents for roadracing in the late 1960s but redeveloping their rickety, dated chassis design into something rigid, stable and more modern. Egli wh had been a part of the burgeoning Swiss cafe racer scene before taking up racing, went on to work similar magic on big, often ill-handling Kawasaki and Honda fours during the 1970s and 80s, and we’re proud to announce a rare interview with the man hisself in our upcoming 2017 Annual Edition. The feature focuses on Egli plus two additional cafe racer legends who are still creating custom bikes that we’re lucky enough to be able to purchase today. Look for it come Nov. 1. Ride on!

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Shoulda Been Contenders

Moto PGH. built this groovy Yamaha 650 That Shoulda Coulda Been a Winner

‘Tis a strange and wonderful problem to have, but each yeear during our annual custom bike show, we’re so busy with the organizing end of things that there’s amazing custom bikes that miss our eye. Oftentimes- and this past August’s even was no exception- we’ll be strolling through the crowded park, running one errand (or twenty) when we come across an attendee’s motorcycle that’s clearly as fine and well-built as any entered in the official show. It’s a mystery why so many crowd-gathering machines don’t end up in contention for prizes; some owners confess that they simply can’t stick around long enough for the ate afternoon trophy ceremony while others just aren’t that interested in seeking approval for their work. Our popular People’s Choice Award which allows the crowd to select one of the show’s top winners (who rode away with over $2,000 in swag, by the way) often finds folks asking us why their favorite custom bikes aren’t wearing entry numbers, a question we just don’t have an answer for.
Either way, we’ve compiled a Top Five list of this year’s Bike That Could Have Won Trophies in the current, October/November issue which is worth taking a look at. Who knows- maybe next year, everybody’s machine will be automatically entered in the prize competition when they ride in…

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You Meet The Most Interesting Folks On Cafe Racers

Since launching this publication – in an Isle of Man hotel pub, of all places_ nearly 10 years ago, we’ve encountered some truly amazing and interesting people who also dig fast, sleek classic bikes. Among the first to phone in was singer and lifelong biker Billy Joel who called our offices so casually, we figured it was one of the staffers playing a prank on us. Years later, the Piano Man has proven endlessly helpful as his shop boss Alex Puls has helped wit tech knowledge and parts for our custom bike builds and allowed us to ride bikes from their 20th Century Cycles collection whenever we stop by. Comedian Alonzo Bodden is another high-profile bloke who shares a genuine passion for rapid two-wheeler and his friendship- not to mention his serious talents on a motorbike- have been a boon to us for years. Coming up in our 2017 Annual Issue that goes on sale at month’s end is action film star Jean Claude Van Damme who, with his son Kris, recently constructed a groovy Triumph Thruxton custom that CRM is proud to feature on teh cover. The bike is a tribute to JCVD’s longtime canine companion and the story of how two generations of this biking family came together to create it is moving in more ways than one. Check it out come Oct. 31- it’s a real, ahem, kick!

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Not As Hard As It Looks

Though I’ve been riding and tinkering with motorcycles for nearly 40 years, the actual, hands-on building of engines has been a skill I’ve never accrued. Being busy both working a demanding journalism career (or three) and simultaneously struggling to maintain a family life and an annual riding season of around 10,000 miles has left little time for serious wrenching. Nevertheless, I’ve learned how to tear down and make general repairs all sorts of bikes from four-valve Ducati superbikes to antique Tritons and Nortons and Hondas, picking up the necessary knowledge by plenty of trials and more than y fair share of errors. It wasn’t until meeting CRM’s resident Norton guru, Nick Coumos, that the opportunity to wade wrenches-first into the intracacies of engine repair came my way and in the two years since, the knowledge Nick has shared continues to amaze and impress. Having ridden and repaired Norton twins for over 50 years, Nick’s tutoring has made understanding the inner workings of these staid old Britbikes a fairly straightforward affair. I’m always shocked when he has me to his workshop for a regular tech lesson where I inevitably find that the task that I’m so apprehensive about tackling (and possibly getting wrong) generally proves far easier than, say, learning a new word processing software program on the computer. Now, with a 1967 Norton Atlas engine nearly complete with Nick’s guidance, I’m confident that the classic British bikes in my garage will remain roadworthy well into the future. Hats off to Nick.

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A Legendary Winner

With dozens and dozens of entries pouring in during our August 12 Custom Bike Show to name the giveaway British Motorcycle Gear leather jacket, company honcho Paul Brooks has announced that he’s chosen a winner. Turns out local dude Bob Mathe chose The Legend Jacket, which is a very fitting name. Bob will receive his own Legend jacket, complete with protective armor from B Read More

Your Chance To Own Our Mean, Green Machine

It was during the very first season of Velocity’s “Cafe Racer” TV series that one of the producers happened upon the idea of a low-buck build-off challenge episode. Me and my then co-host, rockabilly singer Ben Frideman, were taken to the AMA’s Vintage Motorcycle Days weekend at Mid-Ohio and each given $1,000 cash. Our mission? To build a running cafe racer in just 24 hours, using whatever tools we could find in the paddock and our wits. On my team was the skillful New York team from XPO Streetfighters, A.J. Fulgado and Frank Ford, both of whom pitched in with imagination, sweat equity and loads of patience to build, a well, a not-too-groovy-looking motorcycle seen above. Once the show ended, Fulgado asked to take the 1978 Suzuki GS750E back home to further customize it, but some two hyears later, he still hadn’t found time to complete the job. CRM’s editor at large Blake Kelly and I retrieved the Suzook and returned it to our HQ where, over a series of issues, rebuilt her into the stunning, roadworthy custom you see here. Unfortunately, limited garage space means the GS has to be sold off and she’s awaiting your bids on Ebay as this is being written. Check out the details on ebay, profiling a laundry list of upgrades from the Gazi rear shocks to the Dyna 2000 electronic ignition, Roland Sands lighting equipment and custom subframe and fiberglass bodywork. There’s even a set of Keihin CR carbs dyno tuned for perfection. Own a piece of cafe racer history with this quick, beautiful piece of metal that you can simply gas up and ride everyday.

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Steel City Mods Vs Rockers

The summer’s soon to be winding down, but the good dudes at the Steel City Rockers are staging their annual custom speedbike and scooter get-together come Saturday, September 2. The Rocker club has taken the helm of this established event, adding new sponsors and reborn energy to the show, which is located on Grant Avenue in Pittsburgh’s historic Millvale neighborhood, right off of Route 28 on the North Side. Drop by anytime between Noon and 7 p.m. for a pin-up girl contest, a custom bike and scooter show, a DJ spinning vintage rock and Northern Soul tunes and a good time whether you dig Fred Perry Shirts and parkas or studded black leather. www.steelcitymodsvsrockers has more info. Make sure to stop by the CRM booth and say howdy and check out some of our recent custom build bikes from the magazine. And oh yes- show us your custom cafe bike and it may end up in a future issue. See you there!

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Missed The Show? Well, Dig This!

Naturally, weather, logistics and professional commitments kept lots of folks who wanted to from attending last weekend’s Custom Bike Show. Well, thanks to the good guys at Virginia’s Cognito Moto, there’s some very well-shot, high definition video of Saturday’s events that just about sums up the fun, excitement and amazing machines on display. We especially dig the looks of surprise and sheer happiness on the faces of the ten individual bike show class winners, and the swag bags they took home were enough to give Ms. Oprah pause. Sit back, enjoy and make sure not to miss next year’s affair, slated again for the second weekend in August.

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Our Greatest Show Yet

With the skies pissing down on our Friday night Rebel yell Pre-Party, we were encouraged to find a hearty hundred souls in attendance. The screening of the Mods and Rockers classic “Quadrophania” at Sewickley’s Tull Theater proved a hit and as we exited late nite, the skies were clearing, leaving us encouraged about Saturday’s possibilities. And encouraged we should have been as the warm, clear weather all day Saturday brought out custom cafe racers in numbers we’ve never before seen. They roared in from North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio and even Canada, showcasing a broad range of styles and an even broader interpretation of what quick, classic, custom streetbikes can be. By mid-afternoon, the crowds were surging, the vendor row was poppin’ and the two parking lots at full capacity. The 61 entries into this, our Tenth Annual Reader’s Ride-In Custom Show was a new record, proving the build-your-own passions show no signs of abating. Seeing builders in their early twenties and veteran shop-masters well into retirement all showcasing their hand-built machines was a truly groovy moment. These were, for the overwhelming majority, ridden, functional machines, focusing on real-world performance and style, not abstract trailer-queens. Check out a few of the choice entries and look for complete coverage come our October/November issue. Much love to our sponsors: Royal Enfield North America, Rebel Yell Bourbon, British Motorcycle Gear, Cognito Moto, Rick’s Motorcycle Electrics, Workshop Hero, Coker Tire, Joe Rocket, Langlitz Leathers, Avon Tires, Motul, Mike’s XS, Randakk’s Cycle Shakk, Z-1 Enterprises and all the staffers who worked their buns off to make it happen.

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Time To Re-Tire

If you’ve riding classic iron this summer and still running old school bias-ply ribbed tires, let us hip you to a serious piece of information. several tire manufacturers are currently rolling our modern, sticky radial rubber for vintage motorcycle rim sizes and after fitting a set to our 1978 Suzuki GS750 custom, the bike is totally re-born. The new hoops are constructed of the same sort of compounds that make sportbike tires to adhesive to the roads and easy to corner fast on; we replaced an aging set of ribbed Avons on the Suzuki with a pair of Avon’s Roadrider Radials and within the first few tight corners, the difference in handling was as clear as a cop’s lights in the rearview mirrors. The ability to countersteer into turns and feel the front tire’s feedback though the handlebars was a new sensation for this nearly 40 year-old custom bike and at higher speeds, the stability and conficence are downright, well, modern. incredible results for a few hundred bucks investment, and most tire makers, from Metzeler to Dunlop to Pirelli have entered the vintage radials game, so now’s the time to seriously upgrade your classic bike experience. See you in the twisties!

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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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