The Birth of Café Racer | Issue #1
The burble of my exhaust unwound like a long chord behind me. Soon my speed snapped it and I heard only the cry of the wind. The cry rose with my speed to a shriek while the air’s coldness streamed like two jets of iced water into my dissolving eyes. I screwed them to slits and focussed my sights 200 yards ahead of me on the empty mosaic of the tar’s gravelled undulations.” – T.E. Lawrence
I regularly relive Lawrence of Arabia’s vivid description aboard his beloved Brough Superior as I tear towards the horizon aboard my own beloved bike, a garage-built BMW R80 café racer. It might be slower, louder and less civilised than a modern machine, but no other bike brings me as much joy as riding my own. It’s built, not bought.
I know every nut, bolt, washer and wire about it because my good friend Pat and I shed blood, sweat and the odd tear to transform it into what it is today. To me, it’s priceless, charismatic and never for sale. Ever. So I’ll do what I want with it.
Custom-built bikes are about passion, creativity and individuality. Yours and yours alone. You’ll also learn a helluva lot about your motorcycle and about yourself.
In this special Café Racer edition of Motorcycle Trader, we’ve assembled a handful of bespoke bikes and encouraged their owners tell their story. Amid all the beautifully shot short films and picture-perfect images of custom bikes around the web, there’s also the lesser-told reality that, well, shit happens and these guys haven’t sugar-coated anything in sharing their experiences and secrets. You won’t find stories as candid or informative anywhere else, let alone in one magazine.
You’ll also find stories about what’s involved, how to do it and where to begin when it comes to building the bike of your dreams. If that doesn’t resonate, then consider the convenience of a modern retro bike that might whet your appetite instead. Six bikes are reviewed and all capture the essence of their spiritual predecessors in their own way.
Speaking of essence, we box well above our weight in Australia as far as the custom-bike scene goes. Deus is now a household name across the globe as are events such as the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, both of which kicked off in Sydney. Then there are the must-do events that embrace the everyday backyard builders such as Oil Stained Brain and Throttle Roll. Mark them in your calendar.
Enjoy the trials and tribulations of the bike builders and we hope you’ll enjoy reading this as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together. Welcome to the club.
Café Racer Issue #1
Chris Harris aka CHarris, Editor | Motorcycle Trader & Café Racer