I have wanted a “cafe racer” motorcycle ever since I finished my rider course and got my motorcycle license back in August of 2009. I haven’t been able to buy or build one due to various reasons. However, due to recent circumstances, that has changed. The first step to a “cafe” build is getting a bike. The one I’ve had my eye on is this one, a 1972 Honda CL 350 ($2,600; I ended up getting the bike for $2,100; $500 off the asking price) that I found for sale on Motorcycles and More.
Before going out and buying any parts for the bike, there are a few things that I can easily do that will enhance its appearance. To start, “cafe racers” are all about less being more, thus the rear luggage rack, the front and rear turn signals, the rear view mirror, and the tail light would all be removed.
The next step I would take would be to replace the tires. Tires are the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to instantly and drastically affect the appearance of any vehicle. Typically, it is one of the first steps one can take. Having the right rims and tires can completely change the look, feel, and attitude of a vehicle. In this case, the Firestone tires ($170 each) combined with powder coating the rims (black) will increase the “cafe” feel of the bike.
Another instantly apparent feature of the bike which I dislike is the way the exhaust pipes are set up. I like the look of a wrapped pipe with an opposite colored tip. In the case of my bike I would have a white wrapped ($63) pipe* ($300) with a black exhaust tip ($53).
*Not sure if the 2-into-1 would connect with this muffler or if I’d need something to attach to it.
A tail light is a simple detail, but an important one that helps a bike express its attitude. Most of the “inspiration bikes” listed below (click the “continue reading” button), specifically the Deus bikes (the Turquoise W650 and the Major Bloodnok), wear tail lights that I would love to see on my cafe build. I believe they are Posh (the brand name, not the adjective) tail lights, but when I search the Posh website, I can’t find them. However, the one pictured above -the vintage round tail light ($70)- would make an acceptable second choice.
Just like the tail light, the headlight is an important feature of any motorcycle. In the case of “cafe” bikes a lot of owners tape an “X” over the headlight as this is what is done in racing. Though this is cool, a detail I like even more can be found on this bike. The mesh “grill” cover achieves a similar look in a classier way. The only problem is, as of yet I haven’t found where I would be able to procure one.
One of the final key ingredients to making a “cafe” bike is in how you physically ride it. Leaning down towards the tank like you’re on a “crotch rocket” is one more way that the look is accomplished. In order to do this, the bike needs lower -raked back- handlebars. In this case the gloss black “Cafe” Clubman’s ($40) pictured above would do the trick.
—Cost for parts listed on my “cafe” build (excluding the cost of the bike & the cost of tax and shipping): $866
The good thing is that since it is a project bike, it doesn’t all have to be done at once. I can spread out buying the different parts for as long as I need in order to be able to afford buying them. Part of the fun of a build is doing all the work. If you buy all the parts right away then you finish really quickly and you don’t have anything to work on.
Cafe Scorpio – I love overall elements -exhaust pipe, handlebars, tail light, fenders, tires- of this bike
The New Blood – I love the paint job of this one
Turquoise W650 – I love the color, tail light, and tires on this bike
Major Bloodnok – I like the simplicity and look of the profile of this one
The Inlander – exhaust pipe, tires, fenders and overall vibe of the bike
Honda CB360 Cafe Racer – I love the overall look of this bike
Cafe Racer from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – clean, rugged, simple
—To Do list summary
Rear luggage rack delete, directional delete, tail light delete, new rims and tires, new brake light, mesh headlight cover, new exhaust system, lower -“cafe” style- handlebars, smaller front and rear fender, front disk brake(s), paint job, (possibly) engine swap or engine upgrade for a bit more power.
Also, keep in mind that any parts I swap out, I can then sell to people looking for original parts, thus giving me money to put back towards the build. Then again it might be good to keep the parts in case I want to revert it back to stock.