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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all
Great that I've found this site at last - I've been interested in Cafe Racers since I was a nipper.
Hot a question that you can help me settle as my first post...

Wikipedia gives an example of one of the first factory cafe racer as the Harley Davidson XLCR of 1979... surely not?

If I remember the Moto Guzzi 750 S (what a beautiful bike, I had so many dreams about that when I was 16 ) came out in 1973 or 1974 - a good 5 years before the Harley - It had real clip ons , bumstop seat, rearsets and go faster stripes - surely the first factory CR???

Can you think of an earlier one?:confused:
 

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I suppose it could be argued that the BSA Gold Star was a factory cafe. Royal Enfield produced the Continental GT 250 in the mid 60s that had all the cafe requisites.
 

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Perhaps the wikki article should be ammended to first AMERICAN factory cafe racer. And welcome Triang.
 

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Well the Harley shares the distinction of being the first and one of only two bikes to ever be officially called a cafe racer as part of its name by the manufacturer. The only other one is the guzzi v7 cafe racer that came out a couple of years ago.

You don't believe everything you read on the Internet, do you?

The problem is how do you define cafe racer? As per the original definition which is an insult? As per the modern hipster definition which is all style and no substance?

Although I am sure it is not the first, the Vincent black shadow certainly qualifies since it was the general sporting model between the black lightning race bike and the pedestrian rapide. But you could say it was predated by the 1934 Indian sport scout. And that predated by the brough superior ss100....and so on and so on.
 

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Almost as bad as trying to define the first "crotch rocket."
[1985 Suzuki GSX750R or 1985 Gamma?]
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Whoa...you blokes are way ahead of me - and I was only thinking of the 1970's. Of course the RE Continental - completely forgotten about that which is blindingly obvious now you mention it - as for the others I haven't even heard of the Italian exotica you mentioned (shame on me) .... Indian Scout? Bough Superior SS100...that would make Lawrence of Arabia a Ton-Up boy...which in reality I guess he was ;)
 

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Almost as bad as trying to define the first "crotch rocket."
[1985 Suzuki GSX750R or 1985 Gamma?]
maybe. crotch rocket is basically a catch all term people use to describe anything that loosly falls into the sport bike category. It isn't a genre like dual sport, crusier, race bike, sport bike, chopper, etc.....despite use of the term among motorcyclists, most people I find who use it aren't motorcyclists and it is used with a slightly deragatory connotation. Crotch rocket is basically a synonym for sport bike and sport bikes are pretty clearly defined - any post 1984 high performance motorcycle. I know that kinda includes some grey area bikes like the vfr800 and the later katanas which are technically classified as sport tourers and it is unclear whethere sport tourer is its own thing or a subset of sport bikes.

I will gladly admit this labeling thing has gotten out of hand in the bike world. Blame it on basic principles of marketing and the merchants' desire to specifically target a certain demographic. I mean when you have to invent a classification just for the basic motorcycle (standard) things are just too out there. And just as it giveth, it taketh away - a chopper used to refer to any custom motorcycle, for sport or show, not it has a specific look, with a specific culture, and the rider has a specific look, etc....

so where does that leave us - be wary of anybody trying to give something definition (if you don't know to be wary of anything I write on this site or say in real life - then you really aren't paying attention). Who cares if something is the first "factory cafe racer"? does it really matter? what changes about the hobby for you just knowing that one little bit of information? All that is important is that you are having fun and not taking it so seriously.
 

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Whoa...you blokes are way ahead of me - and I was only thinking of the 1970's. Of course the RE Continental - completely forgotten about that which is blindingly obvious now you mention it - as for the others I haven't even heard of the Italian exotica you mentioned (shame on me) .... Indian Scout? Bough Superior SS100...that would make Lawrence of Arabia a Ton-Up boy...which in reality I guess he was ;)
of course you were, because you have no idea what you are talking about.

You are english so I will give you a marginal pass on use of the word ton and the phrase "ton up boy" since it actually applies to the land and the people and the culture you are from. If you were american you would be mocked mercesily. Ton up boys may have existed for a breif period in english history, but it wasn't the sum total representation of vintage performance motorcycling (what cafe racers really should be called). We know where it ends - the whole shebang came to a gradual but fast end in the period between 1985 and 1991, which means in that time the genre expirenced many different changes and iterations and cultures. To think that "cafe racers" are limited to the era of rockers and rent boys is like thinking orange marmalade is the sum total representation of all jams everywhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Well you're right Geeto, it doesn't ,matter very much at all, as opposed to riding your bike and having a great time with it, more a thought for an idle hour
 

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Maybe the H-D XLCR was the first factory bike that was actually named and sold as a "Cafe Racer"
Edit: I posted my reply before seeing Geeto's reply stating the same.
 

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funny how the use of "ton" or "ton up boy" will bring mecrciless mockery but "cafe" is OK. I'm pretty sure George Brough who called his machines "the Rolls Royce of motorcycles wouldn't take too kindly to having his machines called cafe racers. Those that hung out at cafe of the period certainly couldn't afford a Brough. Much the same applies to Vincents. Expenxive and not for the cafe crowd,
 

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by the way I read the wiki entry and it said this:

By 1977, a number of manufacturers had taken notice of the cafe racer boom and were producing factory cafe racers, most notably the Harley-Davidson XLCR.[SUP][12][/SUP]
It doesn't say it was the the first factory cafe racer, just that all the factories had by 1977 a model in their lineup that was representative of the genre and that the XLCR was an example of this. I don't think it implies it was the first either. I always thought the John Player Norton was the first full fairing factory street bike until someone showed me a picture of a 1954 vincent black prince and a 1958 Royal Enfield airflow fairing.

Plus it is wikipedia, I could edit it will all sorts of incorrect information I can find on the internet right now.

The problem with having these culture conversations is that they are usually started by someone who's entire world view of this end of the hobby seems to think it starts in 1964 and ends in 1980. So let's try something different. You try to define it in the most basic terms you can and we will give you examples of bikes that support or contradict your definition. Sound cool?
 

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funny how the use of "ton" or "ton up boy" will bring mecrciless mockery but "cafe" is OK. I'm pretty sure George Brough who called his machines "the Rolls Royce of motorcycles wouldn't take too kindly to having his machines called cafe racers. Those that hung out at cafe of the period certainly couldn't afford a Brough. Much the same applies to Vincents. Expenxive and not for the cafe crowd,
We have cafes in america and have had them for quite some time, but ton on the other hand wasn't part of the english slang until fairly recently and even then it doesn't represent 100 like it does in Uk english but rather a vague discription of something being a lot (e.g. "that's a shit ton of macaroni salad" or "these boxes of feathers weigh a ton"). Maybe they weren't the cafe's of paris in the '20s but english transit cafe's in the 1960s weren't any different from american truck stops. Besides I thought the post war cafe's of europe were the great melting pots of art and culture, or has Gene Kelly been lying to me all these years.....
 

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The word ton in regards to weight and speed has been around England for a long time. The post (and pre) war cafes were great melting pots of art and culture customed by penniless artists and those who would change the world. Definitely not the sort that were customers of the British truck cafes.
 

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I had always heard the "ton" phrase used in relation to whether your bike could "Hit The Ton" (100mph). I always referred to my bike as just a Road Racer and not a cafe until the mid 80's when the term was picking up popularity
 

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We didn't refer to our modded bikes in the 70's and 80's as cafe racers although you probably would in today's parlance, it would just have sounded queer (you would probably say gay today, although we didn't know what the fuck that meant at the time!). We just called them souped up bikes... to say 'cafe racer' was reserved for souped up British bikes from the previous generation.
It just goes to show that the meaning of words take on different relevance through time, and like Geeto implied, a chopper could be a bike you make up from other bikes, not necessarily one with raked forks and ape hangers, it could be a cafe racer.
Sick eh!
 

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Factory Cafe Racer? Isn't that an oxymoron? The very nature of there genre dictates that the bike is modified from stock, so it's unlikely you could say a bike that came straight off a production line could qualify.

A bit like the Ducati Streetfighter. In 30 years time Wikipedia will probably say it was the first production fighter, but people who were there will know that that's not possible because there's no such thing as a "factory" streetfighter. It has to be modified from stock to qualify.
 

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from my time spent hanging around inappropriatly older guys when i was a kid these are all the terms I heard them use to discuss what is essentially now being called a cafe racer:

- special
- road racer
- road burner
- leg burner
- road rocket
- hot rod
- street racer
- street machine
- superbike
- money bike (as in it makes money)
- fast company (as in "that bike's fast company")

I got "chopper" referring to a modded motorcycle from Sid Biberman (via the Vincati book), where I also heard the phrase "land of the righteous" as an expression for making a mod that you couldn't undo. I heard pleny of guys refer to big japanese superbikes as cafe racers, and even bought a cafe racer t-shirt at the NY motorcycle show in 1988. My father was the one who used to tell me cafe racer was a derogatory term - as in "look at that guy, he things he's hot shit with that bike but all does is sit outside the cafe - he doesn't even race it. He just pretends he's fast - he's a real 'cafe racer'"


Hillsy - I have to disagree with you on one point. I don't think the genre dictates that the bike be modded from factory stock, just that is be high performance or at least a higher performance than the pedestrian standard models in a bike's lineup. so the Z1R qualifies because it is a racy-er version of the kz1000, and the JPN qualifies because it was a homologation special built to qualify pieces for certain racing classes, and the bsa gold star qualifies because gold stars just kick ass.

and everybody knows the triumph speed triple was the first "factory streetfighter". :p
 
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