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Advice Needed for Cafe Racer Project Bike

Discussion in 'Modifications and Projects' started by Henri, Jul 18, 2010.

  1. G'day Gang,

    I'm a young (19) relatively new rider (about 22 months now) with a varied riding experience (daily commute on a 125 scooter, weekend blast and offroad riding on a KLR/Tenere and 2 weeks travel on an Enfield in India). Now that I've got a little bit of riding under my belt I'm interested in a bit of an upgrade and want something I can make custom and tinker with.

    Like many riders enamored with just going off and meditating in the wind, I couldn't help but feel drawn to a cafe racer

    First off, I looked pretty seriously at what I call the trinity doing modern classics; Triumph, Ducati and Moto Guzzi. But after much thought, some test rides and the realisation I couldn't afford any of them, I dropped the notion.

    But a chat with my Dad's mate who imports bike from Japan made me realise there are far more options than just a Bonnie/Thruxton, V7 or a GT1000.

    So I've starting looking at some of the beauties out of Japan circulating in Aus. So far I'm taken with the Yam SR400/500 for their customisability or XS650, a Honda GB400 or maybe CB450 black bomber (love 'em). But there's also the W650 or a Suzuki GS. I'm wracked with indecision, ha ha.

    As far as things I'm looking for I don't mind a kick start, and the key thing is I'm not obsessed with buckets of power, I think 400 is a minimum, but I wouldn't go bigger than a 750 (being the venerable CB750). Single cylinder thumper or parallel twin, I'm not bothered. I just want to play with seats and tanks and handlebars and maybe the engine without having to fettle all weekend like my dad does with his oil spewing Triton.

    Since the true joy of motorcycling is making your ride your own, I thought I'd put the question to those best armed to advise me, you lot.

    Any advice as to which model is the most reliable, easiest to maintain, most enjoyable to customize/work on and even just good fun to ride would be much appreciated. Go on then, I know a lot of you have stunning project bikes so please share your knowledge, after all how are us young guns supposed to carry on the Ton Up tradition, ha ha.

  2. G'day Henri,

    As someone who saved his pennies and bided his time for a Thruxton, I can't really offer much advice on the Jap bikes, other than to maybe check out some of QuarterWit's postings and the blog on his cafed SR400. It's ****ing beautiful. I reckon that's the direction I'd head if I was in your shoes. MattB might also have posted some wisdom somewhere. Run a search and see what they've said.
  3. Good luck with it mate, I've had to shelve my cafe dreams until after uni because from what I've found is that you need a fair bit of money, whether it's to buy a decent set of tools, parts, whatever and also a lot of time, which I am pretty short of too. Check out some of boingk's work here and on dotheton.com for some inspiring posts.
  4. Since you are open minded, use that to your advantage. Keep an eye on ebay and see what comes up. xs650s and gb500 tend to be too dear for what they are. A gb400 may save you a lot on the aftermarket bits as it is most of the way there. SRs and w650s (in particular) tend to be quite dear.

    If you want to pay a bit more, some of the newer Bonnies are fairly cheap for what they are. You could build something different and maybe even better than the Thruxton.

    most of these older Jap bikes are pulling solid prices now because of LAMS.
  5. If you're prepared to look at older fours (as your mention of the CB750 suggests), your cheapest option would be something like a GS750. I've seen a couple of very nice examples go for <$2000 in the last couple of years. Kawasaki Zephyrs would be another possibility but they're not as cheap. Both make an excellent basis for 70s style caff racers and are a lot more bulletproof than the more expensive CBs.

    The other option that could be quite economical is the BMW R80/R100 series. Real BMW sport bikes like the R90S are hellish expensive, but it would be entirely possible to build a near replica for a fraction of the cost. Beemers have the advantage over older Japs that spares availability is near 100% and they're surprisingly economical to own, particularly in terms of insurance, which is a significant issue if you're 19. You also get a nice twin rumble if you pick the right exhausts.
  6. For inspriation have a look at Adventure Rider in the Olds Cool section,there is the biggest cafe racer pic thread of all time.What absolutly amases me is just how fantasic a CB 250 grey poridge Honda can look as a cafe bike,there are even 2 stroke dirtbikes that look stunning,plus a few Norvins ect ect
  7. Thanks Ogden!

    The SR400/500's are so easy to do. There's thousands of parts and the XT has a really strong following in Australia so hot-up parts and tuners are fairly common. I've had mine for a fair few years now and love it. (Although I might be changing it back to an upright seating position) The GB's a beautiful bike standard, but there's a reason why the TT/XT/SR engine has outlasted the GB/XL by 20 years...

    For something different, PatB is right. Airhead BMW's have been done well. There's still bargains to be had, but they're going up in price too.

    Depends on your budget too.
  8. One of the singles would be the easiest to maintain and normally pretty easy to get the Cafe look, you would also be building it in the true cafe style of trying to hit the ton on a bike that never did when it was stock ;) and you really need to be able to hit the ton on a cafe racer ;)

    The old Beemers are nice bikes, a mate of mine is about to start a cafe build on a R65, the flat twin looks cool and can sound great.

    In saying that though you can cafe anything given some time and care, look at my CX for example. It'll hit the ton and is very reliable being water cooled and shaft driven, its a true workhorse of a bike but with some cafe touches it has some style as well.

    Just buy a bike that you can afford and you have some passion for (real helps after months of not riding it while it's in pieces) and go for it. Oh and Jap bike spares, I can get most parts for my 30yr old Honda from the dealer and the rest online.

  9. What about an SRX 600 most of the work is already done or XBR 500 although they are a little hard to find .
    What about a GS 500 (unfaired one ) They seem to be bulletproof and second hand ones that are only 4 or 5 years old seem to be cheap
  10. GS would be a great starting point - bloody ugly twin cradle frame could take a bit of hiding though.

    Unless of course, you fitted the engine to a more traditional frame.

  11. GS750 into Norton Featherbed has been done. Looked good. Dresda used to build their Featherbed clones around big Jap fours (Z900 springs to mind) as well.

    So such things are doable. Easiest would probably be GS500 lump into something like a GS400/425/450 from the 70s. Should be close to a bolt in (but won't be :D).
  12. ??

    Seems to me all the double cradle Jap frames are a variation on the Featherbed anyway. Even the aluminium ones.
  13. I'm assuming that we're talking about the GS5000 frame which looks nothing like a FB, even if it's descended from it. The older, twin shock, duplex cradles all look fairly traditional though, I'd agree.
  14. Even the single shock suzukis of the 80s look like a development of the FB IMO. The GS does too. Moved the top rails out and made a more direct path to the swingarm. I can see a steady progression there.
  15. You can evidently make visual connections that I can't then. I can see the progression, but the lines of the GS500 frame are so totally different that, to my mind, it's not in the running for a Triton lookalike caff racer.

    Thinking about it though, it's not a million miles from the early 70s Rob North Trident frames and their offshoot, the Norman Hyde Harrier Triumph chassis, so the potential is there for something in the spirit of these later bikes.
  16. ahh yes, I would agree there.