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Back to the Katana question... Is a Katana a cafe racer??

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by markspoon, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. Is the big KAT (or even the smaller Kats) a cafe racer?


  2. Way back when I wus a lad, cafe racers were bikes done up using aftermarket frames, fairing kits and so on. eg. Rickman Hondas based on the Honda "four" CB750 of the day or Z1 900 Kawasakis.

    There was an article here a while ago which examined in detail the history of the cafe racer. I think that Hornet knows a bit about its history.
  3. Yes. One of the first serious Jap factory attempts at such.
  4. No, definitely not. Cafe racers, by definition, were hand-built in cold and ill-lit backyard sheds and garages by enthusiasts with grease under their fingernails and petrol in their veins.

    And they usually looked something like this.


    "Factory" cafe racers, of the sort mentioned by mjt57 came along a little later and were produced in frame and component form by small bespoke English factories like Rickman, Spondon, Seeley et al. You bought the frame and the bits and fitted your mechanicals. Since every mechanics' interpretation of what needed to be done here was different, most of the end results looked equally different even though a trace of family resemblance started to shine through.

    These much more sophisticated products looked something like this.


    By the late 1970's the stock of available British bikes to cannibalise for parts was starting to dwindle and most builders recognised that a Z1 engine was a much better bet than a pre-unit Triumph, for example. But the Japanese factories, ever on the lookout for a market niche that they hadn't filled yet, moved into the cafe racers' domain and started producing bikes that stomped all over their home-built efforts for power, handling and reliability.

    The Honda Bol d 'Or and the Suzuki GSX1100 were examples of seminal superbikes. Factories produced special versions of their most powerful bikes, fuelled considerably by the desire to win the most important production bike race in the world, the Castrol Six Hours at Sydney's Amaroo Park. The CB1100R was one example of a bike whose sole raison d' etre was to win at Amaroo.


    And it was the RACING impetus that led to the release of the big Kat. Sadly, it arrived just too late to be an entrant in the 1981 race though an example was on display in the pits. By 1982 it was up against the revised CB1100R which was marginally faster and, tellingly, has a 3 litre bigger fuel tank. The race was won by the Wollongong pairing of Wayne Clarke and Wayne Gardner on a CB1100R.

    So, is "The Kat" a cafe racer? By any measure of the term the answer is no.

    Was it the forerunner of today's agressively, hunched-forward style of sportsbikes? Most assuredly, yes.
  5. Thought of it more as an early superbike... But shmeh, Cafe Racers, street fighters, choppers, bobbers... call it what makes you happy.
  6. Yeah, i'd also lean towards early superbike.

    A cafe racer to me has the elongated fuel tank, humped seat, no fairings etc etc.

    Something like this would suffice for cafe racer..

  7. Nope As far as I'm concerned you can't buy a factory cafe racer, nor street fighter for that matter...
  8. Stigger, isn't the Superduke or the naked Tuono's a perfect example of an out of the box street fighter?
  9. You can call a factory-built bike a streetfighter, same as you can call one a cafe racer, but, by their definition and usage, both types of bikes come from indivdual owners' workshops, not a factory somewhere.

    There are lots of legit s/f owner/builders out there who are pretty miffed at the factories muscling in on their territory.
  10. IMO definitional questions are some of the least interesting questions around... but this one has been salvaged by the lovely history lesson from rc36 and the awesome photos.

  11. Nope - cafe racers should have a little bikini fairing. And while a Kat is not a cafe racer, it would be a damn good basis for one.

    (thinks... what to do with my 550 Kat)

  12. Definitely NOT a Cafe Racer, but I also agree that the Katana was probably the forerunner of the modern aggressively styled superbikes. Interestingly Suzuki toned down the initial styling a little for the first few models. The styling still holds up pretty well today and the riding was okay for the year they were made but can't get close to a modern bike. I sometimes miss my old S3 750 Katana (popup) which was the version that was the most radically styled and closest to the original concept drawings but not so popular.

    The Triumph Thruxton is probably about as close as you will get to an out of the box Cafe Racer now, though IMHO Harley got it pretty right in 1977 with the XLCR but nobody wanted them back then. There is talk they will 'return' soon but I doubt it. Quite a few of today's 'naked' bikes would make ideal cafe racers with some custom parts though!
  13. As far as I'm concerned you can't buy a factory streetfighter, by definition you have to make one...
  14. People used to ride Katanas, not stand around at the coffee shop talking about them.

    You can have a factory Cafe Racer, however. It's called a Ducati.