For those who believe in “built not bought”.
Cafe racers are the signature reminiscences of the 60s. Black leather jackets, tweed hats and a cigarette tightly caught between the teeth as one rolled into an amphitheater of meticulously-strung guitars solos, speaker stacks, weed and whiskey. While British motorcycles and Brylcreem started the cafe racer movement in Europe, it was quickly taken over by motorcycles from Japan, that were cheaper, more reliable and easy to maintain. Out of all the motorcycles that came from the land of the rising sun, it was the Honda cafe racer that showed dominance over the Triumphs and BSAs during the early 70s.
Just like how Porsches are the soul of driving excellence, Land Rovers of go-anywhere wanderlust… a cafe racer is the soul of motorcycling. It is the epitome of the idea of taking a showroom-spec motorcycle and tweaking it to one’s heart’s desire, tailoring them and tinkered along in their dimly lit garage corners. While today, many manufacturers like Triumph, Ducati and BMW are supplying customers with readymade cafe racers that can be bought directly off dealerships, the proposition of building your own cafe racer is still and exciting one that goes with the whole idea of rebellion around the “standardised” model.
Image above: Type 13 Honda CB750 by Auto Fabrica
For this article, we would like to concentrate on how someone with an itch to DIY should go about creating a Honda cafe racer. If you fancy a Ducati Monster cafe racer, then you should go here, or else click here to read about British Custom’s custom kit that lets one make their own Triumph Bonneville Scrambler
With a renewed emphasis on modern classics, there is also a huge listing of DIY kits and other parts available from various established builders to help you out as well. However at the end, it is on you to decide, what sort of cafe racer you would like to build, and once you have established that you can follow the below steps to build the perfect Honda Cafe Racer that we have created for you:
Also Read: Honda CB750 – The World’s First Superbike
Plan Your Budget:
Even before you head out to the market for the first time for your cafe racer build, you need to have a well laid out plan regarding how you will get to building your Honda cafe racer. This means the most important parameter that you need to decide upon is the whole budget of the project. Do remember, you will most certainly overshoot this budget by a considerable margin and your budget should be designed accordingly. It’s a known fact that when you take a $1000 project, it would eventually an inevitably end up stretching out to $1200-1500, and that is if you have been vigilant about it all along.
And if, the temptations get better of you, in a matter of time you are looking at a $2500+ project. Don’t fall into the trap, list everything you will need to build your own Honda cafe racer first and then decide on the budget while being as shrewd as possible and try sticking to it as far as you can possibly go. We suggest you keep aside at least 80% of the decided budget before you start off with this adventure.
Choose a Bike:
If you really want to build a Honda Cafe Racer of your own, you already have at least an outline of what sort of a bike you might want as a base. Should you decide to go vintage, we reckon a classic inline four Honda CB series or the V-twin Honda CX is a perfect place to begin. The bike is forever reliable and you can find it for a reasonable price. The Honda CB series, particularly the Honda CB750 is pro-cafe racer when it comes to their minimal and uncomplicated design, making them perfect contenders to start a clean, thoughtful build. However, you would need to search for a best possible example you can find within your budget. Getting you a wrong bike would mean a lot of expense in getting it overhauled.
Above: Honda CX500 by Sacha Lakic
On the other hand, if you chose to go for a more modern used bike and convert it into a cafe racer, then you can look into something like the nifty and reliable Honda CB500F. While relatively expensive, the bright side is that you will get modern suspension, electronics and brakes, but would have to work a bit harder in getting the classic cafe racer lines out of the modern design.
Sourcing the motorcycle:
We reckon, a cafe racer build commands a true classic bike, and you can source it from various channels. Your local area classified would be of the most important clearly since further away you go, more you will have to pay in transportation costs. Also, once you do find a bike that suits your requirements you would need to be doubly sure that most of the expensive and hard to source parts like chain/sprockets, tires, suspension etc are in a decent enough condition. Failing to do so would significantly hike the budget.
Establishing clear idea of the Design and Styling:
Once your budget is set along with a bike sourced to be worked upon and a basic idea of what to make of it in your head, the next step is to thoroughly document what you want on the bike. In order to get a much clearer idea, you can start collecting pictures of other projects for which websites like Pinterest or a simple Google search can be of big help. After you have collected enough pictures of the projects you like, have their printouts pasted in your eyesight to keep you inspiring for the build. Remember, all you need is a direction and we recommend you not to copy a particular bike lock stock and barrel, but there is no harm in getting a little inspiration from other’s work.
At this time you also need to decide what level of custom work you would be willing to invest your time and money into for your project. The time duration and the costing of the final finished project will depend on it. Still, go ahead, get that semi fairing you so dearly like, it’s your project after all. And clearly you need a custom tank for your design, as well (Yes, we are channeling our inner Satan right now).
A true cafe racer build is nothing without showing off better performance than the base bike. Thus we recommend you take your time and have a precise understanding of what sort of performance upgrades you would be comfortable with for your café racer built. Should you be going for that engine overhaul (Yes!), or those spanking new USD’s (so you are rich then), stuff like this needs to be thoroughly thought of before you head out to strip your bike down and start working on it.
Above: Honda CB750 by Cognito Moto
General Part Suppliers:
Luckily, as we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of café racer kits and individual parts available in the market to aid your hunger of building your own project. You can head to their websites and simple order the parts you think will suit your design. In this way you can actually get a vast variety of parts for your Honda Cafe Racer built including, Seats, Handlebars, Accessories (Bags, gloves etc), Exhausts and new electrical as well. Old electronics and overall electrical wirings can be a disaster for any built, we reckon you can go for a vast range of products that companies like MotoGadget make for just these kind of situations.
Part suppliers for Honda Cafe Racers
Strip Down your Bike:
With everything in place it is time to strip down your bike and give it a good old overhaul and repainting to keep rusting in check.
Install new Components:
Once you have everything that need to go into your cafe racer built, and with the chassis and the engine already properly overhauled, it is now time to install those new parts you sourced (or build yourself) on to the bike.
Test the Bike thoroughly:
Always, always make sure that throughout the building process, your safety is paramount and there should not be any shortcuts in that department. Once your build is complete take the bike out for a short spin in a safe weather and time to find out if everything is working properly or not. You should not take the bike out for a proper ride until you are absolutely sure that every component on the bike is functioning properly or not.
Enjoy to Limelight!!
Cover Image: Honda CX500 by Nozem