The café racer craze has spread from its foundations in the England of the rockin’ Sixties through the UK and Europe and has now really taken hold in North America, shunting the increasingly radical and unrideable Show Custom choppers off the magazine covers.
It took the can-do attitude of the Yanks to launch a café racer magazine and then a cable TV show off the back of that, and to rocket the custom café racer scene to prominence in the minds of motorcycle enthusiasts.
Of course, some people had been building café racers for a while (and a select few hadn’t lost the faith or the know-how since their conversion in the early-Sixties). For others, it’s a new-generation thing and the guys at Twinline Motorcycles in sleety Seattle, Washington typify the new breed of builder-owner-rider.
Twinline founder Ian Halcott got things underway and when he relocated to sunny Southern California last year, Jeff “Tower” Pochodowicz took over leadership of the enthusiastic Twinline crew. Along the way, Twinline had relocated to larger premises in an industrial area south of Seattle’s central business district, providing plenty of room to build café racers and maintain customers’ classic bikes, mostly 1960s and 1970s Japanese machines that are reappearing from garages, sheds and barns all over the United States, and elsewhere.
“People drag these old bikes in here and ask us to get them going,” Jeff says. “Of course, they don’t realise there’s more to it than flushing out the tank, charging the battery, pumping the tires and ‘presto’, you’ve got a starting-running-stopping classic motorcycle.
“Because they spent a few hundred bucks buying the bike, they don’t factor in that it might cost two or three times that to get the bike running reliably and safely, much less looking like it did back when it first left the showroom. But the early bikes are fun. I guess I’m part of a whole new generation that started out on dirt bikes and we’re now learning to appreciate the early Japanese bikes for what they are and how good they were in their time.”
For Jeff and the team, the older machines also represent a ready supply of bikes and bits just begging for a café racer-style makeover. They’ve done the Honda CB twins and fours (including a stunning CB750), the Yamaha SR500 singles and 650 twins, and a motley collection of others, both two- and four-stroke. As Jeff notes, they’ve almost got too much warehouse storage, and dead bikes can start to take over what should be productive floor-space. But there’s still plenty of room for bike building and servicing.
“When you think I took over Twinline late last year, I’m about to become a new dad, and we’ve got these builds on and customers wanting their own bikes done, I’m having a few sleepless nights!”
But what better city to go sleepless in, or to build a new generation of café racers?