Archive for the ‘cafe racers’ Tag

1985 Yamaha Virago Custom

Picture 13Now this is a custom that I can really love. Not for its looks but for its soul and the guy that built it. Take a slow, overweight, ill handling motorcycle and make it something cool.

The Yamaha Virago line of bikes have never been all that great in any category, but they have always sold relatively well for the tuning fork company. I have, and still do, lust after an early ’80’s XV920RH model. It is the Euro styled Virago based ride that just works for me. The Yamaha V-Twins are good solid motors, no issues (for the most part) and have a good feel to them. Yamaha was the first of the Japanese companies to go after the factory cruiser market and were pretty successful at it. The tuning fork company made a lot of different versions of the Virago all the way down to a little 250cc model. To this day the Star brand still has a lot of the old Virago in it’s DNA.

So, back to this Virago I found on ebay today. This is a very unique custom…it truly is a hack build, and I mean that in a good way.

The owner worked on the frame, took it back to a twin shock design, popped in a Honda CBR900RR front fork and added some Kawasaki EX500 rear sets. All to make the bike handle better. Then comes the custom work. A handmade steel tank, and here’s the part I really dig… The guy made some headers himself and then went to the best supplier of cheap parts…JC Whitney for the mufflers. Man, I love this build. Take a pound mutt, don’t make it into a throughbred, just make it mean. Oh and I really love the tail light!!
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.

Picture 10
Picture 11
1985 Yamaha Virago Custom

1972 Honda CB350 Custom

Picture 7Here we have a very nicely sorted but not over done Honda. Styling wise it is a very clean Cafe Racer, mechanically I’m guessing it’s still pretty much stock save the pod filters and the tidy exhaust. This is the pattern I am going to use for my own 350 project.

The owner obviously went through the process of dismantling the bike, cleaning, painting and polishing, then went into cafe mode. First stop, Benji’s Cafe Racers for the body work. I believe the ‘El Poquito’ body is absolutely the best looking for the CB. Clean additions like the Air-tech front fender, the polished clip-ons and some nice rearsets take care of the styling and functionality. I also like the silver paint, simple and elegant.

A good cafe racer has to handle well and this bike seems to be on its way to that goal. The shocks are far better than the stockers but what did he do with the front? Upgraded springs? even an oil change? There are some simple frame mods that make a huge difference on CB’s. Looks like the bike has stock wheels with a couple decent tires spooned on.

All in all, this is probably the nicest CB350 I have seen. Good looking, better handling, reliable and so much fun to ride!! This guy (or gal?) has put a lot of time, love and money into this Honda and it shows. And with the low miles it has on the clock (provided it is the real mileage), it will be fun to ride for years and will draw a crowd wherever you go. For more info and more pictures, click on the pics below.

Picture 3
Picture 5
Picture 41972 Honda CB350 Custom

1967 Bultaco Metralla Mk2

Picture 21Picture this, you’re buzzing along a tight twisty mountain road on a classic roadracer that just happens to have lights and a horn. The bike is light, quick and amazingly agile. The bike almost knows what you’re going to do before you do. A very light push on the bars sends you through the corner apex at speeds that put larger bikes to shame. The skinny little tyres turn in with no effort yet keep you right on line. You my friend are riding a Bultaco Metralla and your destination is wonderful little Spanish restaurant and plate of the best Paella in Northern Spain.Picture 19

Ok, the reality is you’re not in Spain and you’re not going to have Paella, you’re going to have a chili and cheese omelet at the Rock Store on Mulholland Highway in the Santa Monica Mountains and you’re going to have to answer a hundred questions from guys that have never even heard of Bultaco about your little Metralla. These are the guys you blew by in the corners. This is the definition of a really fun Sunday morning.

Picture 22I love Bultaco’s, always have. I started racing a Bultaco Matador back in 1968, moved up to Pursangs, rode an Astro in a couple of TT races but never owned a Metralla. While I was helped in my desert racing and enduro career by the local Bultaco dealer, they never let me take out the street bikes, probably a smart move on their part at the time. Would I want another Bultaco dirt bike now? probably not. Would I want a Metralla today? Oh Yeah! This is the perfect example of Spanish art on two wheels.

A few years back while on my way from a vintage roadrace at Willow Springs to another one at Sears Point in Northern California I stopped in Minden Nevada to get some Bultaco spiritual guidance (and a couple of parts for a Sherpa T I had inherited), from the Bultaco Guru of the West, Lynn Mobley. Guru Lynn had just finished a full restoration of a ‘67 Metralla and let me ride it around his property for a bit, I had to have the Metralla. I offered up both my roadracers and ‘The Mighty 350’ in trade for the little Bultaco, and while Lynn did everything he could to keep from laughing, I could see that the Metralla was not going home with me.Picture 25

So, today I found a really beautiful Metralla on ebay that is ready to ride right now. It’s a 1967 Mk2 that has been restored to pretty much stock condition, there are a few little tweaks here and there but the original parts that were changed out will come with the bike. It really is a beautiful motorbike and if you would like something will always put a huge smile on your face consider this Metralla. This is a no-brainer. Click on the pics below for more information and more pictures.

And one last little thing…the Metralla was the first 250cc bike that straight from the factory would top 100mph! How cool is that?!

Picture 13
Picture 14
Picture 15
Picture 171967 Bultaco Metralla

1969 BSA A65 Road Racer

Picture 32In 1969 BSA commanded 80% of all the Brit bikes sold here in the USA. Eighty Percent! Who woulda thunk? I, and I think most of us, would have pegged Triumph as the leader but not so say the statistics. What was it about BSA that made it that strong a seller in a time when the Japanese manufacturers were dominating the market? Was it styling? No. Was it performance? No. Was it reliability? Certainly not.  So what was it?

Picture 23Let’s find a bit of perspective here. BSA may have had 80% of the British bike sales here in the states but ‘Made in England’ motorcycles constituted a very small percentage of the total bikes sold here. So small that within a decade, they were all gone from the US market.

From the late 1950’s through the mid 60’s, the British were competing with the very popular Harley Davidson Sportster in the performance category. The Sportster was Harley’s ‘sportbike’, it had a  slight horsepower advantage, it had a new look (the peanut tank was quite stylish then), it had the Harley sound and, of course, it had the advantage of being made in the USA. BSA, Triumph and Norton all were better handling motorcycles but back then, straight line speed was king, not the ability to go around corners fast.

Each of the big three from the UK tried styling mods to attract the American market, Triumph  with the X75 Hurricane, Norton tried (and miserably failed) with their Hi-Rider chopper model and BSA tried with…well, nothing. Sure, BSA tried a few styling changes like a smaller slimmer tank, the oil in the frame design (which nobody was really happy about), and of course the ray-gun mufflers of the Rocket 3. Personally, I love the ray-gun mufflers but at the time they went over like a fart in church. Anyway, the Brits just faded away into the sunset. Today, Triumph is back in a big way and Norton is getting set to comeback this year with a new Commando and it is beautiful. I hope it succeeds.

I started my street bike life aboard a BSA so the brand has a certain spot in my heart that will never go away. Yes, it stranded me more than once with faulty electric’s, and yes, it leaked more oil in a month than any Japanese bike I’ve ever owned  did in a lifetime. It could be a bit (?) temperamental when it came to starting in the morning (or when it was hot and the bike didn’t feel like going anywhere), and it could vibrate the fillings out of my teeth if the carbs weren’t balanced properly, but…when everything was working as it was supposed to, what a joy it was to ride that Beezer. I was raised to ride the canyon roads, to believe in handling over horsepower, and the sound coming from a parallel twin was the sweetest sound in motorcycling.Picture 19

At one point in time (actually a couple of times) the Japanese manufactures realized that there was something about the British bikes that still captivated the American buyer. Yamaha did great with the XS650, designed to compete with the Triumph, Kawasaki brought out the W650 to head to head with the BSA and Honda tried with the GB500 single. The only one that succeeded over the long run was the Yamaha. Today, the Triumph Bonneville is a huge success because it looks like a proper English motorbike without the oil puddle underneath it.

Lately I have been thinning the herd of bikes in my barn and am starting to look for a new adventure…once I have finished the other four projects I have going, and am being drawn towards a BSA 650. I’m actually looking for one of the last designs more than the old chrome tank styles, mainly because I think they are probably going to be cheaper on the market(?). Today on ebay I found one that might just fit the bill.

On ebay today, there is a 1969 BSA A65 that has been set up for vintage roadracing. Remember, the A65 was BSA’s ‘roadracer for the street’. The A65 put out a very respectable 54HP and would top out at around 105MPH. This particular bike has been upgraded with Marzocchi forks, more modern rear shocks, and a Suzuki twin leading shoe front brake, which was a very good upgrade from the standard brake the BSA had at the time. The motor has been given some extra muscle by way of a 750cc kit But, here is the cool thing about this bike, it can easily be retrofitted with the electric’s to power a headlight, taillight and blinkers so you have a perfect cafe racer with almost no effort! The seller says that it does need some carb work but that’s no big deal. This could be a very sweet Sunday rider.Picture 30

Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.

Picture 13
Picture 9
Picture 171969 BSA A65 Racer

A Book For You…

Here’s a book for you. Cafe Racers of the 1960s by Mick Walker. Maybe it can help you find inspiration for your project. Who knows…

I just ordered it. If I like it, maybe I’ll give it a review…

Cafe Racers of the 1960s
Amazon Cafe Racer Book