Although people have modified bikes since they were first created until the 1950’s this was mainly for purely practical reasons, such as for work, touring or specific racing needs, never just for aesthetics.
Then in the late 50’s while the Americans were slowly creating the iconic chopper and bobber styles, here in the UK we started to create our own style “the café racer” purpose built for short racing between favourite haunts which suited our country and the times. Unlike the chopper scene which has gone through many variations (and long may that trend continue) the café racer has always had a definite look and arguably could be the English custom. Some manufacturers even try and incorporate the look in their modern bikes, such as the current BMWs and Triumphs.
However the look should always be similar: devoid of extraneous parts, slim, low, low handlebars, short exhaust, single seat and rear sets giving it a racing stance. There was only ever one purpose for these bikes and that was fast and for short hops, with the coast maybe the furthest.
It has to be said that some of the early efforts, were like the early choppers a bit dodgy, possibly lethal and rough round the edges. But as small workshops realised this was no longer a fad, decent parts started to become available via mail order and small shops to complete the look.
While there was a trend for swapping frames and engines think of Tritons, Norvins and Tribsas, the look was often merged onto any bike even humble 250 BSA and the like. Back in the 1980’s I also tried, very badly it has to be said, to convert a Honda 400 superdream to the style.
In recent years youth culture has seen a re-
The Motorcycle workshop in Bolney Sussex has been around since 2000 and Tony has built a great reputation for managing to work on almost any bike, and for restoring and modifying the same. With some tasteful modifications to some bikes to both chop and racing bikes, a passion of theirs as his son races tony only just having given up racing after being beaten by his son Bob.
They have also steadily been evolving their own café racer style using the Kawasaki W series bikes which gives it that true classic style. In fact the W series although now discontinued is almost more like an early triumph than the modern Bonneville's.
While their first builds took about a month, they can now convert a donor bike in about a week with both handmade and specialist parts. They are also machining some neat spacers and parts for both the W series and the new Bonneville's.
Hand built on this bike include: Kickplates, Seat (Covered by Aston Martin Specialist) Cam cover tube, clock brackets and all polishing on forks etc.
Other parts include German Alloy Tank painted and signed by Freddie Spencer at the Classic GP, Modified Head and Clip ons, Rask Rearsets, Reverse Cone Exhausts, BSA rear light and Bullet indicators.
The bike really does sit just right, though purests may not like the exhaust wrap it does not detract from the look, seeing the part builds in the workshop I look forward to the next builds from this busy shop.