The Cafe Racer - What's Next


Motorcycle enthusiasts are not simple minded one point focused, We're very aware of what's going on in the motorcycle culture at large because any one of us is either in the new wave of motorcycle cool or isn't. This either matters to a person or it doesn't, but I'd say even our apathy is strategic. For the past few years, the Cafe Racer saw a resurgence in the motorcycle zeitgeist. That tide has gone out at this point, but what I think is interesting is not wat's rolling in to replace it (the Scrambler return), but rather what's left behind.

I should clarify that when I say 'Cafe Racer,' I'm using that term as liberally as everyone else does. That is, what used to be fairly narrow type of motorcycle defined by specific criteria and heritage has become an appropriated shorthand for a much wider swath of custom motorcycles, both good and bad, vintage and modern. Ironically, it's only the traditional Cafe Racers that eem to be waning, in what custom builders are putting together and what people are sharing on Instagram and Facebook.

I'm seeing a lot less checkerboard these days, even if the term Cafe Racer endures. The OEMs are like our parents. As soon as they decide something trendy is safe enough to embrace for the mainstream customer, it's probably over. Yesterday's devil music will play softly in the elevators of tomorrow.
I'm left wondering what's next. Predicting the future of motorcycling is a fool's errand. I'd much rather try to understand the present. As I took around the online motorcycle world, I'm seeing a handful of things, and they've gotten me excited.

First, more and more women are riding motorcycles. This year, we'll see the population of women motorcyclists surpass 20 percent of total riders in Thailand. It's an opportunity to tell new stories. It's an opportunity for motorcycling to evolve. And the arrival of women on the scene en masse couldn't have come at a better time. Why? Because of reason number two: by adding fresh blood and new riders to the mix, the entire motorcycle industry has a chance to grow instead of just limp along like it has been for the past few years. All hat remains is for us not to screw this up. If we 'shrink it and pink it,' we've failed.

Third, we're seeing the European OEMs embrace not just personalization, but significant customization with factory-blessed options. Ducati launched a whole subbrand with the Scrambler, and BMW is spawning a multibike lineup of customizable R NineT variants.

Fourth, I'm encouraged by how many people are getting their hands dirty and making their motorcycles their own. From simple bolt-on accessories to ambitious builds, more and more people are no longer spectating in the sport of motorcycle building. I realize that this impulse isn't new, and I can't help but wonder if I'm simply more aware of it because of Instagram. Most don't really succeed. At best, they're decorating their motorcycle, but who cares? Better to have tired and failed.

As a result of all this tinkering it's actually novel to see a stock motorcycle these days – especially a stock vintage bike. It's like stumbling upon some sort of rolling 'before' picture. If I might be foolish enough to dare a prediction, I'd say it will always be special to ride something old and unmolested. An original or unmodified restoration of an old Honda, for example, will always be a window into another time, and that will always be cool.

For me, perhaps, that's what the Cafe Racer resurgence left me with most of all: a new appreciation for the 'before.'Tag: Cafe-Racer Modifying Retro-Style Classic-Style Building
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