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Building your own Cafe racer motorcycle

Updated on July 29, 2015

Building your own Cafe Racer and how to start.

Cafe Racers have been around forever, since the early starts of motorcycles. The pursuit of more speed got motorcycle owners tinkering with their own bikes, removing parts and adjusting the profiles in search of power and speed. They are made for performance and little about comfort comes into it.

I assume you are one of these people and are looking to start your own Cafe Racer build. Although there are many small parts to building your own bike which will be too numerous to mention, I will try assist in the larger and tricky parts and will provide you with some insight and ideas of where to start. The example we will be going through is a suzuki GS425 (upgraded to 450).

Original Suzuki Gs425

In Original condition the GS425 was anything but pretty.
In Original condition the GS425 was anything but pretty.

The Original bike

Here you can see the original Suzuki GS425 in great condition. It was a very standard looking bike and not very special to look at. It was however comfy and enough power to go on long trips.

Being air cooled (no radiator) it did have a lot of engine noise and through standard exhaust pipes it did not have a fantastic sound. With the upright seating position, you had a lot of wind interference which reduced speed.

Completed GS425 cafe racer

Completed Cafe Racer in all its glory
Completed Cafe Racer in all its glory

The final product Cafe Racer

Spoiler alert, here you can see the final chopped up and complete cafe racer. It is a major difference to the original factory product but a lot better to look at. The riding style is now for track use and being bent over with a hard seat, I would not suggest taking it on long trips unless you want to be very uncomfortable. It is way more fun now though.

Time to start chopping

Frame is cut, battery and spare unneeded parts removed.
Frame is cut, battery and spare unneeded parts removed.

Time to start chopping and moulding

You will first remove all exterior parts that do not fit into the frame such as seat, petrol tank, plastics and battery box. Even the electrical circuits and control box were removed. This allows you to get into the small spaces you will be cutting and changing.

The rear seat frame was cut short and a bar welded across to hold the rear seat cowl and stop it hitting the tire. Stiffer and chromed suspension was added as the bike is all about performance and looks. I would recommend removing the center stand after the final finishes as it gives the bike some height when working on it.

remove the high handle bars and fit your new dropped cafe racer handle bars which can be found all over the internet and I will supply some places as the end of the post. Fit new speedometer and rev counter for shiny smaller parts which help give the Cafe racer a more sleek performance look and feel. You can also make a new bracket and fit LED lights for the indicator and neutral lights which takes the old style into modern day looks.

Rear passenger foot pegs are removed and rider foot pegs are changed for new modern design which will match the bike when finished. Some welding may have to be done if they do not fit on the original frame or if you want them higher up and moved back slightly for an even sportier racing feel.

Twin under bike exhaust

Short straight through pipes for a loud noise
Short straight through pipes for a loud noise

Choosing and fitting exhaust

Now it where it starts to interesting. There are many choices to exhaust whether short and stubby or long up flowing pipes. You can even have them flat at the tip for a nice against the frame look. We went with short pipes that fit under the bike with no silencers to enhance the noise the bike makes. You do not want them to close to the tire or the heat can affect the tire performance but a short distance should not be detrimental.

Molded seat cowl

Seat cowl in the sun to harden
Seat cowl in the sun to harden

The Seat cowl and rear end

Next it is on to designing your seat cowl, again this is personal preference. You can go for a short rear or long sweeping lines. We chose the longer cowl to give the bike some extra length due to the amount we shortened it. Originally we had chosen a seat with a pillion space but it would not fit the profile so we redid it.

You make a mold out of foam which allows you to sand the mold to exactly the shape that you would like it. It is much easier than trying to sand the fiberglass once it is set. Place a non stick cover over the foam and then start applying your fiber glass. You are more than welcome to try your hand at moulding with carbon fibre which comes in a similar package and state but it would be sad to paint over that look it gives.

Sanding the petrol tank and fender

You can cut your fender a little shorter which we opted to do as it does give a sportier look as well as saves a little weight. Even a couple ounces mean more speed at the end of the day. The tank on the GS425 was a little ugly to start with as it had dips around the fuel cover and on the side where the Suzuki logo was. We filled them in with body filler to give the tank a smooth round finish and fixed all the little imperfections and dents.

Before painting it is always best to ensure you start of with a good preparation. If your prep is good the easier it becomes when finishing. You do not want to have to go back and sand because of imperfections or have to add extra layers of paint to hide small kinks and dents. Good preparation means a good final product and I can't express this enough. Every little dent will show once paint is added.

Polished tank and fender

Stripped, filled and polished tank and fender
Stripped, filled and polished tank and fender

Painted cafe racer fender much shorter

Painting your Cafe Racer

This has always been my favorite part of the build. Trying to choose a color scheme and seeing what would look best in the sun whilst cruising down the road. We went with a pearl white with Gloss blue racing stripe.

Again once you have sprayed your primer, ensure it is perfectly smooth and level with no splatter marks or imperfections because after this it will be very difficult to fix. A good sanding with 400 grit paper is enough to make the finish smooth yet still leave it rough enough for paint to adhere to it. Just a little tip, spray black spots over the primer and when you sand the black will go into any imperfection allowing you to see where they are easier.

Next lay down your first base coat. We were using a blue racing stripe so we laid that color down first as it is easier to tape off the small stripe than the large outer area.

Painted fender

Next is the pearl, many of the paints these days can be sprayed straight on as a pearl and do not need additional coats to bring it out which helps so you do not have to have it in the clear coat. You can also choose flip paint at a premium cost which changes the color of the paint depending on sunlight. I used it on my CBR600RR which changed from black to red in the sun. the paint was around 80 dollars for 500 ml which is not overly expensive.

When you are content that the paint is hardened and your striping lines where done straight, add the clear coat. Ensure it has no water and that it is quite thick. Too thin a layer and once polished it will be removed. Too thick and it will leave orange peel marks.

Cafe Racer tail light

Putting together and final product

The Cafe Racer comes together. All parts are fitted CAREFULLY so not to scratch them. Rear tail light is fitted and bike is polished. Ensure brakes and cables are tidied up and the battery box you made is welded in place. You can hide the battery box under the rear seat cowl and leave the space under the frame open which gives a nice racing look.

New tires ensure best grip and try to go for a softer option as it is for fast riding not cruising.

Finished Product

I hope you enjoyed the write up and try make the bike fit your personality. Your bike will be as good as your imagination and there are plenty sites online to get ideas from. If you want you can even turn the bike into a bobber which is a cruiser or a tracker which is more on offroad style. The possibilities are endless.

Now it is time to show your hard work off to the world. Go out ride hard and be safe.

Finished Cafe Racer


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