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The 'Cafe Racer' Culture - Is India Willing to Accept It?

Updated on March 23, 2018
Custom Cafe Racer
Custom Cafe Racer
A member of 'the Rockers'
A member of 'the Rockers'

History of Cafe racers

Leather boots, denims, leather jackets, desire for speed and love for 'rock and roll', well this is what explains one of the most influential movements, that took place in the history of motorcycles. Dated back to the 50’s the motorcycle was a machine, with minimum of features, where the person is connected to the seat, and its tyres connected to the road, and all to be seen was the road upfront, with wind blast in the face, the feeling of a free flying bird!

Yes it was during the 50’s in the streets of England a different breed of bikers were born, and they influenced the whole biking world. It was mostly the youths, that started to develop a taste towards speed, during the time ‘hitting a ton’ as the people used to say or attaining a speed of 100 mph whether you came back after it or not was a prestigious title, and mind you ‘a ton’, even for a 650 twin during that time was a speed that overpowered the handling, tyre quality and the brakes of the bike. Influenced by the British racing heroes like Mike Hailwood, these bikers used to sit in Cafes, which were situated outside the city premises, where the roads had no speed limits, with their bikes, waiting for someone to challenge them for a race till the next cafe, they were called the ‘cafe racers’.

Owning a bike, dressing in leathers, going to cafes, and listening to rock and roll, started to turn into a culture, by the time the 60’s knocked at the door, the world on the other hand had also made a progress in the field of atom bombs, and people knew they could be killed the next day, with a simple press of a button. The same thought encouraged these ‘cafe racers’ to push oneself to the extreme. The culture kept on gaining pace, they started to make headlines on the newspapers, and now the ‘cafe racers’ were called the ‘rockers’, due to their taste for speed and a particular genre of music. ‘Record racing’ started to take place, where the cafes, played a rock and roll track in a jukebox, and the riders had to start from the cafe reach a point given, and be back to the cafe before the track was over. The clashes of the ‘rockers’ with ‘mods’, which was another group who rode scooters, also turned into a daily scenario.

In 1962, due to the image of bikers going towards the negative, a preacher named Bill Shergold, congregated the members of both the groups, and formed a group named the ‘59 club’, they were mostly involved in the charity work, thereby giving direction to the image of the bikers, towards positive. This was how the Culture that brought a revolution came into being.

Cafe Racer Today

A bike with minimum features, and body details, which is fast, also light weight, have an aggressive riding posture, thereby concentrating more on speed and handling than on comfort, this is the ‘cafe racer’. Even though the 'cafe racer’ originated from England, in U.S.A. too it brought a revolution. America during the time was witnessing the spread of ‘Choppers’, a different breed of motorbike, but the ‘cafe racer’ culture too could be seen coming up. Custom build cafe racers began to come up in America. Later on due to the growing popularity motorcycle giants, like Honda, Triumph, Norton, came up with their cafe racers' model, which took the motorcycle market by storm.

In India the popularity of cafe racer came in late, it was in the early 2013 Triumph came up with Thruxton, a 865 cc cafe racer, the first that came to India, later on Indian manufacturer Hero, came up with the cafe racer model of their bestselling splendor, the Splendor Classic Pro, well a concept which I did not understand, ‘cafe racers’ are meant to be fast and powerful bikes, but splendor, a low powered daily commuter, as a cafe racer? The Royal Enfield, later in the same year came up with the Continental GT, this was something different from the Royal Enfield, and the people appreciated it. Royal Enfield again is coming up with a 650 cc cafe racer, seeing the popularity of the bike.

The Vitpilen 401
The Vitpilen 401
The Svartpilen 401
The Svartpilen 401

The 'Swedish Twins' - greets 'Namaste'

Good news for all the retro lovers. Husqvarna motors a Swedish motorcycle brand, which is the leading brand in the motocross championship across the world, now owned by the KTM, is planning to set foot in the Indian market, with their twins, Vitpilen 401 (meaning the white arrow) a cafe racer, and Svartpilen 401 (meaning the black arrow) a scrambler, before 2020. Both the bikes will be powered by the same single cylinder, four stroke engine that powers the KTM Duke 390 and the RC 390, which offers 43 horses to play with, well the engine might be re-tuned, according to the needs of both the bikes. The bikes, like the Duke will be manufactured in the Bajaj Chakan plant in Pune, with its dealership, exactly in the same way like that of the Duke and RC is done. The bike is expected to find its spot in the Rs 3 lakhs segment bikes. The KTM brought a change in the Indian Biking scenario with its Duke 200 in 2012, Husqvarna with its Vitpilen 401 and Svartpilen 401 is expected to bring a greater change among the youths.

What is your say

Will the 'Swedish Twins' change the Indian biking perspective?

See results

© 2018 Pratik Dahal


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