You may have heard the term ‘Cafe Racer’ or ‘Ton-up Boys’ during your biking adventures. It came about in post-war Britain, where returning soldiers and the thrill-seeking youth were chasing a new & exciting rush with the growing desire to use motorcycles for leisure. Bikers would race as fast as they could from café to café in 1950’s England, with The Ace Cafe in London, or the 59 Club, being the birthplace for many of these riders.
Noted for its visual minimalism, a cafe racer would typically be an English parallel twin motorcycle with low-mounted clip-on or "Ace" handlebars with rear-set footrests. Originally being customised for speed and performance.
This culture was the most influential movement in motorcycle history due to how the bikes would change over time, allowing for some of the fastest road bikes to be created by brands including Triumph, BSA, and Norton among others. Trends often come and go in any industry, but the Cafe Racers have served the test of time and have since spread worldwide.
Aligning with Rock ‘n’ Roll culture due to the fast paced music, cafés had jukeboxes that played the raw and aggressive tracks to serve as timers for the races, as each song lasted approximately 2 minutes. The cafés became popular meeting points for Cafe Racers, and soon the ‘Ton-Up Boys’ nickname started alongside them for those thrill seekers who surpassed 100 mph in a race.
The Cafe Racer look
The cafe racer look and style at the time came from riders making use of what was readily available. This was quite often ex-military wear, including Royal Navy Submariner sweaters and Seaboot socks (turned up over the top of leather boots), Sheepskin Flying Jackets or ex-military jackets, along with silk scarves fashioned from no-longer in-use parachutes, and aviator goggles.
create your own
Now into the 21st century, Cafe Racer bikes have added comfort to their designs as the racing scene has died down over the years. However, Cafe Racer bikes and the biker aesthetics are still a huge trend among the biking community with many loving the vintage look and feel.