A Cafe racer, originally pronounced “caff” (as in Kaff) racer, is a type of motorcycle as well as a type of motorcyclist. Both meanings have their roots in the 1960s British counterculture group the Rockers or the Ton Up Club, although they were also common in Italy, amongst Italian motorcycle manufacturers and other European countries.
Rockers were a young and rebellious Rock and Roll counterculture that wanted a fast, personalised and distinctive bike to travel between transport cafs along the newly built arterial motorways in and around British towns and cities. The goal of many was to be able to reach 100 miles per hour (called simply “the ton”) along such a route where the rider would leave from a cafe, race to a predetermined point and back to the cafe before a single song could play on the jukebox.
Riders rejected the large transportation-oriented motorcyles of the time by taking these motorcycles and removing any unnecessary parts off them. The bikes had a raw, utilitarian and stripped-down appearance while the engines were tuned for maximum speed.
Because speed was valued more than comfort, bikes were fitted with single seats and low handle bars, such as ace bars, or even one-sided clip-ons mounted directly onto the front forks for more precise control and to escape the wind. Distinctive half or sometimes full race fairings, and large, hand-made, aluminium racing petrol/gas tanks were frequently left unpainted. Swept-back exhausts and rearset footpegs were used to give better clearance whilst leaning through corners at speed.