Are we passing the era of nostalgia? I wouldn’t say so. In the last 10 years if not even more, the whole world got addicted to the old stuff. Surprisingly the digital era moves us forward as fast as it allows us to move backward. It enables us to relive or revive old fashions, hobbies, and passions.
Vintage-inspired designs and trends pop up in every corner from watchmakers, to shoe models, clothes, and of course the motorcycle industry. This industry never turned its back on the retro models and every year we are stunned by the offer of factory-made old-school bobbers and scramblers. Still, there is something new that is related to the old but is, but it is new. The new clearly states: I have respect for my grandad’s culture and passion, but I am my person and I have my style. And that style today is called Neo classics, of course, if you are into cafe racers that is for you it is Neo café racers.
The café racer market has grown so much that now it offers many diverse arrays of bikes targeting different levels of riders and wallets including economical, beginner small-displacement options, sportier, high-performance café superbikes, and of course top-shelf one-of-a-kind models. We are not going to mention the electric ones, we’ll stick to the petrol ones, for now.
What is a Neo Cafè Racer?
In the beginning, after World War II, the cafe racers were regular motorcycles that were heavily modified and customized to be able to be fast on the street. The racing versions of the motorcycles back then were not available to everyday riders. The solution was to build one by yourself. But in the meantime power and performance were not the only things important for cafe racers. The style became a much more recognizable feature that would make a good cafe racer machine stand out in the crowd, in front of the cafè.
As time goes, the interest in retro-styled motorcycles grew, but not everyone wanted to build their own, not everyone had the time, the money, and the willingness to build his or her cafè racer motorcycle. Of course, the manufacturers knew that and started to offer models that were ready-made or ready to be customized with the aftermarket offering much easier, quicker, and of course cheaper.
Is it a shortcut solution?
So, Neo Cafè racers are the shortcut solution for those who don’t want to bother building their own. Or for the ones that don’t want to ride a very old motorcycle. The modern or as many call the Neo sports, Neo classics, or Neo Cafè Racers bikes would have a classic look, but new technology.
As Honda states on their website: They’re not naked. They’re not trying to be race replicas. They’re machines built for the way we ride today, and that offer a fresh, new take on style too. So, they do not have the same look as the old ones, they borrow style elements, they are developing them, but they are still new, and fresh. It might not be easy to explain straight away, but when you see one, you know, you can feel the retro styles, the old passion…
Still not clear what kind of motorcycles we are talking about. OK then… have you seen the BMW R NineT, or any of the Scramblers, be it a Triumph or Ducati, or perhaps you fell in love with Royal Enfield’s Continental GT or the Interceptor. Let’s go a step further… Have you seen the new Honda CB models? The CB line is one of the most famous for its café racer builds. See them today, they look modern but still follow some of the lines and elements from the past. How about the Kawasaki Z900RS CAFE, Husqvarna Vitpilen 401, CFMOTO 700CL]X, Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR, Yamaha XSR700, or the new Honda Hawk 11?
So, the range is wide, and the models as we said earlier cover options for beginners, and for more racing-oriented riders but one thing is for sure, all of them have the style and rise from the rich history of the cafe racing culture.
So, are they still cafe racers?
The culture is changing, and the motivations, the needs, and the way we ride change. So, it is expected that motorcycles will change, there is no need not to embrace the new technology and all the perks it brings to us. With all the fancy electronics, modern engines, dynamic suspensions, and gadgets that improve the experience, why ditch them? You can still customize your Neo Cafè racers to your desires, you can still modify some of the looks and performance parts. But now the manufacturers allow you to be a bit lazier and have one ready to be driven from cafè to cafè ride from your local dealer store. Why not accept that? I will.