In an attempt to remain fresh and individual, cafe racer styling is being applied to just about every model of motorcycle produced in the 1970s and 1980s. As someone who became a motorcyclist in the 1970s and can still recite just about every make and model of motorcycle of the 1980s, I am amazed by what the professional and amateur builders are creating out of these mundane looking motorcycles. There is however some advice that I would like to share which may benefit those of you who are considering building your own custom and are not sure which motorcycle to use as a base. Certain motorcycles of this era were rubbish to start off with and have not improved with age. Research your motorcycle properly before buying a lemon. Some models sold in very small numbers in South Africa but sold well internationally. South African bikers ignored the smaller capacity motorcycles. Beware of setting your heart on building a motorcycle based on an international custom you have seen on the internet but of which original model never sold well in South Africa. Parts are not cheap or easy to find for most of the 1970s and 1980s models. The rarer the motorcycle was on our roads originally, the scarcer and more pricey the parts will be now!
A fair indication of which motorcycle would be a solid platform is provided by observing the 1970s and 1980s motorcycles still being used as daily commuters. Notice how many older BMWs, Suzuki GS and GSXs, Kawasaki GPZs and Honda K and Fs are still going very strong after more than thirty years of service. If you can lay your hands on a relatively low mileage motorcycle from this gene pool, you minimalise the chances of having expensive mechanical problems after already blowing your budget on building your dream motorcycle.
An example of a bulletproof motorcycle which has become a prime candidate for customisation is the Honda CX500. Many were sold of which most seem to be still running on our roads. Originally seen by the market as a commuter motorcycle, very few were abused by their original owners. We have featured several CX500 cafe racers and will surely feature many more in the future.
Our featured CX500 is owned by Rob and was built by V Custom Cycles some time ago. Rob had seen Dave Mucci from Chicago’s Moto Mucci CX500 and asked Jaco to build him a replica. Rob’s motorcycle was however a GL500 which had the Prolink single shock suspension and not the twin shocks of the CX. A CX500 frame was acquired and all the GL’s components were transplanted. This was easier said than done as the motor mounts proved to be different and had to be fabricated along with other modifications.
V Custom shortened the fenders, made a new seat, fabricated the delicious sounding 2 into 1 exhaust, installed new carburettors and installed all the new lights and indicators. Only the original speedo was retained and mounted centrally between the clubman handlebars. The original CX side covers were retained ala Moto Mucci’s version. Louis from Particular Paint painted the brightwork and Dion the Leatherman covered the seat, all to match the American version.
Jaco from V Custom says this cafe racer is a pleasure to ride and performs brilliantly. There is always room for exotic and unique custom motorcycles in our world. However, if you intend regularly riding your creation, start off with something plentiful and with proven reliability. The proof of the motorcycle is in the riding!