As the café racer building craze has gained momentum locally, we have watched the prices of popular donor motorcycles become increasingly ridiculous. Let’s face it; café racers were a British phenomenon from the 1960s, so if you are not building your café racer from a 1960’s British motorcycle you are building a look-a-like and it does not then surely matter what donor motorcycle you use. International builders have turned certain older models, such as the Honda CB750 and BMW models from the 1970s into modern café racer icons. We love these creations but these models were never originally used to build café racers and we despair at what is being paid for these motorcycles in shabby condition. So is there an alternative to having to pay through your nose for a thirty five year old donor bike of unknown mechanical condition? Our humble suggestion is to have a look for a donor from the more modern family of retro motorcycles known as “naked bikes.” Our Featured Yamaha café racer belongs to this family.
In the last decade of the twentieth century the Japanese manufacturers continued developing better handling and faster superbikes each year. A demand for more traditional performance motorcycles became apparent. In the 1990s all four Japanese manufacturers launched their modern interpretations of 1970’s superbikes which became known as naked bikes. These twin shocked, retro looking motorcycles offered a comfortable seating position for both the rider and the passenger yet had plenty of performance and far better braking and handling than the 1970’s models which provided their DNA. Yamaha launched their XJR1200 model in 1995. Powered by the powerful FJ1200 engine which had originally been launched as an 1100cc in 1984, this was a beast of a four cylinder powered naked bike, with 98hp on tap and a top speed of just below 230km/h. In 1998 the XJR1300 became available with 105 hp and a top speed of over 250km/h. The XJR1300 is still a current model in Yamaha’s range of motorcycles, proving the demand for less radical superbikes still exists.
Our featured Yamaha XJR café racer was built by Brotherhood Customs from Alberton to the owner Marius’s specification. This fine motorcycle’s standard petrol tank has been retained but Brotherhood Customs fabricated the seat and bum-stop. This was a grey import from Japan, meaning it was not a model imported by the official Yamaha agents. The non-adjustable Ohlins rear shocks were standard on the XJRs for the Japanese market. The aftermarket exhaust was on the motorcycle when imported but has been shortened. The front mudguard has been removed and fork boots fitted to the front shock absorbers. The side covers have been discarded and the frame detabbed. The Battery and electrical components are installed into the unobtrusive box beneath the seat. The standard airbox has been replaced with four individual K&N type filters. The XJR has been completely repainted.
Clip-on handlebars with bar-end mirrors have been installed. To get the correct racer lines required custom fitting the original gauges in a lower position. A smaller aftermarket headlight has been fitted.
If building your dream racer requires you to use an original1970’s motorcycle, then you will be prepared to pay the premium when buying such a motorcycle. If you want to build a café racer and are open to suggestion then consider a naked bike as a donor motorcycle. They look the part yet are modern in performance and braking. They are all based around indestructible engines and can be used as a daily or long distance ride. Currently they sell for about the same price as a very good example of a high demand 1970’s model. Grab one before their prices also begin to skyrocket!