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Cafe Racer Phenomenon - Web Exclusive

The Enduring Cult Of The Cafe Racer, In All Its Ton-Up Glory!

Alastair Walker
Nov 6, 2009

The Cafe Racer Phenomenon (Those were the days … series)

By Alastair Walker
The Cafe Racer is one of the most enduring styles of motorcycle ever created, encapsulating the rebellious spirit of the 50s. This new book is a look back at the glory days of the Cafe Racer, from Friday night dices on London's North Circular road, through the street specials craze of the Seventies, to the modern day revival.

The Cafe Racer Phenomenon, a new book in Veloce Publishing's Those were the days … series features a huge, global Cafe Racer community directory alongside a unique mix of personal memories, previously unpublished photos, iconic machines and chassis builders in profile. Wonderfully evocative reading for any ton-up rider of past or present.

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The Cafe Racer machine captures the very essence of motorcycling, with its stripped-to-the-bone styling and a timeless blend of cat-quick chassis, matched to a barn-storming engine.

From its roots in the 59 Club, home-brewed specials and the creation of the Triton by Dave Degens, the Cafe Racer became the must-have Rockers motorbike. It then became the template for a new generation of fast road riders in the 1970s, with the rise of Dunstall, Rickman, Seeley and many more bespoke bike builders.

The big factories jumped on the bandwagon too. Machines like the Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk I, Ducati 900SS and the MV Agusta 750S all captured the spirit of the Cafe Racer. Then the slick, super fast, Japanese sport bikes of the 80s came along, and looked set to consign the Cafe Racer special to the history books.

But a revival had to happen. The Ace Cafe London re-opened, bike builders as diverse as Wakan, Fred Krugger, Nick Gale and Roland Sands all began to create lean, back-to-basics motorcycles, but with their own unique twist on Cafe Racer heritage. From the Buell 1125 CR to the Guzzi V7 Sport, mainstream modern bikes have also re-discovered their street racing soul.

The 96-page paperback book is available now from bookshops or from

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-The rebellious spirit of the 50s.
-Foreword by Paul Dunstall.
-Personal memories of the 60s/70s UK Cafe Racer scene.
-Previously unpublished pictures.
-Unique prototypes and specials.
-World-beating motorcycles, made in garden sheds.
-Interviews with bike builders, including Norman Hyde.
-The best and worst Cafe Racer manufacturers.
-Fascinating past advertising.
-Global directory of Cafe Racer information.
-The bikes and the people of the Ace Cafe London today.
-The Cafe Racer’s future in the 21st century.

Alastair Walker has been riding motorcycles for over 30 years and writing about them for two decades.

Starting off on a BSA like his father and grandfather before him, Alastair owned several Japanese bikes before becoming a freelance motorbike journalist in the late 1980s. Since then he has tested hundreds of bikes, modern and classic, from a humble Honda CG125 to a 5.7-litre, V8-powered, Boss Hoss cruiser. Alastair has edited magazines such as Biker and in the UK, and contributed over 1500 features to various magazines across the world, including Motor Cycle News, Classic Bike Guide, Motorcycle Mechanics, Moto 73 and Cycle World. He also has a weekly column in the Manchester Evening News, and has seen work published in Sports Car Market and Classic Car Weekly. Alastair is married and lives in Cheshire.

Paperback. 96 pages. 205x190mm. 100 color and b&w pictures

By Alastair Walker
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