With all the buzz about cafe racers in Malaysia, MATmoto sat down with a group of long time enthusiasts to define what exactly the word ‘Cafe Racer” means here. The venue was Pulp in Bangsar. Dressed in their leathers and arriving on their fabulous machines, they turned more than a few heads. After a round of drinks, the guys took off their leathers, loosened up – and told us all about the scene in Malaysia.
1. What is a cafe racer in the first place?
Greaser Alan-Faizal: A cafe racer is a stripped-off bike that was designed and built solely for precise handling and speed.
Asep Ahmad Sastrawidjaja: To me personally, it is a motorcycle styled like GP bikes of the 60s & 70s. Nimble & light preferably a twin.
Jimmy Wee: A cafe racer to me is a bike which has been transformed or customised to the owner’s style or personality. This is usually achieved by lightening the overall weight of the bike by removing unnecessary parts or items. New accessories like handle bars, custom seats and mudguards will then be fitted onto the bike. Some owners will emphasise on the speed while some on the looks.
Tun Anuar Asikin Atan: “Cafe Racing” may refer to the night activity of the British-bikers in the 60s where they’ll race from one café to another. As for the styling of cafe racers, I don’t think there’s a definite concept. From my readings I see that the lads during those days will use whatever bike that they possess, strip it down, and modify it for speed and handling. Form will follow functions.
2.When did you first realise you like cafe racers?
Bro Ayip: I used to surf the internet looking at cafe racers. Then I met Eastern Bobber, the customiser. He built up a GS550 cafe racer. I fell in love with it and bought it. Then I slowly finished it up.
Asep Ahmad Sastrawidjaja: Motorcycles are in my blood. I am a fan of all styles of bikes especially those made in the golden era – between the 50s and 60s.
Jimmy Wee: I stopped riding for 20 years after one of my best friend who introduced me to motorcycles passed away after being knock down by a heavy vehicle.
Though I stopped riding, I still kept myself up to date with the bike scene both locally and internationally. Actually I was initially amused, then attracted to cafe racers about 5 years ago.
Tun Anuar Asikin Atan: I think I fell in love with classic bikes first, then the 60s cafe racing bike concept. Growing up, there was this classic bike shop near house. Whenever I cycled pass that workshop after school, I remember my heart would beat faster. It was then that I realised about my love for classic bikes and said to myself that one day I was going to get one.
3. Tell us briefly about the cafe racer lifestyle in Malaysia
Greaser Alan-Faizal: The cafe racer lifestyle is closely connected with the Rockers lifestyle not only in the UK, but also everywhere else in the entire world including Malaysia. Today, cafe owners build their bikes solely for the purpose of aesthetic looks rather then for speed like back in the 60’s. The culture nowdays is more towards customising the bikes to suit the owners taste and individuality rather then to make it fast.
Asep Ahmad Sastrawidjaja: It has been around for a very long time since the days of ‘Bulldog Kuan’. Recently it is resurfacing as more events appear.
Tun Anuar Asikin Atan: I think the cafe racer scene has become one of the most popular trends in motorcycle customisation. From old-timers or senior bike builders to rich young hipsters, cafe racers have become the sought after style for their bikes. It has this classic factor that makes you look good in jeans & leather jacket, or dapper in a suave suit.
4. What are the type of motorcycles (makes/brands/types) that make for good cafe racer conversions?
Greaser Alan-Faizal: Cafes can be built using whatever bikes that you have at your disposal as long as it suits the owner’s individual taste and style. Some might go for the period correct look and build a cafe based on the original brand bike that was used by the original rockers back in the day i.e Norton,Triumphs and BSA. Some might go with the American styling or concept which emphasise more on modern technologies and reliability and tend to choose brands like Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki. It depends a lot on the owner’s taste and what he or she wants.
Asep Ahmad Sastrawidjaja: Classics like Triumph, Norton to more modern SR400s and W800s. The rebirth of Triumph and Moto Guzzi have also spurred interest for conversions.
Tun Anuar Asikin Atan: Nothing beats a classics from the 60’s & 70’s. Preferably you need to get something with a straight tubular frame line from head to tail, so that it’ll be much easier for you to get that sleek 60’s racer look. But, having said that, I do have a couple of talented friends at Kerkus Cycle who managed to turn an easy riding bike with an inclined front end into a cool looking cafe racer. These guys are insane.
5. Briefly describe to us about your own cafe racer?
Greaser Alan-Faizal: Its a hybrid cafe which I call The Sporton. It was built solely for speed and handling. The frame is from a 1957 Norton Featherbed Wideline and the motor is from a Harley Davidson 1969 ironhead motor which has been heavily modified to squeeze as many horses as possible from an old Harley engine.
Bro Ayip: I have a Kawasaki W800SE with Clubman handlebars, custom pipes, cafe seats & tail.
Asep Ahmad Sastrawidjaja: Mine is based on a 1979 Suzuki GS1000. It’s heavily modified with Harley Davidson parts to create masculine highlights. Utilizing period accessories like a Monza gas cap & Avon tires.
Jimmy Wee: My bike is a 1978 Suzuki GS550 which was customised to a Brat Tracker. The reason for this is because I have a passion for scrambler and also Brat Style bikes.
Azahar KerKus: I own a Royal Enfield 350 bullet. Yeah, it’s Indian made, but that’s what I can afford. After a month riding it as standard, I customised it into a cafe racer. I changed the tank, installed a clubman handlebar, custom rear subframe, custom seat, changed the rear set and exhaust. There are still a few things to do before I am fully satisfied with it.
Tun Anuar Asikin Atan: My bike was built for only one purpose – to be ridden. It’s a 1979 Suzuki GS550 and it’s my one and only workhorse for business and pleasure. It’s a very reliable machine I must say. I use it as a daily commute to work and on long weekends, I’ll ride it almost 400 kilometres up north to my hometown in Sungai Petani, Kedah. So far so good. I’ve never experience any major issues, just normal wear & tear. It’s a raw looking bare metal finished bike, with rust and oil leaks everywhere. I don’t really pay much attention to the styling because it wasn’t built for a beauty contest, the engine is what
really matters to me. I always take care of the routine maintenance. I make a beeline to a friend’s workshop whenever I sense something is not right.