Sunday, November 4, 2012

Its Alive!

CAFE RACING originated in the early sixties, primarily from Southern England.  As a young lad, I read everything I could get my hands on related to Rock and Roll.  Some of the greatest R&R bands in history were born in them days.

The Beatles, the Stones, Yardbirds, the Who... for a kid feeling somewhat out of step as I was, the rebellious nature of the rockers of the day, found company.  Too young to ride a motorcycle when Kennedy was shot, it wasn't until years later that I had my very first bike, but not too young to appreciate that there were rebels out there I could relate to.  Seeing scenes on b&w T.V. of the Brighton pier clashes between Mods and Rockers, I shadow boxed in my basement, pretending I was there.  Hurling rocks at bobbies and kicking scooter riding, feminine Mod butts!

Yeah... I know it was all a game to me, after all... I was growing up in Edmonton, not east London, it was my parent's basement, I didn't own either a motorbike or scooter and I hadn't a clue that people were cut, hurt , bleeding or landing in jail.

That whole subculture spawned the cafe racer of the day.  Dressed in all black leather, greasy riders raced from one cafe to another on BSA's, Norton's, Triumph's, AJS's or sometimes a concotion of hybrids.  Norvin's, Triton's, Tribsa's. 

The goal was to do the "Ton."

Bikes resembled the racers of the day, popular on British short circuits and the Isle of Man.  Flat bars or clip ons, megaphone exhausts, rear set pegs, solo seats and racing tires were the choice of those riders.  Being a skilled rider was sometimes second to being seen as a "skilled rider" while sitting sipping a cafe at some roadside table.

Even today, you'll see bikers and scooters parking on sidewalks all over Europe and to some extent, right here at home.

Dashing through the English countryside, hitting or bypassing the Ton, then pulling up at the ACE cafe or similar joint to jostle, brag or just sit sipping a cafe while downing a bag of fish and chips.  It was a male dominated sport, women strictly pillion in those days. 

Times have changed, today you're just as likely to see a woman in multi colored leathers tucked on the latest CBR/ZX/FZR/GSXR/SS, flashing along some back road well over the fabled ton, with an ease that those Rockers couldn't even imagine back in the day.  Parked right next to a modern sport (cafe racer) bike, will be a gaggle of scooters with nary a fight breaking out amongst them. 

Like many things over my lifetime, cafer racing has morfed into something a lot more mellow, if not sedate.

When I was doing my "Magical History Tours" 15-20 years ago, sometimes in threes, sometimes dozens, we'd tackle the back roads, riding well over the limit, testing not only the tires and frames, but ourselves.  Inevitably someone would go down in the dust and if lucky, to nothing more than a broken signal light or scraped fairing.  If not... it would be a tow truck and maybe an ambulance ride into the nearest town!

Sometimes you can take the boy outa the racer... but not the racer out of the boy!

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