With this post I’ll try to inspire cafe racer enthusiast to start working on their own Low Budget Cafe Racer. Café racers come in a lot of different setups and prices, from bikes under $1000 and even up to $60,000 (like the CX500 Café Racer from Sacha Lakic). I think it’s not necessary to spend thousands of dollars, so we’ll hook you up to the bare essence of building a cafe racer.
Low Budget Cafe Racer – Must Haves
So you’re building a cafe racer on a budget. Good news: that is totally do-able! So what are the must haves for a typical cafe racer? That’s difficult to say, because everybody has his own taste, but if we follow our unofficial description of a cafe racer, these modifications are an absolute must:
- Cafe racer seat (solo seater)
- Low handlebars (clip ons or “clubmans”)
- Weight reduction (= remove all unnecessary parts)
- Sport exhaust
Back in the 60’s and 70’s this would do the job just fine. So if you’re working on an absolute minimum budget, you can have yourself a cafe racer for a few hundred of dollars, depending on the price of the base bike. Two other important must haves are: the willingness to learn working on a motorcycle (if you have to) and time.
The Base Bike
Here’s an important tip:
If you decide to have minimal modifications, please make sure that you have a proper base bike which is in descent, (ride-able) condition.
Let me explain this: I’m sure you can pick up a cool base bike under $500, but in what shape? Follow this rule: “if you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys”. In other words: you will have a crappy, rusty and maybe even an unsafe bike. No matter what you ride: always make sure it’s safe.
A cheap base bike could mean a lot of extra work or parts you didn’t calculated.
- Worn out brake pads (and/or disc(s))? Count $50 per set and $100 for a single disc.
- Worn out brake lines? New (get steel ones!) will easily go over $100.
- Old tires? A new set of tires will cost you around $200.
- Dead battery? From $50 (or just leave it!).
- Engine runs poor? Hopefully rejetting the carbs will help, otherwise: $$$
When it’s your first bike, try to find a Honda CB or BMW R-series. There are plenty produced in the early days and still many of them out there. Reliable and relatively simple machines. There are lots and lots of resources online and there is a huge market with parts.
Since the cafe racer scene boomed the last couple of years, prices of these machines increased rapidly. You really have to look out for a bargain. Also try to look for a machine that’s not in a 100% original state.
The Expensive Works
If you’re working on a low budget cafe racer, it’s good to know which works or parts are the most expensive. If you wan’t to keep yourself on the budget, please be cautious with:
- Paint jobs and coatings
- Laced wheels
- Engine overhauling
- Gas tank
- High end parts like:
- USD forks
- Suspension in general
- Custom made parts
But also don’t forget all those small parts together like the headlight, taillight, fenders, inicators, grips, suspension, rearsets, controls, battery, wiring, liquids etc. These will add up fast and will drain your budget! And maybe it’s a good idea to pack a small motorcycle tool kit!
Low Budget Cafe Racer Inspiration
Since the Honda CB seems to be a great machine for building a cafe racer on a budget, we’ve listed some pictures for inspiration. The bikes below are all built with a minimal budget.