Last December I planned to have a Café Racer project but all I could find was old motorcycles that were not working properly, motorcycles that were sold too high, motorcycles without clean titles, and the owners that just didn't return my calls. Very frustrating.
[NOTE: café racer is a motorcycle genre in the 1960's where standard motorcycles were stripped and modified to look like a race bikes, with low handlebars, minimum saddle, minimum accessories, and small head fairing. They were used mostly to show off in front of cafes rather than to race, hence the name]
In April, I finally got what I want. I got a working, running, clean 1981 Suzuki GS450 with clean title for under $1000. All system nominal; the engines run great, breaks run great although a bit noisy and bumpy (but stop the bike whenever I want it to stop), body is very nice, some rust here and there but for a 33-year-old it's really good (and what can't steel wool do? ) So I traded Asuka with this:
Bubbling aside, it's time to go to the drawing board. I will turn this into a cafe racer and I figure this makeover will need 2 phases:
A. Phase 1: Body Work
- Handle bar + mirrors
- Rear set
- Frame (optional)
- Fender (optional)
- Fairing/windshield (optional)
B. Phase 2: Performance
- Stage 1/2 Dynajet kit
- Air filter
Phase 1 would be mostly this year, starting immediately (I already ordered some cafe parts). I am not into hacking frames, but I have to see if it is absolutely necessary with the cafe seat. If I can find a way to go around it, I will. I'm not into changing rear fender and tail light too, but again it depends on the seat. So looks like the seat will be the critical part of Phase 1. And some of you know how I feel about windshield. I plan to do it, but if I hate it (which most likely I will) then I'll skip this part.
Phase 2 is for next year. I'm not turning this bike into a hot rod, but a bit performance improvement would be nice. However, the bike is 33 years old. I have to see if there's a point in these performance enhancements, so the bike doesn't feel like a middle-aged man taking Viagra . That being said, Phase 2 might not happen at all. I have to see how the bike performs throughout the year.
The easiest and simplest change is the handlebar. I happen to have a BikeMaster minding its own business in the garage. So I mounted it backwards
I replaced the OEM mirrors with short 4-inch EMGO Lil' Cruiser (I am not a fan of bar-end mirrors).
I also replaced the OEM grips with Enduro Foam Grips and doubled it with GrabOn Grip Covers for ultimate cushion and vibration absorber.
I did have to reroute some lines and readjust the free plays to get it to work properly.
However I have to tell you riding in this position is not very comfortable. My wrists are throbbing from riding just 5 miles. Maybe I'm just not used to it (hopefully), because it'll be a shame to invest all these cool stuffs and not get to ride it.
Café Racer seat is small, lightweight, and has only minimal cushion. This is to show how much different the two seats are (and how much more comfortable one is than the other )
And the new seat has 6 pre-drilled holes which, hopefully, line up with something solid on the frame so I don't have to chop / weld something.
My initial plan was to bolt the seat to the frame. As I mentioned before, the seat has 6 pre-drilled holes with 5/16 threads in it. I was hoping that the holes line up with a part of the frame so I can bolt the seat to the frame. To see that, I marked the holes with tapes
Similarly, I marked the location of the frame's lateral frame with similar tape. There was a bracket just next to the tank to hook up a bracket in the OEM seat, then there was a lateral frame member at the center of the bike next to the air box, and then there was a bracket next to the rear fender which I don't know what it actually did. Everything was marked with tapes.
Now let's see how everything lined up:
No such luck. Nothing lined up. Bummer
But the rear bracket actually support the "hump" of the seat. This gave me another idea. I "cannibalized" the hook bracket from the OEM seat and installed it on the cafe seat. This way the cafe seat could just slide forward and latch into the forward bracket.
Lo and behold, I have one support.
Now I needed at least one more support, two or three would be ideal. And since the rear bracket already supported the seat at the hump, I just had to stabilize it so it wouldn't shift around. So I could just drill a hole through the bracket and the seat and bolt them altogether. The rear bracket didn't support any major load anyway (5 years doing airframe analysis finally pays off! )
And in came the bolts:
I am very happy that I didn't have to hack off the frame. This is the biggest part of the body work.
Changed the OEM front fender with that of a Harley Davidson Sportster. For the moment the rear fender stays as is.
Also installed shock boots to give it an authentic 1960's look.....
I am not one who is big on windshield, but the look on Triumph Thruxton is so irresistible I just had to get one.
This is not the original Triumph Thruxton fairing. This is a cheap $48.50 replica, made from fiberglass. The color doesn't match the bike, so I painted it to make it as close to the bike's color as possible.
I also took off the passenger pegs to make it a true solo bike.
And youtube video:
This concludes Phase 1. I will skip rearsets for now because it will make me lean forward even more. The current riding position puts my knees really close to my chest, but I'd rather have my knees up to my chest than support my body on my arms.
I will keep her for a year, then plan for Phase 2 next year. But if she gives me a lot of headache, I'll just sell it for a good price.
Oh, I will call her "Sylia" after Sylia Stingray of BubbleGum Crissis (yes, I admit, I'm a geek, but I love my motorcycles )