Café culture is alive and well
Sometimes in life we make things more difficult than they need to be, but that, after all is how we learn.
When I started building this Yamaha XS500 based cafe racer I had no real idea how I wanted it to end up... I love the traditional café style, but I also love the modern incarnation of the style.
Having said that, sometimes it is nice to just go with the flow, take a ‘mistake’ and turn it into an awesome feature, test your creative skills and end up with a result where 1+1=3
Like for example the two small red LED tail lights neatly tucked inside the rear sub-frame.
Truth be told, when we fitted the battery box we drilled two holes in the wrong place on either side of the rear sub-frame As it turned out, the holes on each side were just the right size for a small red LED bulb which slotted neatly into the gap and now acts as auxiliary stop/tail lights.
This build took on a mind of its own, even when I thought it was finished and decked out in disco-ball metal-flake green paint I thought it would look awesome... it didn’t, so she was buffed back to base and repainted a creamy off-white colour which is a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s.
I did get a bit of bling under the skin in the form of dark-red glitter twin stripes running front to back on the tank, and the glitter Yamaha tuning forks on the side of the tank.I was repeatedly told “the square tank won’t look right as a café racer” I didn’t... and don’t agree.
The beauty about this kind of café-racer is, it looks very simple and minimalistic but it takes a lot of work to get such clean lines.
I noticed the small gap in the thickness of the frame-rails and this is where we elected to fit the gubbins. I made a blanking plate which was riveted to the underside of the frame-rails, the electrical components were mounted on top of the plate, and the seat sit’s on top to cove it all up.
I didn’t want any bolts visible holding the seat unit on, and with the underside of the frame rails blanked off there was no access from below so I had to be creative. I had a two-piece seat unit crafted from the finest Italian leather and embossed with the Yamaha logo. The seat unit is bolted to the frame rail from above, then the leather seat is attached by Velcro to the seat unit... great job!
Café racers aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. A 500cc Yamaha used to be a ‘big bike’ but compared in stature to a modern 125, the old 500s are small.
The old 500 engine is bullet-proof but incomparable to its modern equivalent. However where the old 500 wins hands-down is in the fun factor.
The snort of a parallel twin growling along; the lightening speed with which heads whip round once they hear it, and the wide-mouth smiles as people stop, point and stare as you blip past enjoying life.
Riding between the hedges on a 40+ year old bike gives a certain kind of buzz and comes with a genuine satisfaction and that is something a modern bike simply cannot deliver.
This bike was saved from the scrap heap, fettled, nurtured and cajoled back to life and now is enjoying a second chance of life. There is something special about riding a bike that is original, unique and knowing nobody else will ever own the exact same bike no matter how many rallys, meetings or car parks you pull into... unless you decide to sell it!
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