In recent years, Café Racers, originally a style of motorcycle used for quick rides from one coffee bar to another, have increasingly appealed to bike enthusiasts in Ho Chi Minh City.
The term "Café Racer" developed among British motorcycle lovers in the early 1960s, specifically in the Rocker (or ton-up boy) subculture.
Café Racers were also common in Italy, France, and other European countries.
The bikes, with their rough appearance and speed, are a sharp contrast to elegant scooters.
The term “Café Racer” is thought to derive from groups of people who would gather at coffee shops.
They would play a piece of music and begin a race. They would bend their upper bodies as low as possible and speed up to reach their destination and get back to the departure point before the piece of music ended.
In short, Café Racers are simple bikes which have been revamped from classic sport lines, including BSA, AJS, and Norton.
They typically boast clip-on handle bars, an exhaust pipe pulled to the rear, and a one-passenger seat.
Café Racers come to Ho Chi Minh City
Over the past few years, Café Racers have wooed more bikers in Ho Chi Minh City.
Groups of Café Racer buffs have formed and adopted different varieties of the bikes.
Most Café Racer bikes are revamped, with parts taken from different models.
These revamped bikes usually fetch exorbitant prices, but many devotees do not mind spending large sums on them.
Compared to Café Racers in their early days, today’s bikes are notably different, especially when it comes to fuel tanks and chassis.
More bike lines can now be turned into Café Racers compared to the 1960s.
They are no longer limited to the sport classic lines of BSA, AJS, or Norton. Instead customers can alter the Honda CBX750, Honda CB1000, Yamaha SR400, and Kawasaki K750.
BMW’s K100 and R75/6 bikes, as well as average old bikes such as a Honda 67, Honda Win100, and Suzuki GN250, can also be upgraded into Café Racers. These bikes are not complete without a pair of Ducati S2R front forks, an Ohlins buffer, a Trail Tech indicator, Vee Rubber tyres, and a K&N filter.
“The chassis must be built and refined manually. This phase takes almost a month and requires a thorough understanding of vehicle structures,” noted Vi Tu, owner of Tu Thanh Da Garage.
A striking Café Racer stands out for its uncovered, powerful engine.
Therefore, considerable time is spent searching for the engines of powerful models, such as the Honda CB1000, Honda GL400, Honda CBX750, and BMW K100.
Many Café Racer enthusiasts hunt for components on overseas forums and trading websites and have them shipped to Vietnam.
Aficionados also do not hesitate when it comes to spending money buying their fuel tank, one of the bikes’ most notable details.
Enthusiasts of the coarse-looking bikes are no longer limited to rockers or thrill seekers, but also now include intellectuals and artists.
What they typically have in common is the urge for adventure and hitting the road.
The bike lovers usually get together for long trips to the countryside or across the country.
According to Hung, a member of Psychotramps 13, a group of Café Racer enthusiasts, his friends cannot do without such accessories as bike helmets that reveal three-fourths of their face, goggles, Levi’s jeans, and boots.
“It takes genuine passion to be a Café Racer aficionado. It would be hard to stay committed to the hobby if one takes it up merely to keep up with the trend or to look cool, as maneuvering the bike in crowded streets in large cities is quite a challenge, and the bikes leave their riders fatigued on long trips,” shared a veteran enthusiast.