Guide to the Best Café Racer Motorcycles
Feb 9, 2024Tags:guidebest of
From custom builds to production models, the world of café racer motorcycles has seen a surge of interest and popularity in recent years. With bikes that used to be primarily British custom builds of standard production models modified for speed and handling, we now see popular manufacturers producing café racers you can take right off the lot.
For a list of the best café racers (in no particular order), and more in-depth information on the below popular models, keep scrolling!
- Triumph Thruxton Final Edition 
- Norton Commando 961 Café Racer
- Husqvarna Vitpilen
- Royal Enfield Continental GT650
- Moto Guzzi V7 Stone Corsa
- Kawasaki Z900RS CAFE ABS
- MV Agusta Superveloce 98 Edition
- BMW R nineT 100 Years
- 2024 Suzuki SV650 ABS
- Benelli Imperiale 400 Cafè Racer
First Off, What Is A Café Racer?
A café racer is a type of customized motorcycle that originated in 1950s Britain, characterized by its minimalist design aimed at enhancing speed and handling for short, rapid rides between cafes. These bikes typically feature low-mounted handlebars, a distinct "bum stopper" or slab-style seat, and a simplified appearance, drawing inspiration from road racing motorcycles. The style initially centered around modifying British twin-cylinder models, but it has since expanded to include various motorcycle brands and engine types.
Over the years, the café racer style evolved, particularly in the mid-1970s when Japanese bikes began influencing its design. This subculture of motorcycle riders value the combination of speed, handling, and classic style. Modern café racers, produced by major manufacturers like BMW, Norton, Ducati, and Yamaha, maintain the traditional aesthetic while incorporating contemporary technology and performance features.
Why is it so hard to find Café Racer Motorcycles?
Café racers originated as custom-built motorcycles, popular in the 1960s UK, where riders modified bikes for speed and handling. This style emphasized minimalism and performance. While this tradition continues, with many enthusiasts still customizing bikes, modern cafe racers are also available as factory-built models from various manufacturers. These newer models blend classic styling with contemporary technology, reflecting the café racer's heritage while offering modern features. In essence, cafe racers today are a mix of custom builds and production models.
Triumph Thruxton Final Edition 
Well, it’s the end of an era. This is the newest and last model in Triumph’s lineup of Thruxton cafe racers.
The Triumph Thruxton Final Edition marks the culmination of this iconic café racer's legacy. It boasts hand-finished detailing, including a Competition Green metallic paint scheme, gold-line detailing, and heritage logo. This limited-edition model, celebrating two decades of modern Thruxton, features a high-torque 1200cc engine, delivering exhilarating performance with a classic British-twin sound. Owners receive an individually numbered Certificate of Authenticity, and each bike includes an exclusive 'Final Edition' engine badge, symbolizing its unique place in Triumph's history. This edition represents a blend of racing heritage and contemporary design.
Norton Commando 961 Café Racer
The Norton Commando 961 Café Racer embodies a fusion of speed and style, reminiscent of the classic café racers popular among the Ton Up Boys. Its design, featuring clip-on handlebars, brings the rider closer to the action, emphasizing the bike's roaring engine and the thrill of the ride. This model focuses on delivering a dynamic and immersive riding experience, highlighting both its performance and classic café racer aesthetics.
Since its inception in 1966, the Norton Commando has embodied the brand's long standing values of high-quality components, precise engineering, and traditional craftsmanship, established by 'Pa' Norton in 1902. These principles are now presented in a modern context, with the Commando avoiding unnecessary technology to maintain its pure, classic motorcycle essence.
The Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 stands out as one of the best café racers, not just for its striking looks, but for its performance on urban roads. It's a bike that melds modern technology with the essence of classic cafe racer style. Riding the Vitpilen 401, you're immediately struck by its agility and lightweight feel, making navigating through city traffic a breeze.
Its updated electronics make for smooth power delivery, while the adjustable suspension allows for a tailored riding experience. The bike's minimalist design isn't just for show; it enhances its overall handling and performance. Ideal for city commutes, the Vitpilen 401 transforms daily rides from mundane tasks to exhilarating experiences, though its aggressive seating may not be everyone's preference for longer journeys. For those seeking a stylish, nimble, and enjoyable ride in the city, the Vitpilen 401 is a compelling choice.
Royal Enfield Continental GT650
The Royal Enfield Continental GT650 impressively marries classic cafe racer aesthetics with modern functionality. At its core, a 648cc parallel-twin engine delivers a balanced mix of power and accessibility, making it suitable for both new and seasoned riders. Its linear torque and distinct exhaust note add to its charm. The bike handles well in urban environments and remains stable at higher speeds, thanks to a suspension that offers a reasonable compromise between comfort and responsiveness. The GT650's design, highlighting its retro roots, is complemented by solid build quality and a range of color options. This bike stands out as a great option for those seeking the simplicity and style of a classic cafe racer, enhanced with the reliability of contemporary engineering.
Moto Guzzi V7 Stone Corsa
The Moto Guzzi V7 Stone Corsa is a special edition that blends the company's racing heritage with modern features. This model marks a departure from Moto Guzzi's traditional tourer/cruiser image, drawing inspiration from its past involvement in GP racing and Thunder/Twins series. The bike is powered by an 850cc engine, similar to the one used in Moto Guzzi's adventure bikes, producing 65 hp and 54 lb-ft of torque. While it's not the most powerful engine in the segment, it's well-suited for enjoyable and sensible-speed riding.
In terms of design, the V7 Stone Corsa boasts a race-style paint job, bar-end mirrors, and a race-style seat, with an optional solo cowling for a more sporty appearance. Modern technologies such as traction control, ABS, and EFI come standard, ensuring a balance of classic style and contemporary functionality. Additional distinctive features include a Special Edition badge and the option to add a body-colored single seat cover, enhancing its sporty appeal. The bike is a unique offering for those who appreciate the fusion of Moto Guzzi's racing legacy with modern motorcycle technology.
Kawasaki Z900RS CAFE ABS
The Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe masterfully revives the classic Z1 900's style, blending retro charm with modern technology. Its 948cc liquid-cooled, inline four-cylinder engine provides a powerful yet smooth ride, complemented by an assist and slipper clutch for easy gear shifts. The bike's horizontal back-link rear suspension ensures comfortable handling, while modern features like electronic rider support, LED lighting, and digital instrumentation add contemporary flair to its timeless design. This fusion of past and present makes the Z900RS Cafe an exemplary cafe racer, appealing to both classic bike enthusiasts and modern riders.
MV Agusta Superveloce 98 Edition
The MV Agusta Superveloce 98 Edizione Limitata is a limited edition marvel, restricted to just 300 units, and stands out with its Rosso Verghera color scheme. It pays homage to MV Agusta's historic roots, boasting a compact yet potent 798 cc in-line three engine that delivers 147 hp. This engine's light weight contributes significantly to the bike's low dry weight of just 173 kg, which can further drop to 165 kg with the racing kit. The Superveloce 98 blends retro cafe racer vibes with a futuristic vision of motorcycle design.
This model, essentially a special variant of the MV Agusta Superveloce 800, celebrates the brand's first model from 80 years ago, a 98cc two-stroke. It exemplifies Italian performance with cutting-edge technology, remarkable power, and exceptional handling, all encapsulated in a design that's arguably one of the most aesthetically pleasing in the motorcycle world. Its design elements, from the fairing line to the low handlebars and snug seat, underscore its racing lineage and aerodynamic efficiency.
BMW R nineT 100 Years
Celebrating a century of its legacy, BMW introduces the R nineT 100 Years, a tribute to the iconic R 32 that began BMW's motorcycle story. This limited edition, capped at 1,923 units, is a collector's dream, embodying nostalgia and modernity. It features the signature boxer engine and exclusive Option 719 milled parts. The standout Black Storm Metallic paint on its chrome-plated tank, reminiscent of the 1969 R 75/5, highlights the bike's historical roots.
This model isn't just a nod to the past; it's a contemporary design icon, blending striking black Option 719 components with an Oxblood single rider seat and the Option 719 Classic wheel. It's a statement piece, limited to "1 of 1923" units, signifying its exclusivity for aficionados. The R nineT 100 Years, while carrying a piece of BMW's heritage, stands out with its modern features like adaptive headlights, creating a unique blend of timeless glamour and contemporary elegance.
2024 Suzuki SV650 ABS
Since its initial release in 1999, the Suzuki SV650 has been a staple in the motorcycling world, known for its sporty personality and mid-sized V-twin engine. The 2024 SV650 ABS continues this legacy with a fine-tuned powerplant that balances performance, low emissions, and excellent fuel economy. Its light and agile chassis is designed for a sporty and exhilarating ride, achieving impressive lean angles during cornering. This agility is complemented by a pair of four-piston, ABS-equipped Tokico brake calipers and 290mm stainless-steel rotors at the front, enhancing safety and control.
Aesthetically, the 2024 SV650 ABS boasts a striking look, combining Glass Sparkle Black bodywork with a gold trellis frame and matching gold, cast-aluminum wheels, reminiscent of classic cafe racers. The bike's design is further accentuated by clip-on handlebars, a feature consistent with the classic cafe racer style, lending it an air of authenticity and retro charm. This combination of sparkling performance and stunning style makes the SV650 ABS a desirable bike for a broad range of riders, merging the power and agility of a modern roadster with the timeless appeal of a cafe racer.
Benelli Imperiale 400 Cafè Racer
The Benelli Imperiale 400 is a modern interpretation of a classic cafe racer, blending historical charm with contemporary performance. It harks back to the iconic Benelli-MotoBi Imperiales of the 1950s but with a modern twist. At its core lies a new air-cooled, four-stroke single-cylinder engine housed in a sturdy steel-tube-and-plate frame. This combination of retro design and modern engineering makes the Imperiale 400 a perfect choice for those seeking the nostalgia of classic biking with the reliability of today's technology, capturing the essence of a timeless, open-road experience.
Experience the uniqueness and retro authenticity with café racers available for rent on Riders Share. From custom models to off-the-lot racers with classic style, you can find one that fits you. Rent online today in under 5 minutes, with motorcycle rentals as low as $50/day.