We’re right in the middle of a huge retro bike fad, and at the heart of this retro bike craze is the Café Racer.
Every manufacturer has their take on this particular design, which is kind of odd considering that back when they were actually a “thing” they were all heavily modified bikes. Now you can buy them like this directly from the factory.
Some manufacturers take the “retro” aspect very seriously, others have put a little modernity in it, all the bases have been covered. If you want to race between cafes, these are the best bikes for the job.
8 Ducati Sports 1000
The one bike not currently on sale is also arguably the most amazing. It beat the trend of more than a decade and paid the price.
Granted, the Ducati was generally overpriced and that’s the main reason it fell apart so dramatically, but today it’s a relative bargain given its status as a future classic.
seven Kawasaki Z650RS
One brand that takes their line of retro bikes very seriously is Kawasaki, the 650 platform is their most versatile but finds its most fitting form in the form of the RS.
The combination of a comfortable riding position, attractive price, respectable performance and incredible looks make it one of the best value offerings. It also comes with all the modern conveniences you would expect from a brand new motorcycle, unlike some of the more “authentic” cafe racers.
6 Triumph Thruxton RS
Triumph has technically been doing the cafe racer thing longer than anyone, and the Thruxton platform is now iconic in its own right.
It took on the challenge from Ducati in the early 2000s and held onto its niche until cafe racers hit the mainstream market. Since then it has become the go-to for those willing to spend a little more for the most authentic and powerful cafe racer on the market.
5 Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
No one makes budget bikes quite like Royal Enfield, the 650 is their best platform yet, and while all of their bikes retain a retro feel, the interceptor is a proper cafe racer.
It makes a respectable 47 horsepower which is more than enough for this end of the market, with a base price under $6,000 it offers incredible value. It received rave reviews upon release and has also proven to be quite reliable so far.
4 Kawasaki W800 Cafe
With the Z650RS and Z900RS they cover their bases pretty well, but they’re both modern bikes dressed like old cafe racers, and if you want something more authentic?
If so the green team still has you covered, the W800 is an air cooled machine that looks like it’s time traveled back to the 60’s unfortunately it’s still priced as a new bike…
3 Yamaha XSR700
No engine is as versatile as the Yamaha CP2, from sportbikes to adventure bikes, you’ll find the CP2 in virtually every type of motorcycle. What’s fun is that it actually works, every time.
If you’re looking for a modern cafe racer, there’s more or less a dead end between this one and the Z650RS, they both offer amazing value, but the Yamaha licked the Kawa in terms of power. It’s just more fun to drive
2 Triumph Street Twin
Between this and the Thruxton it might feel like it’s from the Stone Age, but that makes it technically more authentic than the big-bore Thruxton and a whole lot of fun.
It is still quite expensive compared to other “authentic” cafe racers that are more period correct, air cooled, and generally slower. It does however have a distinct advantage, it is truly a British bike, and for many it is well worth it…
1 Norton V4CR
Norton has a storied history, often putting the race ahead of profitability, and it has stumbled them as a company more than once. Their most recent resurgence, under the watchful eye of Indian giant TVS, gives us hope that they might stick around a bit longer this time around.
Instead of going back to the “good old days”, their latest creation is anything but old school underneath. The V4CR is a 180 horsepower superbike, simply masquerading as a cafe racer. It’s a cafe racer on steroids, which we’d call fault if it was made by anyone other than Norton, the company that gave birth to the very idea of cafe racing, and that’s the weapon they brought into battle in hand.