Reliving a past they never had on machinery they didn't own first time round, Alex, Jon and Jim indulge in a spot of nostalgic old school cool. Let's go retro...
Nothing is ever as simple as it once was, as obvious as it might have been or, indeed, there to clearly figure out in black and white. Some answers don't come easy, the questions only with a little less difficulty. Which leads us, in a crisp CGI-focused digital world to the first point to ponder: why, when everything on two wheels is getting faster, lighter and better, would you want a motorcycle that is antiquated, slow, heavy and quite plainly not brilliant?
Part of that answer we'll get to after a fashion. First a bit of history, which is what the Ace Café serves up as well as steaming mugs of tea and monumental fry-ups. The Ace is situated on what is now a bypassed backwater of a road that was once the arterial heart of London, the A406 North Circular. It was a transport café, and back in '50s and '60s Britain it existed to dish up tea and fry-ups to lorry drivers. It, and many like it, had a jukebox, which played rock 'n' roll records - a big deal at the time, because you couldn't get rock 'n' roll on the radio.
Teenagers invented themselves about then, horrifying the morass of grey-faced post-war adults - and teenagers wanted to listen to rock 'n' roll. And some of these teenagers also discovered that motorcycles, far from being poor man's transport, were actually exciting methods of getting around with a glamour and danger that added instant sex appeal.
Obviously an important point, too. So heading to places like the Ace, listening to records, chewing the fat and simply hanging out with like-minded people became a way of life. The Café Racer - the term, the man and the machine, was born.
It's a movement that's long since been relegated to the history books - the horrific death toll among the ton-up boys led to a tabloid war that thrust bikers into the public spotlight. Those that survived grew older and moved on, but while café racing (as a verb) has disappeared the bikes never really have. And here's the first irony - a café racer was actually a race-replica, mimicking the stripped down essence of the racers of the day by adding clip-on handlebars, rearset footpegs and engine tuning to standard machines. Rather than buying your race-replica you made your own, and as there weren't track days you raced it on the road.
So here we are, with three motorcycles available to buy that look very much like they come from another time. One - the Triumph Thruxton 900 - is a cod reproduction of one of the original Triumph factory's racing bikes from 40 years ago. The first Triumph Thruxton was a hand-built racing legend, produced in limited numbers. Seeing one on the road then would be akin to seeing a Ducati 999 Corse running up to Saino's now. The Kawasaki W650, in yet another little twist of irony, is a more faithful visual copy of a '60s Brit Triumph than the Thruxton. Less ironic is the Enfield Bullet Sixty-5 Sportsman - built by Watsonian-Squire 30 miles from the original Royal Enfield plant in Redditch. Using components produced both in India and the UK, the Sixty-5 has perhaps the most direct connection with the past it purports to represent.
All three could easily be categorised in the 'old shite replica' bin of modern motorcycling but curiously, while they all might look the same, they individually dish up a very different experience. The fact they exist at all (ignoring the Enfield's lineage for a minute) is testament to the fact that sometimes simple is good and, while bikes are much faster, lighter and better now, boiling their component parts back down again and re-using an old recipe can work.
Continue Rockers Roll - 2/2
Posted: 24/01/2011 at 03:32
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