Tuesday, August 13, 2013


This has been an incredibly busy summer for The Vintagent: writing a big chunk of the BikeExif/Gestalten book 'The Ride', organizing the 'Ton Up!' exhibit for Sturgis Bike Week, and writing the 'Ton Up!' book for Motorbooks.  Cyril Huze stopped by the 'Ton Up!' Michael Lichter exhibition hall at the Buffalo Chip in Sturgis, and filed the following report on his mega-popular Cyril Huze Post on Aug. 6th, 2013.  It's worth a click-back to his site, to read the comments attached, which are always an entertaining mix on CHP...

From the Cyril Huze Post, Aug 6 2013:

[Robert Carter painted sign]
An exhibition focusing on the origins of the Cafe Racer movement is certain to draw huge crowds. Especially it is organized by internationally renowned photographer Michael Lichter. Mike’s 2013 Sturgis Buffalo Chip exhibition to celebrate motorcycles as art is called “Ton Up – Speed, Style and Cafe Racer Culture.”
[Paul d'O with Michael Lichter]

Co-curators Michael Lichter and historian Paul d’Orléans have assembled a comprehensive display of 35 machines from 12 makes and 6 decades. Included in the show are original or modified machines by BMW, BSA, Ducati, Honda, Harley Davidson, Moto Guzzi, Norton, Rickman, Triumph, Vincent and Yamaha.
[the Godet-Egli Vincent of Mars Webster]

 In addition the exhibition features never-published photography from the original café racing scene in 1960s England to the present, paintings by Triumph ‘resident artist’ Conrad Leach, images from the Ace Café Collection, vintage leather ‘Rocker’ jackets from the Lewis Leathers archive, the “One-Show” 21-helmets display of custom painted helmets, paintings by Andrea Chiaravalli and photography by Erick Runyon with other artists to be announced.
[the 'Klock Werks' modified Triumph Thunderbird Storm]
Each year, the “Motorcycles as Art” exhibition garners tremendous media coverage from around the globe and last Sunday 4th, a record breaking of over 1000 members of the industry attended a media reception offered by Michael, Paul and their sponsors – Hot Leathers and Keyboard Motorcycle Shipping. This not-to-be missed exhibition is now open for the public to view free of charge until Saturday August 10th at the legendary Sturgis Buffalo Chip.
[Klock Werks headlamp]
[Lossa Engineering CB77]

This year’s exhibition will get even more recognition as it will live on in the coffee-table book “Ton Up – Speed, Style and Cafe Racer Culture,” published by Motorbooks International. Michael Lichter will photograph all the motorcycles in his Sturgis studio for the book, which will also include the jackets, artwork, and photographs from the exhibit.
[Brad Richards' 'Sporty TT']
Paul d’Orléans is writing a comprehensive history of the Café Racer movement for the book; from its deep origins in speed-modified road bikes from the ‘Teens, to the ‘classic’ period in England in the 1950s/60s, through its various resurrections in the 1970s, 80s, and especially, with the advent of Internet motorcycle blogs, TV shows, and ‘Café Racer’ magazines, the explosive popularity of the style in the 21st Century.
[Cyril Huze with Paul d'O]
[Willie G. Davidson]
Among the featured builders: Herb Harris (Harris Vincent Gallery), Yoshi Kosaka (Garage Co), Mark Mederski (National Motorcycle Museum), Gordon McCall (Quail Motorsports Gathering), plus Willie G Davidson’s #0001 1977 XLCR, and machines from Alain Bernard, Arlen Ness, Bryan Fuller, Brian Klock, Dustin Kott, Greg Hageman, Jason Michaels, Jay Hart, Jay LaRossa, Kevin Dunworth, Ray Drea (Harley-Davidson design director), Roland Sands, Skeeter Todd, Steve “Brew Dude” Garn, Steve “Carpy” Carpenter, Thor Drake, and Zach Ness. Included in the show are original or modified machines by BMW, BSA, Ducati, Honda, Harley Davidson, Moto Guzzi, Norton, Rickman, Triumph, Vincent and Yamaha."
[Champions Moto 'Brighton']
[Bryan Fuller of Fuller Hot Rods]
[Text and photos copyright Cyril Huze Post]


GuitarSlinger said...

I hate to say this but the Cafe book may wind up being a day late and a dollar short interest wise seeing as how the whole Cafe racer thing is getting a bit thin and waning

Best of luck mind you ... but this book and the exhibit would of been better served had they been done two years ago ... trends waxing and waning as they do ..

Bound ( pun intended ) to be yet another example of " Timing is Everything " I'm afraid

The Vintagent said...

Guitarslinger, your ignorance of the show's content is understandable, as you weren't there and I've only posted this re-gram of a press release, with photos.

I heard such criticism - that the Café Racer movement was 'over' - when I started a Café-themed motorcycle club in 1987, the 'Roadholders' in San Francisco. I'm sure the 'Mean Fuckers' club in London were told the same thing in the 1990s; the Ace Cafe/59 Club boys hating them for doing it 'wrong', and everyone else thinking they were 20 years late. But, we didn't care about the 'timing', we just liked the bikes, and built our own, updated versions.

Since the 2000s the interest in such machines has grown, and Café Racers are one part of a resurgence of vitality in the motorcycle scene, the biggest wave of youthful, popular interest since the 1970s. Hence the multiple books coming out on the current Custom scene, of which Café Racers are a part. I happen to be involved with two of those books, 'The Ride' in conjunction with BikeExif, (which comes out on Aug 24th, and covers the whole current Custom scene), and 'Ton Up!', due out later this Fall.

7 bike builders felt compelled to built machines specifically for the 'Ton Up!' exhibit, including the current director of H-D design (Ray Drea), and BMW chose 'Ton Up!' for their first US appearance of their new Café Racer 'Concept 90' built with Roland Sands. Willie G. Davidson was thrilled to see his 1975 concept for a Harley Café Racer, the XLCR, validated in the exhibit, and shipped his personal serial #1 bike to 'Ton Up!', along with his personal collection of supporting documents (blueprints, original ad art, etc).

My interest in Café Racers goes back to the mid-1980s when I discovered the 'style', and the 'Ton Up!' book will document the hidden history, the 'lost years', when people like me carried on building and riding such machines, long after, and long before, they were 'on trend'. The book isn't about the current trend per se, it's about 50 years of Café Racer history, and the enduring appeal of this style of motorcycle.

Had you been at Sturgis, I'm sure you would have a different opinion of the show, and the upcoming book, and marveled at the fact that no such motorcycle show has ever been mounted, and just how good it was to see all those machines together. My hat goes off to Michael Lichter for the idea and the industry muscle required to pull it off, and to the Buffalo Chip for spending north of $20k to sponsor bike shipping and installation.

My take on Sturgis, and 'behind the scenes' story of installing the 'Ton Up!' show, is coming up next.

Anonymous said...

P d'O -

You're the right man for the job and I'm sure the exhibit was a bright spot on the Sturgis calendar. Good on you and Lichter for what was surely a job well done.

I look forward to reading your book(s).

"Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinions." - Jack Kerouac

- JZ

Don OReilly said...

great post Paul,
funny, nobody told me "the whole Cafe racer thing is getting a bit thin and waning". I guess I must be out of the loop, hehe. but I still ride a cafe bike, as I have been since, oh, about '76. Never saw it as anything but form following function. Thats what it is to me anyway

jerrykap said...

GuitarSlinger is WRONG! Building bikes the way you want and with a touch of attitude is like rock & roll...it's not going away any time soon. It will only re-invent itself.

I do have a laugh at the current bevy of young hipsters who think midsize Japanese oldies are the way to go. They are cheap, plentiful and fun. But still under powered and anemic. But they are breathing new life into our craft.

Rhynchocephalian said...

Having just run on the Northeast States Cafe Convergence and also having the understanding of the original Cafe racer culture, I can only wonder what the future of the cafe culture will continue to evolve towards. It seems as if there might be three different strata of the culture; The speedsters, the stylist and those that do out of necessity (art, finance or peer culture) I look forward to its unfolding.

Hairy Larry said...

My first bike in '69 was a Honda Scrambler, but I yearned to have a 'Caferacer'. Read about them in 'Cycle' magazine, since there was only one guy at my High school who had a Caferacer. A Honda Superhawk with low bars and Bates Megaphones.He then moved on to one of the first 650 Yamahas in the Sacramento area and put low bars and megas on it. I moved on to CB-350's,CB-450's, CB-500's and eventually to a Norton Commando...all done Caferacer style. If the pics I see at the Cafe Racers of New England page at Facebook are any indication...I would tend to believe interest in this type of motorcycle is quite strong world wide... Nothing wrong with young people modifying older Japanese bikes, (or old folks...). I'm working on a beater CB-550 I picked up. It will be cheaper than trying to 'restore' it. The idea is to have some fun...