We decided to follow up our list of 2018 Top 10 Custom Motorcycles with the most popular cafe racers we featured this year, based on traffic and social engagement. Some of these were real darlings of social media, accruing thousands of likes on Facebook and Instagram, while others can boast “long legs,” continue to garner traffic month after month. Some are so extreme they stretch the “cafe racer” label far out of shape, while others are subtle builds done especially well, such as Katie Abdilla’s CB400F.
Without further ado, here are our Top 10 Cafe Racers of 2018, presented in alphabetical order by builder.
We have been in love with Katie Abdilla‘s Honda CB400F, “Billie,” since the first time we saw her flowing chrome headers and Varnish Blue paint. In a world of radical customs, Billie is the perfect balance of stock and custom — a Honda CB built to fit her rider like a glove. We caught up with Katie for details. What followed was one of our favorite features ever: the story of a girl and her dream bike, an accident on the highway, and the journey to rebuild the bike she loves.
This has to be one of the most beautiful vintage Honda builds we have ever seen. It’s called the Grey Ghost, a 1977 Honda CB550K cafe racer built by Michel Valle of San Diego’s Alchemy Motorcycles. Previously, we featured the shop’s mono-shock CB550. Since then, Valle has opened his shop full-time, and this CB550 he’s turned out is simply staggering. The bike came into the shop in need of a simple rebuild, and somwhere in the process, they decided to go all out, modifying every last detail while the motor was out. Says Valle: “We had an idea of building a vintage motorcycle with modern details to create something uncommon.” Uncommon, indeed. We especially love the paint, which uses a layer of golden pearl over the grey to give the desired effect. Truly stunning.
When Fernando Casado moved away for design school at State University of Maringá in Brazil, he needed affordable, reliable transportation. Whereas many of his peers resorted to utilitarian scooters, Fernando decided to build a stylish, practical Honda CG125 cafe racer, using his university’s prototyping lab to manufacture many of the parts. We especially like that Fernando made the entire build reversible, managing not to cut a single hole that was not there from the factory — quite an achievement! We also love Fernando’s dedication of the bike: “I would like to dedicate this project to all my family, to the teachers and friends that accompanied these two years of project, and especially to my grandfather and my father, who lived in the era of these bikes and helped me a lot in the development of the motorcycle.”
Lionel Duke of Duke Motorcycles had more than two decades of experience as a car and motorcycle mechanic before opening his shop in Tourrettes sur Loup, near the city of Nice, France. In 2018, Lionel unveiled “Mrs. Duke,” an absolutely stunning 1973 Honda CB500 Four on which he spent more than 700 total hours. In order to keep the bike recognizable as a CB500, Lionel kept the original engine and tank, but mated the frame to a set of forks and single-sided swingarm from a Ducati Panigale. He built the 4-into-4 exhaust from 115 separate segments of stainless steel, and the pure white color scheme had been his mind for quite some time. Lionel’s exacting craftsmanship and attention to detail are evident from every angle.
Sylwester of Eastern Spirit Garage has become well-known in the customs world, turning out an array of staggering builds from his shop located east of Warsaw. When Ducati Poland approached Sylwester to build a Custom Rumble Scrambler, he had to give the idea some thought. This would be not only his first non-Japanese build, but his first brand-new bike as well. What’s more, he had only 45 days to complete the build. We’re so glad he accepted the challenge, as the resulting custom is nothing short of staggering.
Iron Macchina Customs have built 31 bikes since opening their doors in Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines, in 2016. A client wanted a unique bike for her daily grind, and she was interested in steampunk and cafe racers. Given their limited resources in the Philippines, the crew at Iron Macchina Customs fabricated nearly everything from scratch…including the frame itself, the swing arm, one-piece galbanum body with integrated fuel tank, rear sets. In fact, the only components not built from scratch were the forks and engine itself. This 110cc cafe racer was christened “Belleza Negra” — or Black Beauty — quite the fitting name.
Jowo Kustom has quickly become one of our favorite workshops operating out of Indonesia — a custom culture hotbed. Founder Anes Marse credits many of the country’s other talented craftsmen for influencing him to “build bikes as an art of the soul.” We featured the shop’s Yamaha SX225 “Dartok” cafe racer, which was insanely popular, and they followed up with a second SX225 Scorpio, “Wage.” The customer wanted a simple, elegant cafe racer with slim, streamlined looks and a minimal visible wiring and cables. The shop made extensive modifications to the frame and swingarm, and even managed to modified the head for a two-port exhaust output instead of the original single port. In the end, they named the bike “WAGE,” which Anes calls “a golden boy at our workshop,” having won award after award at custom bike shows, and even made Bike EXIF Customs of the Week.
After his Yamaha RD400 street tracker was featured in the 2017 Handbuilt Show, Mark Miller (@nojoke2stroke) of Texas wanted the challenge of getting another bike into the show. This time, the heart of the build would be a fire-breathing KX500 engine. Making the shoulder-dislocating power of that liquid-cooled, 2-stroke 499cc motor work in a functional street bike would be no small challenge, but Mark was up for it. Mark used parts from several different bikes to create the one he wished the factory had built. The included a KX500 engine, a KX250F chassis, and a ZX6-R front end. The result is the ultimate 2-stroke cafe racer, “Street Lethal” — a 230-lb, 70-hp street weapon with tuned suspension and hand-built carbon bodywork.
We’re not quite sure how Pepo Rosell of XTR Pepo turns out so many staggering builds, each unique but incomparably his own. In this case, he took a 2001 Honda Hornet 600 — a capable but rather staid platform — and created “Four” — a modern twist on the cafe racer, inspired by the legendary Honda CB500 Four. The bike has a blend of vintage and contemporary parts: CB550 tank, Ducati forks, Ohlins rear shock, and more. “Four” manages to recall the spirit and aesthetics of the original CB500 Four, but with a modern-day aggressiveness that a GP rider would appreciate.
Last year saw the launch of the 1978 BMW R100RS “Silver Bullet,” the first-ever motorcycle designed by Revival of the Machine — one of the finest custom moto magazines in the world. The bike was built in collaboration with none other than Pepo Rosell of XTR Pepo. After spending a year on tour, visiting motoring Valhallas like the Bike Shed in London and Wheels and Waves in Biarritz, the Silver Bullet was ready for an overhaul. XTR Pepo helped steer the bike toward his signature racing aesthetic, creating the MK2 version you see here.