Have you got a cafe racer or other custom bike that you’d like to sell? Or perhaps you’ve been browsing our blog and others, and you’re ready to buy a project bike of your own? This can make for a real challenge. Craigslist is so localized and full of flakes, and eBay has never been ideal for the custom bike buyer or seller. There are hardly any places on the web that cater to cafe racers and other customs — until now. We’re thrilled to announce our new…
Here you can buy, sell, or trade “new wave” custom bikes, including cafe racers, scramblers, street trackers, restomods, and donor bikes, and pretty much anything on two wheels. There are a variety of listing types, from Free (for a limited time) to Premium (which gets your bike featured on our social media profiles).
Below, we offer some guidance on buying and selling cafe racers.
Buying a Cafe Racer
If you’re interested in buying a cafe racer, there are some important considerations.
- How mechanically-savvy are you? No vintage bike, no matter how well it’s been maintained or restored, is going to be maintenance-free. Many of these bikes are more than three decades old, and they were built in an era when owning a bike was considered more of a “hands-on” endeavor. Bolts will vibrate loose; cables will break; strange electrical gremlins will rear their heads, causing shorts and blown fuses. Keeping these bikes running is half the fun, if you have the heart for the process. There’s nothing more rewarding than fixing a bike that’s left you stranded on the shoulder of the road with nothing more than duct tape, a tool roll, and a healthy dose of ingenuity. There’s nothing more maddening than NOT fixing the same bike. Enjoy the adventure.
- How do you plan to ride? Many of the cafe racers and customs you see on this blog and others are beautiful to look at, but they are NOT comfortable for riding long distances. A brat seat with a skateboard pan and yoga-mat padding may look sleek as hell, but it will numb your bum in record time. That’s fine, if you want an around-town bike. My old man used to talk derisively of “bar-hoppers,” but there’s nothing wrong with a bike that’s fun on local runs, especially if you a bigger bike for long-distance cruising. On the other hand, many larger-displacement customs, such as the Honda CB750, any shaft-drive BMW, and Harley-Davidson Sportsters can be quite comfortable for distance riding.
- What style of bike do you like? We tend to put custom bikes into a few main categories. Cafe racers are probably the most popular genre. With low clip-on or clubman bars and rear sets, they are agile in the curves and best for country road blasting. Scramblers, with their upright riding position and better ground clearance, allow for some light to moderate off-road excursions — fire roads, at the very least, will beckon. Plus, these bikes are great for rough urban environments, with good visibility and low speed maneuverability. Street trackers are typically a good compromise between these two extremes.
- What’s your budget? How much do cafe racers cost? That all depends. A bike built by a known builder with lots of one-off, hand-fabbed parts could run you tens of thousands. However, most of us are looking for something more reasonable. Typically, you can buy a well-finished bike by a pro or semi-pro builder for $5000-$12,000, with lightly-modded bikes by garage-builders going for much less. In our classifieds, you will also find donor and project bikes. As an example, I purchased my own 1981 Yamaha XS650 for $1700, bone-stock, and spent another $1000 on modifications. Custom bike typically do not make good first bikes unless you are already mechanically-skilled. But, if this is your first bike, keep in mind that you need to budget for helmet and gloves at the very least, and perhaps a leather or other protective jacket. We recommend a full face helmet. Go here to check out our full face cafe racer helmet review.
- Can you see the bike? Typically, it’s best to buy a bike that you can see in person. That said, many people end up buying cafe racers “sight unseen” — this is typically best done only if you have a lot of trust in the buyer, based on reputation or communication. Most sellers will help you arrange shipping, as long as you are willing to pay the costs: typically around $500. There are several companies that specialize in this, and I have had bikes delivered to my door without an issue.
Ready to start looking for your bike? Go here to look for cafe racers for sale.
Selling a Cafe Racer
Have you got a cafe racer or custom you’re ready to get out of the garage or shed? We’re now making it easy to sell a custom motorcycle. Here are some things to keep in mind when creating a listing.
- Be Thorough: Selling a custom bike is not the same as selling a stock one. Buyers are extra wary of buying a machine that’s been modded by a person they do not personally know. For that reason, it’s important to be as detailed and comprehensive in your listing as possible. If you’re a good builder, you’re probably a little OCD. Bring that level of intensity to your listing. List everything you have modified on the bike, no matter how minor. Buyers love to be overwhelmed with details. It gives them comfort that you, the builder/seller, can be trusted. That they are not buying a basketcase of problems.
- Be Transparent: If the bike has certain problem areas, don’t try to sweep them under the rug. Buyers are on the lookout for any such issues, and finding that you’ve tried to hide a potential issue is enough of a red flag for any conscientious buyer to walk away. Typically, buyers know they are getting a vintage, customized bike — they know it will have some issues here or there. They should be comfortable with that. They just want to know what they are getting.
- Be Reasonable: In a utopian moto-verse, we would all get a handsome return-on-investment on our custom bikes. Too bad that isn’t the world we live in. The hard truth is that we rarely get out of bikes what we put into them, especially as garage-builders. Pro-builders can charge a premium for their brand, and they typically have spent years figuring out how to build custom bikes while eeking out a margin. This is a hard-won matrix, and never easy to attain. In most cases, you will be lucky to break even on a cafe racer you are selling.
- Be Photogenic: Okay, you yourself can be ugly as sin, but your bike can’t be. Photos sell bikes. Of course, a lot depends on lighting, perspective, and backdrop. Here’s a great piece on Bike EXIF on how to photograph your bike. Put as much effort into photographing your bike as you did into building it, and it will bring a lot more money.
Ready to post your bike? Go here to sell your custom motorcycle!