Chops, Bobs & Cafés...

Forget your ABS plastic's, carbon fibre fairing wrapped, aluminium framed, fuel injected, digitally electronically optimised "lemming motorcycles" that roll out of the major factories these days. Let's look at some really cool stuff, the stuff from the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's, when motorcycles had character, charm, personality, regardless of manufacturer or country and just looked perfect without that full enveloping fairing, the fairing that screams "if I fall over I'm written off".

OK, so by now you have probably worked out I like old bikes, the ones that drip oil, don't handle or stop really well, by today's standards anyway and are heavy and for the most part, a pain in the butt.

However, even with the sometimes reliability issues, these bikes have a certain degree of charm, charm from a by gone era when perhaps I should have been born and lived my life. These days like the majority of other stuff, the quality and craftsmanship is all to apparently missing. Look at buildings these days, square boxes, slapped together without any degree of "quality workmanship", built for a price and frankly, they are shit. So lets check out the 3 styles or types of motorcycles I have a soft spot for.

Café Racers

A café racer is a light-weight motorcycle optimised for speed and handling rather than comfort and designed for quick rides over short distances. With bodywork and control layout similar to early road racing motorcycles, café racers are noted for their low slung racing handlebars, prominent seat cowling and elongated fuel tanks, often with indentations to allow the rider's knees to grip the tank. The term developed among British motorcycle enthusiasts of the early 1960s, specifically the Rocker or "Ton-Up Boys" subculture where the bikes were used for short, quick rides between cafés.


Bobbing of motorcycles goes back to the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's, to the days of dirt track racing, road racing and hill climbing events. During those days there was little or none after sales performance market like we have now, the most effective way to increase performance was to reduce or remove as much weight as possible. So it was that during those days guys would ride their bike to work during the week and then during the weekend they would ride to a motorsport event, open their tool box, strip off all ballast and unwanted parts from the bike and participate in the race.


Choppers are either modified from an original motorcycle design or built from scratch to have a unique hand-crafted appearance. Some of the characteristic features of choppers are long front ends with extended forks often coupled with an increased rake angle, hardtail frames (frames without rear suspension), very tall "ape hanger" or very short "drag" handlebars, lengthened or stretched frames, and larger than stock front wheels. The "sissy bar", a set of tubes that connect the rear fender with the frame, and which are often extended several feet high, is a signature feature on many choppers.

1952 Vincent

The ex-works, Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Montlhéry speed record attempt motorcycle