The fast and dirty bike known as the cafe racer is loads of fun to ride. It’s a true eye-catcher and a noble beast among all historical motorcycles. But before you ride, you’ve got to build. Cafe racers are custom bikes and they’ll take some elbow grease before you can enjoy the thrill of the road.
But perhaps you’re one that enjoys the thrill of the build. If you also happen to have a knack for it, why not try your hand at building cafe racers for money? After all, there are plenty of riders out there that are solely that – riders but not builders. And they need bikes to buy!
This article will discuss the prospect of earning an income off of building cafe racers. Take notes, we’ve got some learning to do.
A cafe racer motorcycle is a type of bike that is custom built from a standard frame to resemble a faster racing bike. They were first created out of Britain in the 50s and 60s and have since formed their complete subculture.
Just like a lot of trends – mom jeans, old Subarus, and fixed-gear bicycles – the cafe racer has been making its return. Or perhaps it never left? Either way, it’s becoming increasingly popular. People love vintage-style bikes.
How do you build a cafe racer? You take a standard frame and toss in a dash of minimalism and steampunk and you’ll have the perfect equation for a cafe racer. Sounds easy right? There’s a bit more that goes into it, especially when you want to make money off of them!
You can see why loads of people are lusting after these cool bikes. Enter you, to fill the need of a competent builder and provide custom make cafe racers to all the kids out there that want to go fast and look cool.
How much does it cost to make a cafe racer?
As with anything, you can go bare-bones or full luxe. The choice is yours and comes down to a few things:
- What you enjoy building
- The client base you expect to have
- The amount of overhead you can work with
Cafe racers weren’t meant to be luxurious rides, in their origin. Instead, they were an affordable way to gain speed out of a cheaper frame. That doesn’t mean you can shoot for top-notch. You’re the builder and the brand of reputation you want is up to you.
In a general statement, you can expect to spend about $1000-2000 on top of the price of the motorcycle that you buy. So, you’re looking at around $6,000, bike and all.
How to build a cafe racer on a budget?
We’re all on a budget, aren’t we? There are ways that you can better plan your purchases for bike parts. Like, shop on Amazon or your local used parts shop. Check Craigslist and other online marketplaces for old bikes.
Stroll through your street and ask your neighbor about that old bike you’ve noticed for months sitting untouched in his garage.
Compared to paying a professional to do this work for you, you’ll certainly be saving a lot of money by putting in the labor yourself. So, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get our build on.
What all goes into building a cafe racer?
You’ll be refurbishing a motorcycle to fit the characteristics of a cafe racer remodel. Start from there and you can better figure the cost going forward.
Builders usually tend to choose older bikes, This is not only true to form of the Cafe Racers, but also much more affordable. You can only “fake” vintage so much.
The features you’ll want to include are:
- Aggressive forward, race-like posture
- Flat slab seat
- Rear-set foot controls
- Low handlebars for crouch
The overall goal of a rebuild into a cafe racer is to retain the vintage aspects that you can from the bike, simplify its style and look, and create something with a bit more attitude.
To succeed in this rebuild, you will replace or add items to your stock motorcycle. The elements you’ll mostly need to focus your attention on are:
- Seat: especially on older bikes, you’ll be replacing the seat to add in a slab-style 1 or 2 person seater.
- Headlight: aim for a single bulb, simple and minimalist.
- Tires: to accentuate short distance speed
- Blinkers: choose smaller lights
- Handlebars: mount them lower to get that aggressive posture
You also might want to replace the speedometer, tachometer, and exhaust pipes, and exhaust wrap.
Add a bit of vintage-style paint to your frame and fenders for a few more bucks. A simple color switch-up can transform a bike. If you want the best look, go for powder coating. And if you don’t have the means to do a pro job yourself, outsource it.
Deck out the rest of your setup by getting the seat reupholstered by a pro and finding a vintage style helmet to pair with your new beauty.
There are a few things that will help your builds be more successful. If you’re prepping to make bikes to sell, it could take you a few runs to iron out the wrinkles and figure out the most cost-effective and efficient methods.
Take these tips as you will:
Buy a bike that works and you won’t have to fuss with fixing other issues too.
- Go for an older bike! You want that classic look and this is how you’ll get it.
- Search seller websites for cafe racers that are already half-built – forgotten or abandoned projects that need finishing
- Disassemble the whole bike before you begin. A naked frame is the best way to start!
- Consider any tools and equipment you’ll need to invest in with your budget plan.
- Check your parts compatibility to save yourself the headache.
The more you plan, the better off you’ll be! Take it easy (and cheaply) the first time around. You’ve got to make sure you’re well-suited for the task and competent in the work before you start advertising your garage business.
Above all else, take your time! A rushed build is never a good idea. Trust that most consumers highly value meticulous and detailed work and are willing to pay much more for better quality.
Selling Cafe Racers
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty. You want to sell these bikes, don’t you? Take the time to plan out your finances and figure how much you’ll be investing in garage gear and bike equipment. Get a few builds under your belt and keep a log of the hours you put into it.
Don’t undervalue your time. Maybe you won’t make a “profit” to start, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pay yourself an hourly rate! Another great place to start in figuring out your bike price point is to do some research for what other builders are selling similar bikes for.
When conversing with potential buyers, you’ll want to be transparent about any issues the bike has, and be reasonable about the price. When you list your bikes on seller websites, be extremely thorough and detailed to demonstrate that you know what you’re doing!
How to get traction as a bike builder?
So, you’ve done some building, the process is smoother, and the bikes are coming out slick as hell. Now, how do you get customers so you can make some money?
Here are a few ideas to get you started in developing a customer base:
- Start an Instagram and load it full of pro-level pics of your best builds.
- Cruise your rides around town like a moving billboard. Maybe add your phone number or social media handle to the side so onlookers know right where to go
- Take your bikes to some car and motor shows
- List your builds on bike-specific resale websites
- Make your website and make sure it’s excellent quality, especially the photographs of your bikes.
Be patient. Things might not take off right from the start, even though your bikes certainly do. It can take a while to build up a following, then even more time to get enough customers to have a steady supply of great testimonials and word-of-mouth popularity.
Now that you have an idea of how much it costs to build cafe racers, you can better figure how much you’ll be spending on your project. Building one bike is a project enough, now building enough to sell is even more to take on.
But, if you’re willing to put in the painstaking work and do enough detailed planning, you can certainly be successful. Have faith in the process and remember, quality is key which means that quality is cool. And that’s exactly what you’re going for in your cafe racer builds.