How to Build a Café Racer by Doug Mitchel

How to Build a Cafe Racer by Doug Mitchel | Rider's LibraryBack in July, 2014, we reviewed a book by Paul D’Orleans called, “Café Racers Speed, Style and Ton-up Culture.”

That book, magnificently photographed by Michael Lichter, could not help but kick your pulse up a little and inspire you to think about building a café racer of your own. All well and good, you may say, but exactly how do you go about doing such a build, particularly if you don’t have the able assistance of some of the top builders whose work the D’Orleans’ book displayed?

Author Doug Mitchel has helped fill that need with his book, “How to Build a Café Racer.” Mitchel knows his way around motorcycles having authored more than a dozen about them, including having been selected to author the officially licensed book published about Harley-Davidson on the occasion of the company’s 95th Anniversary in 1998 (Harley-Davidson Rolling Sculpture).

In How to Build a Café Racer, Mitchel offers insights into the origins of the café racer style, how to find the right bike for a café racer project and essentials of chassis, suspension, brakes, bodywork and engine mods as well as the necessary parts and accessories to bring that bike from standard original trim to café racer sharp.

One gallery chapter is devoted to the diversity of café racer designs from contemporary bikes like the 2009 Triumph Thurxton to vintage bikes like the 1975 Suzuki T500 Titan and unusual café candidates such as the 1975 Honda CB200 and 1979 Benelli SEI. In all, the book includes 325 color images.

Another chapter covers the aesthetics of paint and graphics, tank, pegs, bars, mirrors and fairings and information on where to locate many of those slick parts and technical advice is provided in a Source Guide at the back of the book.

It’s all about tools as well as technical knowledge when doing any kind of build and Mitchel includes a chapter on tool selection, as well. Mitchel makes the valid point that it’s not uncommon for parts being used to upgrade certain operating systems to require different or specialized tools than those required to work on or remove the original system.

Two café racer project builds are given as examples including detailed photographs to illustrate the process. One is an RD350 Yamaha by Circle K Customs and the other is a Honda CB200 by Richard Weslow an Kurt Schwengel.

To be sure, other technical manuals such as model-specific shop service manuals and tech information on specific products you may choose to use in a given build will be very helpful in your café racer project, but How to Build a Café Racer is a great book to help get you started in the right direction.

Book Data:

  • Title: How to Build a Café Racer
  • Author: Doug Mitchel
  • Published: 2013 Paperback. 144 pages. Measures 8.5” x 11.0.”
  • Publisher: Wolfgang Publications, Inc. P.O. Box 223, Stillwater, MN 55082
  • ISBN: 978-1-935828-73-0   MSRP: U.S. $27.95

Book from Ultimate MotorCycling’s Rider’s Library.