There's something about beater motorcycles, right? In fact, Jalopnik calls it a tawdry yet alluring appeal. Why? Because while a beater motorcycle may not match up to anyone's idea of a good self-image and appeal; there's that thrill of taking something beat up and managing to outrun even the shiniest of Ducatis. That's the thing about beater motorcycles, they manage to shine through in times of need and come through for the riders even if they don't look the part. And for any newbie rider looking to make a mark on hitherto untravelled roads, a beater makes for a perfect motorcycle.
On the other hand, there are cafe racers. Cafe racers are basically built-down motorcycles, meaning you take a motorcycle and strip it of anything and everything that looks good and weighs more than a feather. The idea is to achieve unheard-of speeds on a bare-bones motorcycle that not even the dealer would recognize as one of his own.
Of course, for a vehicle with just two wheels, the motorcycle world can and does boast of an amazing diversity of subcultures within itself. But not all will be to everyone's liking, not that riders do or should care. So here go 10 perfect beater motorcycles to make any cash-strapped rider's day and 10 cafe racers that are, well, just a little too weird for our taste.
20 Perfect Beater: Honda Rebel 250
The Honda Rebel is a cruiser-style motorcycle that made its debut in 1985. It has since been offered on and off in the motorcycle bazaar. However, the year 2016 was the end of the road for this machine. It uses a 234cc straight-twin engine as its heart that was borrowed from its cousin Honda Nighthawk 250 Standard. The engine was good enough to crank out a maximum power of 16.1 horsepower and a peak of 12.4 ft-lb of torque but this Rebel’s speed tops out at just 79 mph. According to TheCoolist, it’s just a basic budget cruiser that is armed with adequate Honda engineering. The older ones come cheap and can make for a passable ride for days you don't have anything better.
19 Perfect Beater: Yamaha SR400
This motorcycle lived for almost half a decade. Starting its journey in 1978, it went on to become a hero in the motorcycle bazaar. It was part of the wave of imports from Japan and was made in compliance with JDM 400cc licensing restrictions. The SR400 was powered by a 499cc four-stroke engine that could cough up 31.5 horsepower and 26.8 ft-lb worth of torque. This easy-to-use Yamaha’s speed tops out at 91 mph but there was no electric start. It was a kick-starter that can get you from one place to another comfortably with a great fuel economy of 59 mpg, and it would be a great beater to come by.
18 Perfect Beater: Ural Solo ST
The Ural Solo ST motorcycle nameplate belongs to the legendary automaker from Russia, IMZ-Ural. They are well-known for their heavy sidecar motorcycles. IMZ-Ural was born in 1940 and ever since, they've been rolling out a number of classic sidecar motorcycles nonstop. Today, they are dubbed as the world's leading makers of off-road-ready sidecar motorcycles. This all sounds great except for the Solo ST motorcycle. It is a version without a sidecar. According to Overdrive, its reverse hand-shifter worked either perfectly or required enormous force. Despite its immensely successful sidecar origins, the Solo ST chassis is surprisingly old-school and wasn't terribly popular. Perhaps, they should have focused more on their core competencies than venturing into unknown territory.
17 Perfect Beater: Kawasaki W800
This one is a first-generation Kawasaki W800. It debuted in 2011 and was on sale till 2016. This retro-styled parallel-twin motorcycle is powered by a 773cc, four-stroke, air-cooled vertical engine unit that churns out a peak-worthy 47 horsepower and 44 ft-lb worth of torque. As per Kevin Ash, a renowned motorcycle journalist and author from the UK, the W800 feels distinctly retro, but in a good way, as it chugs along in a tried-and-tested manner. In the motorcycle circles, it was dubbed as Kawasaki’s answer to Triumph. According to MCN, it was cheaper and better equipped than its closest Bonneville rival. Even then, it was just a back-to-basics motorcycle but can make for a decent ride on days you cannot afford better.
16 Perfect Beater: Norton 961 Commando
In 2008, Stuart Garner, a prominent entrepreneur from the UK and owner of Norton Racing, bought the Norton brand and re-launched it in Donington Park. An all-new Norton 961 Commando was in the making immediately after this takeover. Plus, a new range of Norton motorcycles was also in the offing then. In its entire tumultuous journey, Norton has been through some serious missteps and mistakes. The 961 Commando boasts of a 961cc Parallel-Twin engine capable of thrashing out 80 horsepower and 68 ft-lb of torque. According to BikeReview, for being one of the coolest names in the history of motorcycles this one is an odd mix of old and new.
15 Perfect Beater: Zero Engineering Type 5
The Type 5 is one of a range of motorcycles available from Zero Engineering, a boutique motorcycle maker and custom builder from Japan. The motor of the motorcycle would be exceptional, as it comes from the house of Zero Engineering, who has experience of more than two decades. However, according to Visordown, if you see a pothole, you'd better ride around it or you get off and walk. That’s because all the suspension travel in Type 5 is stashed in the springs of the seat and the sidewalls of the tires. That the bike can barely take such a beating is a disappointment and it literally is the perfect beater around.
14 Perfect Beater: Honda CBR600F2
Honda’s products are known for their affordability, durability, and class-leading technology. They have always been great investments for buyers. The Honda CBR600F2 was introduced in the early-90s and was dubbed as one of Honda's most modern and innovative sports motorcycles. It was armed with a 600cc, four-stroke, four-cylinder mill tied to a six-speed constant-mesh transmission. The engine unit was good enough to churn out 84.5 horsepower and 47.2 ft-lb worth of torque. It was expected that it would replace the original CBR600F Hurricane. However, it was only a 90s wonder and is now just another old beater on the lot.
13 Perfect Beater: Suzuki SV650S
Well, a lot of auto journalists believe that the Suzuki SV650S was an all-rounder. But many of them also believe that this motorcycle can be the best pick on the used market, as well. It is popular as one of the highly endorsed used motorcycles for budding riders. The best thing is they come at a very reasonable cost. All's well, except the aesthetics of the motorcycle are a little on the boring side. Auto critics weren’t impressed with the motorcycle's larger and bulkier dimensions, too. Because it was rare to find a gremlin in the engine department of the SV650S, it found its place in the used market.
12 Perfect Beater: Yamaha XS650
According to Bikeexif, the XS650 is one of the most flexible platforms you can find in the custom motorcycle domain. It reached the domestic shores in 1970 and survived until 1983. It carried a 654cc, four-stroke, parallel-twin engine at its heart that was capable of pumping out 54 horsepower. The XS650 maxed out at 105 miles per hour. In fact, that’s a decent accomplishment for that era. However, when you compare its old-school motor with today’s technology, it’s a dud. Its design also looks rather boring. According to CycleWorld, in the 70s, bikemakers tried to combine higher-tech engines with the chassis of the 1960s and failed. The XS650 was one of the victims.
11 Perfect Beater: Royal Enfield Continental GT
Royal Enfield is a motorcycle giant that is based out of Chennai, India. In the history of automobiles, it is dubbed as the oldest motorcycle brand in continuous production. In 1901, the first Royal Enfield motorcycle rolled off the production line and since then, the brand has never really looked back. This accomplishment makes it the longest-lived motorcycle design in the history of automobiles. Furthermore, in 2015, they surpassed Harley-Davidson in global motorcycle sales. However, the Continental GT looks different from its family members. It is a retro café racer but sounds like a low-rider, come across as an old one, and is a great day-to-day beater.
10 Trying Too Hard: Ducati Monster 796
This has to be one of the worst café racers ever. It looks like as if it was crafted by a cobbler instead of a custom builder. The top of the bike resembles a cobbler’s anvil, laced horizontally. The design of the bike looks disproportionate. There is no flow and there is no movement. It’s just a flat piece of metal turned into a café racer with odd placements of wood and steel. The builder has actually used a Ducati Monster 796 as a base for this creation, not that you can recognize the original anymore. The actual Ducati Monster is considered one of the bests in the used motorcycle’s bazaar, considering the muscle bike has a reasonable resale price.
9 Trying Too Hard: Suzuki Bandit 400 Cafe Racer by Jowo Kustom
This one is just plain boring and a rather uninspiring café racer. Technically speaking, there was nothing wrong with its base, a Suzuki Bandit 400. The block-like tires look ugly on this build and that black engine, well, looks like a dud. Only the extensive use of chrome on the engine bay adds a bit of spice to an otherwise black hole of a motorcycle. In fact, it's just the chrome that looks fantastic on this build because the rest of it is just ugly—a dash of yellowish green. Moreover, for a café racer, it has got an uncomfortable and unattractive seat. The seat is nothing but a flat expanse of cheap leather.
8 Trying Too Hard: Buell XB9 Café Racer
Add-ons are fine but too many superfluities just kill the concept of a café racer. This one is a perfect example of such blunders. The café racer is not just about making the motorcycle light so that it can attain a breakneck speed, but the assembly has to look fascinating as well in the end. This cafe racer is a Buell XB9 as a base bike that has been completely blacked out. It is bedecked with so many parts and pieces to look cool that it just doesn’t look cool at all. The build has one too many plastic panels that it makes it look even uglier.
7 Trying Too Hard: Walt Siegl’s Creation
Gold wheels on a motorcycle build would look stunning if they were not done in a bad way. This one is definitely the ugliest possible way of embellishing your mod using gold wheels. In fact, they look more like metallic orange than gold. This café racer was created by craftsman Walt Siegl, who is known for his builds worldwide. He, in fact, caters to his valued customers, who are spread all over the world. People drool over his craftsmanship. However, a few gears on this motorcycle build seem unnecessary and bulky. That’s the opposite of a café racer. In this case, he tried too hard to create this piece.
6 Trying Too Hard: Ducati 900SS Café Racer
This particular piece of work looks as if a school kid made his "cool" version of a café racer. There are a plethora of options for any motorcycle customizer to design a café racer that is based on Ducati 900SS. But an electric blue overcoat is a no-go. The entire formation looks almost neon bright and way too futuristic. It may confuse someone by looking pretty sci-fi at first glance but overall, it’s a very weak presentation. The bike's electric blue framework and giant pointy nose also look distasteful. Perhaps, the builders behind this one tried a bit too hard to impress the onlookers but the effort was in vain.
5 Trying Too Hard: Honda CB550K All White
This one is mostly done in white and it’s not so cool, not even for a café racer build. Well, a few in the audience may say it’s one of the coolest they have ever seen. But it could be because they actually haven’t seen the best of café racers builds before or they are new in this arena. The custom builder has gone a step further to impress the audience but he has actually failed to make a mark here. It’s a Honda CB550K base that has a bright-chrome engine bay, black wheels to offset the white paint job, and a short exhaust for extra thunder.
4 Trying Too Hard: Honda CB750 Leather Build
This one seems like a beefier café racer build but the leather accents on it really don’t work well in this case. It may run like the wind but the bike’s appearance itself is café racer meets biker crew, so pretty uncool. On the other hand, the geometry of the build seems terrific. Plus, it is armed with heavy, massive-looking tires that don't have much profile but they look muscular. This transformed bike’s exhaust has been wrapped in black. However, it’s the leather accents across the bike’s makeover that doesn’t make any sense. It’s uncalled-for and is a mood buster. Leather on a café racer looks good in bits but not like a wraparound.
3 Trying Too Hard: Yamaha TR1 Futuristic Build
This is the manufacture of Moto Adonis, boys. It is equipped with one of the best-looking motorcycle tires that have muscular sidewalls and a thin uneven tread pattern. It’s something that’s really engaging, both to the eyes of the watchers and to the road. However, when you look at the front end it turns you off. The builder has used a Yamaha TR1 as a base motorcycle and has done a pretty great job at it except for the face of the café racer. The white windshield is more of a hindrance for any rider, especially when the rider is barreling down the streets at top speed. Plus it would do more harm than good in case of a spill.
2 Trying Too Hard: Low Budget Honda CB 750 Cafe Racer
The original motorcycle, in this case, is a Honda CB750 Four. It arrived in the domestic market in the late-60s, when Honda ruled the motorcycle bazaar. They were the world’s biggest motorcycle sellers back then. Over the years, a lot of custom builder have used Honda motorcycles as their base because they offer plenty of options to build on. However, in this case, the CB750 Four-turned-café racer has received minor changes. It is wearing the original body paint. Plus, a lot of original parts are still on this build. Sadly, it’s too true to the original to be an actual café racer build. Going so low-budget for a café racer disappoints everyone.
1 Trying Too Hard: Honda CB750 Dragonfly
This one looks outlandish. In fact, it’s extraterrestrial or maybe too close to the insect world. It's lightweight and it hardly has anything on it. We agree that this one may be an ideal café racer on the turf; quick, nimble, and agile. To many though, the design looks anorexic. There is not much of an engine, either. In a bid to make a faster café racer, the builder has literally stripped all the unnecessary weight off this Honda CB 750. Plus, the color of the build looks a tad old-school. He may have done it successfully with this creation but from a distance, the café racer looks like an alien. Or like a bug. And we have to resist the need to squash it.
Sources: Jalopnik, TheCoolist, Overdrive, BikeDekho, Bike Review, Visordown, Bikeexif, and CycleWorld