I used to ride a very nice, mildly customized Kawasaki Drifter. It’s the Vulcan that looks like an Indian Chief (long before Indian made a come-back). Like most of my bikes, I couldn’t leave it alone. Although even when I got it, it was a bit rough but I didn’t care because I already had a picture in my head on how I wanted it to look. It got a beautiful satin black paint job with simple pinstriping. Clean and classic. It turned out exactly how I wanted.
Yet it still handled and rode like a 15 year old Japanese cruiser, and I was ready for something new. I had my heart set on a Café Racer having been on a couple of runs with Canberra Café Racers. I didn’t know exactly what or how – but a Café Racer none the less. A deal was struck with a guy on Facebook and soon I was the owner of my W800. I figured the W800 was a good looking bike, but generic enough to do whatever I wanted to do to it.
I ended up with a sort of picture in my head, but more of list of bits and pieces about Café Racers I liked and so I set to work.
The obvious would be needed. Ace bars or Clips on, a Café seat, and nicer fenders. A US factory option fairing came my way and over a few months the basic shape came together. And just in time for a photoshoot for Throttle Roll that featured my brothel of a tiny garage.
It honestly looked pretty good, but I had my brain set to “can’t be stock, everything must change”. So before long there was paint, stereotypical exhaust wrap and mufflers, and the small mods continued. This wasn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy doing it. I loved it. With the exception of paint and suspension, everything I did myself or at least tried myself first. My very understanding wife forgave my constant absence and always knew to find me in the shed.
By the time the 2016 Throttle Roll event came around I had the bike with basically everything done. With the exception of doing something crazy (expensive) I had run out of ideas. And it was on the way home from Throttle Roll I realized I actually didn’t like what I had made.
“WTF?” I hear you exclaim!
Let me explain.
Over the three hours spent on the Hume Highway, heading south in the Ute with my rear view mirror filled with a black Café Racer it dawned on me that all that I had achieved was to build the most generic Café Racer you could. I had basically taken a Café Racer check-list and ticked off the boxes.
I didn’t actually enjoy riding it that much. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t… fun.
I had gone through and gone: “Low bars” check, “Café Seat” check, “non-standard paint” check. It hadn’t become a bike that I looked forward to riding or even turning around and looking back to.
I had built someone else’s bike. Someone else’s idea of a Cafe Racer.
It also occurred to me that the W is actually a pretty good looking bike to begin with. There were things that I had changed or modified that really didn’t need changing.
So I started playing around with new ideas. Most of which resulted on bolting stock pieces back on the bike. First up were a set of normal bars, only slightly lower than stock. On my first ride with them on, I had an absolute blast. Being able to just comfortably sit there and throw the bike around with a decent amount of leverage made so much difference to the riding experience. I knew I was on to a good thing here. With that, the café seat was sold off, a scrambler exhaust was discussed with a fabricator and a few other bits and pieces chosen for future purchases.
Yes, it now looks pretty much like a stock W, just blacker. But you know what? Its fantastic to ride, I’m confident that the modifications coming are actually bits that I want, and I’m actually excited about the W and riding her.
It has taken a lot of time and a stupid amount of money to get to an almost complete circle – but hey; it’s been fun doing it.