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Café racers come of age

July 12, 2014

Story and photo by James Holter

Mike Seate has a front row seat to changes in the custom café racer motorcycle market, and he’s pleased to help showcase that scene at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, featuring Indian Motorcycle.

Seate is the motive force behind Café Racer magazine. For the sixth year in a row, he has returned to the event, held here at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Lexington, Ohio, to host the annual Café Racer Bike Show.

“People are unearthing some rare Japanese bikes,” Seate says. “Guys are still finding them out there to modify, as well as the older British stuff. Customs are also getting a lot flashier. We used to see a lot more rat bikes. Now we’re seeing higher concepts, and more engine work. It’s evolving into a performance phase.”

Mike Seate in the Café Racer magazine tent at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days.

Seate says the shifts in design are impacting his coverage.

“Another thing is a lot more people are building bikes to sell,” he says. “We are introducing that to the Café Racer TV Show this year -- looking at what bikes are worth. Everybody wants to build something worth more than what they started with.”

Seate was an early adopter of the café racer style, and his magazine and television program have grown along with the popularity of the motif. However, he quickly refuses any credit for the increase in café bikes.

“My job is to write about this, and as a journalist, you’re never bigger than the story. We’re just showcasing what they’re doing,” he says, pointing to the 50 or so attendees mingling through his tent. “This belongs to these people. I just cover it.”

That doesn’t mean Seate himself isn’t a café racer aficionado. His personal bike, parked nearby, is a 2005 Bonneville with 2001 CBR 600 forks and brakes.

“It was great,” Seate says. “I got really lucky. The forks fit perfectly into the triple clamps.”

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