It is hard to find a motorcycle that has had more of an impact on British culture than the Cafe Racer. Originally ridden by the speed-loving youngsters of the 50s and 60s (check out the full history of the Cafe Racer), most of these motorcycles were custom made and their stripped-down appearance has become a timeless style choice still appreciated by modern riders today.
If you are looking for a Cafe Racer with a little less power, why not check out our Top 8 125cc Cafe Racers article?
With a huge boom in retro-styled bikes taking place in recent years, there are some excellent modern Cafe Racers being produced in 2022 and in this blog, we are going to look at 10 of the absolute best. So, let's get into it!
10. Herald Cafe 400
Very aptly named, the Herald Cafe 400 is a lovely traditional-looking Cafe Racer that makes a great option for those on a tighter budget.
Powered by a 397cc, 27bhp, single-cylinder engine, the Herald Cafe 400 is a good choice for A2 riders or anyone after something a little more mellow in the performance department. The Herald doesn't come with a huge spec, but it does feature adjustable suspension and the stripped-down and minimalistic approach that may be a plus to some.
Aside from its great vintage design, the other huge factor here is the price. Starting at £4,499, this is the cheapest motorcycle on this list!
|Engine||397cc, 27 bhp, single-cylinder|
|Brakes||Front: 295mm disc
Rear: 235mm disc
9. Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Husqvarna has taken the 'neo-retro' approach with their Vitpilen 701, it is pure Cafe Racer in its ride style and stance but with a futuristic edge to the design (this bad boy also features on our Top 10 middleweight naked bikes list too so check it out!).
As with most of their naked range, the Vitpilen 701 shares a lot of its components with a KTM counterpart (in this case the 690 Duke), including the 74bhp, 692cc single-cylinder engine. No bad thing considering it is now tried and tested and comes with more than ample performance. The Vitpilen 701 is also fully loaded with features, including Brembo brakes at the front and back, WP Apex forks and mono-shock, Bosch ABS, switchable traction control, and a quickshifter.
The visuals are top-of-the-line stylish, although they may not please traditionalists, but as with most things when it comes to fashion – you have to pay for it. The Vitpilen 701 starts at £8,899 (a full grand more than Yamaha's XSR 700) but it is one of the most unique bikes out there. If you are looking for an A2-compatible motorcycle, there is a 401 and 125 versions available too.
If you want to know more about the Husqvarna Vitpilen check out our in-depth road test review.
|Engine||693cc, 74 hp, liquid-cooled|
|Brakes||Front: Brembo four-piston radial fixed calliper, brake disc
Rear: Brembo single-piston floating calliper, brake disc
|Suspension||Front: WP APEX 43
Rear: WP APEX - Monoshock
8. Suzuki SV650X
The SV650X is Suzuki's modern take on the Cafe Racer, using the SV650's street naked base and adding a sportier ride position with clip-on bars and a front cowl. The result is surprisingly good with great visuals and great all-round performance.
The engine is a 645cc, liquid-cooled, V-twin with a 72bhp power output. It occupies that middle ground where the bike is easy to manage for less experienced riders but still has plenty of power and fun factor. There was a small update to the colour scheme in 2021 and the new black edition with gold frame looks especially nice.
When it comes to fancy features, Suzuki has kept things pretty basic, although it does have adjustable suspension and their Low RPM Assist to make it harder to stall at low speeds (another plus for beginners). The result is a £6,999 price tag, which makes it exceptionally good value for money.
|Engine||645cc, 72 bhp, liquid-cooled|
|Brakes||Front: Disc brake, twin
Rear: Disc brake
|Suspension||Front: Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped, spring preload-adjustable
Rear: Link type, coil spring, oil damped, spring preload-adjustable
7. MV Agusta Superveloce
The Superveloce 800 from MV Agusta received a fresh update for 2022 and while not a traditional Cafe Racer, it does have a healthy dose of retro style about it and definitely sticks with the Ton-Up Boy philosophy of high speed!
The 798cc three-cylinder engine reaches 147bhp at 13,000 rpm, so it performs like a high revving super-sport. The ride position has been toned down a little in keeping with its more retro design, meaning it is a little more practical than you might expect, while still being blisteringly fast. The Superveloce has also been given every bit of tech you can think of, with an up and down quickshifter, 8-level traction control, slipper clutch and customisable ride modes for starters.
As with all MV Agusta motorcycles, it looks like a work of art and costs an arm and a leg. Starting at £18,550, this is a beautiful bike for an experienced rider with a big wallet.
|Engine||798cc, 147 bhp, liquid-cooled|
|Brakes||Front: Double floating disc with Ø 320mm (Ø 12.6 in.) diameter, with steel braking disc
Rear: Single steel disc with Ø 220mm (Ø 8.66 in.)
|Suspension||Front: Marzocchi “UPSIDE DOWN” telescopic hydraulic fork with rebound-compression damping and spring preload external and separate adjustment
Rear: Progressive Sachs, single shock absorber with rebound and compression damping and spring preload adjustment
6. Ducati Scrambler Nightshift
The Scrambler was one of the bikes that really kick-started this huge retro revival in motorcycling when it launched back in 2015. We've seen a whole bunch of variations added to Ducati's Scrambler range since then and although the Scrambler Cafe Racer is no longer in production, the latest version, the Scrambler Nightshift is the next best thing.
Design-wise, the Nightshift sits somewhere between a Flat Tracker and a Cafe Racer. The bench-style seat, bar-end mirrors and rear set foot position are all in place and if you swapped the bars out for some clip-ons, you would be in full Cafe Racer territory. As it stands, the Nightshift already looks phenomenal, and it is still one of the cheapest ways to have a Ducati badge on your tank.
The engine is the 800cc Desmo twin-cylinder and, with 73hp, it again ends up in a nice spot; easy to manage for newcomers but with plenty of go for more experienced riders. Ducati is offering A2 versions of most of their 800cc bikes at the moment too, just something to bear in mind.
Despite being one of their cheaper motorcycles, it is still a Ducati, and the price reflects that, starting at £10,195. It does look fantastic and if you want that Ducati Scrambler style then you probably won't care about the price.
|Engine||800cc, 73hp, air-cooled|
|Brakes||Front: Ø330mm disc, radial 4-piston calliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
Rear: Ø245mm disc, 1-piston floating calliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
|Suspension||Front: Upside-down Kayaba 41 mm fork
Rear: Kayaba rear shock, pre-load adjustable
5. Royal Enfield Continental GT
Royal Enfield surprised us all back in 2018 (feels a very long time ago now in this post-Covid world) with their pair of twins, the Interceptor and the Continental GT. While the Interceptor has gone on to become one of the biggest selling motorcycles in the UK, it is of course, the Continental GT that interests us here.
When it comes to Cafe Racer authenticity, it's hard to top the GT. The original Continental GT 250 came out in 1965 as an attempt by Enfield to provide a Cafe Racer style motorcycle straight out of the showroom, rather than the usual custom jobs of the time. If you line up the new version alongside it, the resemblance is clear, it absolutely looks the part.
While the looks are pure vintage, this 2022 model has plenty of modern tech, including ByBre brakes, two-channel Bosch ABS and a slipper clutch. In addition to all that, perhaps the biggest selling point is the fact it only costs £6,239 (you can add on a little extra for some of the fancier paint schemes, including chrome!) and can be ridden on an A2 licence. When it comes to value for money and accessibility, it doesn't get much better.
|Engine||648cc, 47 hp, air-cooled|
|Brakes||Front: 320 mm disc, ABS
Rear: 240 mm disc, ABS
|Suspension||Front: 41mm Front Fork, 110mm Travel
Rear: Single Coil - Over shocks, 88mm Travel
|Price||£6,239 (Rocker Red & British Racing Green), £6,439 (Dux Deluxe & Ventura Storm) & £6,739 (Mr Clean)|
4. Yamaha XSR900
Now I know it isn't strictly a Cafe Racer but the new 2022 XSR900 has taken a big step in that direction when it comes to the styling, especially when you take a look at the new bodywork and seat. All it needs is a set of clip-ons put on it (of which there are many aftermarket options) and you have one impressive Cafe Racer.
The XSR900 now comes with the newly Euro5 updated 890cc, three-cylinder engine from the MT-09. With 117 bhp and 93 Nm of torque, this thing is an absolute beast and one of the best-performing bikes in its category. On top of that, Yamaha has added on every high-tech feature you can think of with a quickshifter, slip and assist clutch, cruise control, slide control, traction control (everything control), as well as ride modes, and a host of high-quality components.
The 2022 XSR900 starts at £9,900, which considering all the technology packed into it and its formidable performance, is quite the bargain. This is definitely one for experienced riders but if you wanted something a bit more manageable, there is a 700cc version available too.
|Engine||890cc, 117 bhp, liquid-cooled|
|Brakes||Front: 298mm disc
Rear: 245mm disc
|Suspension||Front: Telescopic fork
Rear: (Link type suspension), swingarm
3. Triumph Thruxton RS Ton Up Edition
It's only fitting we include some Triumphs on the list, considering many of the original Cafe Racer motorcycles were custom built with Triumph parts. Triumph has fully embraced this heritage with the brand new Thruxton RS Ton Up Edition.
A tribute to the original Ton Up Boys, it takes the already excellent Thruxton RS and adds a unique blue and white paint job and an even higher level of detail in the finish, including blacked-out engine covers, springs and anodised wheels. The result is a pretty stunning motorcycle that will please both modern and traditionalist riders alike.
The core engine and components are the same as the regular RS with a powerful Bonneville 1200cc twin that packs an impressive 103bhp and 112Nm torque. The torque peaks quite low down in the rev range at 4,250rpm to make sure the bike has plenty of pull right across the board. This thing will be as fun to ride as it is to look at.
It is a Triumph, so you can expect plenty of bells and whistles here. Fully adjustable suspension comprising of Öhlins twin shocks at the rear and Showa big piston forks up front, Brembo brakes at the front, adjustable traction control and ride modes to name a few.
The 2022 Thruxton RS Ton Up Edition comes in at £14,050 but you can shave off 800 quid if you opt for the regular RS version. Either way, if you have the budget for it, this will turn heads and induce smiles all day long!
|Engine||1,200cc, 103 bhp, liquid-cooled|
|Brakes||Front: Twin 310 mm Brembo floating discs, Brembo M50 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, ABS
Rear: Single 220 mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
|Suspension||Front: Showa 43mm USD big piston forks, fully adjustable 120 mm travel
Rear: Fully adjustable Öhlins twin shocks with Piggyback reservoir, 120mm rear wheel travel
2. Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR
Another Triumph for the list but this time perhaps the opposite end of the spectrum. Where the Thruxton goes for a more traditional design, the ferocious Speed Triple 1200 RR takes a more modern approach while still maintaining that unmistakable British sport styling.
For me and I think many others, this was the bike of the show at Motorcycle Live a few months back. It takes the successful Speed Triple formula and adds clip-on bars and a minimalist front cowl to create something truly unique and visually stunning.
A mighty 1160cc, three-cylinder engine that puts out 178bhp and 125Nm of torque is the centre point of this motorcycle. It offers cutting-edge speed and performance and a list of features and components as long as your arm. Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 electronically adjustable, semi-active suspension is perhaps the most impressive addition. Aside from being manually adjustable, the forks and shock can make small adjustments automatically based on the current riding conditions!
The Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR starts at £17,950 and is one of the most impressive motorcycles on the road in 2022.
|Engine||1,160cc, 177.6 bhp, liquid-cooled|
|Brakes||Front: Twin 320mm floating discs. Brembo Stylema monobloc calipers, OC-ABS, radial master cylinder with separate reservoir, span
Rear: Single 220mm disc. Brembo twin piston caliper, OC-ABS. Rear master cylinder with separate reservoir
|Suspension||Front: Öhlins 43mm fully adjustable USD forks, 120mm travel. Öhlins S-EC 2.0 OBTi system electronic compression / rebound damping
Rear: Öhlins monoshock RSU with linkage, 120mm rear wheel travel. Öhlins S-EC 2.0 OBTi system electronic compression / rebound damping
1. Langen 2-stroke
This one is definitely the most unique bike on the list, limited to just 100 units and manufactured in the UK, the Langen 2-stroke is as much a work of art as it is a Cafe Racer.
Let's get this out of the way first, there is a colossal £33,600 price tag on one of these, but it is a one (hundred) of a kind motorcycle, so for most of us it will be the stuff of dreams. It would certainly make a showstopping centrepiece for the determined connoisseur's collection though and with such a limited production run, I imagine it will hold its value very well indeed.
The Langen isn't just for show either, it is also quite a technological marvel, with every trick in the book (including an advanced ECU controlled fuel and oil injection system) used to squeeze out the maximum performance possible. You might be surprised that this little 249cc V-twin puts out 74bhp, which when combined with a light as a feather 125-kilo weight, is capable of reaching speeds up to 140mph!
|Engine||249.5cc, 75 bhp|
|Brakes||Front: 320mm twin double discs. Twin HEL radial billet calipers
Rear: 265mm disc. HEL radial billet caliper
|Suspension||Front: Öhlins 43 mm ‘Right way up’ forks. Compression, rebound damping and spring preload adjustment
Rear: Twin shock bespoke Ktech Piggyback Razors. Compression and rebound damping, spring preload and length adjustment
Special mention - Norton V4CR
We've already filled our top 10 list, but I thought we would finish with a look to the future and Norton's V4CR prototype that was revealed at Motorcycle Live. The details are yet to be finalised but here is some of what we do know.
Firstly it is packing a 1200cc V4 engine with a whopping 185bhp so you can expect superbike performance in a futuristic cafe racer body. It's safe to say we can also expect a ton of premium components and plenty of brushed aluminium and carbon on display too.
Time will tell when this becomes available and what the price will be, but we'll keep our eyes peeled.
Before you go
If you have your very own cafe racer, or perhaps another motorcycle you need to insure - make sure to get a motorcycle insurance quote direct with Lexham!