While it can be a bit of a polarising subject amongst motorcyclists, the cafe racer craze has done a lot of great things for the industry.
With renewed excitement for the romance of yesteryear, the cafe racer trend of the last decade brought a new style and culture to the motorcycling community, and in turn, more exposure in popular media.
And it was h-u-g-e. It seemed you couldn’t turn on the television without seeing a bearded thirty-something wielding an angle grinder in a dimly lit garage, or tall leather-clad models leaning against custom SR400s. When I saw a Bonneville in an insurance commercial, I knew things had gone too far.
As with any big trend, the cafe racer look was exploited by the capitalist machine, and this hurt the reputation of those involved. Lattes, hipsters, posers – the generalisations were tiring. In fact, the cafe racer community was, and is, largely occupied by passionate people who love motorcycles, motorcycling, and what it all represents. Ain’t that a good thing?
Spawning from all this was the rise of a new category, one that combines the look and feel of the old school, with high-end technologies, and often, serious grunt. While there are heaps to choose from, here are just some of our favourite ‘modern retro’ bikes.
The Kawasaki Z900RS harks back to the legendary 1972 Z1, with styling elements like a round headlight, spoke-style cast wheels, and a teardrop tank.
Mechanically, however, the Z900RS is ultra modern with a 83kW/98Nm 948cc in-line four-cylinder engine with traction control, rider modes and a lightweight trellis frame.
Pricing starts at $17,999, with two colour schemes available: Candytone Brown and Candytone Orange.
Based on the popular MT-09 naked bike, the Yamaha XSR900 adds retro features like an aluminium tank cover, front and rear aluminium fenders, a stitched seat, circular instrument clock, circular tail light and retro-style headlight with an aluminium stay.
For 2020, Yamaha has added a new heritage-inspired colour scheme which takes inspiration from the 1960s racing era. Specifically, Bill Ivy’s 125cc world championship winning two smoker. The new model is available now from $14,849 rideaway.
The XSR900 features an 847cc triple, which offers three levels of traction control, selectable rider modes and an assist and slipper clutch.
Triumph Scrambler 1200
Unlike many modern retro bikes, which often add unique styling elements to an existing naked bike, the Triumph Scrambler 1200 stands on its own in the Triumph range.
While it wears some glorious retro design elements, it also boasts fair-dinkum off-road capabilities with Ohlins/Showa suspension, large spoked wheels and a 16-litre tank that can provide up to 400 kilometres of range.
Power comes from a 1200cc water-cooled parallel twin, delivering 66kW and 110Nm.
The Triumph Scrambler is priced from $22,500 for the entry-level XC variant, or $23,990 for the higher-spec XE.
Borrowing design cues from the original 1981 GSX1100S, like a unique screen, fuel tank, decals, and rectangular headlight, the new Katana is in fact a thoroughly modern machine.
The 2020 Suzuki Katana is based on the GSX-S1000 platform, and so power comes from a 110kW/108Nm 999cc four-cylinder engine.
Available in Metallic Mystic Silver, much like the original, or Glass Sparkle Black, the Suzuki Katana is available from $18,990 rideaway.
INFO MOTO recently caught up with Suzuki legend Mick Hone to chat about the old, and new, Suzuki Katana. You can see that video here.
BMW R 18
BMW Motorrad offers a number of modern retro bikes in its Heritage range, the most recent being its R 18 cruiser which will launch locally in Q3.
Powering the R 18 is an 1802cc boxer engine which is tuned to produce 67kW and 158Nm of torque. Standard features include adaptive LED lights, daytime running lights, heated grips, Keyless Ride and a lockable fuel tank. It also comes with traction control, ABS and three riding modes, dubbed Rock, Roll and Rain.
The first batch of R 18 units will be priced from $31,690 plus on-road costs, however, entry level variants will follow priced from $26,890.
Spencer has a keen eye for hard news, and does some of his best living on deadline day. He loves more than anything to travel on his motorcycle, and is adamant that Melbourne Bitter is a world-class lager. He also knows how to operate the big computery thing in the office. By night, Spencer plays guitar with Melbourne punk outfit LOJO LOUTS.