There is also immense satisfaction in skipping all the cuts, burns, frustration and financial despair by simply buying a custom motorcycle right from the get-go. Admittedly, eBay and other online classifieds are littered with botched projects from people who thought they knew what they were doing, but there’s some serious gold to be found — even for only four figures. There is immense satisfaction in carefully planning and crafting the perfect café racer build, tailored perfectly to your own tastes.
1975 Honda CB750
What we like: Honda CB café builds are a dime a dozen (and unfortunately many of them are half-assed). What aren’t a dime a dozen are Honda CB café builds with the gorgeous fairing from a CR750 racing bike.
From the seller: “Very fast and steady at high speed…it’s a blast to ride and a head turner wherever I go. It sounds just like a race bike but it’s street legal!”
Milage: 4,000 (after rebuild)
Location: Holly Ridge, North Carolina
Buy Now: $7,500
1973 Norton Commando
What we like: Nortons were big in the custom bike scene in the ’60s and ’70s when builders added Triumph engines to make it a “Triton.” This Commando still has its original Norton parallel-twin, but adds classic café racer staples like dropped handlebars and a seat cowl — it’s a great balance between originality and custom work.
From the seller: “This bike is not perfect, has some cosmetic blemishes…front fender had a small brake fluid leak and streaked the clear coat, tank has a few spots, nothing major…runs very well, starts easily on first or second kick.”
Location: Wichita, Kansas
Buy Now: $7,899
1976 BMW R75/6
What we like: The bike’s accolades speak for themselves, but we’re mostly impressed with the fact that this build looks so damn aggressive without going over the top. It doesn’t hurt that BMW R-Series motorcycles are some of our favorite classic standards.
From the seller: “Featured in BMW Magazine Winter 2012 Issue; 1st Place Winner Tucson Vintage Bike Show 2014; 2nd Place Winner Road Atlanta Café Racer Show 2012.”
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Bid Now: $5,100
2000 Kawasaki W650
What we like: If there is any modern(ish) Japanese bike worthy of a café build, it’s the short-lived Kawasaki W650. Built from 1999 to 2007 (though only available in the US from 2000 to 2001), it sought to recreate the look and feel of a classic British bike sans oil leaks and finicky electronics.
From the seller: “Professionally built with no effort, time, or expense spared on a bike that always attracts a crowd. Handles and runs great. Suspension refined by NYC-Norton, engine by Orient Express of New York.”
Location: New York, New York
Buy Now: $9,750
2000 Moto Guzzi V11 Sport
What we like: Admittedly it’s a stretch to call it a bonafide café racer, but at the time the V11 was built, few other motorcycles had been built straight from the factory that so perfectly balanced modern superbike design with classic café racer cues. The overall geometry — the cowled seat, the squared-off tank — they’re all there, just in a funky modern package.
From the seller: “We have known this bike for some time, having sold it previously and maintained it for around four years. It has only been in for service, never having an issue while we have known it. This is a great riding bike. It is truly the epitome of Moto Guzzi.”
Location: Austin, Texas
Bid Now: $3,100