Cafe Racer

Dany Marquis

John parked his motorcycle parallel to the three other models that were already parked in front of the coffeeshop entrance. He took the time, still seated on the machine, to visually inspect the bare mechanics of the motorcycle. As everything seemed to be in order, he twisted the throttle three times as a final check. The latter had almost become his trademark, and everyone in the café now knew that John had just arrived. Although John said he always checked his machine at the start and finish, everyone knew that he attracted everyone's attention with his ritual. He stopped the engine, took off his helmet and heard the strains of the Stray Cats' latest hits coming from the Jukebox inside the cafe. The sun was setting slowly, it had been rolling all day. He hung his helmet on the right mirror that he had modified and repositioned at the end of the handlebars. With a slight downward curve, its handlebars ended slightly lower than the top of the gas tank. This accentuated the forward body position which he considered more effective against the wind, he thus gained a few more km/h and had several “record races” to his credit. He opened his leather jacket, but kept it on despite the heat and humidity of this young July evening.

-            Oh! John!

He turned nonchalantly towards the voice he recognized among thousands. He saw the beautiful Marla coming out of the café and heading in his direction. His heart did three turns and almost made him smile toothily, but he managed to keep his emotionless mask.

-            I heard you coming, I knew it was you! How are you?

She leaned towards him, still seated on the motorcycle, put a hand on his back and gave a light kiss to each plays. He smelled the scent of her hair, and her breasts which had briefly pressed against his chest. He pulled himself together when he saw Jimmy looking at them, smiling from ear to ear. He knew he was going to have to endure the taunts of his friends. He hadn't broken down, but his heart was now haunted by the scent of this girl. His friends knew it. There was only room in the hearts of Leather boyz members for the smells of gasoline, oil and asphalt. He gently pushed her away, avoiding her gaze, put the bike on its feet and stood facing the bike.

-            She's not to my taste.

-            Why, it's very good, I find it more beautiful than your last one. I just find it a shame that there is only room for one person, I would like to take a tour.

He looked at her with a frown.

-            A passenger would slow me down. If you want to ride, find yourself a bike.

She pouted and said to him:

-            Mike took me for a ride yesterday. I liked it, he was going very fast and I had to hold on to him very hard. I was afraid of falling.

-            Mike is a crappy driver with a crappy motorcycle.

Marla had lost her smile, she was looking at John, who now had his back to her, crouched in front of his motorcycle, fiddling with the carburetors. A heavy silence settled. John was paralyzed. She had been riding with that jerk Mike. A herbal tea drinker who rides a Japanese woman straight from the factory, without any personality. Getting up, he saw Jimmy coming forward with two espressos in his hands. Marla knew she had no chance of breaking John's shell once these friends were around.

-            I'm inside if you want to chat.

She waited for the response which took a long time and which finally manifested itself in a shake of the head and a grunt. She quickly turned around, raising her red skirt and offended she went back inside to tell her friends about John's indifference. Of all the guys in the area, her heart had to fall on this egoist who only thought about motorcycles. She sat down with her friends and poured out her heart.

Jimmy handed John a cup.

-            You're breaking hearts, my bastard.

-            What are you talking about?

-            Can't you see she has a crush on you?

-            I have other things to worry about. My engine stammers, makes a kind of blue-blue noise…. before taking its turns, the carburetion of the intermediate circuit is too rich. You must change the position of the clip to the 2nd notch and repeat the test. If it's still too rich, I'll have to change the needle.

-            Okay, do you want coffee or not?

-            Is their coffee still this bad?

-            Yeah, but the owner is nice.

-            I don't want to drink piquette even if the guy is nice. Let me adjust my carb and we'll go the Brûlerie du Quai. I pay for the round of espresso. Go get the rest of the gang and we'll take off.

-            Ok, I'll spread the word.

And while Jimmy assembled the group, John adjusted the carburetor a quarter turn. He started his bike and turned the handle a few times. He put his hand on the end of the exhaust pipe and with the other twisted the accelerator to check the engine's reaction. He nodded, satisfied. He sat back on his motorbike, put on his helmet and watched his comrades rush out of the café. They all walked past him and slapped his gloved hand in a modified form of high five. They started their motorcycles one after the other to form a symphonic backfire that the initiates always appreciated. They backed their motorcycle almost in sync. One foot on the ground, the other ready to shift, John risked a glance towards the café. Marla looked at him, she looked like she had cried. He shifted into first gear, experiencing the slight jolt of the transmission. A vague emotion invaded him, he repressed it, not wanting to ask questions about these feelings. He hit the accelerator, and when the engine's revolutions slowed, he leaned on the gas tank, grabbed the steering wheel and abruptly released the clutch while twisting the throttle. He took off like an arrow followed by his friends.


Cafe Racer

Coming directly from the 60s, the Café Racer is a movement that took root in the British counterculture. Groups of young and rebellious rockers were looking for a fast, personalized and original motorcycle to travel from café to café.

The goal of most of them was to be able to reach 160km/h (we're talking about 1960!) along a route where the rider would start from a cafe, riding to a predetermined point and returning back to the starting cafe before a song could be played on the jukebox. This type of race is also called a “record race”. These bikers were associated with Rockabilly music and their image remains attached to this same culture today.

These bikers modified their motorcycles to give them a raw, stripped-down, utilitarian appearance. Getting from cafe A to cafe B was the goal. We installed a single-seater saddle, a low and straight handlebar, mounted directly on the fork in order to obtain a more aerodynamic position and escape the wind. English manufacturers like Triumph and Norton were in the spotlight.

We find a similar movement in the United States with the chopper or bobber scene which was mainly oriented towards alcohol and bars. Alcohol affecting driving (yes, yes, it's proven!), and being dangerous when associated with any motor sport; this explains the choice of “Café Racers”, who preferred to stop for a coffee rather than an alcoholic drink. This aspect radically opposes the “Café Racer” to the Choppers   Americans, alcohol being rather accepted in the culture and cultural imagination of choppers.

I'm a motorcycle guy, coffee drinker and am nostalgic for this era without having lived through it. The idea of ​​going from one cafe to another on a bike at full speed lying on the gas tank of an old modified Honda CB-750 enchants me to the highest degree.

So if you ever pass through Gaspésie with your Café Racer or your bobber, come see us in Carleton. I'll offer you espresso. And if I'm there, and you feel like it, we'll drive together to the neighboring café. Last arrival pays the shot!

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