In the 1950s, with time on their hands and adrenaline in their veins, London’s rebellious youth rolled up their sleeves and started modifying BSAs, Triumphs, Nortons, Vincents and other British-built motorbikes to go much, much faster. Channeling Marlon Brando in The Wild One while wearing UK-made Lewis Leathers, they convened at the Ace Cafe to swagger and swap stories and spare parts — hence the term “café racer” was born.
Getting from the Cafe to the Hanger Lane roundabout and back before the jukebox stopped is said to have earned you membership in the infamous “ton-up club”, only possible with modiŒed bikes that could easily do 100 mph, i.e. the “ton.” Some modern machines can almost get there in Œrst gear, but at the time it took Glengarry Glen Ross-sized brass balls: no fuel injection, no variable valve timing, and no Kevlar body armor to protect you if it all went sideways.
Fast forward 50 or so years. Suddenly everything is “bespoke” again. And once again everyone wants a one-o“ special motorcycle. Only this time around tinkering has become an eccentric profession; Œlled with alchemists who build custom masterpieces. With exotic hearts, advanced materials, and systems that would confound even the most sophisticated Ace Cafe racers of old. These bespoke pieces of art are there to be ridden. But also shown o“ at the weekend.