Ton up or café racers. Some call them a dying breed. I remember reading this about them somewhere. I for one, wouldn’t call them that for sure.
It is true that the café racer is the not-too-distant ancestor of the modern day sportbike, however, the good old ton-up bike has proved time and again that it still belongs on the road, and rather than being just an ancestor of this or that or the other bike it developed into a breed of its own, being at home on the modern freeways just like any other bike.
The fact that café racer manufacturers like Norton still thrive today and they continue taking ton-up design to another level of technology, only comes to support the above statement.
Norton’s 961/SS Commando is the perfect example how something old - like the spirit of the café racer - can be carried through via advanced technology. In a modern sportbike, technology, the quality of the materials and components it’s made up of, is everything. That’s what the whole bike is about.
A modern café-racer, like the above mentioned Norton bike, Ducati’s Monster or some Triumph machines downgrade technology to a simple tool. Yes it is present and yes it is a must for every modern bike. It gives these motorcycle s a new life, it makes it possible for them to still roam around, however it is only a superficial shell in which the ton-up spirit lives on and moves on towards the future.
We need to be grateful that there are people out there who put technology in the service of this cause. The café-racer needs technology in order to survive. These new ton-up bikes - as far as performance is concerned - are right up with the elite of the motorcycling world, the materials used in their construction, the technology employed is nothing short of state-of-the art, and another thing - which may seem unimportant at first glance but nonetheless can prove a deciding factor in the survival of these bikes - they look so damn cool.
The design of these motorcycles has also evolved yet managed to stay true to the traditional look. This blending of modern day “coolness” with the traditional feel is one of the best combinations one can find anywhere in the motorcycling world and as such it is bound to be successful.
Up until recently, next to the definition of the word “hot”, there was “sportbike” written in the dictionary of every motorcycle enthusiast. Sportbikes were fast. They were loud and they looked out of this world. These monsters had no trouble leaving all the rest of the traffic to eat their taildust. These days however, there’s a new type of monster lurking on the streets, and turning heads wherever it goes. Who would’ve believed the good old basic “only keep what’s strictly necessary” café racer would someday represent competition for the almighty “superbikes” right on their home turf? Even if in the raw power department they still have a lot to make up for, their image is better than ever. And let’s face it, image does sell bikes.
So let all the playa-haters call the café-racer a “dying breed” “grandpa bike” (don’t laugh, I’ve heard it called that) or whatever else they want to call it. It should be quite obvious to everyone that the golden age of the café racer is about to dawn again. Having received exactly what it needed - a facelift in design and technology - the good old ton ups are ready to tear down the tarmac again “flat out through the eye of a beer can and up your daughter's leg ... “like they did in the past.
Looks to me like not all good things have to come to an end after all…….