Well, old bikers who have parted out should be warned. Stay away! Do not go near HD Theater at 9 PM Wednesday night. Those lovers of motorcycles who had to move on for whatever reason should not get anywhere near the show, Cafe Racer. But if you do slip and tune in just one time you'll be hooked again. Cafe Racer captures that element missing from American Motorcycling for many years. If I ever went back into bikes it would only be for the ride on a modified stock Triumph, BSA, or Japanese machine tricked up to a lean Cafe design.

When I parted out, I included a huge stack of the old motorcycle magazine Iron Horse. The spirit of the magazine captured the creativity of bike chopping. Somehow it reached that pinnacle where bike enthusiasts couldn't wait for the next issue. And we'd read the same magazine over and over. HD Theater plays the same shows over and over, and for the same reason, that's cool. I used the creative energy from the mag to get through the rebuild of my XS-1100. Then I left the game and went on with other things. And along comes HD Theater's Cafe Racer. Thanks a frekin lot HD!

CR reaches back to some great stuff like the English Cafe Bike clubs of the Fifties, the music was great, the friendships was genuine and considering the state of our lost economy and nation, it hearkens back to that simpler place and time. I know there's some old Marine Corps buddies who are watching this show wherever they may be. They recall with a reverence the rides we used to take on the BSAs and Triumphs through Laguna Canyon and up and down the coast road outside Camp Pendleton Marine Base in southern California. There were fringe 'biker gangs' then that rode the flats and knucks but our biking was sans macho and more like pure fun. Hey we were Marines and didn't have to prove anything. It was weekend freedom from hard days in the field. Then we packed up. My buddies stored their bikes somewhere, and we shipped out. The year was 1965. End chapter one.

The wonderful sound these new Cafe Racer builders are getting out of the resurrected machines, often from the junk pile, is renewing in itself. One reason I left bikes was cost. Taking a reality check, I knew what I wanted but like most of us, the parts list bill just wouldn't slip passed the MRS unnoticed.[One group of bikers call their wives 'old ladies'. I prefer the MRS, The other half or simply my wife. A little political correctness please.] So if only vicariously, you recovering biker-holics out there can enjoy the special experience of creating a bike with a high speed cutter, some know how, a blow torch and a lathe and hear it growl away once again. Rebirth baby!

So if there is any question where biking is going, the old Iron Horse thread just caught a bobbin' and a whole new genre' is spinning off. Billy Joel's place looks like it has given these new Cafe Racing enthusiasts a new place to go. Those fine machines from Zero Engineering rebuilds of Tokyo to the many little shops around the country, like Lucky Charm Choppers- Norristown, PA, the new highly engineered Cafe Racer style designs and engine workups; that Fifties honesty without the meat head attitude are emerging to influence a new motorcycle genre. Decent, Righteous, Bitchin and Gnarly. So watch Cafe Racer with caution. You riders; be careful out there and check your blind spot! Mike


To the many visitors to my motorcycle section here's post script. It looks like there's a lot of continuous rebuild activity out there. I really get a kick out of the new HD-Channel's feature on Cafe Racer rebuilds. I parted out a few years ago, leaving not a clue that Mike's Garage was my primary weekend activity for years. Now retired and looking over these photo's I can see how a rebuild enthusiast might gain inspiration on that hard road to perfecting the craft. From an old Yamaha RT-1 Enduro rebuilt over twenty years ago to the final rebuild, the XS-1100, I can say that, with the help of some pros, I got better at every aspect of the craft. From body work to cleaning carbs and break calipers, I think it's about learning to do it correctly or suffer the consequences. This takes concentration, energy and a revision of what you thought was acceptable. If your quest is perfection, then the revision of mediocre will change. Body work as an example, you can paint it with a brush, or you can begin at metal and take a tank surface up through the process to a surface of color and beauty that's glass like. Today I watch the real pros, on Motor City Motors, West Coast Custom, Hot Rod Build-off delivering that high level of craft performance. If it will never be perfect, that's about as close as you get.

I remember my motorcycle days fondly. We all have had close calls but there was no horrifying moment that made me swear off bikes forever. Rather, I reached the point where there were other skills to build, articles to write,maybe a book, and web innovations to explore. Lifting an XS-1100 engine into the frame is also a bit easier for the young. Yea, Yea I know, try putting the frame on the engine. Good luck on your rebuilds. Seek advice from the pros at the shops and garages near you. Start small and build your skills toward what a pro would accept. Don't kid yourself, understand how it works. Once you commit to a project, list what you will do (within your skill set) to improve the bike. When you have reached a confidence level where every single part on the bike can be removed, put in a labeled zip lock bag, leaving only the frame on a fruit crate, your reassembly should allow nothing but nothing back on that bike unless it is correct, clean, restored to original function (or replaced). It is now easy to take photos of the part BEFORE it is removed to insure correct reassembly. Send out what you can't do, engine and transmission overhaul, chroming, welding and tank modification, powder coating ect. In the end, when you power up and hear that engine come to life, ain't nothing left but the pleasure of the ride. So be safe, never ever take your eyes off the vehicle in front of you, ride safe and always check your blind spot, there just might be a real meat grinder there waiting for you. Good luck! Mike

Here's some shots of the bike almost together. The last shots on the previous page were during the winter. Hey guess what it's spring time. If it takes any longer to finish this bike, I'll have to ride it on a walker. The test ride went nicely, bike runs like a dream. Bob and the guys at Cycle Stop in Norristown, PA did a fine job on the transmission. The Tygon fuel line and snap connectors and from Wakula Racing are terrific. The customary XS-1100 fuel line kink is history. Also nice to see that high test gasoline flowing to the carbs. During the test ride, I noticed little blisters developing around the weld area of the custom flush mount R1 filler cap. Gasoline was seeping up under the forty hour paint body job on the tank. Patience in all things. So here's the bike without tank- Tanks back in the Garage now pressure tested - body work underway as I write.... final shot will be soon. (Its July already!) Hey, Safe ride and check your blind spot....twice.

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