"For years these cafe's and resturants were only open during the daylight working hours. They catered to and served the weary travellers of the roads with a warm meal and hot cup of tea. Some of the cafe owners, especially the ones that lived on or near the premises, would leave the door open an hour or two later in order to catch a few more customers, but they were by no means social centers or gathering places. They were simple reststops along the new highway system of England.
The second essential factor to this rise of the Caferacer and Rocker was the rise of youth culture, although before WWII, this is a very loose definition. By the early thirties, England had come out of the great depression and young men who were now back at work. With decent jobs, they found themselves with some extra money. Add to this, the sufficient supply of affordable old motorcycles about, and the the result is obvious. Soon scores of young men were taking to the roads. Some to enjoy a nice Sunday afternoon in the country with their sweetheart, others out for a joyride on their new single. Believe it or not, the rockers and the mods weren't the first to drive their bikes or scooters down to Brighton to show off. During the 20's and 30's, "Promenade percys", a title given the young men who swarmed English seaside resorts, would ride up and down the promenade on their motorcycles, showing off.
Several things happened at the early part of the fifties that all combined to bring about the rebirth of the cafe racer scene. Again, young men all over the country returned to work and soon found themselves with a bit of spare cash. The English bike industry was at an all time high producing such bikes as the featherbed framed Norton Dominator, the BSA Gold Star, the Triumph Tiger 110, and the Velocette Venom. Not only could you see these great bikes at the many races scattered up and down the country, you could also buy them down at the local dealer! And if you couldn't afford the exact model you wanted, well just throw off those tanks and mudguards and replace and restyled them with all the equipment you had just seen at The Isle of Man TT or Silverstone. With the War ended, young men and motorcycles found themselves together again.
Probably the most important factor in what shaped the Caferacer or Rocker culture was the 50's explosion of what is normally called Youth Culture and its new 'anti-heros'. The sounds of Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley, and Gene Vincent was heard on the radio. Rock-n-roll had become society's new menace. Marlon Brando and other rebels graced the silver screen in their leather jackets. All of this soon made the motorcycle and its inherent lifestyle the epitome of 'cool' and, understandably, sales soared. Soon such items as clipons, glass fiber tanks, rearsets, and swept back exhaust pipes became standard equipment for any rider and, for the suppliers of the equipment, big business.
Even with the explosion of Youth culture, there wasn't any real places for them to gather or call their own. But when this new breed of bike riders took to the streets and roads, the rediscovery of the Cafe's was inevitable. Soon certain cafe's up and down the North and South Circular road would stay open later and later to accomadate the motorcyclists and their girlfriends. They became the social centers of this new culture. Groups would frequent a local cafe making it theirs. Often times they would race each other from cafe to cafe at speeds of over one hundred miles an hour (hence the term 'ton up'). This, the late nights, and the ominous leather jackets look earned them a bad reputation in the British Press, the police, and even ,funny enough, the British bike industry and from it all a new youth culture was born."
Monday, April 2, 2007
An excellent history lesson from CafeBiker.com