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Old Motorcycle to Cafe Racer

How to Convert an Old Motorcycle Into a Cafe Racer

So you’ve got an old motorcycle, probably from the 1980s, maybe even older, and you want to build a cafe racer. Japanese motorcycles around this period were commonly referred to as UJMs. Universal Japanese Motorcycles. They are a great platform for conversion to a Cafe Racer, and this infographic will give you some suggestions of how to convert your old motorcycle into a cafe racer.

Have a look.


You’ve got several options in this field. You can go with Ace bars as the infographic suggestions. In some cases you can simply turn your handlebar upside down and adjust the grips and controls accordingly. Finally, you can install clip-on handlebars which mount to the forks.

Convert to Cafe Racer Handlebars

Gas Tank

How do you want to play it? Stock tank? Repainted stock tank? Cut and stretch stock tank? Aftermarket tank? Here too you’ve got a lot of options. There are even websites which sell aftermarket parts specific to your make and model. These are often featured on websites like bikerMetric. Take a look after you’ve read the article.


Just like anything, the seats and rear ends of motorcycles don’t age well. After 20 or 30 years they have fallen out of style and just aren’t as attractive as they used to be. Luckily you’ve got lots of options in terms of places to buy custom seats and tail ends for your cafe racer build.

Here’s a great place to check out a list of reputed suppliers of custom bobber, chopper, and cafe racer parts.

Cafe Racer Fuel Tank and Seat

Exhaust Pipes

Remember that the right fuel and air mixture is critical to your cafe racer’s performance. If you’re going to change your air intake (air pods, air filters), carburettor, or your exhaust pipes, you’ll need to adjust accordingly. That being said, many cafe racers have upswept exhaust pipes. Necessary? No. Cool? Yes. A nuissance? Very much so.

Cafe Racer Exhaust Pipes


Adjusting your foot rests and levers help to give you that all important (albeit not entirely comfortable) cafe racer stance. The positioning is more aggressive than the standard UJM / Universal Japanese Motorcycle position, but with that comes better handling and maneuverability. It’s a trade-off.

Even your average dealership should carry adjustable foot rest plates to help you offset your foot rests by a few inches with minimal fuss, however, if you divert from stock too much, your stock levers may not fit or reach and custom parts or custom machining may be required.

Front Fender

You can change your front fender style to something a little more cafe racer-esque. Picture something with a lip running up the middle, or, my personal favorite, with a number plate / the old style license plate come up in the center of the fender. Now that is old school cool.

Be sure to also check out bikerMetric.com for some of the most amazing custom bobbers, choppers, and cafe racers, that you’ll never believe every day people built in their own backyards.

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.


  1. Clip-ons are preferable, as they allow the fork tubes to slide up the triple clamps, for more aggressive steering geometry. And most give the rider an even lower center of gravity.

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