The Hogbitz Café Racer

American muscle and British style come together for a modern take on a classic theme

| July/August 2009

Claimed power: 80hp @ 6,000rpm
Top speed: 130mph (est.)
Engine type: 1,202 air-cooled 45-degree V-twin
Weight (dry): 484lb (220kg)
Price: $11,150 base, $12,650 as shown

The phone call came out of the blue, just as I was finishing the photo shoot of the Café Racer. Hogbitz boss-man Brian Udall was on the other end of the line, asking me to return the bike immediately.

I was in London for the Ace Café’s annual reunion, but there was an emergency at his workshop in Essex, northeast of London, and he needed me to head there as soon as possible. It sounded like the perfect excuse for a last, fast ride on the Hogbitz Café Racer. Any slight disappointment at having to cut the photo session a little short was more than offset by the thrill of an important mission, even though I knew the urgency of my task would cut little ice with the local police, let alone the speed cameras on the A40 highway.

Minutes later I was back in the saddle, stretched across a long, aluminum gas tank to a pair of clip-on handlebars as a grunty 2-cylinder engine rumbled away between my shins. There was a distinct air of a period Triton from the gleam of that polished aluminum and the racy riding position, reinforced by the way the bike punched enthusiastically forward as I wound back its throttle.
But this bike is no survivor of those Sixties days at the Ace, as I was reminded by the unmistakable feel and sound of its big-bore V-twin engine with its large air filter jutting out in most un-British fashion near my right knee. Despite its classic looks, this bike is the first of a new series of Café Racers built by Hogbitz around Harley-Davidson’s Sportster.

The Triton look

I’m sure some purists are sputtering angrily at this improbable blend of lazy American cruiser and the legendary British hybrid, the Triton, that was built to deliver the best of engine performance and handling. But even when the Hogbitz machine was surrounded by real Tritons and other café racers of similar vintage at the Ace, its hunk of air cooled, pushrod-operated V-twin engine looked somehow at home below that long aluminum tank.

Besides, nobody can argue that Udall isn’t entitled to build a special with that period look, because he’s been doing so for four decades. Udall was a Triton-riding Ace regular all those years ago, and even built the hybrids while working for North London shop Gary J. Tritons. More recently, he’s gotten into Harleys, after starting out drag-racing one. And now he’s combined his old and new hobbies to create the Café Racer.

“Tritons were my passion in the Sixties, so when I started business working on Harleys it was natural to build a bike like this,” Udall says. “I came from a biker family — both my parents and my brother were into bikes — and had some great times with my Triton, at the Ace and other places like the Calypso and Ted’s Café [both in Essex]. I love the old café racer look and I love Harleys, so it’s the perfect combination as far as I’m concerned.”

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