Cafe Racer Essentials

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by Seth DeDoes
Alpinestars Oscar Twin Drystar Riding Shoes are waterproof and oil resistant!

“Suffering is hard,” opined a recent social-media post. “But so is being brave. You may as well be brave.” My first thought upon reading this was, “Whoa, that’s deep” — followed momentarily by, “Wait, that sounds a lot like owning a classic bike!” My takeaway from this is that our vintage rides can be loud, uncomfortable and proffer, shall we say, ample chances for mechanical instability to stop us in our tire-tracks … or worse, toss us down the road. So in this way, I’m finally thankful for a social media post, because it inspired me to search for just the right gear to wear during the pretty uncertain In Search of the Ace Cafe ride. Here’s what I found.

Alpinestars Urban Wear

Crafted with a versatile “Regular Fit,” Alpinestars’ Copper 2 Denim Pants, priced at $220, viably combine impact and abrasion protection and all-day comfort. Finished in a dark rinse shade, the heavy denim is bulwarked with internal panels and Bio-Flex knee armor in case you hit the deck; the armor is noticeable to be sure, but with time and wear it should become less apparent — and I plan to find out. Triple-stitched seams should prolong garment life.

Where have these Oscar Twin Drystar Riding Shoes been all my life? They are the modern spiritual descendants of the Sears work boots I once loved for street and desert riding, road racing and general knocking about. Retailing for $250, these super-comfortable Oscars are way better because they’re designed for motorcycling; totally waterproof, they also have a reinforced toe box and heel counter, plus ankle protectors. And, oh yeah — happily for vintage-bike guys, they’re oil resistant!

Supple and substantial, the Hoxton v2 Leather Jacket proved the right call for cafe hunting aboard the old YDS2. At $500, the retro-style jacket comes in black or brown. It incorporates Bio-Lite armor over the shoulders and elbows; I was glad for the coverage but with a nagging elbow injury, wished for softer padding there. Additionally, chest- and back-protector compartments can be outfitted with a CE-certified inserts. Stretch fiber in the arms and “pre-curved” sleeves, an extended back that covers, well, your backside, and an “accordion” waist improve functionality. Niceties include a soft removable tartan flannel liner.

Available in black or black with white accents, the Mustang v2 Gloves bridge the gap between vintage and sporty/contemporary. The $100 gloves’ main material is perforated leather for breathability on warm days, while the sides are synthetic suede; unobtrusive PVC knuckle armor hides under the leather. Creating a snug but not constrictive fit is a stretch accordion material on the fingers and “sidewalls.” Go to Alpinestars

Shoei GT-Air II

closeup of a black and orange Shoei motorcycle helmet and black Mustang gloves on the sand

While seeking a quiet, comfortable Ace Cafe to enjoy, I knew I’d be aboard a bike that was anything but. Thus, my helmet “essentials” list included: Quietness, safety, comfort and a reasonably classic look. Enter the Shoei GT-Air II, shown here in the Tesseract TC-1 color scheme (just one of 21 available GT-Air II choices) that pretty well matched the black, red and silver ’64 Yamaha. Comfort is almost a foregone conclusion with Shoei helmets, and I found the $700 GT-Air II largely delivered. The washable multi-layer cheek pads are smooth and compliant, while the sweat-absorbing interior fabric feels equally pleasant during use.

In addition to having a quick-change clear shield, the GT-Air II features an internal tinted sun shield as standard. Simply toggle a lever on the left side of the helmet forward to pivot this secondary shield up and out of the way, or rearward to lower it either partway or fully, fighter-pilot style. The advantage here is being able to ride all day with a clear primary shield — deploying the inner shield as needed for sun protection — and then stow the inner shield with a pull of the lever for nighttime. Targeting a day ride only in this case, I fitted a Dark Smoke primary shield (a $70 accessory) instead — although I still appreciated the added sun protection of the inner shield while heading due west in late afternoon.

After many years of riding I now guard my hearing ferociously, and my de facto gear always includes Howard Leight foam ear plugs. These, combined with the Shoei’s strategic aerodynamic features (including a wind-tunnel refined shell and a chinbar air spoiler) yielded acceptable noise attenuation during my travels. More pointedly, the emergency-release cheek pads help block noise that can reach the ears via the lower helmet opening, and the primary shield indexes nicely against the window beading. I detected some noise at the window edge and through the lower opening anyway, but everything considered, the GT-Air II does a good job at providing a quiet ride experience in a motorcyclist’s native environment that includes rushing air, engine, intake an exhaust noise, and surrounding traffic.

For comfort, the helmet’s internal airflow can be tailored on the fly via two adjustable shutters; these include a two-position chinbar shutter and a three-position shutter atop the helmet. Another atypical feature is a ratcheting chinstrap, which replaces the classic D-rings; I found it quick and convenient to use, and comfortable. Engineered to accept an optional Sena SRL2 communication system, the GT-Air II carries the latest DOT safety certification. Go to Shoei Helmets

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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