"Fabricating" a Bolt-On Café

| 7/16/2014 1:35:00 PM

Fabricating a Bolt-On Cafe

At age 60, I thought I’d moved on from motorcycling. Over the years I’d rescued a few dirt bikes from the bone yard, restored a BSA Thunderbolt (now hanging on a restaurant wall in Hollywood), scorched some asphalt on a Honda VFR, and built a chopper. Remember king and queen seats? 

But when my last ride, a Harley Davidson Fatboy, began gathering more dust than miles, I sold it and moved on. Or so I thought. 

Fast forward to the fall of 2011 when I looked up from whatever I was doing to take notice of a television commercial. Wow! There was a guy my age, blasting along on his café bike, solo, on what looked like the Bonneville Salt Flats. No speed limit. No lines. I was hooked—again. I have that United Healthcare commercial and Velocity Vintage Motorcycles to thank for what happened next. 

And so it began. While paging through old magazines and surfing the Internet to learn more about café bikes, I stumbled onto the Royal Enfield brand that has enjoyed uninterrupted motorcycle production since 1901. Long story short: Eric Engler, owner of Velocity Vintage Motorcycles in Richmond, Virginia, taught me about the brand, pointed out the various models (Royal Enfield has several) and explained the marque’s history, dealer network, etc. Interestingly, Velocity Vintage is the oldest single-brand Royal Enfield dealer in the U.S. with display models from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. I had stumbled upon the oldest brand and the most experienced dealer. A good omen.

The decision was made to locate a used bike to make room in the budget for the bolt-on transformation that was to follow. Otherwise, the math would have looked something like this: Purchase a new bike and subtract $7,500 from the wallet; toss all the painted metal into the dumpster; subtract another $3,500 for café parts and tires; subtract more for labor.