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Author Topic: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"  (Read 114056 times)

Offline Sonreir™

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OK... admittedly this is a very broad topic and I wasn't quite sure where to put it, so I stuck it in the Engines section because it's my intention to make this more of a technical type of article and also because I'm going to be talking mainly about engines.

I was reading a blog post from a friend of mine and it really struck a chord with me.  It seems that the café racer genre has really taken off these past few years, but a lot of the newcomers seem to be missing some of the basics.  They're immediately drawn to the looks of the café racer, but are perhaps not understanding the function (or even that the form follows the function).  Now don't get me wrong... I'm not hating on the guys.  Fresh faces are what will keep this knowledge alive and well in the years to come, but only if the knowledge is taught and understood.

Please allow me to repost the blog before we go too much further:
Quote from: kopcicle
What is a "Cafe Racer"?
Make it go ...
We all know that there are gains to be had just in the fine details without resorting to pistons , compression , valves , cams , extensive porting , carburetor and exhaust . Well , no , wait . Within reason and budget that is the idea !
Make it stop ...
Disc upgrade or pursue a lost art in tuning up drum brakes .
Make it turn ...
Make what you have the best it can be or bin it and adapt a modern front end entire.
Make it look ...
Like it's more at home carving corners than sitting outside the favorite pub .
Take pride ...
In the fact that each sub assembly is the very best that you can do with the tools , talent , time and budget available .Only then will the bike reflect that it is more than the sum total of it's parts .
Teach ...
What you learn . Without this not only the lesson but the spirit of the lesson dies with you .
Enjoy ...
What you do , what you build , what you ride .

Our bikes are not only a form of personal expression but a loosely defined art form that stems from the enthusiasts of previous decades . Without growth and change we stagnate and die . In a world of posing and posturing for the benefit of who knows who what is the point of modifying a bike to be just like whatever unless it's meant to be a replica . Be original . Be different . Experiment . Let function be your guide and form will follow .

Our legacy to the next  generation of riders and builders is our collective and individual vision . Our passion for that something extra defines our enthusiasm . Our ability to communicate and teach how to learn is our obligation . The definition of a "cafe racer" isn't rooted in our collective or individual past it will be defined by what we choose to do in the future . I've never known a brighter future for the genre in all my years turning a wrench . I can't wait to see what happens next .

Now one other thing... there's a been more than a little drama on forums recently and I think one lesson we could all take away from it is that "you catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar".  That is, maintain a positive attitude.  Instead of telling someone what they're doing wrong, tell them what they can do right.  TEACH them right and wrong so that they can identify it for themselves.  Be aware that sometimes there is more than one way to be right, but also be aware that there is almost always one BEST way.

With these things in mind, I'd like to get back to the main topic of this post.  "Make it go".  My own personal philosophy about café racers can be boiled down to two concepts.

1.)  Form follow function - It has to work well first, look good second.  Generally speaking, if it works well, it will look good.
2.)  Built not bought - It's easy to take this maxim to an extreme, so please use this in the more moderate sense.  It's your bike, you need to understand what's going on with it.  If something breaks or there's something you want to improve, try it yourself.  It may cost you some extra parts when you screw it up, but you've learned something in the process and knowledge is priceless.

Now that the preamble is over.  Lets get down to it.  This article is an attempt to pass on a bit of the knowledge I've gathered over the past few years.  Undoubtedly, there are guys here with a lot more experience and a lot more knowledge than I and I welcome them to please correct me where I'm wrong and chime in with additions where applicable.  I readily admit that most of my knowledge comes from reading and studying rather than doing and so keep that in mind.  As always, empirical data trumps rhetoric.  Something tested, measured, and replicated is something proven.  Something written is just words on a screen.  If you disagree with something I've said, please post why so we can all learn from it.

A café racer without performance enhancements is just a tractor with a body kit.  Do you really want to be one of those kids in a 1.6L Honda Civic with glowing lights under the body panels racing his gutless wonder from stoplight to stoplight?  If the answer is, "yes", you can probably stop reading now.  ;)

Seriously though, the engine is the heart and soul of your bike and I'm seeing fewer and fewer builds that attempt to improve this key component.  I'm not sure why this is, but I suspect that our culture has come to favor looks over performance or perhaps people are a little wary of cracking open something that has so many parts?  Cost is also a consideration, but if you can afford to drop $500 on fiberglass seats and tanks and another couple of hundred on paint and upholstery, a bit of money for the engine doesn't seem out of line, right?

Building an engine can most certainly be done in stages, but the most important thing to keep in mind is to take a holistic approach.  There are few things you can change that won't also have an effect on something else.  Understand the consequences (both good and bad) of each action before you take it.  Not all parts will work in all circumstances and the final goal of your engine build SHOULD be the deciding factor of which parts go into it.  Building a comfortable long distance cruiser versus building a café racer is more than just adjusting the seat and control locations.  The engine characteristics are the soul of a bike.

So what are engine characteristics and how does the design of the engine affect them?  Well... put simply, the characteristics of the engine can be categorized by the throttle response, revs, acceleration, torque and a host of even more subjective items.  The engine from a semi truck can put out more than 600 horsepower, but you're never going to find one in a sports car (size issues aside).  Sports car drivers want high revs.  The very successful Honda S2000 can redline at 9,000 RPM.  Much higher than most passenger vehicles.  That redline is necessary to create an appropriate feel and power for the vehicle's purpose and equal thought should be given to your own engine.

There is something intangible to engine characteristics, though.  How much of a grin is on your face after your bike pushes you through a tight corner?  Is your bike still egging you on for more throttle even when you're skirting the ton?  Or is your bike telling you it's had enough when you start pushing 80?  The engine on a café bike should pull strong through the mid range and get even better as the rpms climb.  The engine on a café bike should bounce off of the redline after a gear change and actually feel a bit sad that you didn't take it further.  The engine on a café bike wants nothing more than to rev itself to pieces.  It would love the opportunity to see how fast it can spin before parts start flying out.  Is your bike screaming for more or is it screaming "enough"?  Your engine should be willing and your bike should be braver than you are.  Remember, café racers started out at street legal race replicas, mimicking the race bikes of their time.  Would your bike be at home on a race track or did you just build another tractor with a body kit?

So... enough rhetoric already.

Time for some theory.  I'll get into more details in subsequent posts, but for the remainder of this post I'm going to talk about the four general ways in which engine performance can be improved.  Before that, though, lets talk about a few engine basics just to make sure we're all on the same page.

The Workings of a Four Cycle Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)
This may seem a bit basic to many of you, but I'm of the mind that a decent house needs a decent foundation and so I've included the info here.

An ICE is basically a self-powered air pump.  Fuel and air is drawn into each cylinder, compressed, ignited/combusted, and then expelled.  Repeat as frequently as possible.  Those four steps are as follows:
Intake Stroke - Piston starts at Top Dead Center (TDC) and descends toward the crankshaft centerline.  During the entirety of this stroke, the intake valve(s) remain open and the descending piston can be thought of in a similar manner to the plunger on a syringe, drawing fluid into it as it opens.
Compression Stroke - The piston ascends from Bottom Dead Center (BDC) back toward the head as the intake valve begins to close.  The fuel/air mixture that was drawn into the cylinder during the intake stroke is now squished into a smaller and smaller volume.
Power Stroke - The compressed mixture is ignited with a spark from the plug and the ignition releases a great quantity of heat.  This heat is what causes the gases in the cylinder to expand and produce an increase in pressure.  This pressure pushes the piston back toward BDC.  Partway down, the exhaust valve opens and begins bleeding excess pressure out the exhaust headers.
Exhaust Stroke - The piston passes BDC and heads back toward TDC.  Going back to the syringe metaphor, this is the plunger being depressed and expelling all of the fluid back out of the syringe.  During the entirety of this stroke, the exhaust valve remains open.  The intake valve will open during this stroke as well.

An astute reader will have noticed that the piston descends and ascends twice for an entire period of the four cycles.  This means the crankshaft is rotating 720° for each complete period.

How efficiently each of these four strokes can be accomplished is what determines the performance of your engine.  These performance modifications will always go to serve one (or more) of four goals.  These four goals are the same four goals for everyone, everywhere, and your modifications need to answer to these objectives.

The Four Goals of Engine Performance
1.) Increase Displacement - All things being equal, a bigger engine will outperform a smaller one.
2.) Increase Revs - Horsepower is a unit derived from torque.  Torque is what is measured, horsepower is what is calculated.  HP = (T x RPM) / 5252.  If you can keep torque the same and increase your revs, you've just "created" horsepower.
3.) Parasitic Losses - The power generated by your engine goes into a lot more than just turning your rear wheel.  It takes a lot of energy to spin metal as fast as your bike does and that's even without having to contend with friction of all the components necessary to make it happen.  Reduce this friction and inertial losses and your engine will spin faster, sooner, and more of that power will make it to the ground.
4.) Brake Mean Effective Pressure (BMEP) - This is the average pressure within the cylinder, generated by the power stroke.  More BMEP directly translates to more torque, which, of course, means more horsepower.

I'm right around my mental limit of typing for the day, so I'll go into more detail on each of the above four items in a later posts.
« Last Edit: Jan 25, 2014, 12:18:09 by Sonreir »
Sparck Moto - http://www.sparckmoto.com

Audaces fortuna iuvat.

1977 Honda CJ360 - Café SOS - Stage One™, Café SOS - Stage Two™
1976 Puch Maxi - APuchalypse Now
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Offline Dragonfish

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #1 on: Jul 31, 2012, 21:18:29 »
Fantastic thread! Being new to bikes I really appreciate all the effort this is going to take. Subscribed.
« Last Edit: Jan 11, 2013, 12:39:38 by Sonreir »
Hopefully everything doesn't end up horribly ironic.

thompsonmx100: just discussing cutstomer service calls for an amatuer bj service included with really expensive bar end mirrors

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Offline SeekingZero

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #2 on: Jul 31, 2012, 21:23:53 »
Nice opening post and thread!  I must admit I am guilty of building a tractor with a body kit, but my reasoning is sound and once my wife is done with it, it'll be time to tear it open.  I'll be following with great interest.  ;D
"The less horsepower a motorcycle has, the more it can teach you.” -Ben Bostrom

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Offline kopcicle

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #3 on: Aug 01, 2012, 05:36:45 »
Damn man , did I strike a chord or what ? I'm in this one for the long haul ...

~kop
"If a man wants to carry two cats home by their tails, by all means let him. He’ll learn things that he might not have otherwise even guessed, and the experience will be one he’ll not soon forget!"

~S. Clemens

If it leaks after all this? I'm gonna pull a "Brad" and bulldoze the fucker!

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Nov 13, 2013, 19:20:58

Offline Sonreir™

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #4 on: Aug 01, 2012, 16:36:46 »
Power Goal #1 - Increase Displacement

As mentioned previously, there are four main methods to employ in the quest for more power.  One of the simpler methods is to increase displacement.  As with my previous post, I'll start with simple and build from there.

Displacement is the volume of the area occupied by the pistons (at any time) within the cylinders.  If you were to measure all of the area occupied by a piston as it moves from BDC to TDC (called the "sweep" or "swept volume" of the piston), this would be the displacement.  As the calculation of a cylinder is fairly easy, calculations of displacement are also easy.

The formula for calculating displacement is to first divide the bore (diameter of the cylinder, though diameter of the piston can also used for this calculation) in half.  This will give you the radius.  The radius is then squared and multiplied by PI (3.1514).  The final answer is then multiplied by the stroke (the difference, in distance, between TDC and BDC).  You'll now have your displacement in whatever units you used during the calculation process.  For most of us, this will be cubic millimeters and so you may wish to divide by 1000 to convert to cubic centimeters.  Divide again by 16.387 if you want cubic inches.  Finally, multiply by the number of cylinders in your engine for a final answer.

For example, this is the displacement calculation for my own CJ360.  Bore is 69mm (non-standard) and stroke is 50.6mm.

     R = 69mm / 2 = 34.5mm
     R² = 34.5mm * 34.5mm = 1190.25mm
     A₁ = 1190.25mm * 3.1415 = 3739.17mm²
     A₂ = 3739.17mm² * 50.6mm = 189202.00mm³ = 189.2cc
     Final Displacement = 189.2cc * 2 = 378.4cc

This equation can also be "simplified" to one line in the following manner:

     Displacement = PI/4 * bore² * stroke * #cylinders

The displacement of your engine directly affects how much fuel and air can enter the cylinder and so more displacement will almost always translate into more torque and more power.  All things being equal, a big engine is more powerful than a small engine.

Not all displacement is created equal, however.  Many engine designs opt for a longer stroke or a larger bore.  Engines with a stroke longer than the bore diameter are called, "undersquare".  Engines with a bore diameter wider than the stroke is long are called, "oversquare".  If an engine has the same stroke and bore (or are within 5% of one another) then the engine is "square".  Generally speaking, motorcycle engines follow an oversquare design, though the more displacement an engine has the more likely it will be approaching undersquare.  All HDs of the modern age run undersquare engines and almost all sport bikes will run oversquare.

So lets cut to the chase.  Are oversquare engines better than undersquare engines?  Well that's kind like asking are apples better than oranges.  It'll depend on who you ask and the purposes of the build.  Generally speaking, undersquare engines hit peak torque sooner.  This gives them a feel of very strong acceleration, but it also tapers off quickly.  Oversquare engines take a little while to get up to pace but then will pull harder through the top end.


Undersquare Traits
An oversquare and an undersquare engine will have very different characteristics for the same displacement.  Because undersquare engines have a longer stroke, this means their pistons are moving faster than the oversquare engine for a given RPM.  Longer distance over the same time means more speed.  Engine components can only handle so many forces and as speeds double, forces quadruple. The increase in speed of the pistons directly translates into a need to reduce the engine RPMs before the breaking point of the bottom end is reached.

Piston speed is generally measure using "Mean Piston Speed".  This is usually listed in feet per minute or meters per second.  Mean Piston Speed is precisely the reason why the Triton was born.  The Triumph engine of the day was a better alternative to the Norton because of its ability to rev.  The maximum MPS for an engine is usually right around the 4000ft/min or 20m/s mark.  Some engines can go as high as 4900ft/min or 25ms but unless you've made modifications, I don't recommend it.  To calculate mean piston speed (in ft/min) multiply the stroke times two times rpm and then divide by 60.  For my own CJ360 it becomes:

     2 * 50.6 * 11,000 / 60 = 18,533mm/sec or 18.53 meters per second at 11,000 RPM

If I were to rev to a mean piston speed of 20m/s, then I'd be hitting nearly 12,000 RPM.  Probably doable for short periods of time, but I don't think I'd want to live up there.  For argument's sake, lets say I increased the stroke out to 60mm.  20m/s of MPS now occurs at 10,000 RPM.  I've had to drop my hypothetical redline by 2,000 RPM to accommodate the new stroke.

Furthermore, cylinder filling can become an issue at higher RPMs because the increase in displacement of the cylinder (but not it's diameter) prevents the use of bigger valves.  Next, the increased travel of the pistons creates more friction.  A majority of the friction in your engine comes from the piston rings against the cylinder walls and increasing the distance the pistons needs to travel increases parasitic losses.  Finally, the longer crankshaft arms (or pin offset) necessary to create a longer stroke also causes an increase in sidewall pressures of the cylinder and on the piston skirts.  This is illustrated below this paragraph.

Lets assume this simple image is a side view of your crankshaft with the center of the crankshaft being the point, "C".  The black circle is the path which the big ends of your connecting rod follow during the rotation of the crankshaft and the blue line, "c", represents the conn rod, itself.  The graphic here represents the most extreme scenario; when the piston is halfway between TDC and BDC and the angle between the cylinder centerline ("b") and the conn rod are the greatest.  Let's assume that crankshaft is rotating clockwise and we're halfway through the power stroke.  The natural tendency will be for the expanding gases to push straight down onto the piston which will then push down through the conn rod and to the crankshaft.  The third law of motion tells us that the crankshaft and conn rod must be pushing back through the piston as well.  As this force is not applied directly upward at 0°, then some of the force is directed to the left (in the graphic).  In real world terms, the piston is forced against the side of the cylinder wall and how hard it is pushed against the side is related to the angle A, which is determined by the length of the conn rod, c, and the distance from the crankshaft centerline, a.

But, it's not all doom and gloom on the undersquare front.  Undersquare engines do provide some very distinct advantages.  By increasing the length of the crankshaft arms or by offsetting the pins, we create a greater mechanical advantage.  This mechanical advantage is easily thought of as the handle on a wrench.  It's much easier to turn a bolt with a long-handled wrench than with a short one.  The same holds true for a piston applying its forces onto the crankshaft; things turn easier with long handles.  So with a longer stroke, you're not only getting the torque advantage of more fuel and air, you're also a getting a mechanical advantage.

A further advantage of undersquare engines is the surface area of the cylinder, combustion chamber, and piston that is exposed to the ignition of the mixture.  As an engine gets more and more undersquare, the area exposed to the initial ignition shrinks in relation to the displacement.  This creates thermal efficiencies within combustion that directly translate into a greater BMEP for equal displacement engines.  Because of this greater thermal efficiency, higher compression can be employed without the need to use higher octane fuels (which is also beneficial because higher octane fuels burn more slowly).

Also, the longer stroke of the piston aids in port velocities.  Generally speaking, the greater the port velocities, the better the volumetric efficiencies (we'll cover that in a later post).

Finally, the flame front within an undersquare engine travels faster and the rate of increase in combustion chamber volume as the piston descends more closely matches the natural characteristics of the expansion of gases created by the combustion of gasoline.  This leads to smoother operations and another increase in BMEP.

Oversquare Traits
As you'd expect, the opposite of an undersquare engine is an oversquare engine and so many of their traits are opposite as well.  With a shorter stroke you are not only able to rev an engine higher to get more power, you're actually required to do to.  Oversquare engines will produce their peak torque at a higher RPM than that of its undersquare cousin.  The gives the engine a feeling of wanting to run.  Taken to an extreme, however, many oversquare engines will be feel high strung.

With a larger diameters than an oversquare engine, an undersquare engine can pack in larger valves or even more numerous valves.  This has the effect of increasing engine breathing at higher RPMs, but it does lower intake velocities and lower RPMs.  This is a significant reason why undersquare and oversquare engines achieve peak torque at different spots in the RPM band.  Also, the shorter stroke makes those higher RPM forces more tolerable for the engine components and results in lower frictional losses as well.

On the downside, oversquare engines will have a greater area exposed to the flame front and so will generally run hotter while getting less torque per cubic centimeter.  These engines need to be revved to get their full potential because they rely on speed for power rather than force.

Oversquare engines are most common in applications that require higher levels of power at the cost of efficiencies.  Race cars (yes, even NASCAR) use oversquare engines.  Semi trucks, marine diesels, trains, Toyata Prius, etc, all use undersquare engines when efficient operations are more of a concern.

Square Traits
Square engines, obviously, sit between the two extremes.  A well designed square engine can have the best of both worlds while a poorly designed square engine will have the worst.  Much of this will have to do the selection of peripheral components.

Which to Choose
Well... it's not that simple.  Even after laying out the traits of each motor, you can't just pick one and run with it.  If your starting platform is an 883 EVO engine, you're going to have a hell of a time reaching oversquare.  Likewise, you may encounter some difficulties if you want to stroke out your Ducati 1198.

An increase in bore will require larger diameter pistons.  Unless you spend some dough, these pistons will almost definitely be heavier and this has the adverse effect of adding more tension onto the conn rods and crank.  More tension means lower RPMs before parts start trying to occupy the same space at the same time.  A larger bore will also require the use of a specially made head gasket.  You can't have edges of the gasket poking into the combustion chamber or it won't last very long.  Copper is a common material for custom head gaskets but it's a bitch to seal properly (especially with iron-sleeved aluminum chambers)  and is NEVER as easy as it looks, although I'm not sure it ever looks easy.  Going very overlarge on the bore may require your combustion chambers to be remachined or even your entire head to be replaced.  In some cases, increase in compression or timing will be required to ensure the flame front continues to propagate at a reasonable speed.

An increase in stroke is accomplished with a new crankshaft and/or pin offsets between the crank and the conn rod.  This has the effect of causing the piston to rise higher and drop lower at TDC and BDC, effectively creating a larger circle in which the crankshaft spins.  Obviously, there needs to be room within the crankcase for this new length, but there also needs to be room for the pistons.  Because the pistons descend lower, the skirts are more likely to make contact with the cases or the crank, itself.  On the top end, the piston now might be making contact with the head and so that issue will need to be dealt with as well.  Pistons with the wrist pins situated closer to the ring lands (this lowers the piston at both TDC and BDC) and longer cylinders with higher decks are some examples of solutions, though the latter is usually reserved for big spenders or auto enthusiasts.  It's also not uncommon to use shorter rods in combination with a stroke increase.  This will help to reduce side-loading and usually reduces the weight and hence the forces at play.

So... which to choose?  That is going to depend on many factors.  Generally speaking, stroking an engine is going to give you more torque than an equal increase in displacement coming from bore alone, but the investment in time and money will be a lot greater.  HD engines LOVE a good stroking (don't we all?) and their popularity means there are a lot of aftermarket options available to pursue that avenue.  Aftermarket options for other engines may be more limited and so you'll have to undertake a lot of work yourself or follow the path of those that have come before.

My advice is to shoot for a modest increase in bore and then call it good, unless you're running with an HD engine.  Any increase in displacement is going to be a good thing and so, for this topic, the focus should be more on what's cost effective for your build rather than what provides the exact traits desired.  That said, if anyone feels like stroking out a CB350, please let me know.  That's a thread I want to be following.
« Last Edit: Jan 25, 2014, 12:26:30 by Sonreir »
Sparck Moto - http://www.sparckmoto.com

Audaces fortuna iuvat.

1977 Honda CJ360 - Café SOS - Stage One™, Café SOS - Stage Two™
1976 Puch Maxi - APuchalypse Now
Suzi T500 Cobra Resto

Custom Gauge Graphics
Custom Wiring Harnesses

DTT Red, White, and/or Black 360 Club - Better than those Blue guys

Offline byrdo444

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #5 on: Aug 01, 2012, 18:42:28 »
keep it coming! and thank you in advance. I wont get to my engine for a long time but when I'm ready to tackle the beast I will be back here taking notes! SUBBED

Offline rock2d2

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"Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #6 on: Aug 02, 2012, 02:16:24 »
Wow. Just wow. Not only have you given me good advice in the recent past but now you continue to put your $$ where your mouth is and provide this community with great knowledge.

It's a slippery slope when people just assume someone else (a newbie like me) has a ready grasp of knowledge required and then judges them for not completing a build as in depth or technically as others think they should. From someone (me) who has, not a build thread for their bike but instead a "bolt on" thread I cannot tell you how important all this information is for some.
We regret to inform you that the Future has been cancelled.  Please plan accordingly.

"Tk-421" bolt on thread http://www.dotheton.com/forum/index.php?topic=38120.0

Offline legendary_rider

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #7 on: Aug 02, 2012, 11:40:01 »
Right on. Thanks. Based on this thread I did it right when I dropped a bunch of money into the engine before anything else but still lack the knowledge to bring it all together. Performance before looks though. lol.
http://www.dotheton.com/forum/index.php?topic=39352.msg429000#msg429000
1970 Cb350 x 2
1971 cb350 x 2
1972 cb350 x 2
1973 cb 350
1974 cb 360 x 2
1975 cb360
1977 CJ360T

Offline swan

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #8 on: Aug 02, 2012, 18:37:40 »
Sonreir and Kopcicle you are right, cafe racers are about performance and handling, not fashion. Unfortunately, this primary characteristic is lost on many people recently drawn to cafe racers because apparently they are suddenly "cool" or the next 'big thing".   Cafe racers have been around since the 1930's and have never gone away. The recent popularity will eventually wane as people realize they actually need to maintain their new fashion accessory. 

While I encourage anyone to get on two wheels of any style, but I get really fucking annoyed reading member introductions and cafe build threads prattling on about looks and plans cosmetic modifications ( flat black, root beer powder coating, pinstriping, hole drilling etc) while ignoring basic improvements to the motor, crank balancing, fuel intake, braking, suspension etc. I will take a fast, well handling ugly or stock bike over a beautiful paint job and chrome any day.

We were all noobs once and although I have been riding motorcycles for more than 30 years and building cafe racers for more than 10 years, I strive to learn new build information and skills everyday. DTT and other forums have made information readily available and am thankful for them and I enjoy posting and sharing information if it helps another rider. Tuning information and instruction has never been easier to find and there is no excuse to not use it. With no formal training and being completely self-taught, I have built more than a dozen cafe racers including a highly modified and race tuned Triton. If I can do it, so can anyone else.

"Built not bought" though I appreciate the thought, is a slippery slope. Not everyone has a full shop, lathe, mills, welding equipment, CNC, casting equipment etc so some parts need to be bought. Even with access to a complete shop would you make you own frame? Cast your own engine casings, mill your con rods, design and turn your own hubs, or roll and punch your own rims?? Some things need to bought, but I encourage everyone to DIY as much as possible.

For me, the feeling of pushing a bike I built myself to the top end of its speed, cornering and handling and coming out alive is better than any compliment or praise you may get for how it looks parked in the street.
1966 Triton cafe, 1962 BSA Gold Star DBD34, and 1966 T120 Triumph Bonneville.
BSA Gold Star barn find restoration
1975 CB400F Cafe Racer build
1966 Triumph Bonnevile restoration

Offline teazer

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #9 on: Aug 02, 2012, 19:39:05 »
The key for me is making the most of what you have. Not all of us have the resources to mine iron ore,forge con rods etc or even to weld or do simple machining.  We have different experience and knowledge but we can all aspire to do the best job we can on our projects.

Fancy paint is nice, but running without fenders or a fork brace is just silly.  Flow tested heads with big valves and cams that look like bricks on sticks look great in a thread but are rarely what we need.  What we do need are frames that are straight, wheels that run true and brakes that don't drag, levers that pull smoothly and cables the right length, motors that are clean and well adjusted and electrical connections that are clean.

The list goes on, but it really is about maximizing what we already have. Make it work properly.  get it so the levers are the right angle for your wrists and the bars and pegs are comfortable.  If we don't take care of the basics, all we have a shiny turd. Sorry to be so blunt, but it's true.

Who needs a shiny bike with all that cafe Racer style if it is hard to operate and doesn't do anything well? no one with any self esteem. It's all in the details and if you get those right, the bike will be fun to ride and will look good too.

Sure , we all like positive strokes and affirmation, but they don't last long if my bike is harder to ride than stock and is slower and handles badly at anything above in town speeds.  That's not a cafe racer - it's a fashion statement.

Bike can be a ton of fun to ride, and to work on and first and foremost they have to work well and be safe.

That's why so many posts exhort newbies to get it running first and learn to ride it and have fun riding. "building" is a poor substitute for riding IMHO especially for people with only 1 bike and limited experience and cash.

That's just my opinion.  Your mileage may vary.

Offline stroker crazy

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #10 on: Aug 02, 2012, 21:43:03 »
A great thread; sometimes we need to step back to focus on the full picture!

I will be reading this primer on the café racer with great interest.  Are there any plans for strokers to get a look-in?

Crazy


“Ride like the Wind” W.H.

Offline teazer

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #11 on: Aug 03, 2012, 02:47:45 »
I don't disagree with Sonrier's treatise in general, but I'd add that the way to improve performance is first and foremost to reduce lost energy.  That's free performance and it's there to be taken.  Second is to improve volumetric efficiency and means making it breathe easier.  It can include cams and porting, but that's not always necessary or desirable - it all depends on your goals.

You can't beat cubes was an old saying that holds true to this day, a bigger engine will usually make more power than a smaller one, but the costs increase even faster.

let's take some examples.  I have say a CB360 and I decide I want more power and less weight. How much more power do I want and what is the path to that power?  Do I need bigger pistons custom made to my spec to go into new carbide coated aluminum sleeves and a lightened crank and Titanium rods etc.  And at the end of the day if I created the ultimate CB360 how much power would it make and would I have been better off just buying a more modern bike for less cash?

For me, the starting point was always to reduce weight because that's like free power - as long as I don't take that to extremes and have things break.

Then I can make sure that the wheels spin freely and brakes don't drag and there's more free performance. After that I can carefully fit thinner wheels for less rolling resistance or fatter tires for more side grip and I end up with stock sized tires in a soft sticky compound for the best of both worlds. 

Then I upgrade suspension at both ends to improve handling so it goes around bends faster or at least more securely and safely.

At that point I can think about modifying pistons, lightening cranks, porting the head, increasing compression and after that I'll think about how much more I want to spend of this sweet riding motorcycle. I'm an engine guy at heart but most of my performance improvement comes from attention to detail and a logical approach and critical thinking.

In the race world, as in the custom world, most modified bikes are slower than stock until the rider starts to put the pieces together and  gets the details right.  How many threads are about jetting and oil leaks and ignition timing and how many are about cast versus forged pistons or ways to reduce pumping losses? Make the most of what you have with the resources you have available. It's an optimization exercise and not a maximization trip.

Motorcycles are systems and the components don't exist on their own. Everything in life is a balance, and soit is with bikes.

Offline ronnie

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #12 on: Aug 03, 2012, 03:15:54 »
Great information, keep it going Sonrier..
HOLD FAST.

"'Today I Learned' that if you're going to drink all day you have to get started early." ~kop

CB350F/400Fpowered  "Dago": http://www.dotheton.com/forum/index.php?topic=35263.msg381531#msg381531

Offline 808shadow

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #13 on: Aug 03, 2012, 03:49:34 »
Awesome post. Were actually learning about auto cycles right now in my thermodynamics class and I find it fascinating. Even more so now that I've seen a literal application of these theories and math now in the forum. Reading to reality makes all the difference similar to what was said in the original post. I was wondering if someone could calculate out the increase of a small improvement such as a velocity stack. I would love to see how much of a difference they make mathematically if someone is able?  Thanks for the posts and keep em coming!

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808 all day!

Offline stroker crazy

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Re: "Doing it Right" or "How to Build a Functional Café Racer"
« Reply #14 on: Aug 03, 2012, 04:43:24 »
808shadow - if you're interested in some of the mathematics for intake bellmouth design I can PM  to you the pdf file of a research paper by Gordon P. Blair and W. Melvin Cahoon,

Crazy
“Ride like the Wind” W.H.