Very Special Things: Cafe Racer
Read the stories behind the passion projects of the people of Specialized.
Not everything needs to have a highfalutin concept that’ll change the world (although that’s awesome when it happens), and not everything needs to be a statement (although statements can open up a dialog and get people thinkin’, so they’re great too). Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and this Very Special Thing is a straight-up homage to a specific sub-culture of motorcycles: the Café Racer.
This Robert Egger creation is cheeky — it’s more moped than bicycle, though the pedals do serve a purpose — and exists simply because sometimes, you know, it’s cool to make stuff just because you want to. For your own pleasure. Sometimes it’s just cool to create.
“I love motorcycles. Everything about them. The way they sound, the way they look — just everything. I’ve always loved the spirit and aesthetic of the Café Racer style of bike.”
– Robert Egger
Backstory & Inspiration
It’s fairly obvious when you scan the room of Robert Egger’s concept bicycles at Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, that many of those creations have ‘motorcycle’ in their DNA. The Café Racer speaks to a specific style and culture within the world of motorcycles, one that emerged in the UK in the 60s.
“Basically,” says Egger, “that whole Café Racer movement started with groups of guys who would build these motorcycles from all kinds of parts. They’d try and make their bikes look really fast and aerodynamic, and they’d cruise from café to café — and sometimes pubs. So they’d either have a beer or a coffee and they’d speed to the next one.
“This one,” he says, pointing to his creation, “is kinda based off a Ducati that I really liked. The color scheme — the golds — and even the font the S-Works is in, that’s very similar to it. But really the bike’s all about looking fast and racing, and being bent over in a very aggressive stance. I think when it comes to the Café Racer, it’s just designed to intimidate the other guys you’re riding with.
“It has a little 49cc motor, so it’s actually a moped and that’s to take advantage of a loophole in California so you don’t need a license to drive it on the street. It has pedals, but it’s not really designed to be pedaled,” he says, jiggling the left pedal on the bike.
“See that?” he says, showing how they don’t really turn. “They’re just there for show, so when you get pulled over by the cops you could potentially say: “Hey, it’s really a bicycle.” Or if they’re asking about your helmet or your license to ride it you you could say: “I don’t need it, it’s a moped.”
A quick walk around the bike in the lobby and Robert begins pointing out a few more details.
“It’s got a suicide shifter, and this wheel is one I’ve used on a couple of bikes I’ve made over the years — I really like it because it’s macho and fun. It’s beefy. [pause] As for fabrication, I made my own little carbon fiber muffler, did all the upholstery myself, and made all the fiberglass parts.
“And…the gas tank?” He taps it and it echoes with a loud, hollow sound. “This is all fake. And it’s riveted to make it look like it was kinda done in someone’s garage, right? All this stuff, those kinds of details, they’re just a bunch of little things that help give it some life. Sometimes I like to do a matching helmet to go with the motorcycle bikes. This one here is just an off the shelf helmet that I painted to match.”
This assembling of random bits really does tip its hat to the spirit behind Café Racers — find what you can and make it work. But as is always the case with Robert Egger, he doesn’t stand around long to admire his finished creations. He’s far too busy coming up with new things to build — some high-concept, some game changers, and others simply created for the love of a style.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to finish a project to get it done, and then move on to the next one,” he says. “Just keep on moving. I’m actually four or five bikes behind. In my mind, there’s a bunch I want to do, so I never really run out of projects to work on it my spare time. But this one? I just really like the style. I think it’s beautiful.”
Special Thing Rap Sheet
NAME: “Cafe Racer”
Specialized Creative Director, Robert Egger
WHAT IS IT?
Bicycle/moped with Cafe Racer theme
TIME TO COMPLETE:
“This one probably took about four months in my spare time. But for me it’s a passion and I’ll always eek out time on the weekends and after work to just do stuff like this.
Originally appeared on Specialized.com in 2015 [archived]