Bringing the Dream of a Budget-Built Cafe Racer to Fruition

Cary Wadey was hooked on motorbikes at an early age. His passion for motorbikes started when he was very young.

Crafting the Cafe Racer Vision

Over several years, he worked on a number of bikes. His dream: Bonneville Salt Flats in America—where he would race his self-built land speed bike—like the legendary World’s Fastest Indian: Burt Munro. Not one to succumb to naivety, Cary realized he needed more experience—technical and practical—before attempting a go at Bonneville.

So, Cary set his sights on a local drag strip with a bike he felt he could strip back and practise on.

He needed a motorbike to race and one of his budget bike projects was the café racer. It started life as a tired old GSX 250 that Cary found online. With the patience and diligence of a leopard stalking its prey, Cary got the bike with a winning bid of £150.00. While that was a great price, Cary could see its potential and that it simply needed some loving elbow grease to give it a new lease on life for it to be ridden again. Like most garage builders, Cary was on a limited budget and needed to be creative to bring his café racer to fruition.

The Tired Old GSX 250 – Before its new life as a Cafe Racer

To conserve his limited budget, Cary reused most of the original parts, modifying them to work instead of buying replacements. The tank (from a GSX1100) and the fibre glass seat were both secondhand—both purchased on Ebay after patiently waiting many hours watching different auctions until the right one came up that worked. You can see from the pictures, Cary’s diligence paid huge dividends.

With limited practical experience, Cary turned to YouTube for help. There he got ideas and advice regarding electrics and welding—“there were many videos and lots of information there that can really help a novice bike builder” Cary said.

He also enrolled in an evening course in engineering to learn the basics for his build—there he gained experience with pillar lathes, milling machines and the like. During the course, Cary was fortunate to meet like-minded people that shared his passion for mechanics and offered a wealth of fantastic advice.

Beautifying the parts with a gloss black coat

Equipped with his new skills and his now-ready parts, Cary cut everything he could from the frame to reduce the weight as much as possible. He also welded the original battery bracket under the seat—giving the bike a more streamlined shape. Cary made the rev counter and speedo from the originals and he was able to re-jet the carburetors with pod filters and put them back to use. With the electrics now tucked neatly under the fuel tank—after much head scratching—he added the final touches—an oil catch can and a kill tether—to get the café race ready. After servicing the engine and removing all the paint from the casings, Cary was ready to hit the track—and invested just £500 into this build!

The Powerplant in its new shell

Cary ran his first drag racing season with the National Association of SuperTwins at Shakespeare County Raceway, Stratford-upon-Avon. The café racer performed flawlessly—giving Cary his personal best of 15.9 seconds at 83mph across the line on the ¼ mile. Club members were amazed at its performance—killing everyone’s initial preconceptions. With its retro look, the café was a head turner—securing many double glances and plenty of interest from spectators and other racers alike! Cary’s brother even “borrowed” the bike for his first season the following year—his performance did him and Cary both proud!

Budget-Built Beauty: Cafe Racer Style
Where are the keys Cary?

Cary says he really enjoyed building and riding this bike and offers this advice to others contemplating bike building, “If you have a passion for bikes and want to build your own, give it ago – you might surprise yourself.”