What Does it Cost to Build a Cafe Racer

✓ SAVINGS TIP Check out whether you are paying too much for your motorcycle insurance

Compare quotes to save money

Enter your zip to get started.


Cafe racer motorcycles have become more popular over the last decade and it’s obvious as to why they have. They’re sleek, minimal, and they catch the eye of anyone you pass while riding.

I’ve done hours of research finding the best value replacement parts while still making a motorcycle look good. I’m often asked how much money I spend on restoration of cafe racers.

What is the cost of building a cafe-racer? If you plan to do the upgrades and rebuild yourself, the cost to build a cafe racer is between $700 – $1,000 in addition to the purchase of your motorcycle. The area where you live and the season will affect the cost of your motorcycle.

I’ve restored over a dozen cafe racers over the last few years and have learned a lot about them. There’s a lot more to it than just knowing how much you’ll need to spend.

Break-Down of Costs to Build a Cafe Racer

Because I have done this project so many times, I’ve become familiar with the costs associated with each part of the motorcycles. The amazing thing about cafe racer motorcycles is the minimal cost because they’re minimal vehicles.

Expect to spend around $70 if your goal is to paint the tank and fenders. This price includes tape, bondo primer, paint, clear coat, and primer. If you’re more comfortable with having these painted professionally, you’ll need to plan on paying about $200 – $250.

Sometimes, a seat needs to be replaced in order to restore a motorcycle. Cafe racers are often made from older motorcycles. The seats are often worn and/or unusable. On Amazon, you can find a seat in the $30 – $50 range. A seat can be reupholstered by an upholsterer if you are interested. you’ll need to plan on about $250 in addition to making a seat pan for the upholsterer to use as a frame for the seat.

When restoring a motorcycle, it’s a good idea to replace the headlight as this will prevent any safety issues. About $50 for a simple new headlight in a cafe-racer. If you have high standards, there are some that are more expensive. However, I am happy to pay this price and my motorcycles always turn out beautifully.

When building a cafe racer, you’ll want to replace the taillight and the blinkers for something much smaller yet still functional. Blinkers are usually available for $30, which includes both front and rear blinkers. A tail light is about $20. To avoid any problems with the road laws, make sure you buy yellow/amber blinkers and a red tail light.

I used the Shinko712 rear and front tires on my 1969 Triumph TR25W Trophy.

A cafe racer’s reputation is largely due to its tires. You’ll want to get good looking tires that also provide good functionality as a cafe racer is meant to give you quick rides over short distances. I usually spend about $150 – $175 on a set of tires. I typically use something like a Shinko712 front tire and something similar to the Shinko712 rear tire (both shown above).

Some people love to keep the original speedometer/tachometer for a vintage look. To have a cleaner look, I prefer to replace them. For a new tachometer, expect to spend $30 and $30 respectively. Safety reasons are the main reason I recommend a new speedometer. These are my recommendations.

Cafe racers have low-mounted handlebars. It gives the cafe racer a sleek, race-like appearance. You’ll most likely need to replace yours. Simple, low handlebars will cost you around $30

The frame painting is the most expensive part of a motorcycle rebuild. It also gives the bike the best face-lift. Paint your frame for as low as $15I buy usually one can each of self-etching primer, and one can each of black DupliColor aerosol at an auto shop.

Let’s not forget about making the exhaust system more simple. The total cost of new exhaust pipes and exhaust wrap is about $60 Don’t skip this step as it will give you the final touch of a cafe racer creation.

There will be several miscellaneous items you’ll need to get depending on the motorcycle you’re working on and the issues you need to fix. These miscellaneous items could include wires, electrical connectors, fuses and shop towels. Don’t forget to add these into your budget because it can add up quick. These items will cost you approximately $150

Miscellaneous professional maintenance is not something to be included in your budget. You will need to take your motorcycle in at least once for fixes because you probably don’t have the right tools/knowledge to do what you need to do on your motorcycle. For example, I always take my motorcycles in to get the tires mounted to the wheels because I personally don’t own a tire mount.

Other miscellaneous repairs include timing issues and shock rebuilds. Budget about $100 – $300 for these fixes. You can see my recommended upgrades for your motorcycle here.

How difficult is it to build a cafe racer?

You’ll be amazed when you begin your cafe racer restoration; the amount of parts you’ll have piled up that you won’t be using from the original motorcycle is incredible. It’s quite satisfying and you can almost hear the motorcycle give a sigh of relief from the weight change.

Building a cafe racer is a lot more simple compared to other motorcycle builds because of it’s simplistic nature. Cafe racers should have as few parts as possible to make them go faster. The original idea was to have them look and feel like race bikes.

If you’re restoring a motorcycle for the first time, building a cafe racer is an excellent choice because of how simple it is. You can find almost every part on any online selling platform. What’s the best thing about building your cafe racer? It’s cheap! Click here to read my article on whether you need to have experience in order to repair a motorcycle.

A video series has been created on how to build a motorcycle. Within this series includes tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else online as well as tutorials on hard to tackle components such as carb rebuilds, body work, and electrical. Click here for more information if you’re interested in restoring or building your dream motorcycle!

Which part of the motorcycle should I start on?

There are easy steps you can follow when you’re restoring a motorcycle and turning it into a cafe racer. Because I’ve restored a good amount of motorcycles, I’ve found a routine that has worked well for me.

First, you’ll need to strip the motorcycle down to the frame. You don’t necessarily need to remove the engine unless you want to be completely thorough. When disassembling your motorcycle, label everything and take hundreds of photos. Tape wires to show where they are and place small parts in baggies. This will make assembly so much simpler.

My wife and me work on removing one of our builds from the frame. It is a 1980 Honda CB750.

Next, you’ll need to focus on any engine and carb repairs. If your motorcycle is already running well, you can just clean it up and shine it up.

You’ll then focus on the tires. If you’re planning to paint your tire wheels yourself, make sure the tires are mounted first before painting. The mounting machine will remove paint if you first paint.

However, If you plan to powder coat your rims, you can go ahead and do that first; powder coat won’t rub off while mounting the tires. If the wheels are heated up to a high temperature, powder coating aluminum wheels could be dangerous. This can alter the metallurgy and lead to aluminum fracturing at high speeds. Aluminum can also blow apart. You are trying to decide whether you should paint your rims or powder coat them. You can read my article to learn the pros and cons of each.

Since you’re still dealing with bare bones, you can now spend time on rewiring electrical and installing your lights and gauges. For a cleaner look, re-wrap the wires with electric tap and make sure you place the wiring in a spot that won’t rub on the tires.

Next, install your new exhaust pipes and your exhaust wrap, if applicable. Don’t be worried when your exhaust starts smoking after you first start it, that’s just the exhaust wrap curing and tightening to the pipes. The exhaust wrap contains fiberglass particles and will produce smoke the first few times the motorcycle is driven.

You can now install your handlebars. Once you get to this point, you’ll start seeing a true cafe racer being created!

You’re now ready to place and fasten your seat onto your motorcycle. It is best to take your custom-made chair in as soon as possible. The upholsterer may take several weeks to complete your seat.

The final touches are now! Now it’s time to install your fenders. This is the last step in your assembly process. Do not allow your tank to get scuffed or damaged by trying to fit the seat or the handle bars. You can click here to view my complete guide to building a cafe racer.

How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Rebuilt Motorbike?

You may be wondering, if you’re going to own a motorcycle, how much does it cost to maintain? You’ll notice it’s actually significantly cheaper than maintaining most other forms of transportation.

First you’ll need to look at insurance. It all depends on your motorcycle’s make, age, and model. The average insurance premium for a motorcycle is about $300 – $500 a year. I pay $17 per month or just over $200 per year.

One of the best things about owning a bike is the low cost of fuel. You can fill up your tank for $10 – $15 and get at least 40 MPG. You may get a higher MPG if your motorcycle is newer.

You’ll run into a few miscellaneous expenses such as a cover, motorcycle lock, etc. These are usually one-time purchases and generally aren’t expensive.

There are many things you can do to fix your motorcycle’s mechanical problems. You can save a lot of money by DIYing your motorcycle.

You can expect to spend about $100 per month on your motorcycle maintenance. This price range will rise if you use your motorcycle primarily for transport; it will drop if you use it less frequently.

Similar Questions

From where do cafe racers originate? Cafe racers were originally thought of and created by British motorcycle enthusiasts in the 1960’s. These were initially created to be short, fast rides between cafes. Many people didn’t have the means to purchase a car at that time, so they used a motorcycle as their primary mode of transport.

What would it cost to have your motorcycle rebuilt by a professional? This will depend on the needs of the motorcycle and the extent of the repairs required. Most motorcycle shops charge about $50 – $100 and hour in labor. A professional motorcycle restoration can cost thousands of dollars. My build cost $5,500.

Leave a Comment