Originally Posted by DesmoDog
Were small displacement bikes really ever cafe racer material? Bikes began to distract me away from cars a little later in life (around 1980) so I have no first hand knowledge about the whole cafe racer thing, but I always assumed that, like now, bigger was typically better. Didn't (relatively) big twins and singles rule the day?
Yes and no. For a while (post 1945 to the mid-1950s) in europe all there was to be had was small displacement, and like I mentioned before human nature took over - make it faster. Plus, post war europe was broke so your race bike was your street bike and there were classes going all the way down to 125cc (and 50cc at the IOM starting in the early 1960s). So to that end yes there were small race machines that one would call a cafe racer. Probably lasted until the mid 1960's when bigger bikes from the late 1950s became affordable on the used market. Some of those smaller ducs you play with DesmoDog are pretty sporty out of the crate, and two things I learned from driving in italy - an italian only knows WFO and off, and What is behind him does not matter.
If you are asking if a cb175 was ever a "cafe racer"? well probably not. At least not in great numbers and probably not in the US. Def in countries where you had age restricted and tiered licensing, but that is what you had MB5s, AR50s, FS1E Fizzies, and the like for, until you could have a proper speed rocket. I think the small displacement vintage performance motorcycle genre was ruled by the two stroke post 1970 - easy to make power, easy to fix, easy to scare yourself on. I used to fix old vespas and a properly tuned race ported P200 mill or T5 engine with the right parts will scare you just as easily as any big bike will to 30 mph. The wheelie prone light front end and the motion of the ocean riding style doesn't help either.