cafe bikes in the southwest

I moved out here from the Midwest to this city on a desert almost three years ago. In Chicago there is a hopping vintage and café motorcycle scene. In Milwaukee the café bike culture is solid and eventful. One thing I noticed when I started investing myself in the bike world here in Phoenix-land was that the aesthetic leans to the cruiser and the chopper.

Why is the vintage and café scene so thin here? There are a lot of vintage bike aficionados here in the Valley, but they seem to keep to themselves. There are also a lot of people caught in-between: they have some kind of custom or bobber or rare bike, but it isn’t exactly a café and it isn’t exactly a chopper, so where do they belong?

Cultures vary from locale to locale. For some reason, café culture cemented itself in the Midwest and places in northern California, but a more chopper “kulture” tied itself to so.Cal and the Southwest.

I am one of the people caught in-between. I have a somewhat rare bike that is not a sport-bike, not quite vintage, not exactly a café bike and not a chopper. I have had café bikes in the past and built some fun rides, but I don’t have one presently. So, where do I fit? I gravitate to the vintage bike crowd because we share a philosophy and relationship to motorcycles. People who get their hands dirty and understand what it’s like to have to figure out a way to bend metal to make a part fit from a wholly different bike. The motorcycles themselves are often somewhat laborious to ride. There is no traction control or modern suspension. Riding a vintage bike is a physical, visceral event.

Café bikes have a unique aesthetic. Hard, uncompromising, fast. There is a toughness to their straight line build: head bracing into the wind, legs back on rear-sets, arms reaching for the clip-ons. I like tough.

But the Southwest’s idea of tough is housed in a lanky, leaned back, arms reaching upwards to hold the bars of the raked out front end. I appreciate the style, but it’s not my taste. The choppers don’t handle well, you can’t run twisty roads with that awkward frame. I like my form with  function and café bikes are created to handle well and race around twisty roads.

So, why is there not more of a café and vintage scene here? It is not for lack of love of the style. This question has perplexed me since I arrived and I still have no answer.

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