Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Royal Enfield helped create the cafe racer image

A Royal Enfield featured in newspaper's "Shock Issue."
The Royal Enfield motorcycle roaring out of the front page of Britain's Daily Mirror on Feb. 9, 1961 helped plant in the public mind the image of leather clad demons risking their lives — and yours — on the open road.

"Suicide Club! — it devours 130,000 members every year!" the headline shouted.

"The paper focused on the Ace Cafe in particular and featured some of the regular visitors," author Alastair Walker wrote in his book "The Cafe Racer Phenomenon."

In 1964, the British movie "The Leather Boys" followed the Daily Mirror line. Again shot largely at the Ace Cafe on London's North Circular Road, the movie depicted  motorcycle racing that started right out of the parking lot.

News coverage of Mods and Rockers chasing one another around British seaside resorts in 1964 connected the dots for a worldwide audience. I saw the Mods and Rockers go at it on the television in my house at the time, and I lived in Los Angeles!

The Suicide Club Royal Enfield still frequents the Ace Cafe.

Royal Enfield Constellation WUL 798, proudly on display at the Ace Cafe.
I photographed the motorcycle at the Ace myself while in London in September to see the new Royal Enfield Continental GT.

Cafe racers old and new, they make a nice pair.

The Suicide Club Constellation with the new Royal Enfield Continental GT.
Francois Thomas posted a photo of the bike with the Ace's Mark Wilsmore on Flickr. Wilsmore identified it to him as the very same motorcycle shown in the newspaper, and it still bears the pedestrian slicer WUL 798, as in the paper. The 700cc twin-cylinder Constellation is rusty now, but easy to imagine in its days of glory.

Suicide Club Royal Enfield; does metal remember?

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