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The AMA (American Motorcyclist Assoc.) is the largest race sanctioning body in the U.S. They cover nearly every type of motorcycle racing, with clearly defined rules and safety regulations to ensure uniform classes from the Supersport point series to regional amateur events.

For information on their rules, as well as upcoming races in your area, click here to access their huge website.

You should consider becoming a member of AMA, which not only gives you some discounts, but also enables them to lobby on your behalf to protect your rights to ride the streets.

What the hell is a Cafe Racer?

cafe racersThe name "cafe racer" means different things to different people. The object is to transform a stock motorcycle into something lighter and faster, but the original bikes took various forms based on the finances and mechanical abilities of their owners.

Here's a link to Wikipedia for the full history and evolution of cafe racers.

Some people will tell you it's all about performance, with everything else sacrificed to achieve that goal, but how many owners will take their bike to a local track compared to those who only ride on the street. For the latter, how much are you willing to give up in the name of performance? Rideability? Dependability? Comfort? Those choices will define what your bike becomes.

If you're happy with stripping off everything possible and pumping up the engine, you need to be ready for certain limitations. If you just want to swap handlebars, seat and exhaust, you should realize your changes will only be cosmetic. Either way it's up to you to decide how wild or mild you want the end product to be. A dedicated race bike with a loud exhaust and narrow powerband won't be practical for city conditions, but only changing the appearance won't help you keep up on twisty back roads.

RD400

At left is a Yamaha RD400 I used to own. It's a two cylinder two-stroke. The stock version was plenty fast but this one had been overly modified by the previous owner. It was technically street legal but failed the practicality test. The engine was heavily ported and ran like crap until it hit about 5k rpm, then screamed and jumped to 8k and aimed the front wheel skyward. If I tried to run it below 4k, it would foul the plugs and die. The compression was so high I needed to add octane booster. The Stage 2 pipes were loud enough to bring cops running from a mile away. The "seat" was just a layer of vinyl over the fiberglass tray. It was loads of fun on the track despite being a handful to control. It spent a few months on display in my living room (seriously) then finally got sold on eBay.

If you choose to go all-out like my RD400, keep in mind there's no "cafe bike" class in the racing world. Most classes are based on engine size and there are limits to the types of mods you can make. If you want to race, pick a class and study the rulebook, then decide if you can live with those specs on the street or limit your bike to track events only.