Just a quick motorway sprint from the seafront battleground where mods and rockers once clashed, the Ton-Up Boys are back.
These café racers are so rooted in the present they are perhaps living proof that the leathers, slicked back hair and attitude never really went away.
Their forebears earned the Ton Up tag for tuning their stripped back street bikes to hit the halcyon 100mph mark around the streets of 1950s London and beyond, racing from tea bar to coffee house before the last rock ‘n roll riff had finished.
Haunts like the Ace Café were home to these riders, men and women who cocked a snook at safety in pursuit of the almost impossible.
Back in the day, flicking the V at rules, these rebels with a cause earned a place in the hearts of anyone who denounced authority. They were the predecessors of today’s Bonneville-inspired Thruxton and Street Cup, built for speed and fuelled by rock and roll.
It was no surprise that as years passed, and as the traffic levels grew and the powers-that-be cracked down on the speed culture, the devil-may-care style took to the tracks. Not for them though, any organised race day – these were the type of guys who’d roll up in a Transit van and roll their ride out for an impromptu run.
The quality of the black and white images might have improved, but the attitude remains defiantly the same in these stunning images shot by motorcycle photographer Merry Michau at Ardingly Auto Jumble in Haywards Heath, fittingly just 15 miles from Brighton earlier this year.
“I saw them buying bike parts and I loved their look. I wanted to capture that freedom of expression from back in the 50s and 60s where brotherhood was king and fixing your bike up was as important as riding it,” Merry says.
Reassuringly the Ace Café is still a popular hang-out for riders with the same DNA, but perhaps with a slightly less confrontational stance. The café racers of today are built with aesthetics rather than breakneck speed in mind.
Back then, without manufacturers like Triumph embracing the minimalist style, the coffee bar and greasy spoon café racers had to rely on their wits, stripping back all but the essential bodywork and tuning their engines for maximum grunt in minimum time.
Today the London Bike Shed is the embodiment of the ‘less is more’ culture, which shows no signs of disappearing off the riding radar.
Its founder Dutch van Someren believes the Triumph knack for looking backward to drive forward is ensuring the culture lives long and prospers.
“The return of the cafe racers scene is well documented, but where once the romance of the street racer is that it was something that used to be done by custom builders, now, 40 years on, Triumph are doing it for you,” he says.
“They have taken an icon and by taking the basic Street Twin frame and evolving it with the Bonneville, they are cafe racing it for you. As people start thinking about spring, the Street Cup will be near the top of the list of bikes to ride this year.”
He believes the Cup, for people who want the look but not the power of the Thruxton, is more than capable of raising eyebrows on track corners: “It stops and turns on the track and looks just at home outside The Bike Shed or at Brands Hatch.”
But van Someren also extols the virtues of the Cup for its unique place in the market as ‘the bike that you’d be pleased with as an alternative to the Thruxton’.
So 53 years after the legendary ‘Battle of Brighton’, is the all-new cafe racer the new kid on the block? You decide, book your Street Cup test ride here.
Cup-winning stats & reviews
1. Authentic Bonneville style.
2. Sporting poise, agility and better rider experience… drop bars ergonomically built for a better riding position.
4. Easy to accessorise, with 150 inspiration kits, the Cup already features a bullet seat, pinstripe paint scheme and premium finishes and detailing throughout.
But don’t take our word for it, here is what the press think of the Cup: