The newest project bike at Benjie’s Cafe Racer is named the Velotica D’Epoca. Directly translated from Italian to mean “vintage speed,” we literally could not think of a more fitting name for this late ‘90s Ducati sportsbike converted to the stylings of a 1950s-era British Cafe Racer.
This bike, untouched by our hands, came to our shop as a tired & neglected ‘96 Ducati 900 Supersport SP with an insipidly boring white paintjob. We at BCR love working on Hondas & Yamahas from the ‘70s, but an increase in demand has caused the price of these bikes to rise greatly since we started this business ten years ago. Thusly stated, we felt the need to branch out of our comfort zone & against the current of the mainstream. We found this bike online with a couple of scratches, a missing bottom, butchered wiring, & the aforementioned grisly white paint job; a few minor setbacks easily overlooked by the fact that the bike was actually running & running well. The motor was strong & the exhaust screamed euphoniously with the bike’s only real drawback being its atrocious lack of visual appeal. Luckily this bike was cheap - far cheaper than the Honda CB750s we found listed online at the time - & after agreeing on a price with the seller, the bike was shipped & ready to be stripped. Generally speaking, this was where the fun would begin, but due to an increase in customer orders & a lack of inspiration brought forth by the bike’s more modern (& blatantly put - ugly) natural build, this project caught the backburner for well over a year.
Scramblers & Trackers, the subject of our most recent builds, have gained heightened popularity in the past year to the extent that even big time manufacturers (e.g., Ducati, Moto Guzzi, & BMW) have cashed in on the hype with factory models in these styles. This escalation has caused us to venture back to our stylistic roots, i.e., old school-styled British cafe racers. The cafe racer first appeared in the ‘50s with racing in mind, so the ‘90s sportsbike with factory race specifications was a perfect place for us to start.
When inspiration finally hit, we stripped the Ducati, leaving nothing but a bare frame, a motor, suspension, & wheels. The first modification made was to the rear frame. We had it cut & fabricated a subframe to suit our stylistic choices. The sub was fabricated from stainless steel & made to be as simple & spacialy efficient as possible. The position of the frame was angled to provide an aggressive attack mode look.
Next up was the gas tank. The aluminum tank was shaped with old British race bikes in mind, adding an oil temperature gauge (in the vein of old ‘50s Nortons) & a stainless tank strap with a wrist-watch-style latch for additional detail. We used a flush twist gas cap for which we machined a flange surrounded by stainless steel bolts. We decided that we didn’t want to have the tank position follow the angle of the trellis so we widened the front of the tank to cover the frame.
Once the tank was made, we sculpted a model of the seat out of metal. A mold was made from the model, allowing us to more easily construct a carbon fiber seat. We shaped the seat to be as short & simple as possible with our only concern being to widen the tail to match the wide factory rear wheel. The upholstery is a combination of an alcantara center & cowhide leather. The tail light was machined out of aluminum & tucked underneath the seat & a tank rest pad (made to match the upholstery) was then added with a secret pocket for the rider’s wallet or phone.
To complement the aluminum tank, the fenders were also made of aluminum & secured with stainless steel brackets. We added a pedestrian-slicing front fender plate to further solidify the vintage British look. However, instead of using the more iconic wire-spokes, we decided to keep the aluminum wheels to save weight & slapped on Pirelli 120 & 170 17” tires.
The stock mild-steel, clip-on bars didn’t appeal to our taste, so we fabricated our own stainless bars with drilled-out speed holes & exposed the blacked-out forks to give the bike a nice racing feel. We wanted the dash to be clean & simple, meaning no gauge or brackets sticking out. To make the upper trees the highest part of the bike, we hand-hammered a headlight bucket out of aluminum & had the speedometer built into the bucket (similarly to how old British bikes, such as ones made by Triumph, were made). The flange for the gauge was painted black to match the tank’s black scallop paint job & an old-style 7” sealed beam headlight was used & secured with a Honda headlight ring.
When we cut the frame, we lost the contacts where the rear sets used to bolt in so we made foot peg brackets out of stainless steel & bolted them onto the motor & the frame. We also made our own foot controls, eliminated the linkages, & machined the pegs.
The exhaust is made of stainless steel & includes hand-hammered mufflers with exposed welds on the left side. We kept the exhaust sectioned & shaped the whole thing to resemble two snakes from Medusa’s head, slithering past the rider’s right leg.
No modifications were done to the suspension, brakes, or engine. Seeing as how the bike came from the factory with race performance in mind, we really didn’t see the need to alter any of these aspects, we just re-sealed them & started the finishing touches. The motor needed maintenance & the carbs were re-jetted to fit the custom exhaust. We kept the bike’s 3-way adjustable racetech Showa forks as well as the aluminum swing arm with 3-way adjustable mono Ohlins shock. The brakes are stock Brembo with braided lines & adjustable levers & the engine has race cams, port & polished heads, a Keihin FCR41mm carb, & a programmable ignition system. To save weight, we topped it off with titanium bolts.
Overall, we’re quite happy with how the build came out; a 1950s raw cafe styling with a more modern ‘90s soon-to-be-classic platform. The Ducati 900SS/SP is fast for its age, & the ‘50s-style conversion makes us proud to add the Velotica D’Epoca to our collection.
- Benjie's Cafe Racer- BCR Designs Velotica D’Epoca Ducati 900ss/sp