Cafe racers have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Their vintage style and sleek look could make any head turn while it’s ridden down the road.
A lot of people who build a cafe racer want the least amount of components showing to give it a minimal look. This process often includes getting creative with hiding the battery.
Where can you put the battery on a cafe racer? The best places to put a battery on a cafe racer include putting it in a battery box under the seat, placing it on the rear swing arm on it’s side, placing it under the rear swing arm in a battery box, or replacing the air box with pod filters and putting the battery where the air box was.
Having built over a dozen cafe racers myself, I have been able to find the best places to put the battery that have proven to work well and also shown to be safe if done right. This article can explain how to do so to give your cafe racer that sought after sleek look.
Places To Hide The Battery
One of the most refreshing things about turning a motorcycle into a cafe racer is getting rid of all of the extra ad-ons and simply making the bike lighter both in literal weight and in looks. If you’re like me, you’ll want to make your cafe racer see through from the side to really give it that true conservative look.
Often times the battery gets in the way when doing this. The motorcycle needs the battery, so it’s not necessarily something you can get rid of. Cafe racer builders often wonder how to hide the battery so you can’t see it at all, but some batteries are just so big and bulky it almost seems impossible to do so.
The first way to successfully hide the battery on your cafe racer is by putting it in a battery box underneath the seat. Cafe racers will likely have a custom, flat seat which would be the perfect cover-up for the battery.
Sometimes the battery box that comes with the bike will be able to fit under the seat, depending on how wide your frame is and what kind of battery you have. You may need to make your own battery box and use metal plumbers tape to fasten it to the frame. I have successfully made a handful of battery boxes out of sheet metal.
Another way to hide a battery on your cafe racer is by placing it underneath the rear swing arm. This option isn’t for every motorcycle and requires a good amount of clearance between the frame and the ground for this to be successful.
You’ll need place the battery box underneath the rear swing arm or custom make your own and fasten it to the frame with metal plumbers tape. You’ll need to paint the battery box to blend in with the rest of the frame. Be sure the battery is snugly fastened to the frame to avoid it coming loose.
But my favorite place to put a battery on a cafe racer is on top of the rear swing arm. Again, not every motorcycle will allow you to do this because of the anatomy of the bike, but this is the way I prefer to go if possible.
You’ll need to place the battery on it’s side so make sure you have a sealed battery because unsealed will leak if placed in any other position other than upright. Fasten the battery with metal plumber’s tape or other means to ensure it won’t budge.
Lastly, another place to put a battery on a cafe racer is placing it where the air box was. Obviously you’ll need to remove the air box to put it there; a lot of times the air box will have some sort of shelving or compartment that fits a battery nicely. If you decide to remove the air box, you’ll need to make sure you add pod filters to ensure your air is getting filtered.
An air box will always yield the best results when filtering the air and aiding the air/fuel delivery, but pod filters can work well if you choose the right ones. Click here to see my other article that discusses air boxes verses pod filters.
Interested in building a cafe racer? I’ve created an entire video series about how to restore a motorcycle (cafe racer style) from start to finish. This series includes in-depth tutorials on hard to tackle components such as electrical, carb rebuilds, and electrical. I also implement hiding the battery using one of these strategies. Click here for more information if you’re interested in building your dream motorcycle!
The Best Types Of Batteries That Hide Well
One of the biggest obstacles you’ll likely face when relocating the battery on your cafe racer is getting the battery to fit in the first place. Here are a few suggestions of the best types of batteries that will fit nicely on these types of bikes and will make the transition easier.
First, you’ll want to make sure you have a battery that is safe to mount on it’s side. All the suggested places to put a battery on a cafe racer previously discussed will likely need to be placed on their sides. As I had mentioned before, you’ll want to make sure it’s a sealed battery so it won’t leak when placed in a position other than upright.
A good option for a sealed battery is an absorbed glass mat battery, also know as an AGM battery. This is a lead acid battery, but doesn’t require distilled water to be added occasionally like other wet acid batteries. And because it’s sealed, the plates inside are completely immersed in the acid so no matter what direction you place it the plates will continue to be covered. This is also the cheapest option to go with.
Another option you have is purchasing a gel cell battery. These are generally a bit more expensive, however they come in smaller sizes and are a perfect option for cafe racers, especially if you want to hide it under the seat.
Gel cell batteries are also technically considered a lead acid battery that is sealed. But instead of using wet lead acid, it contains an electrolyte-sulfuric acid mixed with silica. This “gels up” the acid which makes it immovable, hence the name gel cell battery. You don’t have to worry about this one leaking either when placed in a position other than upright.
As a third option, lithium ion batteries are also an excellent choice to use on a cafe racer. These are the most expensive option but they are the most durable and longest lasting. They’re also small in both size and weight which makes it possible to place them in any of the previously suggested hiding spots as well as any other place you can come up with.
For more information about knowing whether or not it’s safe to mount a motorcycle battery on it’s side, see my other article by clicking here.
Accommodating The Wiring
Don’t forget you’ll need to accommodate the wiring when finding a different spot to place the battery on your cafe racer. This can be an intimidating task but can easily be accomplished.
You’ll likely have to lengthen several wires that attach to the battery, especially if you’re planning on putting the battery by the rear swing arm. This mainly consists of adding some donor wire and splicing it into the existing wire.
I don’t recommend splicing the actual battery cable wires. It’s best just to purchase longer battery cables suitable for your needs. A replacement like this usually isn’t too expensive.
Once you get the right amount of slack in the wiring, you’ll probably end up with a lot of wires hanging out in unsightly places. Part of the look of a cafe racer is hiding the wiring, so you’ll need to do just that. You can run the wiring along the frame and use something like zip ties to fasten them down. It’s a good idea to wrap the wires with electrical tape to make them flush with the color of the frame.
It’s also possible to run the wiring inside the frame since most motorcycle frames are hollow, but this is much more difficult and requires some alterations on your frame which is something I don’t always recommend. Click here to see my article to learn more about how to hide your motorcycle wiring.