Tracker bikes are like the American cousin of the English cafe racers. There is a similar ethos of lightness, stripped back performance, and minimalism.
There is however a strange circularity with trackers, as road going bikes in the 60’s and 70’s were originally stripped back to create the first trackers before builders started making specific race bikes, then those same race bikes were eventually fitted with enough street-going stuff to make them road legal.
This is a bike designed to be light, have low down power, be flickable and fun. A hoot on the street and a blast in the dirt. Recently there has been a resurgence in the flat tracker and street tracker scene with Super Hooligan racing becoming popular in Europe and the United States.
There also tends to be a bit of crossover and bleeding into the scrambler style of bike and vice versa. Scramblers are discussed more in the next style guide section.
- Trackers have a very upright riding position, using wide MX style bars to give great control and leverage to maneuver the bike quickly. They often have mid controls to assist with rideability and control. Sometimes rear sets are fitted, but more for looks than practicality.
- Dual purpose tread tires are used, however the tread pattern needs to be a small block classic pattern to keep the styling period-correct. Trackers will run at least an 18” rim, which can be spoked or cast, but more classic and period correct look is 19” spoked rims, running the same rim size and width front and back.
- Trackers do not traditionally run a front fender. But one might be required for roadworthiness and to keep the local policeman off your back. If one is to be fitted, it should be mounted high like a MX bike with minimal overhang forward and rear (no further forward than the front axle).
- Trackers run a rear fender, but only enough to be practical, generally only going as far rearwards as the center of the rear wheel, perhaps a little further. Fairings are generally made of fiberglass. It is common to see a wedge shape in rear fender, which is kept up high in line with and integrated into the seat.
- Trackers run a single seat with some slope upwards at the rear to stop the rider slipping backward (handy at wide open throttle!). Trackers have a tank that can look small on the bike, which tends to sit quite high on the bike. Side on there can be a teardrop shape to the tank. There is a flow from tank into seat and rear fender as single line, forming a strong foundation line like a cafe racer.
- Racing flat trackers don’t run front brakes (or rear brakes actually!). However, for a street tracker, they are needed to avoid hitting things, so are of course fitted. Trackers for the street will normally run rear brakes as well for practicality and meeting road rules.
- Exhaust pipes are also generally quite minimalist, just enough to get the exhaust gas away from you and enough muffling not to attract the police. These are normally run low on or under the engine with multiple header set-ups collected into a single pipe/muffler on the one side of the bike. If mufflers are fitted, they are often kicked up to stop them dragging in the dirt when the bike is laid over for slides.
Most of the traditional tracker bikes were obviously the racing bikes of the time, such as the Harley Davidson KR750 and HD XR750. In the 1980’s Harley Davidson tried to capitalize on the success of these race bikes and give the company a kickstart in image by building the XR1000, sticking an XR engine into a Sportster frame.
In terms of base bikes of the era that formed a basis for tracker customs, apart from the obvious choice of the HD Sportsters, the Yamaha XS400/650 was also a common choice.
In the early 2000’s Harley Davidson evolved the XR1000 into the XR1200. As Sportsters have evolved over the years, they have also continued to be a popular base for tracker conversions.
More recently Harley Davidson have released the XG750R flat tracker race bike. Indian have also jumped on the tracker bandwagon in recent years with the popular FTR line.
The recent Yamaha SR400/500 is also a popular base for tracker conversions. That said, there are many bikes that have proven great bases for conversion, particularly in the dirt bike and dual sport scene. Honda NX650 has proven popular, as has the Honda XR series of bikes.
Overall modern trackers still retain similar aesthetics and intent to the early trackers, albeit with often much better handling, power and rideability.