Motorcycles have been trending for a long time. They were first invented in 1885, but it was not until the early 20th century they became popular among the young generation.
With time, these motorcycles evolved and came into the form of what we know as cafe racers today.
There are many aspects of these motorcycles that trigger our curiosity. The foremost and most asked one is the “X” on the headlights.
Let’s find out what does this “X” on headlights mean!
The “X” that is seen on the headlights of motorcycles of cafe racers, may seem like a logo or symbol of a group, but it has more to its meaning than that.
In the early days of its evolution, bikers did all sorts of amendments and fixations to their standard motorcycle models to optimize it and make it fit for tolerating high speed.
One main problem, which was faced by them back then was the cracking and spilling of headlight mirrors due to high speed. This was harmful and dangerous for both, themselves and other fellow bikers as well as passing pedestrians.
To overcome this problem, the riders started putting black tapes in “X” pattern over the headlight mirrors to prevent the cracked glass shrapnels from scattering when it is broken by strong gushes of air. This was actually a beneficiary move at that time.
Today this symbolic “X” is used on heavy bikes and other racing bikes are a tribute to those who came up with this idea in the first place. It is so, because they were the ones who came up with this classic sport in the early days.
This sport became so popular that in the early 1900s, motorcycle racing was classified as one of the sports to be played in the Olympics one or two times. It was considered classic at that period of time but they never became officially accepted in the Olympics.
Even today, this sport is popular in many parts of the world and many bets are placed on the competitors taking part in these races.
However, there is another group of amateur, nonprofessional motorcycle riders who place this “X” on their headlights to look cool. Because they are eye-catching and make you pause and look out for them when you walk past them.
The term ‘cafe racers’ actually came into being through a very interesting event in history. In the 1960s, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts in Britain, started customising their standard production bikes according to their likings.
They added additional speed making features to it making it feasible for quick short distance rides.
These groups used to meet at American cafes with their bikes to drink coffee. When another group of riders quickly rode past them, it was taken as a challenge by that group to race them to the next nearest cafe.
This trend laid the foundation of motorcycle sports for the future. In the modern world, this sport is being carried onwards through heavy bikes.
In the early days, the simplest way was adopted to make this “X”, which was using just two strands of plain black tape pasted in a criss cross section to make an X. This was because the sole purpose of taping was protection of broken glass from scattering around.
But as every solution comes with a problem, simple tapes also fulfilled the same legacy. These simple tapes were not strong enough to be used as “X” symbol.
Due to high radiations and heat emitted from the headlights, they melt the adhesive material of the tapes, producing a sticky mess that was hard to clean later.
Therefore, instead of common tapes, people started using electrical tapes to make the “X” symbol on the headlights.
Electrical tapes were stronger than simple tapes with higher durability and better strength that further favoured their use.
This was a good solution but with further progress, they were protected with a steel frame, arranged in an X pattern. It was bolted and tightly adjusted over the headlight that protected the glass further.
So, continuing the trend, the same materials are used today all over the world in motorcycle racings.
Going by the ground rules laid by motorcycle racers, some racing cars also follow the same trend. They have a “X” labelled over their headlights in the same fashion as the motorcycles.
It is because of the exact problem: Strong gushes of air breaking the glass of headlights.
Many types of cars used these headlights which includes racing cars, rally cars, street racing cars and many many others.
Laws concerning the markings on headlights depend upon the state you live in. Mostly there are no such laws about this matter.
If you are a professional cafe racer, this becomes more important. Both for protection and to represent yourself in this sport field.
However, there are laws about the kind of headlights you can choose and specifically the time when you can use it.
Using headlights at night was declared mandatory by the government of the United States in the late 1900s.
Whatever the vehicle is, this symbol “X” has become famous in the racing world. It started as a mere protection mechanism, but it had gone a long way in history to make itself known on its own.
The sole credit to this goes to the people who started it in the early 20th century. So, if you see any bike coming around with “X” on the headlight, understand that it’s a racing bike or the rider is trying to look cool by using the “X” symbol.
You may also see cars and other vehicles with racing signs. The reason is the same for them as well. That is.