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‘79 Honda CBN400 – Ed Turner Motorcycles

Posted on August 18, 2014 by Andrew in Café Racer. 46 comments

As guys who see a lot of bikes, there’s nothing more intriguing than a build that seems to be hard to pigeonhole. Now that’s not to say that a classic café racer doesn’t whet our whistles, but there’s something about a mix of styles or fresh ideas that make you look twice. Needless to say, the bike you see here a.k.a. the latest build from France’s amusingly named Ed Turner Motorcycles just so happens to be one of them. Built by and for ‘Head Ed’ Karl Renoult, it’s a Honda that looks like the result of a one night stand between a café racer and a supermoto in a 1970s amusement park. And in our books, that can only be a good thing.


Karl’s ethos is simple. He tells us that the one thing he aims for when creating a bike is to come up with something that’s uncompromising; something that won’t leave anyone indifferent or bored. “It’s with this concept in mind that I design my bikes. I also make sure that each motorcycle contains a decent serving of good ol’ 70s & 80s Americana; I always take a lot of inspiration from the auto culture of this period.”


Like many other builders, Karl takes a lot from the look of the engines, often allowing their form to dictate the rest of the build. “From the moment the first frame tubes are bent and positioned around the engine, the machine itself starts to take part in the decisions and lets me know what is expected. You can’t force these things. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. The bike knows what is good for her.”


The project began with Karl wanting a bike for himself. Something that not only pushed all his own buttons, but that would also serve as the best possible calling card for the business. And the choice of a total rebuild was an easy one to make, as Karl mentions that the donor bike was “a total slaughter. It really had been made a martyr to the custom gods.”


Note the big red start/stop button

Alignment turned out to be the hardest part of the build, as this was Karl’s first bespoke frame and swing arm build. But he got there in the end and once everything was pointing in the same direction, he equipped the bike with a polished CBR fork and 17” supermoto wheels. Then the engine was mounted and the whole thing was crowned by part of an old floor polisher as a means of covering the coil. Wiring was then redone to ensure it was hidden from sight.


Karl also took on the task of painting the bike. Not one to hand over the reigns when the going gets tough, he managed to apply all the paint including the metallic sparkles with his own hand, only stopping when he realised that the powder coated frame would need the help of an electrostatic discharge gun or two and some damn big ovens.


How often do you see a motor that deserves its own photo?

The bike was finished with some Dunlop Sportmax shoes, an old car headlight, Nissin stoppers, a modified tank, velocity stacks on Edelbrock carbs and some stainless pipes. The first test ride proved interesting, too. “The sensation on the bike is somewhere between a café racer and a supermotard. Surprisingly, the little engine is really quite nasty, as it’s breathing freely.”


If you like what you see, be sure and check out Karl’s two other genre-defying builds at the Ed Turner Motorcycles website here.

  • saittam

    Sweet, love the tank!

  • Reece

    Awesome!!! Absolutely love it and I think its great to have these types of innovative and a bit mad bikes injected into the scene.

  • Jacob Speis

    Forgive my ignorance, but what’s the filter over the valves?

    • Alistair Hardy

      Something I’d like to know as well.

    • Junior Burrell

      Its for the crankcase vent

  • baida

    excellent bike and work. great design. the carbs looks like the keihin honda used in that era.

  • Junior Burrell

    Nice,I remember a time when these bikes were the outcast platform. lol

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  • TJ Martin

    This … is one of those that initially I thought I would not like . But after scrolling down all the photos … reading the text and paying attention to the details I now have to admit I like quite a lot .

    The only question I have is … other than good … how does one categorize this bike ? Gender Bender perhaps ? Just plain original ?

    Any answers/thoughts gents ? [ and ladies if there are any ]

    • Tanshanomi

      Let’s just say “custom” and leave it at that?

      • TJ Martin

        Can’t argue with the term ‘ custom ‘ except that like the couple I’ve offered its a little too broad based , over generalized and all inclusive . Whereas I’m kind of thinking this bike demands a whole new category just for it and any bikes that may follow that will be influenced by it ..

        Which is to say … I’m still searching … Any ” little grey cells ” out there got a better idea ?

        • Cafémoto?

          • TJ Martin

            Thats got some serious promise . Hmmmn .. yup … I likes that one !

          • Dave Coetzee

            I also like the term “cafe-moto” but seeing the below mentioned “Karlt style” suggestion, the word “Cult-style” sprang to mind.

          • @Pipeburn_Andrew:disqus I’m sure Karlito & @idaedturner:disqus would call this style as “Karlt Style”, and when I wrote about him and his bike I will always say this as a “Karlt Style”. As now people know! “Brat Style” is now very common to call this as part of the “art” of “custom motorcycles”.

          • swiers

            Street Fighter. Might not have been the builder’s intent, but it would be warmly accepted as such, partly for NOT embracing all the usual tropes of any one genre (including street fighters).

        • arnold

          Extended rake and swing arm always says (american) hill climber to me.

  • MayDayMoto

    my favorite bike this year.

  • revdub

    Wow. Some really amazing things going on here. That tank though… so cool. The best looking tank I have seen in a long time.

  • Most unusual and original custom bike that I’ve seen in a long time that I would really like to ride. Ed Turner has created a head turner. Lots of cool details and I like the way the motor is finished off with the red sump. Old Honda 400s were the throw away bikes a few years ago…nice to see what a skilled craftsman can do with one.

    • TJ Martin

      Methinks Ed Turner may of created a whole new genre with this one . Now if only someone could come up with a decent moniker for what could become the next trend in custom motorcycles . Personally ? I’m stymied 😉

      • For years I worked with the French, which I know about them is “Persistent, always looking for the something new, and don’t want to do the same with another look”. They are perfect!

        • TJ Martin

          Yeah .. its too bad the French automotive industry [ as well as almost every other French industry ] has chosen to shed the iconoclastic and individualistic zeitgeist the French ‘ used ‘ to be so well known for . Thank goodness as with Ed Turner ….along some of the atelier’s etc have chosen to maintain it and move it forward

          • Once again, @idaedturner:disqus can you hear that? he.. he..

      • swiers

        Created a new genre? Nope. If the bike had double the cc’s, it fall squarely in the ‘street fighter’ genre, and fits nicely with various European examples. There’s some nice sub-500cc street fighters, although a fair number of those are two strokes…

        Then again, ‘street fighter’ is a still-evolving genre that embraces the idea of mashing up various stylistic and period influences. Not looking quite like any other bike or quite fitting any one genre is pretty much what defines the style.

        • TJ Martin

          Though Street Fighter does apply loosely to this I’m not so sure it fits as well as you and a couple others think it does and may like a few of other suggestions [ including mine ] be a bit over generalized . . So … Close … but no banana . I’m sticking [ so far ] with Andrew’s CafeMoto idea .

          • Hehe .. Hey… @Pipeburn_Andrew:disqus how do you respond to this?

    • RobertR

      I like how the engine is celebrated in this build, too. Most builders highlight the frame or the tins with bright flashy paint. It’s about time someone did something different and brought attention to the heart of the machine (literally). And why wouldn’t you? It’s beautiful piece of jewelry.

  • That made me smile! Thanks.

  • Casual Observer

    Does it not seem that with the swingarm extended so much, some bracing would be required? I just envision that rear end being rather flexy….

    • Depends on the type, gauge and internal section I guess. Or just take a look at the tubes holding the seat up – that has to support the full weight of the rider and it looks a lot less beefy than the swing arm.

      • swiers

        I don’t think any of those really provide a likely explanation for what is probably just a cosmetic compromise.

        Stiffness doesn’t depend on the type of steel; unlike yield strength, stiffness varies less than 5% for various steel alloys.

        Internal section / gauge would play a role, but for any given mass of metal, a simple round tube is not going to hold up to cantilever loading as well as something like a triangulated truss. So its not optimized for stiffness / weight ratio; a choice was made to go for a certain look and pay the cost in either flex, or sprung mass. Even if solid rod, I suspect it would be notably flexy. Then again, the bike isn’t all that powerful, fast, or heavy, so it doesn’t need super-bike level rear end stiffness.

        The stress on a tubing in the swing arm is very different from that on the tubes supporting the rider, so can’t really be compared; you’d expect the seat support to be much lighter than the swing arm. The swing arm transmits undamped bump loads to the suspension (in this case against what looks like rather high leverage) and also must handle accelerating (pushing forward the entire bike plus rider mass, vs just the portion of rider mass not supported on the pegs) and chain tension & braking forces. Besides which, flex under the riders ass doesn’t affect handling and may be a good thing, while flex in the swing arm … is not a good thing.

        • Junior Burrell

          I’ve never seen that many words used on a comment,lol. It might be a record.

          • swiers

            Maybe so, but I think its important that authors of blogs like this stop perpetuation the myth that professional motorcycle builders always do everything perfectly. Once people get that notion out of their head and start to understand that much of what goes into building a custom bike is process of arbitrary (if informed) choice an compromise, they are a lot more likely to take a good shot at building something interesting on their own. Perfect is the enemy of good.

          • Junior Burrell

            I honestly think the authors support the effort of building. Which helps to keep progression moving and people learning. You should start your own blog,I bet that would be interesting.

          • swiers

            It probably wouldn’t be that interesting, as I doubt I’d manage much beyond links to stuff I find fascinating. Anybody who cares probably already googles up the same stuff, hits the same forums, etc.

          • I don’t think it’s perfect but it looks like a fun bike to ride.
            Judging by the bikes that we get emailed everyday, I don’t think we are stopping people building interesting bikes, to the contrary. Most people say they are inspired by the bikes that we post and usually take it one step further. And that’s what we like and celebrate.

          • swiers

            Good to know, and I agree that Pipeburn and similar sites are generally inspirational – they certainly are to me (although so are a lot of ratbike sites, and some engineering books). I just feel (as said) that they also sometimes give the impression that there’s a level of skill / knowledge needed to do some basic things that can’t be picked up by a home builder who isn’t already an engineer, machinist, or mechanic, which isn’t true. Maybe you could do a compiled post of some interesting amateur bikes that wouldn’t individually provide enough material for an article, ideally with a short profile of the builder? An ‘average joe’ kind of thing, as opposed to only showing the best of the best (which is obviously going to tend to come from people with industry experience)?

  • Randy Singer

    It appears that both the clutch and the alternator enclosures have been widened. I was wondering why that was done. It doesn’t appear that this bike requires either a heavy-duty clutch or more electrical output. The engine looks very wide for a 400 twin.

  • Bultaco Metralla

    Fresh, clean, luscious and bristling with a dozen ideas. One of the best ss far this year and it will be hard to top.

  • Britbike

    It’s hard to find words to describe it. It’s a bit of speechless, isn’t it? Terrific job, sort of like Frankenstein and Einstein got together over a beer. That’s it, it’s steinly. Or better yet, insteinly.

  • Nice bike

  • Hammina

    I keep coming back and looking at this bike. The rake and long swingarm are things I typically wouldn’t like, but this looks fantastic. I love the view of all 4 holes from the rear. I’d like to see it with rider. A very unique and appealing custom!

  • JamesM

    If I was having some wild dream where the sidewalk-slashing and Slurpee seeking skateboard of my youth, transformed into a super-cool version of Yamaha’s lane splitting and free wi-fi hunting WR250X, it would look just like this!