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‘69 Honda CB 350 – Cognito Moto


Posted on July 17, 2015 by Andrew in Café Racer, Classic. 34 comments

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As anyone who has ever customised a bike will tell you, the unavoidable and omnipresent ‘money versus dreams’ equation is a hard one to crack. There’s what you want to do, and then there’s what you can afford to do. Most mere mortals and their bank accounts would run for the hills at the mention of a customised swingarm and all the expense, fiddling and  testing that comes with it. But not Washington’s Alex Sailer. He grabbed his dream by the horns and asked Viginia’s Cognito Moto to spare no expense. The result is a Honda CB350 that spares no coolness, and an owner that now has no spare time thanks to his newfound biking obsession.

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The bike started life in Japan as a ‘69 CB350 before it found its current owner, Alex. He rode the bike in stock form for a while, but deep down he says he always wanted to do something custom to it. Then he stumbled across Cognito Moto’s CB550 build and was instantly hooked. And as Alex is located right outside of Washington DC and Cognito Moto is located in nearby Richmond, he reached out to talk about customising the bike. Smart guy.

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Devin Henriques, the owner of Cognito Moto, welcomed the challenge and started shooting the poop with Alex to decide what direction to go in. Cognito is known for their modern sportsbike front-ends on vintage motorcycles, so it was no surprise when a USD front end was the first piece of the puzzle to be solved. It was sourced from a ‘06 GSX-R750 and was tied to the frame with a custom Cognito Moto stem pressed into the factory Suzuki bottom clamp. It was then finished with another custom billet top clamp and a Motogadget Motoscope Mini that’s been machined right into the surface. Nice.

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Along with the Motoscope Mini, there are a plethora of other modern electronic goodies adorning the build. The wiring is all tied into a Motogadget M-Unit and powered by a Shorai 8-cell battery hidden under the tank. The ignition has been upgraded with Probe Engineering’s single-fire system as well as dual Dyna coils and a HotShot charging system. To round off the sweet electronics show, a set of Motogadget push button switches have been strapped to the Woodcraft clip-ons.

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Riffing with the modern theme up front, Alex and Devin decided to swap out the rear of the bike as well. After much thinking, a Ducati Monster S4R single sided swing arm was chosen to match the tubular frame. That, and the fact that the Duke arms look so damn cool. With all the added suspension components, they both knew frame modifications would be in order to increase structural rigidity. The original factory spine was removed and replaced with 2½” mandrel-bent tubing. Then the newly designed rear frame was tied directly to the backbone to accommodate the original S4R strut linkage system. With all the hard work done, a Cognito Moto LED brake light loop and a custom upholstered seat were used to wrap up the rear end.

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Due to the wider rear wheel, the clutch actuator was upgraded from a cable to a hydraulic system in order to clear the offset front sprocket. They decided to stick with the Marchesini rear wheel from the Ducati, but they also knew that they didn’t want to run mismatched wheels. So a matching Marchesini front wheel was adapted to the GSX-R front end by using a set of Ducati brake rotors and spacing out the calipers to accommodate the larger rotors.

And lastly, the motor. It ran great before the tear down, so the boys focused on rebuilding the top-end to replace the worn-out chain tensioner as well as all the other usual odds and ends that would need replacing. Then a set of new 30mm Mikuni’s and a custom slash-cut exhaust were used to round out the motor and to give it a little bit more bite.

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Then end result? A bike that wears its ‘less is more’ aesthetic like a Samurai wears his sword. It’s modern. It’s retro. It’s café. It’s street fighter. But most of all, it’s damn cool.








  • guvnor67

    The final paragraph says it all!!! Another bike that drew me in like a fat kid to a lolly shop. This is all kinds of good. Hell yer!

  • arnold

    Quite a Cinderella story.

  • John Wanninger

    Love that single sided swingarm. Cool little bike. Looks fun.

  • MayDayMoto

    This bike is spectacular, the amount of custom fabrication is mind boggling, all the components are top notch, fit and finish is immaculate. Which is why I find the “less is more” description a bit puzzling. This is more is more. And I’m very very jealous! And I thought I was goning overboard on my 350…

    • Lucky Leisuresuit Larry

  • whytaylorwhy

    RVA represent! Cognito is awesome.

  • Ash350

    Had the pleasure of meeting both Devin and Alex on my trip down to Cognito Moto’s shop a few weeks back. What a pair of cool cats! Both were welcoming and glad to help with advice and pointers on my own cb350 build. I can’t wait for CM’s shop to take off and continue to get the recognition it deserves. Their eye for design and detail is surperb and will continue to be a show stopper.

  • Sweet bike boys. I think a front fender painted 2 tone like the tank would really set it off.

  • nice, looks balanced and minimal apart from the gold damper

  • Very nicely laid out, very nice fabrication. Some bikes make me want to head out on the road and ride. This one makes me eager to head down to the basement and get busy on my own bike.

  • I really can’t wrap my head around this build because it goes beyond what I could even imagine for CB350. One of my rides is a 1973 CL350 that I tore down and built back up but nothing like this. By replacing the pressed backbone with tubing for all practical purposes it’s a new frame – amazing. Then the single sided swing arm and the usd fork – more amazing. Now I’m thinking that the chassis is too good for the motor. But no, I always thought that the 350 twin was a great little motor considering its limitations (upper end oiling) and I want a better handling light weight frame to go with it. Well here it is. Too complicated for my skills but Cognito Motors have made a handy little bike that I’m sure handles as good as it looks – stops way better, too

    • suspect your cb turns quicker, wheel base on this looks long and over tired but who cares cos it looks good

    • 200HP front brakes.

  • and i like the silencer, cool

  • Gideon Olney

    Just a thought, isn’t putting the light weight 350 engine on to racier suspension from much heavier bikes a

  • Gideon Olney

    Just a thought, isn’t putting the lightweight 350 engine on suspension from much heavier sport bikes a pretty bad idea? Won’t the ride be unnecessarily stiff and lead to poor traction as well as being uncomfortable? I appreciate it looks badass but it seems like a poor engineering decisions to use the same springs and dampers.

    • Springs and damping can be adjusted for weight. It’s referred to as suspension tuning. However, getting replacement suspension components from a bike with a weight similar to your projected project weight saves lots of dollars and hassles.

    • While I love the quality of the build I know from experience that the Honda 350 motor is no lightweight – it’s a pretty heavy lump and takes a lot of massaging to get it above its 20-odd horsepower. Lots of people race them in vintage classes and there is a lot of performance parts for them but it is a lot of work.

  • Beautiful workmanship and finish. Seems like it would be a huge amount of work and expense for a 22HP motor though. I realized long ago that building a nice chassis costs pretty much the same amount regardless of the motor installed, so one might as well use a worthwhile motor so the bike will have some grunt while riding and value upon resale.

    • think the horse power is getting to the mule

    • dead_elvis

      Yeah, but think of the fun to be had with such a gorgeous machine that can be ridden at 10/10ths on the street!

      • Blackbird

        Afraid you would HAVE to ride all out to not get run over in today’s traffic. Mule’s right.

        • dead_elvis

          This is for strafing low-speed limit country backroads, where the speed limit maxes at 40-45 mph with plenty of 30 mph-posted corners. I’m not about to jump on the interstate for any reason with something like this.

          • yes but it won’t turn quick, too much tire and long wheel base so you would be better of cruising on your interstates, if it could get to 55 mph

          • dead_elvis

            In what world does a CB350 have trouble getting reaching 55 mph? If you ride within 3-4000′ of sea level, none. Still staying off the highway with it.

            I’d just ride the fucking thing & enjoy it, unlike the naysayers here who want to pick every last nit.

      • If you are graduating up to 22HP from a moped or a 4-stroke 125, yes you may find this exhilarating. I’m thinking 45-50 is the bottom end of the range for cashing in “Fun Tickets”. Especially when attached to superbike running gear. Kinda like opening the hood of a NASCAR at Daytona and seeing a stock 1.4L Corolla motor with a single throat carb. Wouldn’t that be fun? Not so much I’m thinkin’.

        • dead_elvis

          I’m able to have just as much fun – a different kind of fun, certainly – on tiddlers & things like a TW200 as I am on my ZRX1100 that has quite a bit more HP & torque than stock. Different tools for different jobs. Hell, riding around on a powder blue CT70 makes me grin like an idiot, especially when pulling up next to super-serious Harley dudes who can’t be arsed to even crack a smile when I give ’em a honk from the absurd little horn. (Also, screw those guys, they’re no fun at all.)

        • MayDayMoto

          36hp @ 10,500 rpm. Top speed of 110 mph, stock. This bike is now significantly lighter than stock, and has had some performance upgrades. I’d venture to guess it actually rides great and has plenty of grunt.

          • When these were brand new they would barely do 95mph. Brand new. An RD350 Made 35HP and they would blow a CB350 off the continent! As far as lighter, I’d be interested to see a weight. In the real world, not internet world, a scale can be as cruel as a dyno. Tip: Don’t ever bet money on weight or RWHP until you’ve verified both. But it looks very nice as I said before.

          • MayDayMoto

            rd350 actually has a factory claimed 39 hp @ 7,500 rpm. Claimed top speed of 105. It was geared with a 40 tooth sprocket in the rear, as opposed to the cb350 which had a 36. So yeah, the RD had a little more power and the gearing to make it accelerate faster. Kinda don’t see your point.

            As far as weight reduction, just look at a stock cb350, and you’ll see all the heavy junk they removed: airbox, tool box, swing arm, rims, seat pan, the turn signal stems and bowls, fenders and tail light/license plate cluster, big chunk of subframe, are all made of steel. The stock exhaust system alone probably weighs 35 pounds.

            Just because you think the amount of work invested isn’t worthy of a small, common engine like the cb350 doesn’t mean this thing isn’t going to be a hoot to ride. People do race cb350’s you know. I’m sure you know of Todd Henning and Buff Harsh… Or Team Hansen Honda maybe?

      • Agreed.

      • and elvis isn’t dead, everyone knows that

  • Roman JURIŠ

    Prety nice building. Missing photo from left side…In my view – missing front fender and bodywork around seat. But it is personal opinion. I appreciate this result – I have same one sided swing arm and USD front fork on my Kawasaki ZR7. It is not easy job.

  • CME123

    Anybody know how much a project like this would run you?