‘Rōnin’ Honda CB200 – Minority Custom Motorcycles
In ancient feudal Japan, a rōnin (or in Japanese, 浪人 – literally meaning ‘wave man’) was a samurai warrior with no master. A samurai usually became ‘masterless’ from the death of his master, or after the loss of his master’s trust. Thus he would be condemned to wander like a wave wanders the ocean. And while the noun has become the stuff of adolescent male fantasy over the past 30 years with visions of mercenary assassins who answer only to themselves, the truth is far more mundane. Rōnin were wanders with no particular place to go; just like how you feel on a great bike ride. So with that thought in mind, Indonesia’s Minority Custom Motorcycles have created their own little wandering soldier; this very Japanese, very sharp ‘76 Honda CB200.
Manufactured between ‘72 and ‘79, the CB200 and it’s scrambler variation the CL200, sold well for Honda. And as its capacity was quite conservative when compared to the company’s beefy CB750 and it’s competition, it was a more realistic bike to own in countries like Indonesia, where 60hp and 100mph were useless impracticalities.
‘We are a workshop that likes the simplicity and beauty of a classic motorcycles,” says shop owner Jonathan Evan, “Hence our love of the CB. Minority Custom Motorcycles is the name of our workshop, and we’re located in the city of Surabaya, about 500 kilometres east of Jakarta. What you see here is our latest build; it’s a ‘76 Honda CB200 we built for a customer named Jimmy.”
Jimmy hails from Larantuka-East Nusa Tenggara, a good few islands further east of Surabaya. Clearly, Jimmy came a long way to Surabaya to modify his favorite motorcycle – the Honda CB200. Arriving unannounced at the shop on a largely original CB, he made it clear he planned to transform the thing into a classic-looking cafe racer. So taking pen to paper, Jon got to concepting and after quite a few iterations, they agreed on a design that both brought both a smile to Jon’s face and scratched Jimmy’s itch for fast caffeine.
“Once the design was approved, our team got to work stripping the old bike. When in bits, we looked at the tank first. While we do like the original CB200 tank, it can sometimes look a bit square. So we swapped out the original for a custom tank we made in-house. We think that the curves look much more simple and classic than the original item. Next the tank was mounted securely to the bike’s frame while also ensuring its new lines were sitting in just the right place.”
After completing the tank, the MCM boys switched their focus to new tires combos. Shinko 500-16s we wrapped on to the front and back, along with custom wheels measuring 250-16 up front and 300-16 in the rear. Of course, the bike’s original front fork spacing couldn’t accommodate a meaty new tyre like the one you see here, so a widening was in order to allow them to be fitted sans rubbing. The front brakes have also undergone modification in the form of a larger disc and in accommodating the larger rear tire, the swingarm also required some mods. Once complete, it was mounted with some angry-looking YSS shocks which should have very few issues keeping up with the output of the 200cc donk.
Those with decent peepers may have spotted the new-found length between the bike’s front and back wheels. “We lengthened the frame of the bike to give it longer, leaner looks,” says Jon. “It’s amazing how a longer bike just looks faster. So with a longer bike, we needed to alter the footage position by shifting them a little backwards. For the most part, this was to keep the bike’s riding position ‘cafe correct’. Then the bike’s electricals, wiring, cables and battery were we all overhauled to bring them all up to speed.”
“At the rear of the frame we made a bespoke, pointed tail section to match the now modified frame underneath. Then a hand-bent run of exhaust pipe was combined with a Harley Sportster chrome silencer down both sides. On top of all this, a simple black cafe seat was added to accentuate the impression of classically cool British cafe racing.”
Lastly, the bike was covered is silver paint in preparation for some finishing touches that would really set the bike apart from pretty much anything else on Indonesian roads. Namely, a Japanese-themed tattoo. “The idea came after seeing some of Jimmy’s tattoos. We just thought that it would look really good on this bike as well. Some of the images include rōnin, koi fish, a dragon, a yin and yang symbol, a geisha, and the hannya mask.”
“The airbrush technique we’re using was quite complicated. At first we used a pencil and scalpel to create the guide image on the tank in masking tape. Then we continued with a brush and brush pen, completing most of the main artwork. After finishing, the last touches were added using a drawing pen to sharpen the more detailed parts of the picture. lastly, it was all sealed in lacquer. The details of the tank’s images are complicated, just like the life of a real-life rōnin would have been.”
So, finally the bike was finished. It’s often that a finished custom bike will mean either the builder or the customer themselves aren’t 100% happy with the results. Design by committee, even if that committee is only two strong, can really take the edge off of a custom bike build. “So we plan accordingly, and in the end we and our clients usually feel a great amount of satisfaction with the results.” So next time you’re the far east, just wandering the streets, keep your eyes peeled and your hand on your katana. Because you can never really know when combat may be required to ensure that your purchase of an original Honda CB200 goes down as planned.