It’s one of the greatest marketing campaigns in history and certainly the most influential in kick-starting the global motorcycle industry; “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”. The idea was bought for Honda by Grey Advertising from a UCLA undergraduate student who’d created it for an assignment, but I don’t think any of those involved envisioned just what it would mean for Philippe Vincent from French-speaking Montreal, Quebec. Exactly a year ago he didn’t even own a motorcycle, didn’t have a motorcycle license and had only just discovered from a friend what a Cafe Racer was. Yet only a year later the proof he’s a faster leaner can be seen in the evidence of his creation, his first bike and build, a 1974 Honda CB750 with plenty of 1950s British inspiration, it takes the name “Majesty”.
In the pocket of Western Europe that includes France, Belgium and Switzerland, endurance racing is a way of life. Small teams and factory-backed giants meet at some of the world’s most famous circuits, like Spa and Magny-Cours, to battle it out for up to 24 hours straight. One such event, the Bol d’Or, holds a special place in the hearts of Belgians where from as early as 1927 the small nation has tasted success. For Deep Creek Cycle Works from Diepenbeek, they don’t only build custom bikes but come the weekend they take their love of racing to the track where they compete in the European Classic Endurance Racing series. So when one of the race crew members was after a new ride for the street, it made perfect sense to build a 1981 Honda CB750 Bol d’Or road rocket, a bike they fittingly called the ‘Bol Noir’.
Mighty Motorcycles is the realisation of Josip Bucic’s dream. Nestled deep in the Black Forest of Germany, Josip crafts beautiful pieces of two-wheeled art for a handful of very lucky customers. He has been building bikes for 12 years now and oh boy, does the guy have skills. This CB750 was originally intended as a restoration project, but Josip’s exquisite vision saw the potential to create his dream bike, and so he set out to make this one of the best café racers you are ever likely to see – dream or otherwise.
There was a point in time when the bike before you could have been a Yamaha XS650, but this 1974 Honda CB750 had a destiny with Analog Motorcycles from Gurnee, Illinois that couldn’t be broken. When owner Arne Dinse brought his partially customised CB750 to Analog he had an idea for what he was after but was worried about some creepy noises coming from the engine. Proprietor Tony Prust explained they had an XS650 they could do in a similar theme to that Arne was after and with a handshake and a deposit laid down it was set. With Analog Motorcycles churning out brilliant streetable customs there is understandably a wait for their services so by the time it was Arne’s turn in the schedule he’d decided he wanted to stick with the CB, but it wasn’t just the engine that was not quite right, beware the dodgy mod.
For all the attention the craziest new builds receive, the ones displayed at bike shows on spinning podiums, there is something very special about an understated bike that comes along that just does everything right. So it should come as no surprise that such a machine comes from Richmond, Virginia’s kings of cool, clean and celerity, Cognito Moto. “We wanted to do something that spoke to the weekend bike builders out there that want a badass bike without all the headaches,” explains Cognito’s Devin Henriques. So it is that this 1974 Honda CB750 proves nothing serves a weekend biker as well as a machine that will carve the canyons, hammer in a straight line, look the goods parked up and importantly starts with the first hit of the button.
From the outside looking in the custom motorcycle culture must appear to be quite confusing for those who don’t have petrol running through their veins. Why do builders the world over take old bikes, that may not have even been that great at the time of their release, and then spend thousands of dollars and hours building crazy contraptions when you could just go into a dealership and buy a brand new superbike for the same price. The reasoning is just not something the average punter will ever understand, the thrill of an old 2-stroke, the character of the best of British or buzz that comes from hearing a 50-year-old engine fire to life again for the first time in decades, it has to be lived. But amongst us is a rare breed that make much more logical decisions, like first time builder Krystian Bednarek from Bull Cafe Racers who chose a 1992 Honda CB750 as his project over the much more fancied early models.
Maybe if JFK hadn’t kept his cool in those crucial thirteen days at the height of the Cold War and a nuclear holocaust had eventuated, this is the sort of post apocalyptic motorcycle the Russian police just might be riding today. Thankfully that scenario never did eventuate, but when a new client approached Los Angeles-based builders Thirteen and Company he had just such a bike in mind. The brief was for an end of the world Mad Max style and the team were happy to deliver. It’s not the type of bike the guys normally build but this 1972 Honda CB750 known as “The Russian” is proof their talent is not limited to just one style.
Whether we’re in the back shed tinkering with our bike or blasting down the road there is a freedom and stress release to motorcycling that cannot be denied. But when your job is literally keeping people alive while they undergo heart surgery the need to relax after work becomes that much more important and so it is that Nicolas Vincent Perna a Cardiovascular Perfusionist from Canada spends his winters building a different bike each year. Nick has a love for low mileage classic Honda’s but having been born in Italy just south of Rome he has a soft spot for the Bologna beasts too. So when he tracked down this 1982 Honda CB750 with just 4000 miles on the clock he saw an opportunity to create one very special Honda with some Ducati sauce and a side of Britain’s best for one hell of a ride.
Though primarily a bike wrecker, Jason Reihing has built his fair share of customs out of his small one man workshop, Charlie James Customs, in Williston, Ohio. ‘Every old car, ATV and motorcycle I’ve restored, rebuilt or modified, I’ve felt them wanting to come back to life,’ Jason explains. ‘But this bike was the opposite. I’ve named it ‘Micky’ after the boxing great Micky Ward as, like him, this bike is a fighter. Throughout the build I had a feeling it would have been happier sitting out the back of someone’s barn and rotting away.’ Thankfully Jason has the tenacity and skill to roll out something as pretty as this CB after just about everything went wrong during the build process.
We all find our way to motorcycles in different ways, for the vast bulk who throw their leg over the two wheeled contraptions it is purely about cheap transport and nothing more. But for the early customisers who had returned from the Second World War to today’s feature bike builder there was a therapeutic aspect to both the riding and the building of their creations. When Tyson lost his parents he needed to find his own form of therapy and picked up a nice Buell to take to the streets. But riding alone just wasn’t doing it, with ideas swirling in his head and wanting to experience the meditative state of spinning spanners he picked up a sweet running 1973 CB750 and his true motorcycle journey began.