When it comes time to give credit to which Japanese bikes began the rise and reign of the machines from the Land of the Rising Sun the countries first superbikes, the Honda CB750 and the Kawasaki Z1, often receive the praise. But before they arrived on the scene the first strike in the four-stroke wars was delivered by a motorcycle known simply as the Black Bomber. Released in 1965 the Honda CB450 came packed with technology that defied its very classic chrome and black aesthetic. The first full production bike to feature dual overhead cams, it produced more than 100hp/litre, enjoyed reliable electrics and was described at the time as “engineered with passion and styled with restraint, an embodiment of all the qualities a motorcycle should posses”. It’s with exactly that in mind that KickMoto pay homage to the original with their own take on a classic icon, a 1972 CB450 done just right.
A good custom bike build is a big ask from just about anybody. The time, effort, thought and skills required are a challenge that has bettered the best of us. Starting custom shop is another step above that. Suddenly there are things like rent and customers to think about, let alone building cool bikes. Adding restorations into the mix means you’ll have to have an understanding of just how the bikes came out of the factory. Add cars to the mix and you’ve now got vast expanses of metal bodywork to consider. Seems like your climbing Everest already, yes? Well what if, just for good measure, we now make the shop both a clothing store and a brewery? Mission completely freakin’ impossible? Not for the keen proprietors of Italy’s Apache Custom Motorcycles. And as if to boast, here’s their out-of-the-box take on a Honda CB350F brat.
If you’re a regular Pipeburn reader, building a custom Honda CX500 might seem like a task that’s easier than not winning the lotto. But don’t let the pixel mirage fool you; it’s actually a really tough gig. You need a steady eye and a solid understanding of proportions to keep the bike from looking like a half-turned transformer. It’s clear not every builder can avoid that pitfall. This highlights why some CX500’s have it, and others just don’t float your metaphorical boat. The trick is to keep the quality high and the lines clean, which just so happens to be exactly what this bike, Josh Deardorff’s One Moto Show entry, did. And how.
There is a lot to be said about picking a model of motorcycle to customise that is already popular in the industry. Parts are readily available, there is a wealth of knowledge on what does and doesn’t work and plenty of inspiration to be drawn from other builds. The problem comes, when if like Wena Customs of Poland, you pick such a bike and hope to not only stand out from the crowd but win trophies too. But their 1980 Honda CX500 is positive proof they can take a popular machine and build a bike so good that judges at the Poznan International Motor Show awarded them the prize for best cafe racer. Even more impressive is that the Wena Customs journey only began two short years ago, but the team brings together a wealth of knowledge that means this Honda has the go to match the show.
For most of us, our first bike build is a learning experience. It’s as much a lesson in what not to do as it is discovering the aspects of a build we already have a knack for. But if there is an area most of us fall down on with our first attempt at a custom creation, it’s maintaining continuity throughout the build, particularly in the visual aspects. For Miguel Castro, his day job as a Design Director at Rosetta in San Luis Obispo meant this was one aspect where he was never going to have a problem. So what bike would make sense for a first build? Maybe something that’s mechanically simple and yet fun to ride? Something with vintage styling but still capable of carving up the coast roads of Central California? Sure, the humble Honda CL350 (this is a 1969 example) was released as a factory Scrambler, but it has always made much more sense as a Cafe Racer. And here’s the proof.
For nearly 30 years the Honda CX500 cruised the highways and byways of the world as a poor man’s cruiser, for those who couldn’t shell out the bucks for a Harley Davidson but still wanted the bars up style and the V-Twin heart beat. Then in the last ten years some clever folks around the world took the odd ball Honda, so ugly it was known as the “Plastic Maggot” and started turning them into a stunning line up of customs that just keep getting better. Enter Mathieu Renaud of Mr Motorcycles in Montreal who picked up this 1979 Honda CX500 Custom for the bargain price of just $1000 (Canadian) and put his years of experience in aeronautics into creating one of the cleanest and well put together CX customs we’ve ever seen.
When you’re a one man bike building operation you have to be a master of all crafts and failure at none and that’s not as easy as many believe it to be. You take some of the world’s greatest chefs and put them front of house dealing with complaint filled customers and before you know it Gordon Ramsay is on murder charges. But Sean Skinner has made MotoRelic Custom Cycles in Hamilton Virginia a success by combining his 20 odd years of mechanical and fabrication skills with the design skills of a sculptor and a friendly attitude to customers no matter the job, big or small. With some room in the shop he picked up this 1982 Honda Ascot FT500, tore it down to a bare frame, stood back and let the design come to him.
To say that Adam Nestor got out of the blocks in his bike building career like Usain Bolt going for Olympic Gold is an understatement. With Adam’s Custom Shop’s first builds including Madame Guzzi and Sporganic this young Swedish bike builder showed at just 20 years of age he was capable of building the sort of bikes most mere mortals require decades of honing their craft to achieve. But for a custom motorcycle workshop to survive financially in the long-term a builder has to be capable of turning out lower cost builds while still retaining their signature quality and style. In these two customer builds, a 1974 Honda CB750 and a BMW R100RT the young Swede proves even his budget builds are brilliant!
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.
During our recent Melbourne sojourn to ride Triumph’s new Bonneville, we caught up with Geoff and Luke from arguably Australia’s best custom bike magazine Tank Moto. After a few beers (OK – it was 8 beers) they told us they had a story we might like to share. We checked it out and were suitably impressed. So here’s Justin Holmes from Queensland’s Popbang Classics and his ridiculously cool ‘Hardache’ ‘74 Honda CB360 in his own words.