Mick Jagger gave us a pretty good life lesson when he said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you just might find, you get what you need.” Which is often the case for professional builders instructed by many clients to create machines that personally don’t blow the wind up their skirt, until one day that right build comes along. But when returning customer Ralph Klerekoper came to Sean Skinner of MotoRelic Custom Cycles in Hamilton, Virginia, he delivered a vision that inspired each man. They’d start with a later model 1992 Honda CB750 and allow Sean to create a killer custom with modern engineering and classic style that earns it the name The Gozen.
It’s one of the truly great inventions of the last 200 years. So global is its appeal, it has taken on cult status, put a country on the map and delivers more uses than one could ever possibly need. If the Offiziersmesser has one problem, it’s that nobody but German speakers can pronounce its bloody name; so G.I.’s came up with the moniker that has stuck ever since, the ‘Swiss Army knife.’ As a design it looks brilliant; it serves a purpose for every occasion and in the right hands it’s lethal. So it should come as no surprise that such a tool served as inspiration for this revolutionary retro streetfighter built by California’s Gasser Customs. And just like the little red knife this stunning ‘78 Honda CB750 comes with a much more user-friendly name, ‘Ol’ Red.’
The lumbering, all-consuming beast that is cafe racer culture has stretched its tentacles all over the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than with today’s bike, a 1980 Honda CB750 produced by Ace Custom Shop in Colombia. Built by a small, three-man operation nestled in the hills of Bucaramanga, it’s easily the best thing to come out of the Colombia that doesn’t need a credit card and a mirror to enjoy.
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.