Custom Motorcycles Thread

DaveM

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Finally: The definitive movie about the custom moto scene


We’re surprised it’s taken so long. The ‘alt moto’ movement has been on fire for at least a decade, but it’s never made the jump onto the big screen.

Oil In The Blood is the first film to catalog the builders, riders and artists who are driving the scene forward. It’s directed by Gareth Maxwell Roberts, a founding member of the Bike Shed club in London and the possessor of an unfeasibly large Rolodex.


Gareth knows everybody in the business—and the cast list feels like a Who’s Who of the 21st century custom world.

The film includes many of the world’s top builders, such as Ian Barry of Falcon, Max Hazan, Craig Rodsmith, Walt Siegl, Shinya Kimura, and Winston Yeh of Rough Crafts. Plus designers like Ola Stenegärd of Indian and Kurt Walter of Icon Motosports, and commentators like Paul ‘The Vintagent’ d’Orléans and yours truly.

On a personal note: I’ve been following the progress of Oil In The Blood for three years now. While I was on a trip to England for the Triumph Bonneville launch, Gareth coerced me into an interview lasting several hours.

It was in the cozy, atmospheric Super Brick workshop, in a courtyard just off Brick Lane in East London. And last year, during yet another trip to the mother country, we covered even more ground in a second interview.


So now it’s time to flip the tables and fire some questions back at Gareth Roberts himself (above). We grabbed him few hours after the film premiered at The One Moto Show in Portland.

Bike EXIF How did you get the idea for Oil In The Blood?

Gareth Roberts I started planning in late 2014. I was involved in the early years when the new wave custom scene was small and niche, and I witnessed it grow into a global phenomenon.

I saw it expand and gestate, fuelled by a strange and intoxicating mixture—nostalgic analog values, and contemporary digital communications. I felt we were living through a seismic shift in motorcycle culture, and that it needed to be documented.

I wanted it to be an all-encompassing examination and a celebration; a story told by the very people at the heart of it.


How many interviews did you conduct, in how many countries? Nearly three hundred interviews, in fourteen countries.

Aside from you, who were the people who made this film happen? Producer Lucy Selwood, production manager Sophie Haines, cinematographers Josh Allen, Matt Broad and Andrew David Watson, and sound recordist Nick Walker.


Who was your favorite interviewee? Hugh Mackie of Sixth Street Specials. He’s been building bikes since the early eighties and racing flat track since the early nineties. Indian Larry, Paul Cox, Keino Sasaki have all worked for him. He’s seen it all, and speaks with a beguiling mix of humorous cynicism and eternal optimism. He epitomizes the soul of building motorcycles.

What were the high points during the filming? Being in the Sahara with El Solitario. On a frozen Wisconsin river filming Ryan Stephen of Freestyle Supermoto and his crew ice racing. Filming at Mama Tried, riding bikes with Gerald Harrison, and generally just hanging out with ‘Majik Mike’ Rabidau.


And the low points? Running out of finance, and having to accept the fact that filming certain builders and events were beyond of our resources.

Which builders do you admire the most? David Borras of El Solitario, Max Hazan, Ian Barry of Falcon, Cristian Sosa of Sosa Metalworks. Kenny Cummings of NYC Norton, and Calum Pryce-Tidd of deBolex Engineering.


What’s your view on the future of custom bike building? The culture has matured. It’s no longer a ’new genre.’ The mainstream motorcycle industry staked a claim, and there’s been a split between those who embrace it and those who reject it.

There’s certainly been a bedding-in process; most of those who have a stake in it have really burrowed into their own niches, both in work practice and style. With new technologies—electric and hydrogen fuel cells—there are new stimuli and challenges for those who embrace it.

Those who don’t will delve deeper into vintage.


What is your personal motorcycling background? I’ve been fascinated by bikes for as long as I can remember. The first bike I can recall was a Norton Commando from when I was around six or seven years old.

I started riding bikes when I was 14, on bikes borrowed from older friends and older brothers. When I was 16, having saved up from part time jobs, I bought a 1972 Vespa 50 Special. I was a Mod and loved old scooters.

I subsequently had a string of pretty and very unreliable vintage scoots, culminating in the earliest bike I’ve ever owned, a 1957 Lambretta LD150. I then switched to two-stroke hooligan machines: a Yamaha RD250LC and a Suzuki PE250.


The nineties saw me on superbikes, the climax being a Ducati 916SP. I became something of a track day warrior, and in 1999 I took the plunge and started racing two-stroke 125 GPs, which are single purpose race bikes, on a Honda RS125 at club and national level.

After couple of seasons on the most fun bike I’ve ridden, I went up a class to a RS250, the most frightening bike I’ve ridden. After a thoroughly unremarkable and hugely enjoyable three seasons of going very fast but not fast enough, and crashing more times than my bank balance allowed, I hung up my leathers.


The transition from sports/race bikes, to custom bikes, was really a desire to slow down a bit: I felt I had ridden my luck on very fast bikes, and got away with it.

After I finished racing, I didn’t have a bike for eighteen months, realized that wasn’t going to work, so I got a Husqvarna SM610 to ride about on. Not exactly a sedate commuter bike, it was certainly slower top end!


I became interested in custom bikes when I saw a vintage Honda race bike on a trailer in a service station, and started looking online for one to convert to a road legal bike. Then I came across the very early Spirit of The Seventies website, and it took hold from there.

What bikes are in your garage at the moment? A 1973 Norton Commando 850 Special, a 1979 Triumph T140 chop, a 2015 Yamaha XJR1300 custom by deBolex, the 2010 Ducati MH900 Superlite (above), a 1976 Bultaco Astro and a 1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport.

Where can people see Oil In The Blood once it’s finished the rounds of the shows? We will have a commercial release later this year, on streaming and download-to-keep platforms, and possibly a limited theatrical release.


The response to Oil In The Blood after the showing at The One Moto Show has been phenomenal. If you’re in the US, catch it next at Mama Tried, then at Chicago’s Logan Theatre on February 21.

On April 5 it’ll be shown at the Petersen Museum in LA (in conjunction with The Vintagent), with more dates to be announced soon. If you’re heading to a moto show or festival in spring or summer, keep your eyes peeled for a showing.

We think you’ll like it.





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DaveM

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DeBolex gives the Energica Eva a classic spin


A week ago, Ducati’s lead designer told Digital Trends that “Electrification will change bike design more than it will change car design.”

We’re not so sure of that. Motorcyclists are an inherently conservative bunch—especially older folks with the cash to splash on a new toy. We’d be happy if future electric motorcycles followed the lead of this amazing Energica, remodeled by England’s deBolex Engineering.


The project was kickstarted by Gareth Maxwell Roberts, the director of the documentary film Oil in the Blood. The film champions analog values and traditional skills, but also has an eye on the future.

So when Gareth commissioned a build to celebrate the film’s release, he decided to merge these two ideals.


Choosing Calum Pryce-Tidd and Des Francis of deBolex was a no-brainer: they’re traditional craftsmen, among the best in Europe, and have built bikes for Gareth in the past.

Gareth needed a partner on the build, so he reached out to TW Steel. The Dutch watchmaker has already commissioned customs for its Sons of Time program, and loved the idea of an electric special.


After extensive research, Gareth and Calum found their base bike: the Eva, from the Energica Motor Company of Modena, Italy. Energica are deeply rooted in racing, and will be supplying the machines for the upcoming MotoE class in MotoGP this season.

The Eva is a full-bore streetfighter with the equivalent of 145 hp and 200 Nm, and a decent range of 125 miles. It’s insanely fast and handles well, making it the sort of bike deBolex could restyle without having to worry about improving the basics first.


Paul d’Orléans of The Vintagent introduced the team to Energica’s CEO Stefano Benatti, who immediately saw potential. So Calum and Gareth visited the factory for a briefing by Energica’s chief technology officer Giampiero Testoni.

The factory sent a bike to England a week later—leaving just over two months before it had to be revealed. “I figured I’d be working 24/7 to finish the film,” Gareth says wryly, “so why couldn’t they share the pain to finish the bike?”


“The deadline was tight” says Calum. “And we didn’t know what we were up against—until the Energica was on the ramp and the panels were stripped off to leave a bare rolling chassis.”

The Eva turned out to be a pleasant surprise. deBolex just needed to relocate the ABS module and water pump, and adjust the rear subframe. With that out the way, they had a clean rolling chassis ready to accept bodywork.


Calum and Des spent the next few days sketching out their ideas, before settling on a final design. They started hand shaping up the new bodywork from aluminum, using traditional coach-building techniques.

The Eva’s new body panels are designed to flow from front to back, visually slimming down the bike and giving it a more classic race vibe. The biggest design challenge with electric bikes is usually their bulky, square batteries—so Calum and Des worked to cover up the power cells, and expose more of the interesting motor instead.


“Energica have done a really nice job of encasing the motor and battery in cast aluminum,” says Calum. “We feel it helps the bike look closer to a more traditional combustion engine.”

DeBolex did a stellar job of incorporating the Energica’s cooling system into the design, with lines that lead away from the water cooler, and follow through to the knee indents on the tank. And they made sure that there were enough vents to channel air where it needs to go.


The power controller sits behind the new ‘tank’ cover, and the onboard charging unit under the tail. That part was a challenge, as it meant building a larger rear hump than the lads usually like to do. Still, they knocked it out the park.

Des covered the new seat in Alcantara; as with all deBolex builds, it pops off easily to make maintenance a breeze.


DeBolex aren’t known for half-assing a project—so this racer’s packing a healthy upgrade list too. There’s a Maxton RT10 shock out back, and a set of forged aluminum Dymag UP7X wheels, wrapped in Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa road-and-track tires.

The brakes have been upgraded too, with Brembo calipers and discs, plus a Magura master cylinder. The rear sets, brake reservoir and bar ends are from Rizoma, and the grips are from Renthal. DeBolex also used Pro-Bolt fasteners throughout the build.


With a week to deadline, Calum and Des wrapped up fabrication and started prepping for paint. After a few hours of discussion, they settled on this supremely classy mix of greys, silver and white. (The final paint was done in-house, as is the norm for deBolex.)

The Energica Eva was finally buttoned up at 6 am, on the morning of the Oil in the Blood premiere in London, and revealed in the evening alongside a limited edition TW Steel timepiece.


“The entire process knitted together perfectly,” says Gareth. “All our interests were aligned, which gave Calum the resources to create a great custom bike for the future.”

“It captures the spirit of Oil In The Blood too,” he adds. “With the possibilities of an electric powertrain, the potential of an Energica motorcycle, and the ethos of TW Steel.”


Sounds like a match made in heaven. We’ll let Calum and Des get some sleep while we spend the next few days fawning over their incredible work.

deBolex Engineering | Facebook | Instagram | Photography by Tom Horna of Autohouse London


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DaveM

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Old Gold: A classic Triumph Trident T150V restomod


The torque of a twin, the top end power of an inline four, and the sound of angry bees. What’s not to like?

Rob Glenton of Fremantle, Western Australia has a penchant for old British bikes. So when a solid condition 1973 T150V Trident presented itself, he jumped at the chance to relive his younger years on a classic Triumph triple restomod.


“I’ve always liked the triple: they are so different to the twins, and custom examples are very rare. The sound of a bike is as important to me as the looks, and the triple has a fantastic sound, especially with a 3-into-1 pipe. The sound is often likened to that of a classic race car.”

Taking inspiration from the world of flat track racing and Evel Knievel’s steeds, Rob tore into the Trident, starting with the basic lines.


“I wanted the bike to have presence,” says Rob. “A stance. Like a speedway bike with the rider hunched over the bars waiting for the tape to lift. Or Kneivel showboating on his Sportster jump bike.”

The tank is standard but Rob had local fabrication wizard Tom Sharman of Sideshow Cycles chop 40mm from the middle, for a lower profile and a racier silhouette. Tom also built the flat track tail unit to Rob’s specifications and modified the rear loop to suit. The tail lifts off using repurposed Norton Commando fasteners, giving access to the Trident’s oil tank and electrics.


With the lines of the bike done, Rob focused his efforts on minimizing front end clutter. A Motogadget Tiny speedometer was bolted between the handlebar clamps, the cable operated remote master cylinder was hidden under the tank and a single CRG mirror was fitted along with a pair of Biltwell grips.

Rob also removed a few features he deemed unnecessary. “I don’t need a high beam switch for the headlight, as would be required in kangaroo country [aka Western Australian country roads].”


“I have no intention of riding at night beyond the city limits. It’s already fully road registered and I’ll only fit a headlight dip switch and horn if I have to put it through licensing again.”

The result is a gloriously simple set of handlebars, but the simplicity didn’t end there.


The shiny new wheels are a mix of alloy rims and stainless spokes. The front brakes have been overhauled using a Lockheed stainless steel disc and caliper setup. There are also stainless fasteners all around.

The wiring loom has had a serious haircut, there’s a simplified chain guard, the front guard got a subtle chop and the old rubber foot pegs were replaced with a set of knurled units.


Ben at British Imports in Malaga, Perth, gave the Trident a fresh top end and rebuild, plus a new Tri-Spark Ignition, a brace of Premier Amal carbs, and a set of 3-into-1 pipes. This old triple really howls now.

“The bike goes well, and so it should,” says Rob. “The ‘Slippery Sam’ Trident won many TT races back in the day and was good for around 125mph in stock form. But I’ll eventually fit a smaller oil cooler in front of the tank, which will improve the view of the engine and header pipes.”


The only thing about the bike that really isn’t simple is the outlandish paint scheme: a dark forest green, with a hint of flake when it catches the right light.

The gold leaf graphics were designed by Rob and are set off with a striking red pinstripe, all laid by hand.


Believe it or not, the entire build was completed in a mere six months: Rob put himself under the pump so he could reveal the Trident at Western Australia’s premier old school custom bike show, Ride On.

Creating something spectacular in such a short amount of time is no easy feat: Triumph themselves took over four years to develop the first Trident prototype and bring it to market. We can only imagine what Rob could achieve in that same time frame.

Images by Jeremy Hammer of Ride Journal.



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DaveM

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Huge Moto x Zero: An electrifying new design language?


The One Moto Show is a cornucopia of analog delights, gleaming with metalflake and raw, hand-beaten bodywork. But there was an interloper lurking amongst the chrome and carburetors: this futuristic Zero from Huge Moto of San Francisco.

As soon as the Zero was revealed, it starting popping up everywhere on social media. So we dropped a line to Huge Moto’s boss, Bill Webb, to get the story on this surprise hit—and the very 21st century design process.


“Zero reached out to us a couple years ago, after you featured our ‘MONO RACR’ Honda CBR,” Bill told us. “We ended up working on some projects together, and hopefully some of our design influence will be seen on the next generation bikes.”

Then Bill asked Zero if Huge could build a custom bike as a side project. A 2018 FXS soon arrived, along with its CAD files.


The FXS is Zero’s entry-level model: a commuter bike with supermoto styling that costs just $10,495—a little less than a Sportster 1200 Custom. Range in the city is somewhere up to 100 miles (you can get models with a much larger range) and weight is a commendable 293 lb (133 kg).

Bill and his team slowly began to work on concepts for the custom. As the bike began to take shape in CAD, there was growing interest from Zero HQ in helping to finish the FXS and get a public reaction.


Brian Wiseman, Zero’s VP of product development, heard that the tire company Shinko was looking for a bike to display at The One Moto Show. So the famous Portland show became the target, and Huge fired up their computers.

“It’s far from the sexiness of welding and hammering away in a fabrication shop,” Bill says. “The Zero was mostly conceived sitting at a CAD workstation, after hours, and switching between hardcore 3D design and loose napkin-grade sketches.”


The design goal was to create a flow across the top of the bike, drawing eyes away from the electric components and frame, and focusing more attention and ‘visual weight’ on the front end.

“A design that feels futuristic, seamless and lightweight,” Bill adds. “Bruce Lee was our philosophical inspiration: Lean muscularity with agility and speed!”


The first basic design was fully detailed in CAD, machined out of ABS thermoplastic polymer, and then mocked up on the bike (above).

“Once we got the parts back, it was clear which aspects were working and which were not,” says Bill. The design was tweaked until every millimeter and every angle felt ‘right.’


It certainly looks good to us—and we see hints of the Husqvarna ‘Pilens around the ‘tank’ area too. (Maybe these ‘shoulders’ on tank covers will become the defining design aesthetic of the 2010s?)

Attention then switched to the lower frame section, below the bodywork. “The biggest challenge with electric drivetrains is the lack of visual interest,” says Bill.


“You’ve got big rectangular shapes and flat, unbroken surfaces don’t evoke the same feeling of an air-cooled cylinder head or clutch cover.”

New, dark-colored panels now flow with the upper body, and there’s a belly pan lower down—not only to protect the underside, but also to add more visual weight to the front of the bike.


The styling isn’t the only change to this FXS, though. You obviously can’t upgrade the carbs or fit a free-flowing exhaust system, and the brief forbade cutting into the frame.

So this FXS gets a fillip from a high-end Fox Racing shock, and new wheels all round: 17-inch Sun rims custom laced onto off-road hubs from the Zero FX. “I’d guess they are significantly lighter than standard,” says Bill. “They are made for racing, and the wheel builder specializes in supermoto bikes.”


According to reviewers, the Zero FXS is a blast to ride. And although the bike looks perfectly acceptable in stock form, the new design work has lifted it to a whole other level.

“It’s a design that takes some of the ‘raw’ influences from gas bikes and mixes them with the seamlessness, solidity and cleanliness of electric,” says Bill. And we’d agree 100%.

Any chance of releasing this as a kit, chaps?

Huge Moto | Facebook | Instagram | Zero Motorcycles | Images by Aaron Brimhall



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DaveM

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It’s A Keeper: A K series built for a footballing legend


When one of Spain’s most legendary goalkeepers wanted a hot steed based on a BMW K series ‘brick,’ he knew just the team to call: Bolt Motor Co. of Valencia.

Andrés Palop, known for his penalty-stopping prowess at Sevilla FC, approached Bolt boss Adrián Campos with a simple brief for a custom build; clean lines, a bit of a dark feeling, and some red touches.


Adrián and his team are known for their ability to produce clinically clean customs from unlikely platforms. This time they chose a 1991 BMW K75S ‘flying brick’ for their starting point—the sporty one in the K range, with high compression pistons for the DOHC inline triple and 17-inch rear wheel.

“It looks like we’ve learned how to make bricks look great, so we decided to do it again”, says Adrián.


The donor arrived in top shape, needing only a dash of paint on the chassis, wheels and the unmistakably rectangular engine block.

Everything else was kicked into touch and replaced with new or fabricated components, including the electronics—which were swapped out for Motogadget components.


New Showa front suspension, sourced from a Ducati Monster, leads the way and carries the stock 18” wheel wrapped with Pirelli MT60 rubber.

The upgraded Brembo monobloc brakes provide the type of stopping power a legendary goalkeeper can appreciate. A petite fender, formed on an English wheel, caps the front tire.


Keeping things tidy atop the forks meant a full Motogadget treatment for the Renthal Ultra Low bars. “We used Motogadget grips, push-buttons, turn signals, and the classic speedo,” Adrián says. Clearly, a tasteful treatment for this clean custom.

To ensure pitch-perfect parity with Adrián’s vision for clean lines, the shop wrapped a classic 5¾-inch headlamp in a 3D-printed encasement.


Moving back from the cockpit reveals a modified K100 tank—with carbon fiber panels for aggressive, sporty lines—and a tailor-made seat.

Covered in waterproof suede, the seat continues the complementary lines, atop a modified subframe and without sacrificing rider comfort.


Below the seat are custom perforated metal side panels, dressed in black—a perfect canvas for the military-style stencil font announcing, in red, the model name of this semi-obscure Beemer.

Finishing out the tail is a Highsider taillight resting above the rear wheel, plus a rear suspension upgrade with a custom Hagon suspension setup.


And, what about that rear wheel?

“That carbon fiber wheel cover was the biggest challenge on this BMW.” Adrián explains. “The rear brake is very close to the rim, and we had to create a flat cover with no screws”.


As with everything Bolt puts their hand to, there’s no sign of a struggle.

Transforming the K series into a lean, clean streetfighting machine is no small task. With a series of smart choices, the team at Bolt have given Señor Palop’s K75 a dark and aggressive look that’ll stop anyone with a pulse.

Score, Bolt.

Bolt Motor Co. | Facebook | Instagram



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DaveM

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A Cautionary Tale: Inheriting a BMW R100GS project


Love ’em or hate ’em, BMW’s GS behemoths have dominated the ADV market for almost four decades now. Five years ago, the 500,000th GS rolled off the Berlin production line, and we’re betting it won’t be long before the go-anywhere boxer hits the million mark.

We don’t see many GS customs, though. These machines are a triumph of function over form, and most owners like it that way.


So this R100GS is something of a rarity—and its backstory is rather strange too.

It belongs to Hasselblad Master photographer and bike builder Gregor Halenda, who is best known for an amazing KTM 2-wheel-drive motorcycle he collaborated on for the apparel brand REV’IT!


It some respects this is a cautionary tale about buying a project bike started by someone else. When the R100 GS arrived in Gregor’s workshop in Portland, Oregon, it didn’t take long for problems to surface.

“While the fabrication was great on the tanks, the overall mechanical condition was horrible,” says Gregor.


“The bike burned a quart of oil every 100 miles. It was down on power, and it wouldn’t run in the mornings because the petcocks were plumbing parts that let water and debris into the carbs.”

“I don’t know why the engine was in such bad shape, and maybe the previous owner didn’t either.”


Gregor didn’t complain because he considered this bike to be a test bed for his next build. He’s replaced everything except the three custom tanks—the rear is in a monocoque subframe—the frame, and the exhaust.

When Gregor took the engine apart he realized that a full rebuild was in order. “The heads were shot, the cylinders were shot, the pistons were toast, the rods were fried, the crank was shot and the crank bearings and block were ruined!”


So Gregor dumped that engine and installed a solid motor from an early 80s BMW R100RS, complete with a big valve conversion and head work by the Portland, Oregon shop Baisley Hi-Performance.

It fits just nicely into the braced frame, raised up and tipped back a little for extra clearance. The GS now has some serious grunt.


The 304 stainless steel exhaust came with the GS, but Gregor had to modify it by changing brackets and the backpressure. “It’s actually the wrong diameter, so I’ll remake it in the correct diameter.”

The suspension is another big upgrade: Gregor’s installed beefy 48mm WP upside-down forks from a KTM 690R, using KTM 450 SX triples and a custom fabricated steering stem.


The single disc brakes are Brembo, with a twin-piston floating caliper at the front.

The swingarm is from an R1100 GS—but it’s been cut and sectioned, with the shock mount repositioned, to allow fitment of the biggest possible 18-inch tire.


The driveshaft is a hybrid of parts from the R1100GS and R100GS, with the final drive coming from an R850R. It’s got 37/11 gearing, the lowest possible.

New rims and billet hubs from Denver-based Woody’s Wheel Works have made a huge difference.


They are very narrow: 21×1.6 and 18×2.15. “These are true off-road rims,” says Gregor. “BMWs are made for 17-inch rims, and the rear wheel squeezes the huge 140/80-18 Goldentyre GT723R into a very tall, round shape.”

“It rolls over things much better, and the round profile makes it much quicker to turn now.”


An extreme enduro Goldentyre ‘Fatty’ front complements the giant Rally Raid-style rear. “The traction is mind-bending for a big bike,” says Gregor. “It also has over 11 inches of suspension travel; previously it was nine, so it sits much taller now but with greater stroke.”

Cutting 20 pounds off the rotating weight apparently feels like more than 100 pounds. “The original owner got the GS down from 500 to 428 pounds, and I’ve taken it down to 400—with all that being in the rotating and unsprung weight,” says Gregor.


Adding to the rider enjoyment are new ProTaper bars in a ‘CR High’ bend, Renthal half waffle grips, and modified Fastway pegs from Pro Moto Billet. Gregor also made up new shifter and brake assemblies using stainless steel and precision needle bearings

The wiring loom on the BMW was neatly done, but it’s now upgraded with a Euro MotoElectric (EME) charging system and ignition.


There’s also a Trail Tech Voyager Pro instrument—a cutting-edge off-road GPS system with built-in Bluetooth for phone connections, and a 4-inch color touchscreen.

“I feel like the bike is ‘mine’ now,” says Gregor. “I’ve spent more time sorting it than the original owner did building it! I consider it a mule—a test bed for my next bike.”


“To get the weight I really want to be at—350 pounds—will require a new frame and much lighter bodywork. But the bike works great now, and it’s a blast to ride.

Gregor’s now going to design a new frame from scratch and test out some more motor mods. “I’ve become friends with Walt Siegl and he’s convincing me to do composites for the body and tank.”


“My long-term goal is to build the next bike into the ultimate custom adventure bike. A couple of people have expressed interest in having me build a series of bikes, like Walt does, but on the BMW platform.”

“Custom adventure bikes are the next big thing. I’ve raced, rallied and adventured, and I know what works. My bikes are function and form together: never at the expense of one or the other.”

Amen to that. And we can’t wait to see what this formidable GS turns into next.

Gregor Halenda Instagram



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DaveM

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A Honda CB350 restomod built by a jet aircraft mechanic

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks

It’s quite rare for a CB cafe racer to land in the Bike EXIF inbox these days. And we politely turn down most that do.

But this CB350 from New Jersey went straight to the top of the pile: it’s an absolutely state of the art restomod, and so beautifully finished we’d almost be scared to ride it.

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks


It comes from Merlin Cycleworks, which is run by 56-year-old Mark Kouri. Mark’s been an aircraft mechanic for over 30 years—repairing jets for United Airlines—and you can see his attention to detail in this amazing build.

When he’s not repairing or replacing jet engines or fixing autopilots, he builds customs in his two-car garage at home. “I’m a one-man shop,” he tells us. “I started the business a few years ago, after finding a 1974 CB450 parked in my neighbor’s back yard.”

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks

“He parked it in 1983, and it sat there until I purchased it for $100 and brought it back to life as a brat style/café-type bike. The bike took first place in five out of the six shows I entered it in.” Not surprisingly, word got around and business boomed.

Mark happened across this 1972 CB350 in a Texas barn last year, bought it for $600, and promptly broke it down to the frame. “I like to think of it as a more modern, upgraded version of a 1970s factory racing bike,” he says.

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks

“The goal was increased power, better handling, and more reliability. I think we checked every box.”

There’s something reassuring about knowing an aircraft mechanic built a bike, and Mark has done an extremely thorough job. He’s detabbed the frame, heavily reinforced it, and even re-engineered the back half—eliminating the factory pressed steel frame.

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks

Slotted into the upgraded frame is a comprehensively rebuilt engine—although it only had 7,000 miles on the clock. It’s now sporting Wiseco oversized 10.5:1 pistons, a custom-ground Megacycle race cam, and Kibblewhite ‘Black Diamond’ valves.

Helping to dial in the race cam was ex-factory racer Frank Giannini of Giannini Racing—a multiple USCRA class champion. Spark comes from a Charlie’s Place ignition, along with a Rick’s Hotshot high output rotor and stator. And there’s an Antigravity 8-cell battery hidden in the rear cowl.

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks

Mark’s had the engine cases powdercoated, along with most of the other mechanical parts. The tank, forks and fairings are painted in high-end BASF Glasurit paint, with ceramic coatings and XPEL protective film applied on top.

Mark made the exhaust himself, using back-purged TIG welded steel, and 1.25″ diameter tubing to maintain torque. It’s .060 wall 304 stainless, with a Cone Engineering muffler, and Mark also fabricated the inlets at the head on his lathe.

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks

The chunky front end is a rebuilt 2005-spec Suzuki GSX-R750 fitment, held in place by custom triple trees from Cognito Moto, with high performance Gazi shocks bringing up the rear. (The color-coding on the forks is a nod to the Honda practice of painting the fork uppers the same color as the tank.)

To reduce unsprung weight, Mark has installed Excel Takasago aluminum rims, powdercoated black. They’re laced with Buchanan’s stainless steel spokes to rebuilt hubs—a Cognito Moto at the front and a Honda OEM at the rear. The rubber is a mix of Continental’s Road Attack and Classic Attack.

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks

The brakes have been rebuilt and powdered, and hooked up to Brembo masters via braided steel lines.

The clip-on bars are Vortex, the levers are from ASV, there’s a Domino quick-action race throttle, and the classy billet switchgear is from our friends at Renard Speed Shop in Estonia. The instrument is a combined GPS speedo/tach from Speedhut.

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks

Everything’s hooked up via a new wiring loom, using aircraft-grade connectors—as you might expect, given Mark’s day job. It’s all routed into a Motogadget m.unit, which is hidden under the seat along with the starter solenoid and a central ground bus.

There’s a custom belly pan to shield the exhaust: Mark fabricated this in-house using .060 aluminum, teaching himself how to use an English wheel as he went along.

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks

He also built and fabricated the seat unit, which is covered in Alcantara with stitching to match the blue in the gorgeous two-tone paint.

We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to custom Hondas, but this one goes straight into our all-time Top Ten CBs.

Love your work, Mark.

Merlin Cycleworks Instagram | Images by Charles Thorpe

1972 Honda CB350 restomod built by Merlin Cycleworks


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