I have always liked bikes. Started riding motocross when I was 4 years old, and my dad was always tinkering on my motocross or something else in the basement compartment of our flat building. I then discovered video games, computers, then programming, which ended up becoming my main focus in life. I kind of forgot about bikes, although every time I could smell gasoline a longing to do motocross would always flare back up, and custom motorcycles and cars was always something of interest.
I recently moved out of town, and as such needed a means of transportation. I got myself a Honda CBR125, a sports bike style 125cc motorbike with added chav-loud exhaust to boot. The bike gets me to work and back fine, but I do miss the power to be able to overtake that granny persisting on driving 10mph less than the current speed limit, regardless whether its 30 or 60. And it seems every smallest gust of wind is out to throw you across the road.
So I decided to go for a bigger bike. Sport bikes really aren't my thing. I kind of knew this, but I figured I needed to try one out. So rather than going for a bigger brother of the CBR I decided that it's either an off road style bike or a nice looking custom, and whilst getting back in to motocross would be fun, commuting on one every morning doesn't sound very pleasing. A custom bike it is.
Custom motor... race bikes?
The first thing that comes to mind when you think custom motorcycle is probably Harley Davidson and lots of chrome. I've always been attracted to the rougher side of custom though. Things like rat bikes, rusty banged up bikes with matte paint schemes. Custom bikes all stem from post WWII folks needing cheap transportation, and since bikes are cheaper than cars, that's what they got hold off. People wanted the bikes to be quick and look good, so they started to modify them.
However as I'm now living the UK I happened upon something different than the classic Harley Davidsons of the US. In the UK bikes took a slightly different take on the custom deal. They focused their efforts on making the bikes quick first and foremost, because they were used to race between cafes. This lead to an aesthetic much closer to that of race bikes, with forward leaning stances and efficient, lean lines. The Cafe racers.
The classic cafe racer bikes were Norton and Triumph. Those are the ones that were around post WWII in the uk, and what people used to do is build a Triton - take the powerful engine out of a Triumph and put it in a well handling Norton frame, to build on each bikes strength. But cafe racers moved with the times, and as Japanese bikes became popular, they were used to build cafe racers too. Most people building cafe racers today tend to go for a 70's Honda CB-series bike. That's is what I initially aimed for too as I started to research what bike to base it on. That all changed when I saw the bike below for sale on eBay. It blew me away.
Classy, quick... and fearsome!
Suzuki gs750. The first thing that struck me with this bike was the aggressive stance. Most impressive though is that it displays this aggressiveness whilst looking classy and clean, yet still like purpose built racing machine. Classy headlight and gauges, nice clean paint job but an engine that looks like it is designed to race. The thermal shield tape on the exhaust is a really nice touch. This was it, this is what my bike should look like.
Immediatly after seeing this bike I started looking at other, stock Suzuki gs750s. I started to compare pictures of the cafe'd gs750 to stock ones to figure out what had been changed on the bike. Some things where obvious, like different forks, seat, paint and straight exhaust(!). But the one thing that drew me to the bike in the first place turned out to be less clear, and for a while I didn't get why other cafe racer gs750s just didn't seem to feel right. Eventually I realised the frame had been altered, and the rear suspension was mounted lower than stock, which gives the bike its stance. No way I'll be able to do that, given that all metal work I've done is randomly mig welding together pieces of scrap metal.
Define the problem
Aside from getting the perfect stance down, there's still lots to do. The rough list I've made up currently looks as follows:
- Get a gs750 or gs550.
- Throw away the stock seat
- Take an angle grinder to the bars sticking out beneath the stock seat
- Mount a cafe racer style seat
- Change front forks
- Get spoked wheels
- Replace headlights and indicators
- Replace gauges
- Tear off anything that's made out of plastic or looks like isn't really needed
- Get a paintjob done
- And of course, thermal tape on the exhaust to finish it off.
There's of course going to be a lot more to do when I get down to the nitty gritty, but for now it seems doable. Next step is to find a suitable bike, so I'll be scouring eBay the coming winter for the right one.Posted August 3, 2012
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