Some custom motorcycle builders grow up riding and wrenching, and that early start is obvious in their work. On the flip side, 25-year-old Nick Hooper’s been fiddling with bikes for less than three years now—but you wouldn’t think it, looking at this perfectly proportioned Honda CB750.
Nick lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he works as a music producer and session guitarist. A friend got him onto his first bike, a Honda CB350, just a few years ago. He jumped in with both feet, teaching himself to maintain the little Honda via YouTube videos and online forums.
After a few months of daily riding, Nick needed something more capable and reliable—so he bought a Ducati Panigale 899.
“It was a blast to ride,” he says, “but I quickly missed the character that the old Honda had. In the back of my mind I wanted to get back on a retro machine that didn’t perform perfectly all the time.”
“So one fateful day, I was talking to a client that I was editing and mixing a few songs for. He was telling me about his old CB750, which he had been struggling to get running after a crash in the rain.”
“He said he was considering selling the bike, so I offered instead to accept the bike as payment for the work I was doing for him.”
They reached an agreement, and Nick soon had the 1975 Honda CB750 home and ready to diagnose. “Originally my intention was to just rebuild the engine,” he tells us, “and make a few aesthetic changes to make it look like the cool cafe racers I saw online.”
“But as I began to tear the bike down and draw up plans I quickly realized the potential the bike had, and the project really came to life.”
The motor already had 50,000 miles on it, so Nick treated it to a top end rebuild and honed the cylinders. He rebuilt the carbs too, then re-jetted them to run well with the UNI air filters. The exhaust is a four-into-one system from MAC Performance, capped off with a stubby silencer.
“Oddly enough, one of the features on the bike that gets the most compliments is the low profile muffler,” Nick says, “which is actually an off the shelf part from my local auto parts store, and only cost about $13!”
Nick tore into the wiring too, ditching the stock harness since it had been tampered with over the years. The new system runs off a Motogadget m.unit and an Antigravity lithium-ion battery, all stashed discreetly in custom-made trays and under the seat hump.
Nick went all-out when it came to the Honda’s running gear, swapping the front-end for a set of Suzuki GSX-R forks, held by billet aluminum triples from Cognito Moto. The rear shocks are now an inch longer than stock, giving the CB a more aggressive stance.
The GSX-R lent its front brakes too; a significant upgrade over the OEM Honda setup. They’re hooked up to an adjustable lever via braided steel lines.
Nick kept the stock drum brake out back, but added his own twist. “The issue with the stock rear brake linkage is that the foot pedal would move with the swing-arm,” he explains, “which leads to uneven brake pressure depending on the contours of the road. So instead I fashioned a clutch cable, and mounted it to pull on the drum, instead of the solid linkage.”
For the wheels, Nick installed a set of wider-than-stock 17” hoops, wrapping them in grippy Dunlop Sportmax tires. “After taking my Ducati to a couple of track days, I quickly realized the importance of high quality, sticky rubber with a large contact patch,” he says. A set of custom sprocket spacers had to be made up to accommodate the 160-wide rear wheel.
On the aesthetic side, Nick’s goal was to build something eye-catching, but also clean and timeless. Part of that meant ditching things that weren’t necessary, hiding as much as possible, and cleaning up the frame.
Nick kept the stock CB750 fuel tank, matching it up to a custom tail piece from Tuffside, complete with a contrast-stitched diamond pattern. The frame was cut-n-shut to match, and a Cognito Moto oil tank installed lower down.
Nick wasn’t keen on the height of the steering stem relative to the gas tank, and he wanted to keep things visually aligned front-to-back. So he mounted up a set of adjustable clip-ons—but flipped their brackets around to position them lower. Together with a 7” headlight from Motodemic and a set of handmade ears, it helped even out the Honda’s lines.
The cockpit was finished off with a speedo, switches and bar-end turn signals from Motogadget. Nick installed a Motogadget keyless ignition too, with the contact sensor mounted under the seat. A set of Cognito Moto rear-sets round out the controls.
As most builders do, Nick then agonized over a livery. He’d spotted a few ‘Nardo Grey’ Audis during a trip in Germany, so he eventually opted for that, to give the bike a modern feel. It’s offset with hints of red, to match the Ducati that’s also parked in his garage.
The overall effect is slick, well balanced and a brilliant first effort.
“Being my first mechanical project ever,” says Nick, “I certainly struggled and messed up many steps along the way. But overall, it’s been very rewarding—especially riding around town and watching people react to a one-of-a-kind machine.”
Published at Wed, 18 Mar 2020 17:01:53 +0000