They say, "the lure of the open road never goes out of style". Well, the experience is quite true as to riding a Japanese motorcycle from the 80s, built to a neo-retro, modern day sport-touring, metallic grey café racer.
I am originally a classic motorcycle enthusiast; late 70s, 80s, and early 90s to be precise in terms of sport bikes, adventure tourers, and cruisers. Even for the high displacement classic Japanese commuters of those timeframes, I absolutely admire the way they look, ride, and how original everything feels with these motorcycles.
Ever since my early motorcycling days, I wanted to build a café racer with the proper abilities and functionalities.
The idea was to mainly restore a classic unit; make it an everyday sporty brat/café. For our region, the Honda CG125 seemed a durable, efficient, and effective option in terms of performance and availability of parts.
It is a bit underpowered, however, its true-to-the-wheels, old-school, riding joy is totally incomparable.
The project was originally initiated during the late 2017 by Alex Joven who got the primary updates from Moto Café and pulled off a few feats at the build's initial stage in early 2018. Later, in 2020, I took upon the latter upgrades, further facelifts, and finished work.
The prior design came to life and stood out from the rest of the pre-existing builds in context of rideability, stability, engine performance, and overall frame and body works.
I had the privilege of working alongside Sohel bhai - an expert blacksmith and craftsperson who helped me bring my exterior design inputs and metal crafts to life. I also got the metallic grey with blue accent paint job done personally.
This four-stroke project features a 124 cc, air-cooled, single cylinder engine that came with the first generation CG125s (1975-1986) and has a CDI ignition.
Taking the original numbers into account, the bike genuinely has torque figures of 9.8 Nm @ 7,000 RPM and about 11 HP @ 9,000 RPM which correspond positively with the enhancements later added as performance upgrades.
BRISK 360 plug
NMW racing coil
58mm performance air filter
NGK Racing plug cable
These upgrades, along with precise tuning and engine overhaul, allows the bike to exert immense mid-level torque with no extra engine drag. Even though the chassis weight has increased with the addition of a few enhancements, the engine feels uber smooth while riding.
The bike has a ride-worthy velocity considering everyday cruising, a top speed ranging from 115-121 kmph and a mileage count of around 22-24 kmpl which is indeed praiseworthy considering the heavy updates.
The bike's chassis has been extended; the rear side looks very lengthy and the overall frame size got longer. With the Timsun TS708 café racer silicon rubber tube tyres (Rear: 4.50-17, Front: 4.00-18) added to the motorcycle - the overall visuals really became more appealing.
The stability is superb considering the tyres grip; the tyre update did tone down the overall jerks and ride discomfort. Initially, the tyres were putting up pressure on the performance, but the latter tweaks and additions really helped the engine breathe more and sigh less.
An X-ring chain with a 14/38 sprocket setup also helps the extended chassis pull the heavy tyres along with the frame.
The addition of Yamaha TW200 (Enduro) forks in the front, a three-way split "adjusted" handlebar setup, rear shocks (damped low), and the spoke rims really helps the overall centripetal force in corners lay flat in the middle.
It also enables the bike to have superb lean angles during mid-speed cruises.
The bike stays optimally stable and jerk-free till the 80 - 105 kmph marker. The overall chassis weight stands somewhere near 117 kg which results in good maneuverability.
The bike initially had drum braking at both ends but a front disc brake has been added to this unit. The disc was taken from a 125 cc Yamaha motorcycle, the master cylinder came from Lifan KPT 150 and the front caliper was stripped off a Suzuki Gixxer.
The front brake combo has been further enhanced with a ByBre front caliper along with a genuine Brembo hose line and DOT 4 brake fluid turning stopping power into something phenomenal.
With the punchy drag from rear drums, grippy tyres, and the front disk brake, the bike halts from 60 – 0 kmph in no time.
Other small additions to the visuals and exteriors were sourced from multiple places and a few parts were also imported from China and Thailand.
The addition of a metal-crafted rear seat cowl, a dark brown hand-crafted seat construction, metal side covers, and tinted headlight really gives the motorcycle an edge of itself with the metallic grey paint job which is a treat for every eye catching a glimpse of it.
Wearing my classic BELL Custom 500 with a candy floss bubble shield candy floss helmet really compliments the overall riding experience and takes the visuals back to the 80's.
A project motorcycle really raises positive curiosity among many, even for the ones who do not ride, if done right.
Personally, I did get a lot of positive and negative responses after the build but what always mattered was the fact that I wanted to own an actual café racer and the imagination quite came into life.
In a country like Bangladesh where the motorcycling scene is really deprived, I want to establish a community where old-school motorcycling is a stance for elegance and the power and abilities of these certain bikes are considered and nourished as well.
If done right, we can have our very own café racer scene. I am willing to allow more access to this community via my publication - Throttle Alpha, by enabling riders to get more motivated and have builds of their own.
This project will have further updates; will be getting a different facelift in the future too and with everything put together, just like Hunter S Thompson once quoted "Never mind the track. The track is for punks. We are Road People. We are Cafe Racers."
Sahil Ahsan is an Operation Specialist of the automotive channel - Throttle Alpha.