Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ace CR125 cafe racer

It's here! Our new Ace CR125 cafe racer has joined the Mid Life Cycles fleet.

Ace CR125 Cafe Racer
We've dubbed it the CR125 because that's what we plan to turn it into - an even closer replica of the fabulous Honda CR110 racer of the early 1960s (or of Honda's own CR110 replica, the Honda Dream 50R of 2004).

Confused? That's understandable - what we have here is a SkyTeam Ace 125, a clever update on the screamin' twin-cam, 50cc Honda Dream 50 produced in 2004 to commemorate Honda's fabulous RC110 road racer, one of the bikes that put Honda on the road to multiple world championships throughout the 1960s.

With a 125cc single-cam engine, the new Ace might just match the performance of the standard Dream 50, but with a few tweaks we expect it to shade this (very) distant forebear and still be road-registered, learner-legal and huge fun. Meantime, it looks great parked up next to the Honda CR125 Silver Shogun cafe racer...

Ace CR125 (background) and our Honda Silver Shogun
The new Ace can be bought through dealer Two Wheel Garage ready to ride away for less than $3000, and that's a bargain ride in anyone's currency. Once it's run-in, we recommend a few tweaks to get the best out of it and to address a few of the minor design and build issues that are inevitable in a bike of this price.

After all, when it looks this cool, it's worth some extra time to get it just right.

Jim looks cool as he prepares for first ride on the Ace CR125

As soon as Dr Roger had given the new Ace a thorough check-up and shakedown ride, we were lining up for our turn. The little racer is cold-blooded, just like the early Hondas, and it takes a bit of choke and patience to get it to settle to a smooth idle.

While we wait, we check out the controls and details. It really is nicely set up - easy switchgear, a neat speedo (no tacho), warning lights... The light clutch is good for traffic-running, the gearbox a little sticky but already starting to free-up with a few kms.

Ace CR125 meets Honda S90 and Suzuki T200
Once warm, the Ace clicks into first and we're away, pinning the throttle in each gear to get it up past the urban speed limit. A freeway slip-road provided an opportunity to wind it up, but with only 60km on the odometer, the engine felt a little tight. We saw 70km/h and decided a little mechanical sympathy was in order, at least till we give it an early oil-change. After that, this little jigger will have to earn its keep and at least out-pace Sammy the CB100. Once that's achieved, we'll have to look at a few tweaks so that the Ace can run with its breathed-upon cousin, the CB125-based Silver Shogun cafe racer with its high-comp engine and straight-through megaphone exhaust. That should be fun.
Meantime, the Ace is resting with some old friends at the back of the Mid Life Cycles showroom...

The REAL Honda CR110 racer:

1962 Honda CR110 racer
Way back in 1980 (almost 20 years after it conquered the race tracks of Europe, the USA and Japan), celebrated motorcycling journalist Alan Cathcart tested Honda's CR110 racer. Here was a factory production racer - 50cc, four-valve, gear-driven DOHC engine; eight-speed gearbox. In race trim it produced around 8.5bhp (that 0.5 was important! But it was still only 6.34kW) at an incredible 14,500rpm. It weighed 134lb - that's just 60kg!
Like the rest of us, Cathcart weighed a lot less 30 years ago, but his very-fit 72kg body had trouble squeezing in behind the CR110's race fairing. Despite that handicap, the racer had a top-speed of about 80mph (130km/h) and demolished the opposition back in the early-1960s. Cathcart described it as "jewel-like", and a close examination of any photos of the CR110 racer reveal just why that description is so appropriate.

A quick comparison - the road-legal Ace CR125 weighs 100kg and produces a quoted 7.0kW (9.38bhp). It's rated top speed is 85km/h. Not nearly enough, even when compared with the road-going Honda CB100 and CB125 commuters of the 1970s, which could (and still can) run at 100km/h-plus. Hence our plans to breathe on the little bugger...

2004 Honda Dream 50

A fairer comparison to the Ace CR125 might be Honda's own tribute to the CR110 racer, it's Honda Dream 50 and Dream 50R released in 2004. The Dream 50 came in both road and race trim, but the road-trim bike wasn't road-legal in most markets (including the all-important USA). A new, crate-fresh Dream 50 bike in road trim sold in Australia last year for $10,000, and that was probably a bargain when measured against overseas prices. With a beautiful but complex DOHC 50cc engine, the road bike apparently made around 5kW (7bhp) and ran a six-speed gearbox.

So, the Ace CR125 has a lot to live up to - but it also has a lot of potential. Stay tuned - there's much more to come from this cool retro-cafe racer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grievous Bodily Honda... and more

Rearset mount fabricated for GBH
With Frankenbike safe in the hands of its new owner, we've taken on three more Honda-based cafe racer builds. First up, there's Grievous Bodily Honda (GBH), our take on what customer Chris R lands on when he trawls YouTube for bike-building inspiration.

Chris's Honda CB550-based custom is in a million bits (well, quite a few bits) and we're deciding on the key features before commencing the rebuild.

Honda CB350F tank and dual seat on DWP

When we need a break from GBH, we turn to a bike being built as a present - that's right, a present from very generous fiancee Lyndsay to a very happy Dave W. So, this one's workshop tag is DWP.
It's based on a Honda XBR500 single, and we've tried a few tank and seat combos to meet Dave's request that he be able to reward Lyndsay's generosity with the occasional pillion ride. One near-winner was a neat Honda CB350 Four tank and a very retro-style dual seat...

The CB400F tank will dress up Dave's cafe racer

But Dave has gone for another tank from the Honda Four family, the CB400F.
With the Honda four-valve 500cc Single beating away beneath, this combo should turn heads and start conversations wherever it's parked.

Honda CB77 cafe racer takes shape
If that's not enough for the Honda tragics - and some traditionalists will already be weeping into their beer (or sake), we're working steadily away on a Honda CB77 that will be one cool cafe racer when it's done.

This over-bored classic 305 (now a full 350cc) runs Akront rims and freshly-refinished drums front and rear and will borrow key bits from Europe and the USA before it's done.

But the big question is: What are we going to call it?!

See more about Mid Life Cycles at:

Yamaha action in the Workshop

There's more Yamaha action in the Mid Life Cycles workshop than we're used to. First, customer and keen enthusiast Sandy brought his newly-imported Yamaha XS650-based Mule Flat-tracker for a couple of detail fixes so he could get out and enjoy it. A few twists and tweaks in the hands of Dr Roger and the now-750cc twin burst into raucous life...

Sandy's tasty flat-tracker by Mule (USA)
We've also taken on another flat-tracker style project, this time for Stewart, who decided he had to have his very own Yamaha SR500 D-Track, as built for German supplier KEDO by JvB Moto.

The SR500 D-Track built by JvB Moto for KEDO
Stewart provided most of the Kedo bits and we're well on the way to building this great-looking bike out of a fresh 560cc SR single with lots of custom parts and some careful work by Jim the SR king.
The SRK, as we've dubbed it, features an alloy swingarm, some lightweight bodywork and a few Kedo bits that really define the look of the bike. We'll have the wheels built to spec and then Stewart faces the toughest task - choosing between Kedo blue with white speed-block design, or a traditional Kenny Roberts yellow.

Here's where we're at so far...

Big Single will give the SRK some punch...