By James McCombe - 04 Jan 15
As 2015 finally stretches, farts and rolls out of bed, it means different things to each of us. Some, perhaps, had an incredible 2014 and are willing a Groundhog year to happen. Others are quite relieved to watch the calendar tick over and embrace the new dawn. Life can happily give you a swift kick to the plums when you least expect it; for some it comes back for a second punt when you're fetal on the floor. Brad, owner of Cafe Creations & Customs based in Largo, Florida, is certainly looking to this new year as a chance to focus on the future and capitalise on the solid foundations he's worked tirelessly to lay down. Having built bikes under the "Cafe Creations & Customs" banner for a while now, the New Year brings with it a new name: "Brad Bilt Vintage Motorcycles". The natural next step, having made a name for himself in Florida; it's not uncommon to see a dozen of his bikes at a local meet. So 2015 brings plans afoot for global domination, Brad refining his builds, and challenging himself on each aspect of every bike. Thankfully he can count Michael Mundy of Steelbent Customs and the Dime City Cycles crew as good friends: owner Jason Paul Michaels (and Jason's 'boss' Leticia Cline) crashed at Brad's for a while. I imagine there were a few interesting late night talks round the kitchen table in that household! When a customer walked in wanting his 1980 Honda CM400T given some cafe treatment, Brad knew he had a challenge on his hands. Although a clean example, the swoopy subframe of the CM takes work to apply attitude. Undeterred, Brad spent time planning how to tackle it and then out came the tools. About halfway through the build, on a regular visit to the workshop, the owner spotted Brad's freshly finished Honda CB750 SOHC sitting in the corner. Sporting a full aluminum fairing, the customer decided it must be his, so a deal was done. Brad found himself with a half finished CM400, a pocketful of money and a bunch of ideas. Deciding to not lop off the pressed steel rear frame, the decision was made to make the bike flow with it's original metalwork retained. After a trimming of the rear end and a general clean up of inapposite tabs, the frame was sent to Profab Customs for powdercoat. The engine was peachy keen, having covered just 12,000 miles, so Brad knew better than to disturb the reliable mill. Instead, a thorough clean, finished in contrasting black cases with polished covers. A drilled sprocket cover adds some old school charm. The carbs were completely rebuilt and rejetted to suit the Unifilters and less restrictive exhaust. For reliability the bike runs stock electronic ignition; put that feeler gauge away. The entire chassis has been revised and tweaked: original 18/16 inch Comstar wheels were immediately binned. The bike now sits on a 19 inch front from a Honda CB550 and an 18 inch unit from a Honda CB350 out back. This alone transforms the stance. Both rims are wrapped in Avon Road Rider tires, not too wide so as to slow steering and perfect for the twisties. Front suspension has been lowered 2 inches and the yokes are carried in All Balls tapered bearings. A Tarozzi fork brace stiffens things up to improve feel while the modified front fender just about squeezes underneath. Rear shocks add two extra inches out back, working with the bigger wheels to level the whole shebang. Front brakes now use an adjustable radial master cylinder and Brad's handiwork with a pillar drill has transformed the front disc. The tank originally featured the delightful fuel filler hatch Honda inflicted upon all bikes in the '80s. To rectify this, Brad seamlessly welded in the top strip of a Sportster tank: it's profile a surprisingly close match. Calling on Roc City for one of their solo cafe seats, Brad trimmed it to better follow the line of the stamped steel subframe. Cut into the back, a recess allows the rear light and licence plate to be secreted away. Moe Colors were then charged with laying down the deep green paint, overlayed with the black paneling and white pinstripe. It's a classic yet modern looking scheme, perfectly suiting the timeless build. Foot controls were moved rearwards and upwards with new hangers. A shortened, modified brake lever and gear shifter keep actions crisp and precise. Coupled with a set of Clubman bars, the riding position is classic cafe. Tucked in tight, this little twin will give you a hard-charging buzz just sitting on it. The loom is predominately standard. Simple and neat enough to not warrant a rebuild, you'd be pressed to spot an obtrusive wire on the whole bike. A full size Gel battery now resides under the seat hump along with all of the relocated electronics. A quick call to Jason and parcels soon started arriving from Dime City. A European style 7" headlight here, reverse cone mufflers there, a cats-eye rear light thrown in for good measure. All the missing components that tie a bike together. Those upswept end cans clamp the standard header pipes, a surprisingly flamboyant sweep, they arc back along the bike, dressed up in their black wrap. It all works to transform the bike from cruiser to cafe. Turning a forgotten '80s Honda with a cracking engine into something that make full use of that sweet little twin. Completed, it was time for a bonding session, so Brad packed and headed up to Barber. The CM handled the 1200 mile round trip without a stutter. Pulling hard through the rev range all the way, Brad says she's a sweet little handler now. As with most builders, he'd love to keep hold of her, but that's not a great business model. Hop over to the classifieds for your chance to bag it. Thanks go to Eric Runyan for the studio shots, showing the bike to it's fullest.