Van Aiken 74 CL125s
By Gareth Roberts - 17 Aug 14
What’s a 125 for? learning to ride, and in Pete Johannsen’s case, learning to build at the same time. If his learning curve is as quick in his riding as it is in his building, then Pete’s going to be an AMA wild card pretty soon. His CL125 is one of the loveliest 125s the Shed has seen. Pete is based in Boston, Massachusetts, and has a custom metal furniture business, VanAiken Design and Fabrication. He wanted to build a bike for some time, but he didn’t know how to ride, and he’d never even spun a spanner on one. He found a 1974 Honda CL125s in good shape on Craigslist. He loved the vintage, wanted a small bike to learn on, and as he’s doing almost exclusively city riding, it was fully functional. He wanted to learn how to ride the thing first, and “... I figured that if it ran before I took it apart, it should run again when I put the thing back together as long as I didn’t screw anything up.” Like all of us he spent too many hours on the net looking for inspiration, and was particularly inspired by Heiwa Motorcycles’ bikes. IHe wanted to eliminate anything that wasn’t vital, slim down and lower the bike, give it a brat-style look and end up with something that was fun, and manageable, to ride. Pete lowered the bike by around an inch, built a new seat and a new set of handlebars with custom grips, chopped the fenders down, swapped out the directionals and stoplight, cleaned the whole thing up, wrapped the rusty exhaust, and gave it a new paint scheme. What really works is how the seat and the paint pull the whole bike together. One of the things Pete loves about Heiwa is the really interesting leatherwork on their seats, and he actually started the design process with the seat. Having researched hundreds of different types and colors of leather, Pete finally went with cream and brown offcuts Dom at Custom Interiors had lying around his shop. He decided to brand the seat with his VanAiken logo, and ended up making the brand himself; why not? Chris at S&L Autobody, just down the street from him, painted the bike. He matched the cream stripe of the seat and carried it over the tank and the fenders. Pete sites the biggest challenges as having to figure everything for the first time and trying to find parts. “I just took my time, shot hundreds of photos as I took the thing apart so that I could remember how the parts fit together, and spent a lot of time on Ebay, as well as Dime City Cycles, Dennis Kirk, and a few dozen other bike supply sites.” It’s a terrific build by any standards, and is even more stunning as a debut build. Pete has a refreshing honesty. “As it’s my first motorcycle, it’s really hard to say how it rides, as I have nothing to compare it to. I’m not trying to do the ton (as the speedo maxes out at 80, it would be tough to tell if I was anyway), but for in the city and those occasions when I get out on it, it’s been really fun to ride.” If it rides half as good as it looks, it’s going be running sweet. Pete’s next project is a 1972 Honda CL350 for a friend who is a designer. “I’m excited to work with him on the project and we’re currently discussing an overall concept for the look and feel of it. I have a feeling, though, since we both love Heiwa, that they will continue to be a significant influence, and because he has a really amazing aesthetic sense, the end product will look good.” On the evidence of this lovely little CL, it’s going look alot more than good. We look forward to seeing it at the Shed!