Both Randy and I have been into cars for longer than we can recall, and have been customizing them regularly for most of our adult lives. Whether it was our own cars or customers' cars, there always seemed to be a project at hand, which is what eventually led to our company being founded seven years ago. While cars will always be at the heart of what we do, it seems to me that when you've been doing something for over twenty years, it's only natural that your focus may drift into another related field where your expertise and skills can find a new outlet, if only to be introduced to new challenges or to stay sharp. It's possible that I'm only trying to make sense of my most recent obsession, but let me explain...
A few years ago, I was first introduced to the world of two-wheeled motorized vehicles through a friend who picked up a Stella, which is a reproduction of the 60s Vespas with newer components. While his bike wasn't my style, I rode it once and had to have something. I was looking for a bike that had comparable performance to his, since the point was to ride together, but it took a while to figure out exactly what I was looking for.
This was my first attempt - it's a 1983 Honda Passport C70, which is a derivative of the Honda Cub that has been around since the 60s. This particular model has electric start, a 70cc 4-stroke motor and a three-speed semi-automatic gearbox. It'll do about 55, and isn't particularly slow or fast getting there. I spent about 6 months trying to convince myself this was the bike for me, but it wasn't. I sold it pretty quickly.
The main benefit of this first bike was that it got me involved with a group of guys in Atlanta who have a real passion and interest in the smaller displacement bikes that have been offered through the years. They all shared a common dislike for scooters, but small displacement dirtbikes, enduros, street bikes, step-throughs and most of all mopeds (yes there's a difference between a scooter and a moped) were all on the table. I never knew any of that stuff existed - my knowledge of motorcycles really being limited to the choppers and full-fairing street bikes I'd seen zipping around. Believe it or not, mopeds can be both extremely fast (relatively speaking), and really good looking.
After hanging around for a bit, the thing I appreciated most was that all the bikes these guys rode were self-built, and that there was a noticeable lack of ego and competition going on. It was just about having fun. I knew I could go out and pick up a modern bike that would be reliable, fast and great to look at, but there was something about the personality in all these guys' bikes that really got me. It reminds me of cars in a lot of ways, but these mopeds are so cheap to get into that you don't feel all that bad if something goes terribly wrong.
So here's what came next. A 1980 Puch Magnum II that was built up by a company in Michigan. It has a 2-stroke 70cc motor with a two-speed automatic gearbox, a seat that will fit two people uncomfortably, a top tank and pedals. It would do around 60 and get there pretty quickly. Certainly looks a whole lot better than the Passport above, if you ask me.
This bike was definitely pretty fun, and I spent a lot of time riding it. Really the best thing about my Magnum was that I didn't know the first thing about how it worked. I would just get on and go, and it never broke. Excellent! The problem was that I didn't know the first thing about how it worked...I'm not the kind of person (clearly) who just gets something with a motor and leaves it as-is, and I'm really not the kind of person that has things I want built for me. It's always been a curse and a blessing. So while the Magnum is one of the most desirable mopeds, and this one was great, I sold it after about 10 months. I had to build one for myself if I was going to be riding these little things around...
Next I spent maybe 6 months building and perfecting this little guy - a 1983 Honda Camino, which has a 70cc 2-stroke motor with a CVT transmission, funny ape hanger bars, a bell on the bars, white BMX-style mags, a tiny, uncomfortable seat and pedals. I loved this thing. It was just the right amount of goofy and nimble, fast and ridiculous. The fastest I ever got it up to was 63, and it was terrifying at that speed.
But...I wanted two things now. I wanted to solve the inherent problems I had seen with mopeds (way more on this later), and I wanted an actual motorcycle to be able to ride around with two people on comfortably. The Camino stayed around for a little while longer while I started addressing these wants, but I eventually sold it to a friend once one project (the motorcycle) was done, and the other (we're getting there) was well underway.
So, here's the motorcycle - nothing too big, just a 1976 Honda CB125 that has a 125cc 4-stroke motor with a 5-speed manual transmission. After rebuilding the motor with a friend's help and doing a lot of cosmetic stuff (tank, seat, blinkers, exhaust, etc) along with the electrical that any bike this age is going to inevitably need, it would do 80 and was pretty quick getting there (again, speaking relatively).
No problem with this bike at all. I really, really liked it. Sure it's a bit smaller than what most people ride, and if you rode for over a couple of hours it got a little less comfortable, but it did exactly what I wanted it to do, and looked how I wanted it to look for the most part. You would think at this point I'd just call it good. Nope. I sold it and began putting way, way, way too much time, thought and effort into the bike below. Another moped. Why?
Well, truly answering that question is going to take a lot more words and a lot more photos, so I plan on breaking this build up over a number of posts. It took me over two years to get to this point, and there were some really big technical challenges along the way, so I thought it might be worth a read. I'll be checking out the stats to see if I'm right, and there will certainly be more to come if it seems to be catching anyone's eye. Regardless, taking the time to think this thing through and execute it has definitely had the desired effect - I've learned a lot, and things always seem to trickle up from these projects into our products. It's basically our innate need to do something that hasn't been done before, and to make it as absolutely perfect as possible. We're showing no signs of stopping...