Blue Cat Motorcycle

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BlueCat-Built Honda CB450 featured on BikeEXIF

Posted on 09 Nov 2012 in Best Of The Web, On The Lift, Shop News | 8 comments

We are absolutely thrilled to see my 1974 Honda CB450 K7 Supersport featured on what is arguably the most prolific custom motorcycle blog on the web. A huge thanks to Chris and the crew at BikeEXIF for considering our little Honda for their site. However, equally big thanks and kudos go to Juan F. Hernandez for taking such great photos of Adeline.

This is really a story of a shop bike that made good. This CB450 came in to us on consignment in 2011, and though it was for sale for a while, we adopted it early this year. That’s when the transformation began. While not a high mileage bike, this CB450 had seen good use in its long life so far. Robb described it as “not worn out, but worn in.” It had a mellow, easy-going character — a good old soul — but it also had 40 years of age and use on its brown shoulders. More than anything, the bike had potential, and that’s exactly what Robb saw in the machine.

Robb consulted some resources in his network of motorcycle whisperers. Specifically, he consulted experts who used to build these 450s to race spec. Using that tribal knowledge to understand the strengths, weaknesses and deep character of the CB450’s iconic DOHC engine, Robb set about disassembling, adjusting and fine tuning the engine. The goal was not race track top end, but rather low end torque, mid range grunt and dependability. Valves were set back to sane clearances and fill compression was restored via fresh rings and honed cylinders.

The engine was just the start, however. This CB450’s charging system was completely revamped to ensure it had all the juice it needed to throw strong spark to the cylinders. To that end, new points, adjustment plate and upgraded coils meant a considerably stronger spark than stock. Mated to a brand new battery, this CB450 had amps to spare. Topping off the electrical package was a 55W, ultra-bright headlight.

Fully rebuilt CV carbs were mated to new cables and a pair of foam Uni-filters. Short of full pods, these Uni-filters are the only filtration available for the CB450 at this point. New old stock has run out and Honda quit making the stock filters long ago. These Uni-filters have to be oiled, and are more free-flowing than stock, but they allow us to retain the stock side covers. Thing is, stock jetting was out the window on this CB450 anyway, since the engine was mated to a vintage, race-style, 2-into1 exhaust. No Buck Rogers pipes for this 450! Robb did some calculations and adjusted the baffling in the exhaust to open it up a bit further and better match the intake. The result was significantly larger jetting, but once it was dialed in, the CB450 pulled like an ox from idle through the upper mid-range. Just what Robb intended.

Attention then turned to the bike’s suspension setup. The front forks came off the bike a good half-dozen times before Robb was satisfied with their dampening and rebound. To this day, Robb keeps his skunkworks suspension tuning formula under lock and key, but whatever he did, the result was incredible. The front end is stable, responsive, comfortable and completely well-behaved in all riding situations. The rear of the bike was fitted with brand new adjustable Progressive shocks and springs. With the pre-load dialed in, they’re absolutely perfect for my weight and the way I ride.

With the big stuff dialed in, Robb turned his attention to dialing in the CB450’s details. The brakes were fully overhauled and the front rotor drilled for better cooling and better bite. The kick start lever was swapped for a longer one from a CB550 for better leverage. The front fender is from a CB550 as well. So are the grips. Other borrowed components include CB500T valve covers (which feature cooling fins), foot pegs and even a few choice internal engine components. Leaving Honda behind, Robb opted for a Yamaha XS650 tail light. This, frankly, was an aesthetic master stroke. Every other light and many of the CB450’s other design details are circles. Why Honda opted for the ugly, rectangular brake light is beyond me. The size and shape of that Yamaha light looks like it was made for this bike. Sorry, Honda purists.

For all the inventive customizations made to this CB450, there was also a remarkable level of restraint shown in its details. Where so many projects scream “look at me!” from every detail, this bike aims to blend in a bit. Sporting original paint and more than a few well-aged parts showing the patina of their years, this bike rejects the fastidious nit picking of a Concourse restoration. Instead, Robb and Ryan have dubbed this style a “Rolling Patina Restoration.” The rear turn signals were tucked in, but not the fronts. This helped narrow the bike from front to rear — the implied teardrop of speed. Additionally, a custom Vinyl-Lux seat shaved inches off the stock Honda loaf. This really cleans up the lines of the CB450. Plenty of parts have scuffed edges and scratched chrome. We purposefully didn’t take the bike down to the frame and powdercoat it shiny. We didn’t pull every aluminum part and polish it to a mirror. This isn’t that kind of bike. It’s a runner, a rider and the kind of bike only the trained eye will fully appreciate. The anal retention was spent inside the engine and the front forks — in carefully mixing and matching just the right parts to make this bike all that it should be. Thus was also born her name: Adeline. It’s a play on words for all of Robb’s little adjustments. This bike was, in a hundred little ways, “outa line” and from that, she’s called Adeline.

So it should come as no surprise that I absolutely LOVE this machine. It’s as great to ride as it is to look at. The pull and growl of the engine challenges much larger bikes. The comfort and handling is 30 years ahead of its time. But perhaps my favorite thing about this motorcycle is just how much more it is than the sum of its parts. It’s that complete package of vintage charm, careful customization, and bespoke intention. This bike was built for me, and both the reality and the intention of that are what make it so special. The care taken, and the specificity of its setup make it so much more than any other CB450 ever could be. At least, as far as I’m concerned.