Roc City CB350
By Anthony van Someren - 30 Dec 13
Sean started Roc City Cycles back in 2005, making custom aluminium parts for other builders. He describes his shop as more of a studio than a factory, as Roc City are more concerned about developing high quality parts in-house than producing components in high volumes. Making parts for other people is fine, but as you might imagine, Sean also likes to spend a little time building things for himself. This CB350 was a basket case bought from a guy in Buffalo a few years ago for just $50. The previous owner had picked it up for his teenage boys to ride around their farm, but gave up on the bike when things started going wrong with it. He thought the transmission was cooked, but it turned out to just be a jammed gear shaft. "The bike sat in my shop for about two years when I got the idea to start building it into something cool, so lots of the parts were cleaned up, rebuilt, painted, etc. Then the shop and life got busy again and there it sat for another year. For some reason, this summer I had the idea to build something less "cafe" and more something I would like to ride with a retro inspired look and feel. Most of the bike lived in my head, I did some basic sketches but really didn't nail anything down hard until I started building it." "I really like to build parts that are made specifically for the bike I'm building, I hate to compromise and try to make an off the shelf part look appropriate, I'd rather just make my own so it works and looks right. Ultimately I'm happy if someone who doesn't know much about bikes just assumes the bike came that way from the factory. It makes it hard to stand out in a crowd, but I think there's more involved in subtlety than in loud customization." The front end is mostly stock but Sean still had plenty to modify. "I built an aluminum fender because the stock unit felt too long and bulky, the forks were rebuilt, along with the rim and brakes, then I moved on to the lighting. I used an off the shelf headlight but hated the way it looked with those off the shelf brackets, so I built the ears shown with stainless tube and flat sheet. I turned up and welded on some studs to clamp the blinkers to, because they really didn't seem right sticking out the side of the headlight like I see most of the time." Even the clip-ons had to be specifically built for the bike. "I carved up an aluminum pattern for what I wanted, and cast a set in 356 alloy in my shop. After machining the bores in the clipons, I machined stainless bars with an angle so they could be infinitely adjusted. After all that, I had to come up with a way to mount the speedometer, the only place I liked it required that I make a pattern from the old top tree and integrate a housing for the speedo, which I then cast in aluminum and machined." "The rear end was more straightforward. I didn't like how aftermarket brake lights sit on the fender, so I built a fender and integrated my own brake light housing into it, which also blends into the seat, I'm a bit OCD when it comes to building things." (yes, we spotted that, Sean, but it seems to work). "I welded on some studs for the rear turn signals and fabricated some add-ons to the rear frame to blend it into the fender and seat." "The tank and seat came directly from the picture of the bike in my head, I took about two days doodling the proportions of the seat and tank before I started bashing aluminum. I wanted to keep that old 60's British style that the 350 emulated but didn't really nail. Once the tank and seat were finished I stitched the toolbag with the leather I had left from the seat, this was based mostly on experience and a little on design. I never liked riding with a backpack and all of the cafe bikes I built or had ridden never thought of including a tool kit, which for bikes that require points adjustments every 200 miles, is inconvenient at best." Sean could have brought a set of Tarrozzi rearsets out of simple convenience, but by now he had embraced the challenge of making everything himself. Next up - the pipes. "I wanted a scrambler look, and set about welding up the pipes in stainless. I spent about a day working on the shallow curve of the pipes that go off to the mufflers, because straight shots really looked like crud, so I packed the tubes with sand and gently heated and bent them until I was happy with the curve. The mufflers were also made all by hand and are unique to the bike, I really wanted something small, nothing on the market really appealed to me, so I turned some end caps and welded them on to some aluminum tube, made some internal baffles and assembled both of the mufflers. The sound is pretty nice, perfect for riding a long way without being annoyed." After Sean got the bike together he did some test rides and was pretty happy with how things had turned out. At this point, Sean would normally just tear the bike down to rebuild the engine, and sandblast and paint the frame, but Sean saw this part of the build as another opportunity for some more bespoke creativity and upgrades. "I had been experimenting with boring cylinders in my old Bridgeport mill, and learned to do it pretty reliably, after hand honing with an old Lisle hone I got bores better than I ever got by farming the work out. I decided to order in some .25 over pistons and re-bore the block, the old bores had a little rust pitting which probably made the bike burn a little oil. The valves were also redone in my shop. I used my old Rockwell lathe and some second hand toolmaker magic to cut the faces, the seats were cut in with a nuway cutter set I bought a few years ago." Rebuilding the bike went smoothly. Sean plugged everything in and the bike fired up on the first kick. When we first saw this bike in the Bike Shed inbox, we assumed it was another simple but tasteful CB build, but the more we looked, and the more we read about the work that Sean had put into the bike, the more we realised how much had gone into making this a truly unique machine, as well as being a real head-turner. Great work Sean, and thanks for sharing with The Bike Shed. We look forward to seeing what Roc City Cafe do next.