Small is currently very big. This was no more apparent than during Sunday’s wildly successful Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride as seen all around the world (and to which you can still donate!). Particularly at the city rides. It was clear that many folk had chosen to forgo the big-bore arms race, to take up a more Lilliputian lifestyle choice.
Be it due to regulation or just a change of scenery, small capacity singles and twins can be all you need in the city when the grind sets in. Threading something closer to 100kg than 200kg through the traffic is a revelation. Plus, they’re just so darn cute. Of course as a first stepping stone into the two-wheeled world, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go all out and make your bike your own.
As it was when a customer got in touch with Sussex based Reverb Motorcycles. With the client adamant he had no intention of taking his bike test it was the perfect project to pimp-out a learner-legal ride. The brief was delightfully open. Apart from the colour scheme which had to match his crash helmet, the client gave Reverb free rein to make ‘the sweetest little café racer out there’.
Finding a non-knackered donor for the right price was a little tricker however. Despite the prevalence of sub-125 machines, most have led a tired life. After looking at several ‘lemons’, a sweet little CG125 was found. However after stripping it down back at the workshop, reality presented itself and the frame ‘resembled a Black & Decker Workmate‘. The search continued.
Finally a sound, honest Honda CB125S1 from the mid 70’s was sourced. Chosen for it’s super-reliable and unstressed 122cc OHC single cylinder engine, the 9000rpm redline producing around 12bhp would give a bitesize cafe-racer experience to the new rider. Despite the low power, it only weighs 114kg as standard and by the time unnecessary weight was shed a light, nimble-handling machine with sprightly performance was left.
Of course, with the long, touchy-feely arm of the law looking of their shoulder, Reverb couldn’t breath on the motor. ‘L’ Plate rules are rules, after all. But with it’s diminutive dimensions, the name was easy: ‘The Tiddler’ was born.
Great care was taken in stripping, cleaning, refurbishing and saving any parts re-usable for the build. Mark at Reverb’s philosophy is simple. “It’s all too easy to loose the soul of a bike simply by bolting on random new parts . If something is fit for purpose or can be modified then we’d prefer to re-use everything possible.”
With the bare frame stripped, it was de-tabbed and additional tubing was added to the mid-triangle for strength. Out back the subframe was hooped and new rear set mounting lugs and indicator points were fabricated. Completely Tig welded and hand linished, the finished frame was sent off for blasting a some satin black powder coat.
The wheels received similar treatment. Happy with the original rim sizes but not the condition, only the hubs were retained. The refinished items were treated to new bearings and seals before being built up on chunky aluminium rims with stainless spokes.
To achieve that classic head-down, arse-up Café Racer riding position, the original bars and pegs were replaced with some more build-appropriate items. A set of Tomaselli Ace bars were adorned with a matching quick-action throttle and the original, refurbished switchgear. The riders feet now rest on custom rear sets. Hangers made from 15mm 631 steel support pressed steel cranks, Tarozzi control rods and one-off rear brake controls. It’s all ceramic coated in satin black for durability.
Of course, for the archetypal Café Racer look, it’s hard to beat the style of a defined bone line and solo seat hump. Thus the CB tank was given a new filler neck, TIG welded to accept a classic aluminium Monza filler cap. The seat was built up from a buck in 6mm fibreglass under which the new battery and wiring could be housed. A sliver of fluted, brown leather will let the rider know when it’s time to stop.
Special thanks need to go to the guys at Davida, who happily gave Reverb the paint codes to match their beautiful Ninety-2 ‘Two Tone Deluxe’ helmet. The simply luscious paint, comprised of too many coats to mention was finished with period Honda logo airbrushed detail.
Along with the new handmade loom, complete with electronic ignition, the engine was freshened to ensure all 12bhp were available upon request. A top-end rebuild and full service, built back upon crankcases which were stripped, blasted and painted gives the engine new life. Combined with a full carb rebuild and re-jet, the little OHC engine can once again hit the high notes.
With pitted chrome and rusted external springs, it was clear the front forks would require attention. Many, many hours spent searching the web and a few late nights chatting with some American contacts bore results. New OEM seals, external springs, caps, and gaiters were fitted to the rebuilt units. Combined with new Hagon shocks and some retro rubber ‘The Tiddler’ was ready hitch up it’s skirt and hit the town.
Of course this story has an inevitable ending. The customer loved the bike so much he couldn’t resist ordering another bigger, faster, louder bike so he promptly took his test, and passed. While this is great news for Reverb who are busy planning his next build, it also means The Tiddler is up for sale. So if you’re around 5’8” or under, not too bothered about brutish looks and horsepower, this might just be the bike for you.
As Mark says, “The end result shows that you don’t need a large motorcycle to join the Cafe Racer culture – even learners can enjoy it”.