Creativity is such a wonderful thing, if you’ve got it in spades then you’re definitely one of life’s lucky people. Having a vision for what should go where and knowing how to put it there is arguably in the blood but practice really helps. The builder of this little Honda, Tim Cumper, is one of those clever and creative people, a model maker by day and shed tinkerer by night.
He’s prototyped and produced models from Action Man toys to vending machines for London Fashion Week, with consultancy work in-between. But it was a first bike and trips abroad that inspired Tim to take an already cool motorcycle, Honda’s FTR233, and give it an inspired makeover.
Tim told us “I bought my first motorbike when I was 16, a Kawasaki AE50, and things have grown from there. When I went travelling round Japan I was inspired by the custom bikes that I saw in the shops in the Ueno district in Tokyo – small capacity bikes with a unique style, obviously modified on a limited budget. Therefore the bike I chose for my project was an imported Honda FTR233. The proportions of the bike, the large 18inch wheels and simple air-cooled single cylinder engine ticked all the right boxes for me.”
“The main aim was to achieve a pared down, clean finish with unique design elements whilst ensuring that the bike remained road legal. Time wasn’t a factor as it was a hobby build but the money I had to spend on it was. I wanted to make use of all of my own skills rather than commissioning others to make parts for me. In the end, the only aspect I didn’t do myself was the anodising of the aluminium parts. Modelmaking has enabled me to develop excellent paint finishing and machining skills but I also learnt as I went along, mainly from my mistakes!” Tim is rather humble summarising this build, the machining alone would put some of the big pro-builders to shame.
The modifications started with a full strip down and de-lugging of the frame. A slim Yamaha FS1 perches neatly on the Honda’s spine and to maintain a narrow waist the battery box is mounted between the subframe rails. There’s just enough room in there for a new wiring harness and a lithium battery. With such diminutive proportions there was nowhere to for Tim to hide so anything less than the most fastidious of craftsmanship would stand out like a weld with the gas turned off.
“I designed and made all the bespoke parts myself – the headlight, rear light, indicators, saddle and underseat plastics. The headlight was machined from billet aluminum with a halo LED surround, machined over one Christmas break when the mill was quiet at work. I modified the original Honda master cylinder and mounted it under the tank. The master cylinder is connected via a cable to the front brake lever. This helped to declutter the handlebar area. The speedo cable pick up is taken from the rear wheel which also reduces the number of cables around the front end. No shit Tim, this is one of the tidiest bikes we’ve seen, full stop.
Thankfully the good people at Motogadget provided a little respite in the form of their M-unit which made Tim’s rewire a touch less laborious, a first effort at fully re-wiring an entire bike from scratch. Another challenge was the seat, which ended up being hand stitched, yes, those straight lines you can just see in these photos aren’t thanks to a sewing machine.
The FTR rolls on 18s and left the factory on Dunlop tracker rubber and a fresh pair of K180s set the build off perfectly. We’re flat track obsessives here in the ‘Shed and get a bit carried away at the sight of those little trapezoidal knobs, tiny tanks and waif-like proportions but Tim’s design is more considered and he’s steered clear of the obvious cues. But that wasn’t without it’s pitfalls “My biggest mistake was taking too long to complete the build. As your tastes and style change, so does the bike – I would definitely recommend creating a design and sticking to it!”
“For my first attempt I’m pretty happy with the overall design and finish. I’m particularly pleased with the Honda logo fuel tap I machined, which came out really well. There are always areas you could improve on, can a custom bike ever really be finished?” No Tim, finished is either a dirty word uttered when a deadline has become too close for comfort or something the uninitiated foolishly strive for. Awaiting further improvements or in-between upgrades are a couple of phrases you may borrow.
“It’s a super light bike at only 100kg and with a small engine makes for a great city bike. The geometry is unchanged so it handles as the clever Honda engineers planned and the sound from the straight-through exhaust is pleasant without being too offensive.”
Honda made a pretty decent stab at flattracker (hence the FTR moniker) aesthetics some three decades ago but Tim has succeeded in not only harnessing that classic character but has broadsided stylishly into the present, if not just over the horizon and into the future. Absolutely cracking job Tim, we reckon you’ve got some seriously exciting builds in that creative mind, now please hurry up and finish the next build.