CAL'S CALI CAFÉ

Cycle World - - News - By John Stein

A cus­tom Honda CB550 with some choice mod­i­fi­ca­tions makes its way to the Mo­togp pad­dock for a very spe­cial mo­ment with the LCR Honda team and Cal Crutchlow.

For most peo­ple, re­al­ity TV is lit­tle more than vi­car­i­ous en­ter­tain­ment. But for trans­planted Ir­ish­man Paul Crozier, the Cafe Racer pro­gram on Ve­loc­ity five years ago be­came pure in­spi­ra­tion. Af­ter see­ing one par­tic­u­lar episode, Crozier de­cided to craft a vin­tage cus­tom of his own—and then im­pres­sively fol­lowed through.

In his first ef­fort at bike build­ing, all Crozier wanted ini­tially was to up­grade a clas­sic Ja­panese bike with con­tem­po­rary parts that would al­low en­thu­si­as­tic track­day use. This vi­sion later evolved to im­bue the bike with a full LCR Honda rac­ing theme, since Crozier had got­ten to know team owner Lu­cio Cecchinello per­son­ally.

The bike started life as a 1976 Honda CB550 Four, to which Crozier added a 2009 Suzuki GSX-R600 front end fit­ted with Rhi­nomoto crash slid­ers. Curt Win­ter at BTR Moto per­formed frame mods to clean up ap­pear­ances and also added a rear frame loop and brack­ets for cus­tom rear-set con­trols. Cog­nito Moto turned out a bil­let front hub, and fit­ting 17-inch black Ex­cel rims let the bike ac­cept mod­ern Avon 3D Ul­tra Sport rub­ber, 120/60ZR front and 150/60ZR rear.

The swingarm re­tains its orig­i­nal length, but BTR Moto tri­an­gu­lated it with steel tub­ing, sim­i­lar to the early AMA Su­per­bikes’ flex fix. Af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced to Öh­lins sus­pen­sion im­porter Dan Kyle, Crozier had a pair of Öh­lins shocks for a twin-shock Kawasaki street­bike length­ened 10mm to match the ride height of the GSX-R fork.

Honda CB500 and CB550S from the ’70s are sweet-run­ning bikes but not pow­er­ful in stock form. To give his build some mus­cle, Crozier had the en­gine cylin­ders bored 3mm to achieve 605cc, had the crank­shaft light­ened by 3.75 pounds and bal­anced, added a mild street cam, ported the head, and fit­ted 26mm Kei­hin CR carbs. An open 4-into-1 Mo­togp style stain­less-steel ex­haust was spe­cially fab­ri­cated by BTR Moto. It fea­tures a laser-cut ex­haust screen and car­ries the dis­tinc­tive Ar­row logo plate, just like the LCR bikes. He also re­placed the stock ig­ni­tion with an op­ti­cally trig­gered sys­tem by C5 Ig­ni­tions. “Mag­netic pick­ups are an im­prove­ment over the old points sys­tems but can still be off by 5 to 7 de­grees,” Crozier says. “Op­ti­cal ig­ni­tions are much closer—1 to 3 de­grees.”

The fuel tank is a late 1960s Wards Mo­jave 360 steel unit—now con­sid­ered one of the hottest tanks for retro­bike builders—for which Crozier’s fa­ther-in-law, O’neal Dur­gin, cre­ated a match­ing seat base and tail­sec­tion in fiber­glass. The tail holds the bat­tery and elec­tron­ics, giv­ing an ex­tra-clean look to the mid­dle sec­tion of the bike, which orig­i­nally housed an air­box, bat­tery, and elec­tron­ics.

Fen­ders and head­light stays were fab­ri­cated in alu­minum by BTR Moto, grace­fully pat­terned af­ter the tank and tailsec- tion. For some ex­tra bling, Crozier added var­i­ous Ri­zoma com­po­nents, in­clud­ing a clutch lever, front master cylin­der, reser­voir, and brake lever with rac­ing guard, throt­tle and hand­grips, turn sig­nals and bar-end mir­rors, and swingarm spools.

The pièce de ré­sis­tance is the Lcr­pat­terned paint job by Owaga De­signs, white with the same ar­ray of spon­sor lo­gos as the Mo­togp bikes wear…plus CBR1000RR badges on the gas tank. “Although the build took years, a point came when I had to pick a color scheme,” Crozier ex­plains. “I thought, ‘LCR has been very kind to me over the years; why don’t I try to build a bike hon­or­ing the team and its spon­sors Ar­row, Ri­zoma, and Öh­lins?’ That’s how it evolved.”

As for the unique “LCRCAFE” California li­cense plate, Crozier or­dered that shortly af­ter start­ing the project. Although he didn’t con­nect it at the time, the plate fea­tures the ab­bre­vi­a­tion “CAL” (for California) in one cor­ner. This was met by a rather star­tled Cal Crutchlow when Crozier took the bike to the Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas (COTA) Mo­togp round in Texas in 2016, its com­ing-out party.

“Cal sat for pho­tos on the bike in full leathers,” Crozier grins. “He was freak­ing out. He said, ‘My name is on the plate! Is this a real li­cense plate?’”

While show­ing the bike to the LCR Team, Crozier got a sur­prise. “Lu­cio was in­spired and asked if it would start up,” he ex­plains. “It was fin­ished only a week be­fore COTA, and I was a ner­vous wreck be­cause we had wired the bike but never fired it. I kept think­ing, ‘Did I get the fir­ing order right?’ I said, ‘It’s wired but there’s no gas or oil in it.’ So we filled it with Cas­trol and pump gas and en­gaged the rear-wheel starter from Crutchlow’s race­bike!”

For­tu­nately, the Honda started im­me­di­ately (with the LCR and Rep­sol teams and even Marc Mar­quez’s dad look­ing on), its en­gine wail­ing through the open col­lec­tor just as Crozier had dreamed about four years prior. And in a happy nu­mer­i­cal co­in­ci­dence, both the four­cylin­der ma­chine and Crozier turned 40 years old last year, which was also the 20th an­niver­sary of the LCR Team. That’s a great re­sult for a first build and an even better re­demp­tion for an old CB550 Four.

TO GIVE HIS BUILD SOME MUS­CLE, CROZIER HAD THE EN­GINE CYLIN­DERS BORED.

LCR Cafe owner Paul Crozier (left) is with Cal Crutchlow and Curt Win­ter (who mod­i­fied the frame and swingarm) at Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas in Austin, Texas, pre­sent­ing the bike to the LCR team. Crutchlow's sig­na­ture adorns the hand­made fiber­glass tail­sec­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.