As anyone who has ever customised a bike will tell you, the unavoidable and omnipresent ‘money versus dreams’ equation is a hard one to crack. There’s what you want to do, and then there’s what you can afford to do. Most mere mortals and their bank accounts would run for the hills at the mention of a customised swingarm and all the expense, fiddling and testing that comes with it. But not Washington’s Alex Sailer. He grabbed his dream by the horns and asked Viginia’s Cognito Moto to spare no expense. The result is a Honda CB350 that spares no coolness, and an owner that now has no spare time thanks to his newfound biking obsession.
The bike started life in Japan as a ‘69 CB350 before it found its current owner, Alex. He rode the bike in stock form for a while, but deep down he says he always wanted to do something custom to it. Then he stumbled across Cognito Moto’s CB550 build and was instantly hooked. And as Alex is located right outside of Washington DC and Cognito Moto is located in nearby Richmond, he reached out to talk about customising the bike. Smart guy.
Devin Henriques, the owner of Cognito Moto, welcomed the challenge and started shooting the poop with Alex to decide what direction to go in. Cognito is known for their modern sportsbike front-ends on vintage motorcycles, so it was no surprise when a USD front end was the first piece of the puzzle to be solved. It was sourced from a ‘06 GSX-R750 and was tied to the frame with a custom Cognito Moto stem pressed into the factory Suzuki bottom clamp. It was then finished with another custom billet top clamp and a Motogadget Motoscope Mini that’s been machined right into the surface. Nice.
Along with the Motoscope Mini, there are a plethora of other modern electronic goodies adorning the build. The wiring is all tied into a Motogadget M-Unit and powered by a Shorai 8-cell battery hidden under the tank. The ignition has been upgraded with Probe Engineering’s single-fire system as well as dual Dyna coils and a HotShot charging system. To round off the sweet electronics show, a set of Motogadget push button switches have been strapped to the Woodcraft clip-ons.
Riffing with the modern theme up front, Alex and Devin decided to swap out the rear of the bike as well. After much thinking, a Ducati Monster S4R single sided swing arm was chosen to match the tubular frame. That, and the fact that the Duke arms look so damn cool. With all the added suspension components, they both knew frame modifications would be in order to increase structural rigidity. The original factory spine was removed and replaced with 2½” mandrel-bent tubing. Then the newly designed rear frame was tied directly to the backbone to accommodate the original S4R strut linkage system. With all the hard work done, a Cognito Moto LED brake light loop and a custom upholstered seat were used to wrap up the rear end.
Due to the wider rear wheel, the clutch actuator was upgraded from a cable to a hydraulic system in order to clear the offset front sprocket. They decided to stick with the Marchesini rear wheel from the Ducati, but they also knew that they didn’t want to run mismatched wheels. So a matching Marchesini front wheel was adapted to the GSX-R front end by using a set of Ducati brake rotors and spacing out the calipers to accommodate the larger rotors.
And lastly, the motor. It ran great before the tear down, so the boys focused on rebuilding the top-end to replace the worn-out chain tensioner as well as all the other usual odds and ends that would need replacing. Then a set of new 30mm Mikuni’s and a custom slash-cut exhaust were used to round out the motor and to give it a little bit more bite.
Then end result? A bike that wears its ‘less is more’ aesthetic like a Samurai wears his sword. It’s modern. It’s retro. It’s café. It’s street fighter. But most of all, it’s damn cool.