From Bike Exif feature:
Quite a few wood-adorned bikes drop into our inbox these days, but few make it online. It’s an effect that can go so wrong, so easily—but if you can combine craftsmanship with restraint and good taste, the results are spectacular.
Iowa-based Mike Gustafson is a furniture designer by trade, so he knows his way around a block of wood. After hours, he builds motorcycles as Monnom Customs; this is his second build, and also the second to use wood.
His first was an electric blue Honda CB550 with a wooden seat, which landed on our Bikes of the Week list nearly a year ago. “I was not expecting the amount of attention that bike received,” Mike tells us.
“The wooden seat was a very polarizing option on that build. I originally made the seat out of scrap Cherry wood I had at my studio, because I couldn’t afford the $350 upholstery.”
Polarizing or not, the ‘M1’ garnered enough interest to land Mike two commissions. So for the ‘M2’—a 1973 Honda CB350 cafe racer—he decided to see just how far he could push the use of wood on a motorcycle.
This time around, Mike didn’t just shape the seat pan from wood—he built a full-blown Walnut fairing too. “Most of the furniture commissions I build have curved surfaces,” he says, “and I tend to utilize a lot of highly figured veneer.”
It took some experimenting to get there—especially when it came to mounting everything. “There were several challenges involved with getting the fairing mounted to the forks in a way that was not too visually distracting,” explains Mike, “and didn’t involve a ton of visible fasteners. I ended up making several simple brackets, welded to steel tubes that slide over the upper fork tubes.”
The solid Black Walnut seat was inset with racing seat foam to give the CB a proper race bike feel, and coated with a marine grade polyurethane in a soft satin sheen. Even the rear bump was shaped from wood, before being coated in an epoxy, and painted.
“Pushing the envelope of design and what is possible with any one material is always at the forefront of what I do,” says Mike. “But keeping a motorcycle functional, comfortable and fun to ride is sometimes an even bigger part of that challenge.”
Wooden touches aside, there was a fair bit of work to do on the rest of the bike. The donor had sat in a barn, untouched, for almost 25 years. It was in decent shape and had little over 5,000 miles on the clock, but it needed some love.
The motor was stripped and rebuilt, and fitted with an electronic ignition from Charlie’s Place, Dyna coils, a new Rick’s Motorsport Electrics charging system, a KA Slipper cam tensioner, and a brand new set of Mikuni VM30 carbs with Uni filters. Mike also fabricated new exhaust headers, capping them off with stainless steel mufflers from Cone Engineering.
The whole wiring system is new, running off an Antigravity battery and built as minimal as possible. And the wheels have been treated to fresh spokes and a set of Avon Roadriders.
Mike was after a planted look for the bike, so he fettled the stance by lowering the front forks, and added 2” longer shocks at the back. The swingarm’s also been extended by 3.5” and the frame shortened to drive the point home. Mike’s been experimenting with perforated steel as a way to both reinforce and dress up mods, so he used it here to stiffen the swing arm, and cap off the tail section and tank tunnel.
A stunning candy apple red was chosen to complement the Honda’s Walnut parts. It’s been shot over a silver metal flake, and treated to gold leafing and hand pin striping. The engine cases and fork lowers were cleaned, wet sanded by hand and polished to a high gloss finish.
“I couldn’t be happier with how the bike looks and feels,” says Mike. “All the elements came together in just the way I was hoping. It makes all those nights agonizing over the tiniest of details totally worth it.”