I’ve bought this bike sight unseen around 4 years ago from Noha a Hippie living in a horse farm on a mountain 50km away from the nearest town of Tabulam NSW and it was by all meaning a farm bike! A very complete and running 1990 Honda CD250U but rough as guts .. seat have been chewed by horses, broken and taped up lightings, pipes were badly squashed, rims where dinted, all the plastic sunburnt, locked up shocks.. basically everything was there but it was all out of service limits or damaged, engine was a bit smoky, noisy camchain, probably serviced with olive oil and wd-40, but still a good base, healthy chassis and also I’ve already committed to a very long trip actually OVER 1000ks were driven to finally take her home to Brisbane, a first attempt was made without paying attention to Noha’s directions and relying only on gps, very poor decision due to the loss of the gps signal halfway to destination. second time after following old mate’s directions for 200ks I found myself driving on a dusty and rocky unpaved mountain road for about 30ks, then I had to cross a creek and when I found a massive mud puddle I knew I would never get out of, I decided to run the last 2 ks to get to the farm. Once I’ve got the bike I rode it back to the van with no helmet and a flat tire, then loaded it up and back to brisbane. Took me 7 hours to get home because on the highway near the goldcoast my Van did overheat and died.
I did resuscitated it and died again several times but finally made it home with several stops but it costed the complete cylinder head. All I knew was that I had to build the best bike possible out of the piece of s..teel just to pay at least part of all this effort back!
Why this bike?
Without going full Vintage, the cd250u is the best 250 around, super reliable engine, low and light, with factory 17″ spoke wheels and a very narrow frame,
My initial aim was to build it for my wife and call it BV250 which stands for Blonde Venus, a tiny cafe racer named her which always asked me to dedicate her a build.
Project subsequently changed due to the plan to move back to Italy where we both come from, for a peace of mind we decided that her bike will be built over there when overseas relocation and fresh start will be over, and once finished it will sit either in our living room or in my shop. So back to the inspiration I’ve already started shaping the bike in a tiny slim cafe racer and in one of those evening staring at the bike and thinking how to repurpose the project I came up with the name Motoleggera, which was once a proper lightweight category of bikes now obsolete and also a very bicycle lookalike 65cc motoguzzi, but in my mind this name recalls the smell of burning oil, skinny tyres, black leathers and silly open faces helmets with goggles, the early days of Grand Prix racing!
When I’ve started working on this bike (nearly 5 years ago) I was of course lucky enough to have experience as motorcycle mechanic, but had absolutely NO idea how to weld, didn’t have a lathe or any other panel beating tools or knowledhes at all, but I was definitely keen on transferring that vision I had into a motorcycle so I’ve bought an alluminium sheet, some steel and when I’ve realised that angle grinder, bench vice and and a hammer where’nt enough to get started with fabrications so I started documenting myself.
I went to a beginners panel beating course to have a better understanding on what were the tools involved and the skilles I woulkd need to learn, then purchased a few specific tools and started abusing them.
Trust me if I say that many attempt were made, I’ve fuckedup and binned half of the material I’ve bought, But in the end I’ve managed to build and modify pretty much the whole lot myself..
LET’S GET INTO THE DETAILS:
MOTOLEGGERA is a early gp bike tribute but not a faithful replica or period correct racer so it’s a 90’s japanese bike with a 60’s italian looking colour scheme and naked to show the shiny engine. the main feature are simplicity and performance so minimize weight, ditch the unnecessary, improve power and handling, polish everything alluminium all topped with a skinny long tank and custom alluminium seat. fully garage build!
The bike quickly got pulled apart, ditched all the original ugly parts, engine off and down to a bare frame all carefully labelled and boxed
The engine has been completely stripped and vapour blasted which it will give it a nice cklean finish and also improve heat dissipation, all the side and rocker covers have been mirror polished
Every component have been patiently cleaned, checked and replaced with new genuine parts like pistons, rings, all the crank and gearbox bearing and seals, camchain, valve seats cut, clean ports from imperfections and give it a better compression rate by shaving the cylinder head, the carbies fully rebuilt balanced and tuned to allow pod filters and the newly designed twin independent exhaust to work nicely
During the building process I came across a similar, older Honda parallel twin wreck to steal some components like the complete clutch cover and kickstart unit, after adopting different solutions for clutch actuators, clutch plates and bearings I could fit the lot and remove starter motor and everything else related to it, even if a push start bike would have been way more race correct I don’t have to win any world title with it so why complicate my life so much?
this wreck also had a very similar front end with drum brake, (which I’ve always been a big fan of..) and it was nearly a perfect swap, but even if motoleggera wouldn’t require massive brakes, the small dimensions of the donor bike’s front unit made me stick to the original disc solution, upgraded with braided line, syntered pads and new master cylinder genuine Honda inner components.
I’ve been very lucky with the wheels, nothing nice was available in the sizes needed, then found a NOS set of alluminium DID smooth rims coming from japan which I’ve laced using stronger stainless steel spokes to the restored and mirror polished standard hubs and fitted with soft compound pirelli supercorsa sc1 rubbers 110-17 at the front and 140 -17 rear,
Upgraded suspensions for this bike aren’t something you find off the shelf, so the front have been rebuilt with all new component, different viscosity oil and add teflon spacer that I’ve turned on the lathe on top of the stock springs. for the rear I’ve used a pair of showa shocks off a modern cb400 which I had rechromed and rebuild from a suspension shop to suit the different weight ratio.
The riding position have seen some major changes. the longer tank forces the seat towards the back, clip ons under the top yoke and rear set were a must anyway, so a nice set of classic steel clipons bar and alluminium foldable pegs were found in europe, but I had to come up with a custom solution for the rear set, so thanks to a mate who gave me access to his workshop I’ve machined cut and weld some steel round bar and pipes into two triangle which works as footpegs brackets and pipes holder, very simple but effective.
The tank has been bought online, some sort of cafe racer replica, i had to modify all the mounting points, relocate the fuel tap and had a the guys from port&hide to made a custom leather strap with “Motoleggera” laser cut onto it for a classy touch
The ducktail is fully hand made out of 5 pieces 2mm alluminium sheet, a long work of hammer and english wheel for the back section and I clearly remember using a jigsaw to cut all the sides and seat base, such a messy way to do it! noise and vibration were the last of the problem.. hot alluminium bits flying everywhere, blade getting stucked and heavy marks left at every passage, never again! the seat, is definitely not comfortable but since when race bikes need to be comfortable? so a 20mm neoprene sheet has been used as upholstery and glued to the tail
Chassis has been lightened from useless brackets, shortened and modified to suit the hand shaped aluminium tail
most of the electricals have been removed, whatt’s left of the wiring loom is hidden under the tank, regulator in under the seat, having no need for cranking power the Battery was downsized to a mini antigravity unit and secured with a custom tray in a very tight spot between the back of the chassis and swingarm, on the bars there’s only a momentary run off switch next to the quick action throttle assembly.
A mini speedo is the only instrument present on the top clamp, held by a bracket ive made using 3.2mm stainless tig filler rods, I’ve first rolled a ring and slid the gauge in, then bent a frame around the two original dash mounts and welded it to the ring, a very solid and minimal assembly.
All these mods dropped the the original dry weight figure from 135 kg to only 99!
I rode it at lakeside track and it’s heaps of fun, not really fast being what it is, (struggles to get over 140kph) but gives its absolute best when comes to cornering.
The bike in occasion to the 2019 Distinguished Gentleman’s ride has being made road legal by adding lights and a numberplate holder, gets ridden regularly on mountain roads rigorously in full race leathers showing some of those big ccs riders how to drag the knee on the corners!