The bike, the budget, the build; there is a lot to consider when it comes time to commence a one-off custom creation. But if you’re not absolutely sure about what you desire from the end result, then you can bet the budget is going to blow out. Thankfully for a Japanese bike fanatic who wanted a desirable machine that could be daily driven, he couldn’t have been in safer hands. Having sought out multi-award-winning builder Takashi Nihira of Wedge Motorcycle fame, the two came up with the perfect recipe for a very tasty treat. A 2014 Honda CB1100EX was wheeled into the Tokyo workshop and has emerged flawlessly finished, a show quality ride for the daily grind.
For Nihira-san, the CB1100EX makes a hell of a lot of sense as a donor for a custom, with its almost unbreakable mechanical package, his customers that select the big Honda will have for themselves a motorcycle they can always depend on. Having built one of the big CBs earlier in the year, the response was overwhelming and it gave the workshop a chance to understand the challenges of working with a fuel-injected CB, which requires some extra tweaking to keep utterly clean. But having perfected it the first time around, when that bike hit social media the phone was quickly ringing off the hook.
The modern CB1100 was first released to the public in 2010, as consumers were desperate for an air-cooled four-cylinder machine that gave the sort of look and riding experience of the famed first-generation CB750. Honda took the task of factoring in that nostalgia very seriously, with engineers riding old CBs from the 500 four all the way through to the incredible 1100R of the early ’80s, to remind themselves what made those machines so special. They nearly got it spot on, but for the 2014 model known as the Deluxe/EX, those same engineers took on customer feedback and made some tweaks, and added a much-needed sixth gear.
So, it is for this reason that Nihira-san very deliberately chooses the EX model, to ensure that his customers have the very best. Now having worked out the bike, the budget and the intended result, it was time for the CB to roll into the Wedge workshop and let the master go to work.
The absolutely enormous factory tank is the first to come off and then the remainder of the stock bodywork goes too. Then with no intention of keeping the huge two-up seat, the rear subframe is heavily chopped back, leaving just enough meat around the upper shock mounts. Still in fabrication mode, and the swingarm is modified to accept the bigger rubber to follow.
The whole chassis is then rolled into the shop’s famous paint booth and hit with a coat of chassis black. To get the bike rolling, a change of tyre was selected for the factory 18in spoked rims, and it’s clear that Nihira-san made a very deliberate choice to beef up the side profile of the motorcycle.
The factory 110/80 front is now 120/90 in size and the 140/70 gets a big 1.5in larger side profile, with a 130/90 Shinko tyre fitted. Now combine this with slightly lowered front forks clamped by beautifully refurbished triples, and a pair of progressively sprung dropped rear shocks, and you get a machine with a much tougher personality; just with some small, but clever tweaks.
With the perfect foundation in place, the custom handbuilt bodywork could be pieced together, and as always, it’s a masterclass in smooth lines and restraint. Pinched seam lines begone, the fuel tank is just a beautiful creation, drawing inspiration from all generations of the big CB, but in a smaller overall size, and with brilliantly flowing knee dents.
The flowing lines from the back of the tank are mirrored in the small rear cowl which is brimming with cafe racer inspiration. And there are no side covers for this build, just a hand-shaped seat pan and electrics tray to keep everything neat and tidy.
Just like the moderation Nihira-san shows with the bodywork, the paint is the same, with a simple solid green laid down to perfection, with black for the top of the tank and highlighted by a gold hand sprayed Wedge logo. Proving how seriously he takes his paint jobs, the rims have been sprayed in a grey metal colour, which helps to tie them in with the engine.
Speaking of that big, beautiful lump, not only has it been made to look like new, but some basic mods deliver a freight train like 100nm of torque. The airbox has been removed and replaced with K&N pod filters, and the exhaust now sees the individual header pipes flow rearward to a pair of brilliantly crafted stainless steel mufflers.
A hand stitched black leather seat gives the pilot the perfect place to sit, and the rest of the mods are about reducing mess and making the bike a pleasure to ride. The big instrument cluster has been tossed for a small gauge, and along with the change to a small headlight mounted tight to the forks, gives the front of the bike a much cleaner feel. A new set of bars have been bent up with less rise than standard, and then only the essentials are fitted with Nissin masters and a quality grip and lever combo.
A vintage taillight completes the build, a signature touch of many of Japan’s masters, and it’s hard not to be jealous of the guy who gets to complete his daily commute on this picture-perfect CB custom.
[ Wedge Motorcycle ]