The first attempt at customising a motorcycle for most of us results in a bike that is at best average and at worst an unrideable prop, for sale online as a ‘90% complete project’. But when your maiden step into modifying results in a motorcycle that literally lights up social media, it can be a hard act to follow. But Thomas Manno had all the motivation he needed, with his beloved brother’s 30th birthday on the way, he knew the very best present he could give him would be a complete custom bike. So, into his Mile Zero Racers garage he went and he’s emerged with another sensation, a 1974 Honda CB450 that truly captures the best of current and classic, cafe racer cool.

The first custom of Thomas’s career was a stunning mid-’70s Honda CB750, that just like this very build, blended both traditional elements and his own unique modern touches. He got the balance right on the money and it definitely tapped into a deep well of desire, as the bike seemed to be all over Instagram upon its release. And it was during this time that his brother had a surprise, “Originally, while I was building my CB750, my brother bought me this 450 when I turned 21. Well, about 2 and a half years later I gifted the bike back to him for his 30th, fully built,” Thomas smiles.

Now that is the kind of sibling we could all use. And wanting to share his passion for classic Hondas, the build of this CB450 has been captured in a full-length series on Youtube, but purist beware, this old Honda was in pretty good original condition when it started to get pulled apart. Having said that, these weren’t ever the most expensive bikes in their day and the wiring looked very second-rate, there was plenty of surface rust and corrosion and you really never know just how good a fifty-year-old engine is going to be. So for me, that’s a green light to start ripping things apart and that’s exactly what Thomas did.

The chassis has undergone some serious upgrades, but first, the engine was pulled from the frame, and a clever engine stand was made to not only store the engine on but allow excellent access for when its turn for customisation would come. From here Thomas spun up his grinder and started to chop off all of the unnecessary brackets and tabs, before cutting into the rear posts to smoothen them out. The back end of the subframe was the next to go, with some clever cuts made to ensure the installation of the rear hoop would not only be seamless, but as strong as possible. To make the next big step, Thomas reached out to BJ over at Brick House Builds, to bring his idea to life.

That was to convert the CB450 to a mono-shock, and more importantly, to do it properly. BJ fabricated one of his brilliant kits and it comes with all of the required hardware to make the conversion possible, including the highly engineered centre post that is adjustable to ensure the geometry can be dialled in, especially when properly setting the shock up for the rider’s weight. Thomas was keen to emphasise how important it is for young builders like himself to reach out for help, particularly with such important parts where safety is on the line. All welded, bolted together and with the frame blacked out, it looks absolutely brilliant too!

The front end hasn’t missed out either, with a full GSXR fork conversion with custom hub and trees, which delivers brilliant handling in conjunction with the rear-end conversion, and has the benefit of bringing to the party the beefy brake setup. The hubs are both finished to perfection, and then to get the bike rolling, a set of Warp 9 Elite rims are laced up and wrapped in Bridgestone rubber. The looks too would not just be bolt-on bits, but custom fabricated to truly create the one-off look, and the first step in achieving that was making a CB200 tank fit over the frame. Thomas made all new mounts for the frame and then welded on the corresponding pieces to the tunnel.

The underbelly is a signature piece now for Mile Zero Racers, and Thomas has used them on both his Hondas to create a truly unique visual character. The front fender is a super neat blade-style piece, but it’s the mounts that steal the show in this area of the build. The final pieces of bodywork were first made from clay, before finally being realised in carbon fibre, and the custom rear seat cowl and headlight bucket not only look a million dollars but show what a talent Thomas already is. A Monza-styled filler cap gives the tank a racy edge, while the seat is trimmed to perfection and the paint pops off the page!

The original wiring might have been crap, but the full new loom is flawless and has been pieced together using many of the best bits from The Moto Works catalogue. The entire cockpit is a rider’s paradise, clip-ons that fall easily to the hand, all of the parts you need and nothing you don’t, and a quality set of rearsets to get really tucked in.

And being in that racer-like position, you need the soundtrack to match, and the in-house built exhaust not only delivers a sweet song but looks bloody good doing it next to that highly detailed engine. You can only imagine how happy Thomas’ brother was to receive his custom CB creation, and Mile Zero Racers is now hitting the ton two times over and the future is truly in excellent hands.

[ Mile Zero Racers ]