Kyril Dambuleff has no barrow to push. He doesn’t run a workshop or sell parts or posters or scarves or t-shirts. He only builds motorcycles to keep himself happy and make the rest of us plonkers look bad. And he’s doing an admirable job of it with this exceptional 1972 Honda CB500 he’s dubbed ‘Bikini’.
The rivet counting brigade will be quick to point out that while the frame is from 1972 the engine itself comes from a 1976 CB550. And that’s how the bike started, with just an engine that had been rebuilt by Kyril from the ground up. ‘It sat on my workbench for months, taking up much needed space,’ he says. ‘I thought about displaying it somehow, perhaps in my office. But what could be better than an original frame?’
Well, not much. Unless it’s nestled in a bike trimmed to perfection like this beauty. So Kyril went about accumulating all the parts over the coming months – the frame, wheels, exhaust pipes, forks and tyres and all the other sundries that come from assembling a ground-up bike. But the focus was to remain the powerplant.
‘The idea was to showcase the engine and have all of it in complete and unobstructed view with nothing hidden,’ he explains. ‘Everything else had to conform accordingly. Hence the asymmetrical tank and all the other exposed components which shows what makes a motorcycle tick. It’s like one of those skeleton watches in which the maker has left only what’s essential and tried to reveal as much of what makes the watch tick as possible’
It’s a little like that, but Kyril has an alternate slant on the bike. ‘But I prefer to think of the bike as a tall, skinny, platinum blonde fashion model scantily clad in a sky blue bikini. Where everything is in full view except the little that is hidden and subject to the imagination. That’s where I got the name from.’ As much as I prefer the name ‘Blue Balls’ I’ll grant him that ‘Bikini’ has a much classier ring to it.
Kyril enlisted the help of Benjie’s Cafe Racers to wrap the metal around his wooden buck. That’s what she said. The finished tank slopes up hard on the right hand side to expose the spark plug leads and the coil. On the left it retains something close to the original lines but that completely asymmetrical design is certainly something I haven’t seen before.
It’s also interesting to note the finish used on the exhaust headers. It’s not polished stainless steel but Cerakote applied with a mirror finish. Cerakote is actually a polymer-ceramic coating that’s usually applied to firearms – often in camouflage or flat earthen colours. It’s a neat process that’s very heat and distortion resistant and should ensure a mirror-like finish for years.
Those headers were fitted to the rebuilt CB550 engine – and unlike the frame, and maybe like it’s bikini-model namesake, many of it’s best features aren’t visible. While the engine was blasted and polished the cylinder was bored out to 59mm and new Wiseco pistons installed. Compression was taken up to 10:1 and displacement is now 553cc’s.
And then it was time to fit it to the frame, which Kyril found to be the only part of the build frustrating. ‘Modifying the original tail section was easy,’ he says, ‘but grinding, filling and smoothing the original welds took a lot of time and effort and, in some cases, required tools that one would expect to find in a dentist’s office.’
All told the bike is an incredible twist on the traditional cafe racer – and like an original caff this one is considerably lighter than stock. Kyril’s target weight was 350 pounds (158kg) and with the antigravity battery, aluminum parts and tricky things like the adjustable foot peg positioner he nearly managed to hit that with the bike weighing in at 357lbs. ‘I think I could have hit 350,’ he explains, ‘but I had to replace the front single disc with a twin disc setup that was irresistible’.
Honestly, the whole damn bike is damn near irresistible!
[ Blacksquare Motorcycles | Photos by Kyril Dambuleff ]