"I don't like Cafe imitations, they are gay as fuck and uglier than hell. Only a '50s or '60s Brit bike can be a real cafe racer and they even still look like they have a dildo butt plug built into the seat."
Don’t let Ray Fitzpatrick’s coarseness or Brooklyn accent fool you. He’s a genuinely nice guy that’s been riding motorcycles as everyday transportation for longer than I’ve been alive. He’s got the scars and road rash to prove it too. For decades, he rode without a license, but two years ago he forked over the $21,000 in fines and fees to get it back. A Honda mechanic by trade, this is his very special CBX.
Ray makes a living wrenching on bikes in his Studio City garage. Guys like him are a rare breed these days. Ray specializes in '79-83 twin-cam Hondas, but he'll work on any Japanese bike if you ask. He's been a die-hard Honda guy for a long time and his current personal bikes are a CL350 scrambler, VFR1200 and a ‘79 CBX. That CBX is a long way from stock and pretty damn interesting, especially when compared to the endless sea of '70s Honda motorcycles sporting clubman bars and bullet seats that pass as "cafe racers" these days.
Now about that bike: immediately obvious is the fact that this is not your average CBX. This is a motorcycle meant to be ridden often and hard and after a recent gearing change, the 600-pound behemoth does effortless power wheelies.
F2 CBR wheels and forks bolt to CB900F triples that have been machined from 39mm to 41mm round out the front end. Look past the steering head and you'll find a freshly painted tank, Corbin seat, blacked out motor from an '81, carbs from an '80, an unobtainium Schule 6-1 pipe, trick ignition and an alternator from a ZX-7. There's also an oil cooler and a steering stabilizer mounted to a very functional piece of angle iron. Nothing can prepare you for the sound the six-cylinder engine makes. At idle it's just as smooth as a modern fuel injected machine, but with the throttle held wide open and the revs up, not even a MotoGP bike sounds as high-pitched and aggressive. The closest thing I can think of is a V12 F1 car.
Out back an aluminum JMC swingarm replaces the wet noodle stamped steel factory unit. Nitrogen charged Works Performance shocks handle damping duties, and the whole thing is supported by an F3 CBR wheel.
Less obvious are all the subtle aesthetic and day-to-day usability changes. The factory CBX dash "looks like Mickey Mouse's head" so Ray swapped in one from a '79 CB750F (the last year before the gov' mandated 85 mph speedo). He mounted the GL1200 clock in a Summit Racing housing and bolted it to the old choke knob location on the triple clamps from a CB900F. Keen eyed readers will also note that there are turn signals and a monster horn present. I can't help but think that this bike is a lot like the Johnny Cash song "One Piece at a Time."
This CBX is simultaneously an over-the-top build with a ton of expensive parts and time consuming labor, yet also a perfectly usable motorcycle. With the exception of the steering stabilizer mount, the bike is extremely well finished. The re-purposed factory Honda parts play a big part in creating a polished overall look. The modern suspension, sportsbike rubber and perfectly-tuned motor mean serious capability both in traffic and on canyon roads.
Ray's riding style has changed quite a bit in the last couple years. Chalk it up to getting older and wiser, but he tells me that the CBX can still "drag pegs, knees and case guards." I've seen him ride and I believe him. The motor is internally stock and for good reason: back when he rode less like an old guy that knows better and more like a knee dragging speed demon, he had another bike.
Honda never sold the CB1100R in America, but that didn't stop Ray from building his own old-school superbike once upon a time, complete with pro-link rear suspension, modern forks and brakes, and ultra-sticky rubber. Ray rode the 1100 for a few years but decided to part it out after bad knees made him rethink his rearset positioning. Worthy of a feature in its own right, this bike is long gone but the 1123cc 130rwhp monster of a motor is still lurking in a dark corner of his garage.