What makes a motorcycle special? Most of the time, it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with a spec sheet, or even how rare it is. When you love a bike with your heart more than your investment portfolio, it’s usually because of sentimental attachment. Maybe it’s your first bike, or maybe you got it from someone in your family. Maybe it belonged to your best friend, or a friend who moved away, or even someone who’s no longer in this world.
In all those cases, it’s the people and the personal attachments that make your bike special to you, not the make, model, how fast it is, or whether a million of them were made and sold around the world. For the woman who runs the Autumn Car Playing channel on YouTube, this 1989 Honda CG125 belonged to her dad. It’s the bike of her childhood, and the one that she remembers most of all.
Unfortunately, this CG125 not only sat for a long time, but was also seriously damaged in a fire. For those unfamiliar with the CG125, it’s a commuter motorbike sold in various markets around the world since 1976. In Europe, it’s usually classed as a learner bike, but in many Asian and Latin American countries, it’s just a simple, solid, everyday commuter. Although many of them may have been made, this is the one that belonged to ACP’s dad—and so, this is the one that she’s going to fix.
This timelapse video condenses a full series on the teardown and restoration of this bike into about 10 minutes. If you want to watch the whole thing, we’ll link the playlist in our Sources so you can see each chapter spaced out and not sped up so that it fits into such a short time span.
First, she pulls the engine and discovers that it’s quite sludgy inside once she takes it apart. There’s also plenty of wear on some parts, in addition to the usual things that would need to be replaced, such as gaskets. A full engine teardown is in order, so she gets to work pulling everything apart so she can properly clean it up and reassemble it with fresh, new parts as needed.
While plenty of folks make do with what they have when they’re doing work like this, it’s always much easier if you have access to the right equipment and tools when you need them. Luckily, ACP is working in an extremely well-appointed workshop, complete with a large ultrasonic cleaner that is able to handle all the engine parts she wants to clean, including the cases. (It’s a tiny little single-cylinder engine, sure, but that’s still a pretty big cleaner.)
Once the engine parts are nice and clean, it’s time to try mirror polishing the outside so that little thumper gleams like the gem she knows it is. Here, again, having good equipment seems to make the job much more straightforward than it might be if you have to improvise. (Don’t get me wrong; improvisation skills are incredibly handy, especially when you don’t grow up with the best tools, but it’s so much nicer to just have things work correctly and reliably.)
Then it’s time to put the engine back together, using new parts as necessary, tightening up and torquing things down as appropriate. Job done, it’s now time to tackle that burnt-out chassis and give it the attention it deserves.
Piece by piece, she takes it apart, removes the ruined paint, cleans up, primes, and repaints the frame. The spoked wheels come apart, get cleaned up, respoked, balanced, and fitted with nice new tires. When the project is complete, the humble, fire-damaged CG125 has been completely transformed into a sweet little café racer.
At the end, as ACP kickstarts it and it rumbles to life, the completely rebuilt engine and exhaust sound very good indeed. It’s the bike of her childhood, and now it’s been completely reborn after a fire—what more could you want?