The Honda CJ series was a stripped-down, less expensive offshoot of the better-known CB/CL series. For instance, the CJ360T featured a five-speed transmission instead of the six-speed box on the CB360, along with a front drum brake, no electric starter, and a few other differences that helped keep the original retail price below $1000. Actually, many riders of the time preferred the styling of the CJ360, which sported a 2-into-1 exhaust and different tail piece, and the bike offered better performance due to its lighter weight.
Enter Thomas Lambert of Germany, who left his well-paid job at a large automotive supplier to open his own custom workshop, Elemental Custom Cycles, whose motto we love:
“Life is too short to ride boring motorcycles.”
Amen, brother! The Honda CJ250 you see here arrived at the shop in very poor condition, as the previous owner had tried unsuccessfully to transform the bike into a cafe racer. On the good side, the bike had a rebuilt CJ360 engine, offering 34 horsepower and a broad torque curve — perfect for a small cafe build.
Below, we get the full story on the build, along with some lovely shots from photographer Christian Motzek.
Honda CJ360T Cafe Racer: In the Builder’s Words
My name is Thomas, I’m a mechanical engineer. In 2017 I quit my well-paid job at a big German automotive supplier to run my own small custom shop. Today I want to show my latest build to you, a Honda CJ250 with a rebuilt CJ360 engine.
The bike came in really poor condition, as the owner tried to build a cafe racer himself. After many tries and a lot of money wasted, he ended up asking my shop for help. It was obvious that he couldn’t bring the build to an end by himself. And if he ever made it work again, he wouldn’t really reach the result he was looking for.
The electronics and the line he choose were really poor. The rear shocks were totally worn and the forks were leaking. After a short look at the bike, several other things came up. But on the other hand, it had a rebuilt CJ360 engine.
As I really like the old cb/cj series, I could already imagine what kind of nice little machine I could build. With the picture of the right line in my mind, I stripped the bike, took a few photos and made some drafts in Photoshop.
I lowered the fork by an inch, put some clip-ons on and added a 6-inch headlamp.
The rear light is integrated into the rear cover, which is made from stainless steel sheet metal.
I really don’t like wrapped exhaust manifolds, so I built a new 2-into-1 stainless system. To meet the German TÜV regulations regarding noise, I shortened the stock silencer and decided to keep the stock intake system to avoid the money and time intensive noise measurements.
For older bikes, a pair of the Motogadget M Blaze disc front turn signals is sufficient.
The bike already came with an overhauled CJ360 engine, which didn’t run really well. So I overhauled the electronics and the carbs to bring back its original 34hp.
I added new rear shocks and the fork got a service for the perfect handling. I brushed the fork tubes, triple clamps and switches to give it a classic look. The frame was painted black.
Last step was to find the right color for the bike. To highlight the new lines, it got a one color paintjob with a metallic blue, which Audi used on a special series of their RS6 in 2017.
The bike is completed by a new black seat.
I hope you like the bike as much as I do.