Honda cafe racer built for a French Coast Guard rescue diver…
Yann Le Douche of BCKustoms (Breizh Coast Kustoms) has an enviable pedigree for a custom bike builder. In his long career, he’s worked as a race mechanic for Ducati France, a team manager for World Superbike, and a MotoGP journalist before catching the flat track bug during a trip to the Daytona some years ago. Recently, we featured his BMW F650 “Desert Runner” build, which was his 40th project in the last ten years — wow!
But, long before he was involved in the racing world, Yann was a helicopter mechanic in the French Navy.
“That was the place I really grew up, working with and for a sea rescue operations crew…”
Recently, a rescue diver fro the French Coast Guard came to him with this Honda CX500 Custom, which he wanted to convert into a cafe racer. In fact, he’d delayed the project five years due to the birth of his two children. Yann, who specializes in trackers, wouldn’t normally take on such a project…
“I wasn’t keen on building a cafe racer, especially with a CX500, because so many have already been done. What’s more, the design of the wheels, the frame rear loop, and the twin engine is not what I appreciate most.”
However, Yann connected with the owner’s background as a rescue diver, and he appreciated that the man had already spent so much time and thought on the design:
“I would never have built this kind of project without a real interest from the owner, who had already thought out most of the details during the five years he’s been waiting to move forward.”
As it turned out, the build would be both an unexpected challenge and unexpected joy. Upon tearing into the bike, they realized the previous workshop had made a mess of the engine and carbs, incorrectly mounting the water pump, damaging the pump shaft bearing, cracking the engine cover, and letting the carbs leak into the case.
However, Yann persevered, tracking down hard-to-find replacement parts, hammering out a new tail section from scratch, mounting a larger rear wheel, outfitting the bike with upgraded suspension, and more. Slowly, the bike’s nickname, “Unexpected,” came to mean more joys than sorrows…
“Unexpected because the bike, even if it’s too small for me, runs great now, handles well, and the owner now rides it as often as he can and doesn’t suffer any more problems. Looking from a few months back, this was just unexpected…”
What’s more, Yann had an unexpected amount of fun testing the bike, which brought back memories of riding the twisties on the sport bikes of his past…
“Unexpected again to have that much fun testing the bike. It took me back to years before, riding sport bikes on the twisty roads in the area.”
Below, we get the full story on this very “unexpected” CX500 from the Breizh Coast of France.
Honda CX500 Cafe Racer: Builder Interview
• Tell us a little about the history of this build and how it ties to your own life?
This project links two big parts of my professional life. First, I was a helicopter mechanic in the French Navy — that was the place I really grew up, working with a sea rescue operations crew — and my customer is actually a rescue diver for the French Coast Guard helicopter corps.
Second, my real joy is getting rid of all the street legal equipment to transform a commercial version into a racing motorcycle, which was my later professional experience in French Supersport and then the World Superbike Championships.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The original bike is a Honda CX500 Custom with its nice tank. The customer bought it from another custom motorcycle workshop nearly, complete with a fully rebuilt engine.
• Why was this bike built?
The owner wanted a cafe racer but had to delay his project for five years due to the arrival of his two kids.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I wasn’t keen on building a cafe racer, especially with a CX500, because so many have already been done. What’s more, the design of the wheels, the frame rear loop, and the twin engine is not what I appreciate most. And the budget didn’t allow for changing the wheels or modifying the rear frame section.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The rolling chassis had already been stripped down while the engine was rebuilt. So the main job was to hammer the tail from scratch and think about a nice exhaust — one that wouldn’t look like most we’ve seen.
An 18″ rear wheel replaced the OEM 16″ that comes with this custom version of the bike, and YSS Suspensions provided me a nice fully adjustable set of rear shocks which fit the project and made a great improvement when riding.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Why? Because I would never have built this kind of project without a real interest from the owner, who had already thought out most of the details during the five years he’s been waiting to move forward.
Unexpected because troubles started when the engine went back in the frame. That ‘”fully rebuilt” block had a dead ignition, rear engine cover wasn’t properly tightened and, once re-opened, could not be tightened because the water pump had been mounted incorrectly, damaging the pump shaft bearing, cracking the engine cover, with the pump grinding the engine case, water mixing with engine oil… Nice job!!
“Ultrasound carb cleaning” was supposedly done, but with the fuel leaking into the lower part of the engine, I understood it wasn’t properly done. Hi hi hi…
Unexpected because we had to find a new rear engine cover, new carbs, new ignition, new carb insulators…And some parts get hard to find on this engine.
Unexpected because the bike, even if it’s too small for me, runs great now, handles well, and the owner now rides it as often as he can and doesn’t suffer any more problems. Looking from a few months back, this was just unexpected…
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Despite the fact that we struggled to find the final parts to repair the engine, and Covid didn’t allow me to ride it as much, I managed to have over 120km done before leaving it to the owner.
The stock peg height doesn’t fit my 6 foot tall body, but the bars placed over the upper clamp allowed me to find some space to enjoy those rides. The owner is smaller and the bike really fits him and that’s the most important.
Unexpected again to have that much fun testing the bike. It took me back to years before, riding sport bikes on the twisty roads in the area. The new brake lines and new technology brake pads really help to slow this heavyweight bike, whose center of gravity remains really high.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The overall lines of the project and the paint scheme are exactly what had been planned and designed on the computer. The shape of the rear section is really the OEM tank shape, only smaller.
And, as the engine is seated so high in the frame, I had to fill up the empty space left underneath. So I had to draw, cut, weld and fix a new homemade stainless exhaust system which really helps the overall racing design of that project, even though I wasn’t allowed (for the first time) to add some number plates/racing numbers on this one.
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Youtube: Yann Le Douche
Flickr: Yann Le Douche / bckustoms
Special thanks to my sponsors:
Daytona 73: www.daytona73.com | @daytona73
Motul France: #motul
Noline France, cleaning wipes: @noline.france #phoenixinnovations
Moto Sélection Honda Quimper #motoselection
Makadam Kulture, Bike & Breizh event September 12th-13th 2020 #makadamkulture
Dezert Point, local skate and wear shop #dezertpointshop
Le St Mathieu, Beef bar and grill Quimper
Cap Enseignes – Stickers and advertising support – Chateaulin (Fr)