Slipstream Creations builds a sweet CB for a SoCal native…
Available from 1973-1985 in the US, the Honda CB125 featured a 122-124cc single-cylinder SOHC engine that put out 12 horsepower at 9000 rpm. Weighing in at just 187 pounds dry, the little CB managed to win over even the jaded test riders of Cycle magazine:
“When was the last time you were engaged in a contest of speed and didn’t have to worry about getting a ticket? Heck, on the Honda 125 every stoplight is a drag race and the competition is in Honda cars and Volkswagen buses and Buick sedans…. Because the performance is so modest, the 125 tends to be ridden flat out, all the time. People who usually refrain from such practices found themselves powershifting into second gear to pop the front wheel in the air…” —Cycle, 1979
Enter Natalia Ikemiya, a California native who’s been interested in motorcycles since her childhood, when she used to hop aboard a non-running minibike her dad had in the backyard and pretend to ride.
“I also think growing up in the 80s in Southern California you’re surrounded by the culture of surf, skate, dirt bikes, etc. and it definitely resonated with me, but being a girl back then you didn’t see other girls/women doing these things. It was rare. And then being Asian-American you REALLY didn’t see it. I never thought about that until I was much older.”
However, as soon as Natalia was out of school and got her first job, she bought a new Honda CRF150 dirt bike. Several years later, her husband brought up the idea of getting her one of the new Honda Monkeys for her birthday.
“As much as I liked the idea of a brand new, fuel-injected, electric-start bike with ABS, I loved the idea of building up an older bike and working with a builder to make it something unique. “
When most of the LA-based workshops proved unresponsive to her inquiries (it was the beginning of the pandemic), Natalia stumbled across the work of our friend James Fawcett of Missouri’s Slipstream Creations, several of whose builds we’ve featured on the blog. It proved a great match despite the physical distance, and soon the design process was in full swing.
“I just wanted it to look fun, like something that reminded me of why I loved motorcycles in the first place. Simple, straight-forward and fun.”
It would be hard to think of a better builder to carry out such a project, as Slipstream Creations consistently turns out some of the cleanest, most well-sorted machines we have the privilege to see. Part of that can be attributed James’s build philosophy, which focuses on what he calls…
“All the little, big details.”
They decided on a city scrambler, a lightweight vintage bike with modern touches that Natalia could use to ride locally and also take on an off-road venture from time to time. Says James:
“If we put function before form, the idea was that it would be a great bike for coffee runs and rides around town, but also the occasional dirt road or trail.”
The customization was quite extensive, including a set of CB360T forks and disc brake, lengthened and stiffened swingarm, 18-inch rear wheel, custom subframe and skidplate, 12-volt electrical conversion, LED lighting, and lots of brackets, fender mounts, and a custom battery tray featuring a small nickel metal hydride battery pack. As for the paint, Natalia spent a lot of time working out the colors and design:
“I wanted to keep the Honda color theme of red and some vintage 70s/80s feel to it that felt modern too.”
And we especially love the grips and seat:
“The Van gum grips and matching seat were an ode to my So Cal roots. I also have Van gum grips on my mountain bike ☺️.”
When asked what part of the build makes him most proud, James characteristically focuses on the cohesiveness of the whole package:
“With all of my work, I think if a single feature stood out above the rest, I would have missed the target. It’s really how everything fits together that matters…”
And work it does, a Missouri-built machine making smiles all the way out in LA. Says Natalia:
“It definitely gets a lot of looks and attention when I park it, people love asking about it and I notice they usually have a big smile when they see it.”
Below, we get the full story on the build from both the owner, Natalia, and builder, James Fawcett. Enjoy!
Honda CB125: Rider/Owner Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself and your history with motorcycles.
Since I was fairly young I was always interested in motorcycles, bikes, really anything with wheels. My dad had an old mini bike in the backyard that didn’t run. It just sat up against the wall and I would sit on it and pretend to ride. I think that might have planted the seed with motorcycles. It just looked fun.
I also think growing up in the 80s in Southern California you’re surrounded by the culture of surf, skate, dirt bikes, etc. and it definitely resonated with me, but being a girl back then you didn’t see other girls/women doing these things. It was rare. And then being Asian-American you REALLY didn’t see it. I never thought about that until I was much older.
When I graduated from college and got my first job, I was about 22 and the first thing I bought was a new 2003 Honda CRF150. I eventually sold that a few years later.
• How did you find Slipstream Creations for your build?
When my husband said he wanted to get me a Honda Money for my birthday, I started down a rabbit hole of motorcycle research. As much as I liked the idea of a brand new, fuel-injected, electric-start bike with ABS, I loved the idea of building up an older bike and working with a builder to make it something unique. I first started calling a few shops in LA and for whatever reason they didn’t seem interested. It was also a few months into the pandemic and some shops weren’t even open. I started looking online and found a bike that he did and loved everything about it. It was clean, not fussy or flashy and beautiful. I saw that he was in Missouri and wasn’t sure how it could work with me being in California, but figured it may just work out. After a few email exchanges and a call, I felt confident he was the right fit.
• Did you have a vision or specific inspiration for the bike?
The overall vision was a vintage bike with some modern touches, but the aesthetics evolved over time. I knew I wanted something that looked like a cross between a dirt bike, scrambler, tracker and a bit of café racer. I just wanted it to look fun, like something that reminded me of why I loved motorcycles in the first place. Simple, straight-forward and fun.
At the time (and still) I really had no knowledge of all the types of bikes out there, so it was just looking at elements of various bikes I liked. Being a shorter rider, I didn’t want it to look like a toy but also not something too large and out of scale.
I played around with tons of different paint/seat options in Illustrator but eventually settled on the tank you see in the photos. I wanted to keep the Honda color theme of red and some vintage 70s/80s feel to it that felt modern too. I picked out the colors from an RAL deck and Prismatic Paint samples I had in my office. The red is called Tomato Red, and James made some samples of the two colors and shipped them to me to make sure I was good with the selections. The Van gum grips and matching seat were an ode to my So Cal roots. I also have Van gum grips on my mountain bike ☺️.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
I had a funny name I thought was clever but I can’t remember!
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
It’s super fun. It works for me because being only 125cc it’s manageable and I only use it for riding around locally. It’s got the sound of a vintage bike and I still have to kick-start it but I love that aspect of it. I have yet to take it on some dirt but when I get more comfortable I’ll find some local spots to take it out on.
It definitely gets a lot of looks and attention when I park it, people love asking about it and I notice they usually have a big smile when they see it.
Honda CB125: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1973 Honda CB125.
• Why was this bike built?
This bike was a customer project. She had been looking at the new retro Honda Monkey, or other bikes that might be a good fit when she came across some of our builds online. Natalia reached out and we talked through a few ideas. I just happened to have a complete, but completely disassembled CB125 in boxes in storage.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
This bike was very much a city scrambler. If we put function before form, the idea was that it would be a great bike for coffee runs and rides around town, but also the occasional dirt road or trail. Aside from how she intended to ride the bike, there was the obvious aesthetic ideas that Natalia and I both had – clean and tidy, a more muscular feel than a stock CB125. We also wanted to be sure to account for her shorter height as a rider, so keeping things proportioned right for her was a big factor.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
We really got into the weeds on customizations to this bike. To accommodate fat dual sport tires, we fitted a complete CB360T fork, complete with disc brake. We also lengthened and stiffened the stock swingarm to make room for an 18″ rim and large rear tire. A custom subframe was also fabricated to clean up the lines of the bike and provide a comfortable seat height. Metal fabrication was rounded out with custom headlight and speedometer brackets, a custom battery tray, front and rear fenders and mounts, and a custom skid plate.
The bike’s original 6-volt electrical system was upgraded to 12-volts, and all of the lights were fitted with LED’s. Being kick-start only from the factory, we were able to utilize a small nickel metal hydride battery pack to power the lights when the charging system output dips during idle.
We made a custom seat pan and upholstered the seat to match the Van’s gum rubber grips. That color worked great with the red and white custom paint on the original tank.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
With all of my work, I think if a single feature stood out above the rest, I would have missed the target. It’s really how everything fits together that matters, and how the design theme, the craftsmanship, and the attention to detail all come together to make a really beautiful and cohesive package. That’s what we’re always aiming for, and I think we managed to do that here.
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