The Honda FTR223, introduced in 2002, is a dirt track-inspired production bike popular in the Japanese Domestic Market — an interesting mashup of utilitarian commuter and flat tracker. The bike sports twin 18-inch wheels with flat track-style rubber, a 19-hp air-cooled 223cc engine, and an optional red-white-blue livery recalling that of the legendary RS750, complete with a red frame and sideboards.
Enter Tim Cumper (@cumpert), a freelance modelmaker and design professional from Somerset, UK, who’s been riding motorbikes ever since his first Kawasaki AE50, bought at the age of 16. More than a decade ago, on a trip to Japan, he was attracted to the customs he saw on display in “Tokyo’s Motorcycle Paradise,” the Ueno district:
“I was inspired by the custom bikes that I saw in the shops in the Ueno district in Tokyo – small capacity bikes with a unique style, obviously modified on a limited budget.”
In choosing a donor for his project, an imported 2002 Honda FTR223 was just the ticket. The mono-cylinder city tracker had the bones he needed from a design perspective:
“The proportions of the bike, the large 18inch wheels and simple air-cooled single cylinder engine ticked all the right boxes for me.”
Since this was to be a shed-built personal project, Tim wasn’t worried about how much time he was going to invest, but money was still a factor. For that reason, he decided to do as much of the work himself as possible:
“I wanted to make use of all of my own skills rather than commissioning others to make parts for me. In the end, the only aspect I didn’t do myself was the anodising of the aluminium parts.”
The level of bespoke fabrication on the machine is simply staggering — the headlight, rear light, indicators, saddle, and underseat plastics were all designed and built by Tim himself. We love the slender, streamlined shape of this custom street tracker, and the ultra-clean finishes, details, and unique design elements look like the work of a high-end professional manufacturer rather than a lone man at work in his shed — a testament to Tim’s extraordinary vision, dedication, and execution.
Below, we get the full story on this FTR223 street tracker, nicknamed “Cumpert01” or the “Little Honda.”
Honda FTR Street Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I studied Product Design at university and have worked in the creative industry ever since, both at design consultancies and more recently as a freelance modelmaker. I bought my first motorbike when I was 16, a Kawasaki AE50, and things have grown from there.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Honda FTR 223, 2002.
• Why was this bike built?
Personal shed-built project, mainly for the fun of it.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
When I went travelling around Japan over 10 years ago, I was inspired by the custom bikes that I saw in the shops in the Ueno district in Tokyo – small capacity bikes with a unique style, obviously modified on a limited budget. Therefore the bike I chose for my project was an imported Honda FTR223 Honda. The proportions of the bike, the large 18inch wheels and simple air-cooled single cylinder engine ticked all the right boxes for me.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The main aim was to achieve a pared down, clean finish with unique design elements whilst ensuring that the bike remained road-legal. Time wasn’t a factor, as it was a hobby build, but the money I had to spend on it was. I wanted to make use of all of my own skills rather than commissioning others to make parts for me. In the end, the only aspect I didn’t do myself was the anodising of the aluminium parts. Modelmaking has enabled me to develop excellent paint finishing and machining skills but I also learnt as I went along, mainly from my mistakes!
I designed and made all the bespoke parts myself – the headlight, rear light, indicators, saddle and underseat plastics. The headlight was machined from billet aluminum with a halo LED surround, machined over one Christmas break when the mill was quiet at work. I modified the original Honda master cylinder and mounted it under the tank. The master cylinder is connected via a cable to the front brake lever. This helped to declutter the handlebar area. The speedo cable pick up is taken from the rear wheel which also reduces the number of cables around the front end.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Cumpert01 “Little Honda.”
• How would you classify this bike?
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
For my first attempt I’m pretty happy with the overall design and finish. I’m particularly pleased with the Honda logo fuel tap I machined, which came out really well.