Joseph Friday (Friday’s The Bomb) builds one agile 250 bobber…
The Honda Rebel 250 (aka CMX250C) first appeared in 1984 — a lightweight 234cc parallel-twin cruiser that would remain in production until 2016! A common sight in Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) training courses, the little Rebel would introduce tens of thousands of new riders to motorcycling over the years, and the engine earned a reputation for being nigh on bulletproof:
“The Honda CMX250 Rebel uses the same engine that ran Honda’s CB250, it has an ancestry dating back over thirty years. Safe to say it’s a reliable and long-lasting motorcycle engine.” —MCN
What’s more, the bantamweight cruiser was deceptively fun for in-town riding, highly maneuverable with just enough grunt, causing reviewers to call it “a right giggle” in the city and “a handy motorcycle for fidgety town riding” (MCN).
Recently, we heard from Joseph Friday (@fridays_88), who’s been riding and wrenching on motorcycles for about 15 years. His main focus has been sportbikes and dual-sports, though he spent a lot of timing restoring and riding his father’s ’83 Vespa P200E — a scooter he recently sold to finance his first custom build, the ’99 Honda Rebel 250 you see here.
Though he has plenty of experience with high-powered street bikes, Joseph has kept coming back to the pure feeling of riding a 250 — an experience that influenced his decision to build a Rebel:
“Typically in motorcycling the more powerful something is, the better it is considered to be. I’ve ridden various performance oriented bikes, and yet every time I ride a 250 I genuinely enjoy the experience. There is no pressure to traverse harsh terrain or break the sound barrier, it’s just about ripping around town and having fun for the fun of it. To me this is pure motorcycling.”
Joseph documented the full build process on his YouTube channel, which included relocated all of the OEM wiring and controls to give the bars a clean appearance, fabricating the brackets for the speedometer/seat/rear fender mounts, and teaching himself to weld the bungs for the high-mounted Frisco-style tank:
“I bought a flux core MIG welder and spent a few days on my garage floor welding various nuts and bolts to a steel plate, teaching myself how to use it. After about a week I worked up the nerve to weld the bungs in the frame. They turned out pretty good I think.”
Joseph didn’t want to compromise the bike’s handling by converting it to a hardtail or shifting the suspension mounting points, which means this baby chopper, despite its more radical appearance, still handles like the original. There’s an old adage that it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow, and this bobber is a case in point:
“It’s a pleasure to ride at the limit, which can be done with almost no mechanical sympathy. You can ride it at full throttle, bang through gears, and go screaming down the road at 65 mph, all while not really breaking the law or taking much risk. For such a small package, it’s an experience that feels like a big event.”
Appropriately enough, Joseph has nicknamed the bike “Toshiko,” a Japanese girl’s name which means quick or agile child. Below, we talk to him for the full details of the build, which was recently featured at the Front Row Moto Show in Phoenix, AZ.
Honda CMX250 Bobber: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m 33 years old, I’m from northern Illinois, and I’ve been riding and working on motorcycles for 15 years as a hobby. I’ve spent most of my time riding fast sport bikes and various dual sports, but there was also a lot of time spent restoring and riding my father’s ’83 Vespa P200E. My workshop is a corner in my home garage. This is my first house, and finding something with garage space for a workshop area was a high priority for me. I’m fortunate that my wife understands, and over time she’s actually come to use the space for some of her projects too.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The motorcycle is a 1999 Honda Rebel CMX250.
• Why was this bike built?
I built this motorcycle for myself. I’ve wanted to do a custom build for several years now, and in 2020 the time and resources became available. This project was partially possible because I sold my father’s 1983 Vespa P200E, and put the proceeds towards building my first custom bike. My father does not follow custom motorcycles, and didn’t understand what I was planning to do with this. I filmed the build process and created a multi part build series on my YouTube channel, which he seems to have enjoyed. He’s happy with how the finished bike turned out… but I know he misses his Vespa.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Typically in motorcycling the more powerful something is, the better it is considered to be. I’ve ridden various performance oriented bikes, and yet every time I ride a 250 I genuinely enjoy the experience. There is no pressure to traverse harsh terrain or break the sound barrier, it’s just about ripping around town and having fun for the fun of it. To me this is pure motorcycling. So I wanted a 250, and I chose the Rebel because I think it has an attractive frame when stripped down. It also doesn’t look awkward when the suspension is left alone, and I knew I wanted a bike that wouldn’t require a custom hardtail or modified suspension. The bodywork and wheels were inspired by the narrowness of Frisco choppers.
The fuel tank is a tiny 1.6 gallon Frisco sportster style, and was chosen because its size looks well-balanced on the Rebel’s frame. When viewing the profile of the bike, there is continuous line from the handlebars to the rear fender, which was part of the design from the beginning. The handlebars are the original bars from my Honda XR650L, but have been trimmed 1” on either end. The whole look is then completed by the trials tires, which I think give it cool attitude.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
All of the OEM wiring on the motorcycle was relocated so I could remove the switches from the handlebars and provide a cleaner appearance. This was probably the most time-consuming custom job I did to the bike, but I’m proud of the finished result.
The speedometer, seat, and rear fender mounts were all handmade by me. But probably my biggest hurdle was welding the threaded bungs into the frame for the fuel tank. I bought a flux core MIG welder and spent a few days on my garage floor welding various nuts and bolts to a steel plate, teaching myself how to use it. After about a week I worked up the nerve to weld the bungs in the frame. They turned out pretty good I think.
Other custom items include the intake which I designed to accept the crankcase breather hose, and the Lazer Emerald powder coat on the tank and fender which was done by Competition Coatings in Glendale AZ.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
I’ve named this motorcycle “Toshiko,” which is a Japanese girl’s name that means quick or agile child. It’s a baby chopper and its light weight makes it handle like nothing else I’ve ridden. Being Honda, it starts and runs great every time, despite having been forgotten for the last 10 years in somebody’s garage. I think this character is distinctly Japanese, hence the Japanese name.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Well it’s a lot louder than you expect it to be. The mufflers are cherry bomb style with no baffles, so it’s basically straight piped. There is virtually no weight on the front end, which makes it handle more like a bicycle than any motorcycle I’ve ridden. It’s a pleasure to ride at the limit, which can be done with almost no mechanical sympathy. You can ride it at full throttle, bang through gears, and go screaming down the road at 65 mph, all while not really breaking the law or taking much risk. For such a small package, it’s an experience that feels like a big event.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Building the wheels and teaching myself how to weld were two huge hurdles. Some amount of blood, sweat, and tears actually went into this. In the end, I gained valuable skills.