The Honda CB125S was introduced in 1975, featuring an air-cooled SOHC single-cylinder engine that offered 12 horsepower and 100 mpg. With a 9500 rpm redline and dry weight of just 187 pounds, the little CB came to embody the old adage that it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than to ride a fast bike slow.
The reviewers at Cycle magazine had much the same reaction when they tested the bike in 1979:
“Put in the right perspective, the 125 becomes fun (if not exciting) to those used to much bigger machines. 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 busses 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 our new friend Rich Odlum of Rochester, New York’s Interstellar Motors, a collective workspace and custom bike workshop he formed in 2014 with a few friends. The space itself sounds like one of the coolest we’ve heard about:
“The Interstellar Motors workshop itself is located on the second floor of an old Art-Deco post office, which is great fun as it means we get to ride the bikes up a freight elevator and I have a tremendous sunset view of downtown Rochester, NY from the huge windows. I bet I’m the only motorcycle shop around that has parquet flooring.”
Just last year, Rich went full-time with Interstellar Motors. He also began working with another local fabricator to make aftermarket parts under the name ᵀᴴᴱMotoworks and started filming videos for his YouTube channel.
We saw this particular CB125S build earlier this month at Glory Daze 2021 and had to learn more. It was built for a guy who has a studio just down the hall from the workshop. Knowing he’d probably never finished it himself, he handed it over to Interstellar to put their spin on it.
“We wanted this build to look nice, but not so nice that you wouldn’t want to use it like a 125 — aka full-throttle off curbs.”
Taking inspiration from Paris-based workshop Blitz Motorcycles, Rich and crew succeeded in creating a little bike that punches well above its weight class in terms of style and detail. There’s the stainless pie-cut high pipe and cone muffler, skidplate / battery box / seat pan made from an old speed limit sign, 12-volt conversion with Motogadget goodies and ᵀᴴᴱMotoworks RFID ignition lock, dirt bike pegs, upgraded front brake, hubs re-laced to Borrani rims, New Church Moto saddle, and much more.
The result is a lightweight hoot of a bike that begs to be throttled.
“The big thing for me is we aimed to build a bike that looks fun and irreverent, which I think we accomplished. That we were able to repurpose a lot of cast-offs in the process is a bonus too.”
Below, we talk to Rich for the full details on the build.
Honda CB125 Custom: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Rich Odlum and I head up Interstellar Motors, which is part moto-collective workspace and part custom bike outfit. I’ve been riding bikes since I was a teenager, and cutting them apart for the last ten years or so. Some friends and I officially formed Interstellar in 2014. It has always been something of an outsized hobby, but 2020 gave me the opportunity to dive in full-time. In the past 18 months or so, I’ve also been working with another local builder making aftermarket motorcycle parts under the name ‘ᵀᴴᴱMOTOWORKS’ as well as filming videos for YouTube in my own shop, a few of which feature this CB125.
The Interstellar Motors workshop itself is located on the second floor of an old Art-Deco post office, which is great fun as it means we get to ride the bikes up a freight elevator and I have a tremendous sunset view of downtown Rochester, NY from the huge windows. I bet I’m the only motorcycle shop around that has parquet flooring.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
It’s a 1975 Honda CB125S. A weird base to start with, sure, but that’s part of the charm.
• Why was this bike built?
This bike belongs to a guy whose studio is just down the hall from our workshop. He liked what we were doing and mentioned he had this little bike in his studio, completely disassembled. He admitted he didn’t think he’d ever get to finishing it and asked if we wanted to do it up for him in our style. It’s been in the works for a long time, as it has been a “when-I-can-get-to-it” build.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
We wanted this build to look nice, but not so nice that you wouldn’t want to use it like a 125 — aka full-throttle off curbs. The look definitely draws heavily from Blitz Motorcycles’ style, with the scratched-up tank and fender over a nicely finished frame and motor, which is why we ended up using their hand controls.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Grab a snack. The standout feature on this guy is probably the stainless pie-cut high pipe and cone muffler, but I think the majority of the custom work is in the small details. The very first thing we did was toss out the bizarre cable-operated front disc brake and weld in a mount for a caliper from a Honda Rebel. The hubs were re-laced to Borrani rims using Buchanan spokes.
We also wanted the bike to have a little DIY attitude, so we made the skidplate, battery box, and seat pan from an old speed limit sign and used the cut-off ends of the newly-hooped frame as headlight mounts, tucking the headlight in as much as possible. I used the OEM rear fender, cut off about 80% of it, and remounted it to the frame using the original tail light mounting holes.
The bike was converted to 12v so we could use Motogadget Pin turn signals, a rear light out of the junk drawer, and an LED headlight retrofitted into the original sealed beam. We then added a Motogadget motoscope mini gauge in a custom housing and one of our own RFID ignition locks from ᵀᴴᴱMotoworks, hidden under the seat.
The bars came out of the parts bin and were a bit too wide so I cut two inches or so out of the center. Clevis mounts were welded in place of the original solid pegs so we could throw dirt bike pegs on. Much of the OEM hardware was refinished with oil blackening, something I’ve wanted to try for a while. I had an intern for a brief time and set him loose on drilling out the sprocket cover, which is now one of my favorite parts on the bike. To the sprocket cover I also added a little hotrod dashboard light, which now serves as the neutral light.
Ginger at New Church Moto handled the upholstery and left the underside exposed so we can see the M.P.H. from the road sign, as this bike could use some extra. As finishing touches, I added yellow Oury grips to match the street signs and wrapped the upper fork tubes, shifter, and kicker in cloth tape for some budget-friendly style. There’s definitely a lot more but you’re probably out of snacks by now.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
I’m open to suggestions!
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Honestly, I just finished assembling this puppy and I’m still working through carb tuning, but like many other small bikes, it feels incredibly maneuverable due to the low weight and small tires. On this thing it’s hard to resist the temptation to goof off and have fun.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The big thing for me is we aimed to build a bike that looks fun and irreverent, which I think we accomplished. That we were able to repurpose a lot of cast-offs in the process is a bonus too.