Bil Harmer’s Honda NT650 Café Racer…
The Honda Hawk GT, also known as the NT650 or RC31, is something of a cult bike. Designed by one of Honda’s greatest designers, Toshiaki Kishi, the Hawk was a modern naked V-twin that predated machines like the Ducati Monster and Suzuki SV650. Defining traits included a dual-spar aluminum perimeter frame, singled-side swingarm, and 647cc / 58-hp V-twin engine.
“Paradoxically it is considered a generic tool of the motorcycle courier and a modern classic with race pedigree and unique caché.” —Hawk GT Forum
The bike would prove itself as a superlative race platform, offering light weight, a rigid chassis, short wheelbase, and mass centralization due to the compact 52° engine layout. Two Brothers Racing, now a household name, developed their “RaceHawk” into a winning platform on both sides of the Pacific, and the Hawk GT would achieve a cult status among enthusiasts.
Enter our new friend Bil Harmer, a cybersecurity professional who’s been riding motorcycles for more than three decades:
“I’ve been riding bikes for 30 years and they are my refuge from the computer world. It was through motorcycles I met my wife and we’ve ridden together for 24 years.”
His entry into the role of bike builder was gradual, as he began doing maintenance on his and his wife’s machines, then moved onto bolt-on modifications, and finally undertook this ’89 Hawk GT project in his own home garage:
“Everything I’ve learned is either trial and error, Hawk Forum, or YouTube. Everything on my bike was done by me except the aluminum milling.”
He was after “an old school café racer that was light and flickable,” and nearly every part of the machine has been modified apart from the frame, swingarm, and engine. The bike is now running a CBR600RR front end with Cognito Moto triple, WWResto custom subframe and underslung Brembo rear brake, Motogadget switches and electronics, complete handmade wiring harness (a point of pride for Bil), rejetted carbs with pod filters, and much more.
Nicknamed “Blue Apex” for the Ocean Shimmer Blue vinyl wrap, the bike not only looks the business, but it’s 50 pounds lighter than stock…and acts like it:
“The bike handles like it’s connected to your brain. It turns in easily and in a very linear manner and then holds the line.”
In our opinion, this Hawk GT café racer was one of the standout builds from the 2022 Handbuilt Show, and there’s no higher competition than that! Below, we talk to Bil for more details on the build, along with more gorgeous photos courtesy of Bil’s wife, photographer Dawn Harmer.
Honda NT650 Café Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m a Cybersecurity professional. I’ve been riding bikes for 30 years and they are my refuge from the computer world. It was through motorcycles I met my wife and we’ve ridden together for 24 years. I started working on mine and my wife’s motorcycles doing maintenance, then bolt-on parts. I moved on from there to swapping parts and seeing what fit. I customized a Hawk back in 2001 but didn’t have the skill to complete finish it correctly. This time I had a plan and solid vision. All the work has been done in my home garages, first in Redwood City, CA, then continuing when I moved to Austin, TX. Everything I’ve learned is either trial and error, Hawk Forum, or YouTube. Everything on my bike was done by me except the aluminum milling. I even designed parts in CAD, tested them by making them on a 3D printer, and when they were ready, I sent the files to WWResto to have them milled.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
1989 Honda Hawk NT650GT.
• Why was this bike built?
Because I can’t leave anything alone.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I wanted an old school café racer that was light and flickable. I love the sounds of the V-Twins and the perimeter frame was something different.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
- Everything except the frame, swingarm, and motor has been touched. The front end is a 2007 CBR600RR.
- Full custom aluminum sub-frame (made by WWResto)
- Motogadget M-Unit, Rick Electric Rectifier, custom programmed CDI
- Motogadget switches
- Motogadget Speedo/Tach
- Complete handmade wiring harness
- Custom aluminum rear-sets
- Rizoma lights, mirrors and grips
- Custom aluminum radiator
- Rejetted Carbs with Pods
- Cognito Moto top triple
- Underslung Brembo rear brake (made by WWResto) with a brake line through the swingarm
- Anti-gravity 8 cell battery
- Vinyl wrapped in Ocean Shimmer Blue and Matte Black
• Does the bike have a nickname?
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
Weight: 320lbs (dropped 50lbs from stock)
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The bike handles like it’s connected to your brain. It turns in easily and in a very linear manner and then holds the line. The tank is small and only good for about 100 miles but the seat is skinny and hard so it’s only good for about 60 miles before you need a break.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The electrics. I’ve never done anything even close to this. I replaced a wire here or there but I’ve never completely replaced a wiring harness with all the electrical components as well.