“Chalk” — a minimalist CB750 from Alchemy Motorcycles…
Back in 2018, we featured the ’77 CB550K “Grey Ghost” from Michel Valle of San Diego’s Alchemy Motorcycles — one of the most elegant, most memorable CB builds we’ve had the honor of showcasing. Michel started his workshop out of his home garage more than a decade ago, and today it’s a family affair — he runs Alchemy Motorcycles and Alchemy Customs and Restorations together with his brother (Christian) and wife (Janelle Villa).
“We solely focus on building custom one-off builds for customers and ourselves to showcase our skills at the shop. We love designing custom builds and hope to continue to do so.”
Recently, Michel had a ’74 CB750K come into the shop in dire need of either a full restoration or ground-up build — a perfect candidate for their minimalist design vision:
“The bike was built to showcase the level of builds we do at Alchemy and to do something a little different from what we’ve seen done to SOHC CB750’s. We wanted to make subtle changes that the passerby wouldn’t notice, but could appreciate the overall outcome of the build.”
They wanted to highlight the overarching silhouette of the custom aluminum seat cowl, CB550 tank, and headlight — painting them chalk-white to contrast with the lower portions of the bike:
“Anything under those three elements was painted or powder coated in a matte black to almost give a sense of a shadow under those lines.”
AP Upholstery handled the custom saddle, trimmed with black pebble leather, and the lighting and electronics were all updated for modern reliability. They kept the airbox and carbs stock, not wanting to deal with the midrange power lull so often experienced when running pods or velocity stacks, and Michel says the bike is a dream to ride;
“After the forks being rebuilt, weight reduction, and new Hagon road shocks, the bike handles like a dream. Although it’s about 400lbs, it feels as light as one of our CB550 builds once it’s rolling.”
Below, we talk to Michel for more details on the build, and credit goes out to photographer Leo Cabal (@leocabal) for the shots.
“Chalk” CB750 Café Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Michel Valle. Between my brother (Christian Valle), my wife (Janelle Villa), and I, we run and operate Alchemy Motorcycles and Alchemy Customs and Restorations. I started Alchemy Motorcycles out of my garage over ten years ago in the dreams of opening up my own custom shop to design builds around vintage motorcycles and cars. We solely focus on building custom one-off builds for customers and ourselves to showcase our skills at the shop. We love designing custom builds and hope to continue to do so.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
The donor was a 1974 Honda CB750K in stock condition, but in dire need of either a full restoration or completely ground up build.
• Why was this bike built? (Customer project, company promotion, personal, etc.)
The bike was built to showcase the level of builds we do at Alchemy and to do something a little different from what we’ve seen done to SOHC CB750’s. We wanted to make subtle changes that the passerby wouldn’t notice, but could appreciate the overall outcome of the build.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The main focus was to highlight the clean lines and silhouette that the headlight, tank, and seat cowl could produce. Anything under those three elements was painted or powder coated in a matte black to almost give a sense of a shadow under those lines. Our overall style at the shop is to have the builds look as minimalist as possible.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The first thing we did is swapped out the tank for a CB550 one. The shape is exactly what we wanted to jump off from for the design. A custom aluminum cowl was shaped to compliment the tank’s curves. Custom saddle by AP Upholstery complemented the feel we were looking for. Custom paint throughout and chrome accents on the engine, forks, and hardware helped give some dimension to everything. All wiring has been upgraded to modern components.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
We’re going with “Chalk” from the paint color.
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
69 bhp. We thing we have the build down to about 400lbs after cutting as much dead weight as we could.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The build came out exactly how we wanted it to. After the forks being rebuilt, weight reduction, and new Hagon road shocks, the bike handles like a dream. Although it being about 400lbs, it feels as light as one of our CB550 builds once it’s rolling. We kept the airbox and carb setup for overall performance and reliability.
Often when switching to air pods or velocity stacks, there’s a lull in the middle to upper range of the power band. The 4-1 exhaust was modified slightly to keep the tone of the exhaust deep, yet with that signature roar the four cylinder CB750 is known for.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The overall concept, design, and execution is what we’re proud of. The subtle changes that one would have to really dig into really changed the bike up and made it to the minimal style built we like to do at our shop.