A Black Beauty from De Palma Cycles…
Introduced in 1979, the Honda CB650 Four (RC03) would be the last of Honda’s air-cooled SOHC fours — an illustrious lineage that began with the 1969 CB750 and sealed Honda’s reputation as a maker of high performance bikes. The CB650 was built on the same production line as its immediate predecessor, the CB550, but in their 1979 test, Cycle World stressed that it was much more than a punched-out 550:
“Honda engineers put a lot of development time into the CB650 cylinder head and piston shape. The objective was to get as much power as possible out of the two-valve combustion chambers, and according to Honda’s claimed 60 crankshaft horsepower, the goal was met. That power output approaches 100 horsepower per liter, a power level difficult to achieve with a two-valve head in street tune.” —Cycle World
In fact, we’ve seen figures for the 627cc eight-valve engine making 63 bhp, and it was known to handle well, too.
Recently, we heard from one of the best photographers in the business, Xavi Dynamische, who brought to our attention this ’79 Honda CB650 café racer from Gregorio Fernandez Romero of Barcelona’s De Palma Cycles. Gregorio has been riding motorcycles since he was 14, and his tastes always veered toward older, more charismatic machines:
“I always liked those ‘outdated’ but wild motorcycles, when all my friends bought the CBR600, I bought a Morini 350, and that is my best summary of my love for old motorcycles.”
After 15 years in fashion design, he opened his own workshop, De Palma Cycles, working on a wide variety of custom bikes. The bike you see here is a ’79 CB650 that was missing a good deal of the original equipment — ideal for a project — and Gregorio had some clear inspirations for the build:
“I always look for design references closely linked to the racing aesthetic of the 60s and 70s, and that is what has had the most influence, as can be seen in the custom spoked wheels or in the seat. The rest consisted of making a restomod without losing the classic aesthetics…”
Highlights include the conventional but much improved forks from a CBR900 Fireblade — complete with dual discs and four-piston calipers — and a set of hand-laced spoke wheels. Then there’s the 60s-style seat, stainless steel exhaust, simplified electrics, classic-style Koso speedometer, and more. The bike looks fantastic — especially through Xavi’s lens — and the ride has been transformed as well:
“It is a very agile motorcycle, and easy to get into curves. Its new lighter weight, accompanied by that little extra power, make it a very fun new bike.”
Below, we talk to Gregorio for the full story on the bike. Special thanks goes out to Xavi Dynamische for the photography, and bringing us this story.
Honda CB650 Café Racer: Builder Interview
• Tell us a little about yourself, your history with motorcycles and your workshop.
I am not a typical motorcycle designer, my interest in motorcycle design was born just over 10 years ago. When I was very young I started working in naval carpentry, restoration of old ships, and from there I decided to break a little with the routine and settle in Barcelona to study fashion and tailoring. Shortly after, I founded my first textile company, Gori de Palma. It was after 15 fruitful years in fashion design when I decided to open De Palma Cycles.
This was a project that began as an individual dream, due to my passion for vintage motorcycles. After finishing my first individual project with my Honda CB750 and receiving very good reviews, I considered going out to the market and developing all my concerns around two-wheels. This is how my first workshop was born in Barcelona. Regarding my history with motorcycles, it goes back to when I was 14 years old, my first moped, a Derbi Variant, then a Benelli 250 2T arrived, and later a Morini 350 Sport. I always liked those “outdated” but wild motorcycles, when all my friends bought the CBR600, I bought a Morini 350, and that is my best summary of my love for old motorcycles.
• What is the make, model and year of the bicycle?
It’s a Honda CB650 (RC03) from 1979.
• Why was this bike built?
Indeed, it was a client project; the bike was in original condition, but with some missing parts — rear fender, side covers, clocks, etc. So it was ideal to make a good project.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the construction?
I always look for design references closely linked to the racing aesthetic of the 60s and 70s, and that is what has had the most influence, as can be seen in the custom spoked wheels or in the seat. The rest consisted of making a restomod without losing the classic aesthetics, a better but conventional fork, brakes, rims, brake discs, etc…
• What custom work was done on the bike?
Starting at the front, a better fork was fitted, coming from a Honda CBR900 Fireblade, with its 4-piston calipers. The original Comstar rims were removed, and custom handcrafted ones were made. A classic KOSO gauge, a 60s racing style seat, and SPARK stainless steel exhausts. K&N power filters and most importantly, to get that clean look, simplifying the electrical installation, filters, etc. The original tank was kept, and finally the original carburettors were calibrated for the new exhausts and power filters.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride a bike?
It is a very versatile motorcycle, both in the city and on the roads. But on winding roads is when you enjoy it the most. It is a very agile motorcycle, and easy to get into curves. Its new lighter weight, accompanied by that little extra power, make it a very fun new bike.