Rothmans’ Hawk: Honda Bros / Africa Twin Special

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

Ireland’s Jonny Kerins builds a Bros / Africa Twin hybrid!

Produced from 1988-1992, the Honda Bros 400 (NT400) was a 400cc version of the beloved Honda Hawk GT we received here in the States. While the 33-bhp V-twin might not have looked like much on paper, the Bros 400 would earn something of a cult following, not unlike its Hawk sibling here in the States. As one owner says, to know one is to love one:

“It’s a sturdy little workhorse, more mini carthorse than Red Rum [famous British racehorse] but that is part of its charm.” –Wemoto

Recently we heard from Jonny Kerins (@jfk_bikes) of Ireland’s County Meath, a woodworking teacher who’s been in love with late 80s / early 90s sport bikes since one fateful Christmas morning:

“My interest in motorbikes started as a young boy when I got a book about superbikes with a gen 1 Fireblade on the cover from Santa. I’ve been in love with bikes ever since, and my tastes have not evolved as I’m still mostly interested in Japanese sport bikes from the late 80’s / early 90’s.”

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

Today, Jonny builds and restores bikes out of the old milking parlor on his 1950s farm, and he’s built up quite a stable of Japanese sporting machinery. This project started when he went to his local bike breakers for a simple switch and returned home with a Bros 400 rolling chassis and Africa Twin 750 engine.

“Having restored and owned a 400cc Bros years earlier, I enjoyed working on it and riding it, but I always wanted a bit more from it.”

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

The 70-bhp Africa Twin engine would give him just that, more than doubling the power output of the OEM machine. But there’s much more to this Bros / Africa Twin hybrid than the engine swap.

“My favorite bikes are early 90’s Hondas so I wanted to build a bike that could have been a Honda model at that time. I wanted the bike to be unmistakably of this era but have the keenest of eyes still not be able to quite figure out what it is.”

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

Highlights include the first-gen Yamaha R1 front end, VFR rear wheel, YSS rear shock, and bodywork from various Honda models (VFR, RVF, RS) modified to fit. Jonny fabricated the subframe, exhaust, and bracketry, re-plated all of the original bolts, and even painted the bike himself.

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid

The bike is street-legal, with subtle yet highly effective LED lighting, and it’s a blast on the twisty country roads of his home:

“I built this bike for Sunday spins on twisty countryside roads around my house and that’s exactly where it’s at home. Compared to a standard bike, it has more power, more torque, improved suspension, and superior brakes.”

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

Jonny is especially proud that he did all of the work himself, which stands up even under the keenest of eyes:

One of the best compliments on the bike in my mind was when someone told me “I wouldn’t know it wasn’t a factory bike unless you told me.”

Below, Jonny gives us the full story on his “Bros / Africa Twin.”

Bros / Africa Twin Hybrid Special: Builder Interview

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

My name is Jonny Kerins, I’m 37 and I’m from County Meath in Ireland. I work as a Woodwork teacher for my day job and build / restore bikes as a hobby.

My interest in motorbikes started as a young boy when I got a book about superbikes with a gen 1 Fireblade on the cover from Santa. I’ve been in love with bikes ever since, and my tastes have not evolved as I’m still mostly interested in Japanese sport bikes from the late 80’s / early 90’s.

Honda Bros / Africa Twin Hybrid

Over the last number of years, I’ve restored a number of bikes and cars (I currently have a ’93 Fireblade, ’89 VFR400 nc30, ’96 Pan European 1100, and an ’88 FZR 750 project), but this bike was the first special I built.

I live in a 1950’s farmhouse and my shed used to be an old milking parlor. It’s about 400 feet squared with one bike lift, parking room for my bikes, a workbench, shelves, and not too much else.

Honda Bros / Africa Twin Hybrid

• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?

The donor bike for this project was a 1988 Honda Bros 400cc. It was known as the Honda Hawk in the USA where it had the 650cc engine.

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid

• Why was this bike built?

This was a personal project of mine built to my own tastes. Having restored and owned a 400cc Bros years earlier, I enjoyed working on it and riding it, but I always wanted a bit more from it.

Years later I came across the start of a Bros project by chance. I went to my local bike breakers looking for a switch for my Ninja and ended up leaving with a bare rolling chassis of a Bros 400 and a Honda Africa Twin 750cc engine.

This project came at the perfect time as it happened, as Covid hit the world and Ireland was put into lockdown. This project gave me a focus and escape in a time of great stress.

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

My favorite bikes are early 90’s Hondas so I wanted to build a bike that could have been a Honda model at that time. I wanted the bike to be unmistakably of this era but have the keenest of eyes still not be able to quite figure out what it is.

Honda Bros / Africa Twin Hybrid

• What custom work was done to the bike?

It’s a Honda Bros 400 frame with a Honda Africa Twin 750 engine.

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

The front end is from a first-gen R1 and the swingarm is a modified Bros unit to accept a VFR800 hub and wheel. It has a YSS rear shock.

Honda Bros / Africa Twin Hybrid

The tank is from a VFR400 nc30, front fairing is a modified RVF400 race fairing, and the tail is from a Honda RS125, which has also been modified.

Honda Bros / Africa Twin Hybrid

The engine has been kept standard, carbs have been rejetted to suit pod filters and the more free-flowing exhaust.

Honda Bros / Africa Twin Hybrid

I made the subframe, exhaust, and lots of brackets, re-plated all original bolts, and painted it with 2k paint in a Rothmans theme.

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

• Does the bike have a nickname?

I always call it my “Bros/Africatwin.”

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?

With the engine swap the power has gone from 33bhp for a 400cc Bros to about 70bhp with the Africa Twin engine in its current setup. Torque has gone from 34.5 nm to about 65nm.

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

I built this bike for Sunday spins on twisty countryside roads around my house and that’s exactly where it’s at home. Compared to a standard bike, it has more power, more torque, improved suspension, and superior brakes. Combine all this with the more aggressive riding position, and it’s a bike that wants to be ridden hard around the bending roads it was made for. It pulls hard from idle to redline, and likes to be revved.

The bike was built to be ridden, not as a showpiece, so it is road legal with lights and indicators (turn signals) being subtle but fully visible when needed due to bright LED units. It always gets plenty of looks wherever I go.

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

I’m most proud that I completed 100% of the work on this bike myself and have achieved a custom bike I’m really happy with on a modest budget (around 3000 euro).

One of the best compliments on the bike in my mind was when someone told me “I wouldn’t know it wasn’t a factory bike unless you told me.”

Honda Bros Africa Twin Hybrid Special

Follow the Builder @jfk_bikes

4 Comments

  1. Well done lad, well done! I’m more of a Suzuki dude myself, but this Honda is a real gem! Great work indeed!

  2. Mike Common

    Brilliant work, Johnny! Impressed that you did it all yourself.

  3. Ian Johnson

    Great build Johnny,looks like it came from the factory, with a few bug splats it could look like it just finished the TT.

  4. John Gregory

    I’m a Norton Ducati Guzzi guy. Had a Gold wing for a week. Honda should build this bike. A nice v twin to compete in the popular mid-range. I would love to own this Honda.

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