Introduced in 1992, the Honda CB Seven Fifty — better known as the Nighthawk or CB750F2 in some markets — was an air-cooled retro roadster with a steel cradle frame, twin-shock rear swingarm, conventional air-assisted forks, and a 73-hp DOHC four-cylinder engine.
While the Seven Fifty outperformed its arch nemesis, the Kawasaki Zephyr 750, it certainly wasn’t the world’s most charismatic machine:
“The Honda was cheaper, sleeker, smoother, slightly more powerful and a considerably more comfortable motorcycle. The Honda CB750 F2 lacks passion, though, and verdicts of ‘dull’ and ‘a bit boring’ litter its reviews…” –MCN
Fortunately, there are folks like Frédéric Lagarde of Southern France’s Tumulte — a former GT race car engineer who started building custom bikes about five years ago:
“I did my first custom on a BMW K75…in my house’s little garage, then I customized some bikes for friends, and friends of friends…”
Soon Fred had commissioned builds coming his way. He moved into a separate shop in 2018, and he’s currently in the process of buying his own space, where he’ll be able to set up his workshop just how he likes — congrats, Fred!
“The customer wanted a single-seat cafe racer, with spoke wheels and upside-down fork, clip-on bars, a fuel tank he already had from a Honda CX500, and the color that we decided together. For the rest, I had quite a good margin to do what I wanted.”
Rarely have we seen a CX500 tank look so good on a build — well done! Other highlights include the Triumph Speed Triple forks and brakes, a set of spoke wheels adapted to work with the double-disc Triumph front end and factory swingarm, custom tail section with solo seat, custom wiring harness with lithium battery and LED lighting, and an engine tuned to perfection thanks to feedback from an exhaust-mounted oxygen sensor.
Fred says the bike is a blast on the roads of Tarn:
“It’s really fun to ride this old bike like a modern sport naked bike! The engine is running perfectly thanks to the lambda sensor, which helped me tune the four carburetors!”
Below, we talk to Fred for the full details on this Seven Fifty café racer.
Seven Fifty Café Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I started as a race engineer in GT cars for more than 10 years, so I have a solid experience in mechanics, welding, wiring, and reliability!
I did my first custom on a BMW K75 five years ago, in my house’s little garage, then I customized some bikes for friends, and friends of friends…
I moved into my first workshop in 2018 when I had some more customers and need more space! Now I am currently buying a new workshop that I can arrange like I want to have a perfect place to receive customers and work in the best conditions.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Honda CB750 Seven Fifty, 1996.
• Why was this bike built?
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The customer wanted a single-seat cafe racer, with spoke wheels and upside-down fork, clip-on bars, a fuel tank he already had from a Honda CX500, and the color that we decided together. For the rest, I had quite a good margin to do what I wanted.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
- Adaptation of a new tank from a CX500, so we’re still with Honda!
- Adaptation of an inverted fork, as well as the complete braking system from a Triumph Speed Triple. The slightly shorter fork than the original and the clip-on handlebars bring a more aggressive and forward-leaning style.
- Adaptation of spoked wheels is the big “neo-retro” plus of this customization, with its set of machined parts, disc offsets, crown offsets, and various spacers. The sporty Bridgestone S22 tires dress up the rims, ready to attack the roads of Tarn!
- Creation of a custom-made rear cowl, which takes on the shape of the tank, completes the bike’s line. The single-seat saddle completes the sporty look of the beast!
- The wiring has been completely revised, with the adaptation of all new components — Koso meter, LED indicators, lithium battery hidden under the saddle, as well as the key switch discreetly housed in the frame.
- The license plate holder is offset to streamline the rear of the bike, and contains the lights, indicators, and license plate lighting.
- On the engine side, it breathes through four BMC filters and two Spark GP silencers, with the custom-made midpipe fabrication.
- The whole thing is finely tuned thanks to the lambda probe mounted for the occasion.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride the completed bike?
On the first ride, it was quite tricky to adapt to the clip-ons and new fork, but after some good settings and mileage on the bike, it was really fun to ride this old bike like a modern sport naked bike! The engine is running perfectly thanks to the lambda sensor, which helped me to tune the four carburetors!
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Maybe the adaptation of the spoke wheels, which took a lot of machining — subcontracted — but I did all the plans and some 3D-printed prototypes to validate before starting the machining process. It was quite tricky to find and modify a wheel hub to handle the big double discs from the Speed Triple (complete front end from this bike), and for the rear, the adaptation of the current rear chain sprocket and brake disc required laser alignment.