Modern Classic Masterpiece from Wedge Motorcycle…
In 2009, forty years after the introduction of the CB750 Four, Honda introduced the CB1100 as a spiritual successor to that iconic machine. The 1100 had many hallmarks of its legendary predecessor, including a steel double cradle frame, twin rear shocks, and an air-cooled inline four cylinder engine — this one displacing 1140cc, with ~90 horsepower on tap.
All in all, the CB1100 combined modern amenities like fuel injection and contemporary build quality with a heavy strain of vintage nostalgia:
“It’s Honda at its very best and has a feeling of quality and refinement about it as well as a welcome bit of old-school rawness and charm.” –MCN
Takashi Nihira, the headman of Japan’s renowned Wedge Motorcycle, sees the 2009-2021 CB1100 as an ideal donor for customers who want a trouble-free custom with classic charm, as did the owner of this bike:
“The owner wanted to customize a slightly older bike, but he wanted one he could ride for a long time, avoiding trouble and with peace of mind. If possible, he wanted a custom bike that he could ride for the rest of his life.”
The modifications were extensive, including a custom tank, bespoke rear section and aluminum side covers, new exhaust with the O2 sensors retained, full rewire, classic-style headlight supports, and much more. But it’s the way these parts fit together — the unique cohesion and purity of line — that makes a Wedge Motorcycle, and the process is nothing if not rigorous. Says Takashi:
“I took the bike off the workbench and took it outside the workshop to verify the body lines many times from different viewing angles and at different distances.”
Below, we present an interview with builder Takashi Nihira about this CB1100, which was a hit at Japan’s highly prestigious Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show. A special thanks goes out to our friend Tadashi “Tad” Kohno for bringing us this build and interview, and credit goes to Hiromitsu Yasui (@hiromitsuyasui_weekend) for these stunning photos. Enjoy!
Builder Interview: Takashi Nihira
How did this project start?
An owner saw a Honda CB1100-based custom machine exhibited at the 2021 Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show and asked me to customize a bike using the CB1100. The owner wanted to customize a slightly older bike, but he wanted one he could ride for a long time, avoiding trouble and with peace of mind. If possible, he wanted a custom bike that he could ride for the rest of his life.
So I decided to use the same Honda CB1100 as the base bike, but with a different approach than the one I built in 2021. And I decided to exhibit the bike to the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show in 2022.
About the Honda CB1100, the base vehicle
Many owners want to ride custom bike for a long time with less worry about breakdowns. For such riders, the Honda CB1100, which has fuel-injection, meets strict exhaust gas regulations, and was developed and manufactured using current technology, is a suitable base for customization. In the used bike market, slightly older air-cooled inline-four engines are very, very popular and so expensive. Also, because they have been on the market for a long time, the condition of used bike varies widely, and there is a high probability that they will have problems after starting out on the road. In this respect, the CB1100, which went on sale in Japan in 2009 and remained available until 2021, is less likely to break down.
However, bikes equipped with inline-four engines are difficult to build the custom exteriors that are the key to their style, because the engines are large and heavy, and the frames that hold them are sturdy and large. In addition, newer bikes equipped with fuel injection and ABS have complex electrical systems, which can really reduce the degree of freedom for customization.
What was the concept?
The owner wanted to incorporate a vintage taste. To symbolize this, he wanted to install tires with a high height and longitudinal grooves, a classic style favored by European custom bike builders. At the same time, he wanted to reduce the risk of failure as much as possible.
Apart from the owner’s wishes, I considered adapting the bike height and seat height to the owner’s light body shape to create a machine that would be easy to ride and handle.
How did you achieve this?
First, to build a bike that’s easy to ride and handle, I decided to keep the fuel injection and ABS that are standard equipment on the CB1100. Also, by retaining the stock air cleaner box, a clean intake was maintained. This also eliminates the need for FI adjustments, thus reducing stress on the engine. A full exhaust system was adopted to comply with the vehicle inspection required every two years in Japan. The O2 sensor that comes standard with the bike is also used without modification, so no FI adjustment is required, and less stress is placed on the engine.
However, to create a compact body and beautiful body lines, I rebuilt the fuel tank. I also rebuilt the rear frame from scratch to fit the new fuel tank. That rear frame is slimmer than the standard one. Since the genuine air cleaner box could not fit there, a portion of the genuine air cleaner box was modified and installed. This allowed the bike to pass the inspection without modification despite the extensive customization, and the engine feeling of the CB1100 was retained.
The completed bike has the same standard engine feel, but the exhaust system has been changed and the exterior has been rebuilt, resulting in a much slimmer and lighter chassis. This has resulted in a significant change in the riding feel. It is now very easy to handle. It is just as I had envisioned before the bike was built.
The fuel tank was fabricated from the stock fuel tank. Only the top surface of the stock tank was used. Its width was narrowed and slimmed down. The stock tank was taller, and the rear end of the tank was designed to connect to the side cover. Therefore, the overall height was lowered while utilizing the silhouette of the genuine fuel tank to create an authentic tank shape. Even though the fuel tank was almost entirely handmade from scratch, it retains the CB1100’s character, so that anyone who sees it can recognize it as a CB1100.
I also lowered the height of the fuel tank and changed the mounting position on the chassis to be lower, thus creating a compact body.
By adjusting not only the shape of the exterior but also the position and angle of the fuel tank, I have created a beautiful body line that is typical of the custom bikes that Wedge Motorcycle builds.
I believe that Wedge’s unique style is a straight body line. In order to create such a simple and beautiful line, not only the straight bottom line created by the fuel tank, seat, and seat cowl need to be in position, but also the headlight, the line leading from the headlight to the top of the fuel tank, the size and position balance of the exterior to the front and rear wheels, and many other elements.
To construct it, I took the bike off the workbench and took it outside the factory to verify the body lines many times from different viewing angles and at different distances.
Also this time, the seat is thicker at the leading and trailing edges to balance with the fuel tank, which has a strong presence even when its width and height are changed.
I also believe that to create a simple and beautiful body line, it is necessary to thoroughly simplify the wiring so that no excess wiring protrudes from the body. For this purpose, I rewired the wiring and thoroughly considered the layout.
The rear end of the fuel tank could be slimmed down to the width of the seat rail which I made. This allowed the in-line four-cylinder engine to be emphasized. When a rider sits on the bike, the engine can be seen protruding from both sides of the fuel tank. I think this powerful rider’s view is one of the features of this vehicle.
The engine remains standard, but in consideration of the longevity of the ride, I took the engine off the frame, removed the covers, and replaced all the gaskets with new ones. Then, the engine covers were all polished to emphasize its presence. The side covers, which had to be reshaped to match the new rear frame, were also formed from aluminum sheet metal.
The owner requested tires with longitudinal grooves to emphasize the classical image. Classical style tires with longitudinal grooves and high height are often seen on European custom bikes and are now very popular in Japan as well. However, when the CB1100 was equipped with these tires, the rear tire would contact the swingarm. So I modified the swingarm to have enough clearance for the tire.
The classical-style headlight stays, like the one used by the CB750 Four, was the owner’s idea. The triple tree is standard. However, I eliminated the unnecessary stays by cutting them off and smoothing them out. The front brake hose branch was placed in front of the under bracket, but I relocated the branch to the bottom of the bracket. The front surface of the under bracket was smoothed. I could have laid out two brake lines from the front brake master cylinder, but it is easier to create a simple style if the brake lines are laid out simply.
The bike has already been handed over to the owner, and he is riding it out on the street and very happy with it.
■Donor Machine：2016 HONDA CB1100EX
・Air Cleaner Box & Filter：Standard／modified the shape
・Swing Arm：Standard ／ modified
・Front Fork：Standard ／ Low-Down
・Top Bridge：Standard ／ modified
・Under bracket：Standard ／ modified
・Rear Suspension unit：Ohlins
・Front Brake Master Cylinder：Brembo
・Rear Brake Master Cylinder：Brembo
・Tire：Firestone F: 4.00-18 / R: 4.50-18
・Foot pegs ＆ Pedals：Standard ／ modified
・Headlight：General Products ／ modified
・Rearlight：General Products ／ modified
Follow the Builder / Photographer
Builder: Takashi Nihira ／ Wedge Motorcycle
Wedge Paint Factory
Photographer: Hiromitsu Yasui