Member Build: Richard's CB400

Richard joined up as a member and complete bike beginner in 2015 and rebuilt a Honda CB400 over a few months. We were super impressed by his eagerness to learn, his planning skills and methodical approach to wrenching. 

- all images are by Richard or Devin

Richard writes:


My Custom Bike Build: Part 1

I would like to start by saying that I am not really a motorbike person. This project started out as a need to fulfil my creative urge. A little while ago I stripped down my old mountain bike and rebuilt it into a single speed - a very straight forward project compared to the one I'm getting involved in now.
This whole process kinda started when my motorbike learners license was about to expire. I currently ride around on a 1967 Vespa 90, so have only ever needed a learners to ride on the road. I decided to book to take my motorbike license and with that decided that I would like to level up on my current transport. The more conventional route would have been to take a trip to the local motorbike dealer and find a suitable steed. But I have this creative drive and an interest in vintage and dated things that need a little TLC.
After some research I found a bike that would hopefully be ideal for my skill level and enjoyment. In conjunction with the bike search I was looking around to see if there were any workshops that would have a facility for customers to tinker with their rides. I had remembered hearing something a little while ago, but hadn't really taken it in because I'm not really a motorbike person. The place I found is called the Woodstock Mancave, yes mancave! It was just the place I was looking for. They have workshop bays and the tools you need to work on your bike. You can also store your bike in one of their parking bays.
The Bike:
I had found a bike, but as things work there was a slight hurdle. I live in Cape Town and the bike was in Kimberley, some 900 odd km away. After a few phone calls and plenty of emails, the bike found its way into a transport truck bound for Cape Town. After a nervous couple of weeks I had the bike with all the documents and a road worthy certificate. I was now the owner of a 1977 Honda CB400f.
Richards 1977 CB400F

My Custom Bike Build: Part 2

Into the workshop and down to business. The first couple of visits to the workshop were to familiarise myself with the bike and to work out if there were any major issues with it. Devin (one of the owners) and Neil (resident mechanic) were there to lend a hand and offer guidance.
Fortunately there seemed to be only running issues. It had been standing for some years(according to the previous owner)so the timing was out, value clearance needed to be looked at, carbs needed cleaning and the oil needed to be changed. Brakes seemed ok, but they were looked at further down the line.

The plan from the start was to customise the bike, so I had gathered a lot of reference of Honda's that had cafe racer or brat style modifications. What I've landed up with is something in that space. Step one was remove the back end and chop the end of the frame to make space for a tail loop.
From there I fabricated a fibre glass base, which would become the seat pan. I created a rise at the front of the seat pan, so that it would clear the end of the petrol tank. Then mocked up the cropped rear mudguard and additional tabs that need to be attached to mount both the mudguard and seat.
Bolts were mounted to the top of the seat pan which will attach to the frame after that I used a layer of chipped foam for the main body of the seat and topped it off with some high density foam(grey in colour).

A new, wider front tire was fitted which meant I had to remove the existing front mudguard. When I got the bike it only had one side cover, so I decided to make 2 new ones which kept a similar shape to old ones. Once the bike was mocked up with all the modifications added, it was time to strip down, clean, paint and reassemble.

My Custom Bike Build: Part 3

Strip down, clean, polish, paint and reassembly.
We had the bike 90% stripped in one day. I made sure to take pictures as I was pull it apart and to label things and put bolts, nuts, washers etc. in marked ziplock bags.
Alan gave the engine a great steam clean and helped me polish some of the parts. I am fortunate in that the wheels are in really good condition. The chrome shone bright with a little polishing and the wheel hubs came out really well with some metal polish and a fair amount of elbow grease.
Reassemble went very smoothly, a little patience to label parts and bits went a long way. I've listed all the things that were done before reassembly below
- Powder coat frame, swing arm, both stands and the triple tree, handle bar and rear mudguard -
- Replace wheel bearings for front and rear wheels -
- Replace master cylinder -
- Attach new indicator lights and tail light -
- Replace fork seals -
- 2 new tires -
- New exhaust pipe -
- Made new side covers from fibre glass -
- Clean and polish wheels, wheel hubs, chain, exhaust headers, front forks, rear shocks -
- Replaced a bunch of seals -
- Vapour blasted 4 engine cover panels, not the engine -
- Respray petrol tank(thanks to Jamie) and fit 3D printed logos -
I have a mate who has a 3D printer, so I designed the Honda logo in a 3D program, then sent it off to him to get printed. I think it turned out really great. Lastly just a little hint of the final tail end.
Once the bike was fully assemble the real trying part started... getting the engine running properly. I'm not saying I'm an expert in this department but I've learnt so much about tuning the engine. Pulling the carbs apart, cleaning, reassembly, and repeat. Adjusting air screws, idle screw, balancing carbs, measuring valve pressure, adjusting valve clearance. So much to learn, but it has taken me this whole process to be confident to try and do this on my own.
Thank you to Devin, Neil, Alan at the Woodstock Mancave and everyone else that assisted along the way. It's been an amazing experience. Now time to ride!!
The absolute cherry on came when the Woodstock Mancave put on its annual Garage Built Show in December. The streets were filled with bikes and bike enthusiasts along with pro bike builders showing off their latest creations. Then there was the private or non-professional garage built bikes which were all listed and entered into their competition for the best bike build. My bike was entered and landed up winning the best bike award!! I was totally blown away by this prize and recognition.


Well done Richard, we're super proud of your journey and watching you learn ( you even know more than us about carb tuning 4 cylinder bikes now!) 


Team WMC



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