Motorcycle Mojo Magazine – May 2021
1976 Honda CB750 Café
For many of us motorcycles often transcend being mere mechanical devices. We often build relationships with them, name them and even speak to them as if they too were human. Occasionally these “combustion fired companions” can reward us, becoming the catalyst to create or spark future friendships. The story of this 1976 Honda CB750 Café Racer clearly follows that unique phenomenon.
It was a lovely Sunday morning and the vintage motorcycles arrived in droves for some friendly bike banter and a good greasy breakfast. I was riding my own trusty 1973 CB750 Honda Café when a stranger approached and struck up a conversation. His name was Ed and he offered to buy my bike. At that point in time, I had owned it for over 20 years and was not interested in selling. He already had a very nice fleet of classic motorcycles and I was quite flattered that he was interested in mine.
As fate would have it, we became friends and over the course of the next few years I helped him build his own. The bike you see here is his creation. Originally commissioned and built by Carpy of California to Ed’s specifications, it arrived in Canada ready to go but still required some fine tuning and fettling. I pulled the motor and installed a Wiseco 836 kit, Barnett clutch, Dyna Ignition/coils and rejetted the carbs. I also did some minor suspension work and Ed worked his magic on the cosmetics. A little later Ed also opted to install 29mm CR Race carburetors. In the end it was a stunning example of the 70’s era Single Cam Honda. Parked beside my own 1973 Honda, at various rallies over the years, his always shone just a little brighter and always generated many admiring comments. Competition aside, the brotherhood created over these two bikes was complete.
As the years progressed Ed’s bike collection grew but he always had a soft spot for his hot rod Honda Four. Vintage Ducati’s, Norton’s, BMW’s came and went along with a plethora of modern motorcycles, but the Honda always remained as one of his favorites. He was an excellent rider and I soon learned to forget trying to keep up with him. Whether we were riding 60’s era 305 Super Hawks in the US Moto Giro’s or blasting up to breakfast on our CB750’s his riding ability always put me to shame. I am sure he put up with me mainly because I could fix whatever mechanical gremlins occurred if his bikes ever failed him.
Unfortunately, in the end I could only stand by and watch as his own body failed him. He lost his battle with cancer at the far too young age of 61. Before he left us, he called on my son Spencer and I to help him prepare for his imminent departure. It was a rainy, blustery, late summer day when we met at his garage. All the other bikes had been sold. Only his beloved Café Honda remained. He was getting rather frail so under his tutelage I gassed it up and installed the battery and it fired to life.
We had built it together and now he was passing its care and feeding to me. He had told me in advance that this day would come, though secretly I dreaded it. His reasoning was sound. He knew I would take good care of it. He also mentioned that because he had no children (and I had a son that rides) Spencer could continue to keep it rolling long after I was gone. He wanted to ensure that his creation would continue to dazzle others into future generations.
As I rode out of the underground parking lot the rain had stopped and the sun was out. The twenty- minute ride home was the only break in the foul weather all day. The pounding rain returned a few seconds after it was safely stashed in my garage. It was like a divine sign that the handover was meant to be. Ed Liu’s legacy was now my responsibility. We are after all only custodians of these mechanical companions while we walk and ride this planet. Our kindred karma had played its final hand. Twenty-five years ago, Ed wanted to buy my CB750 and through a sad twist of fate I ended up inheriting his. As it sits under the lights of my workshop it represents so much more than a motorcycle. It embodies the human aspect of our passion to ride and in its purest form represents the bond of a lasting friendship. Gods speed Ed, rest assured that your Honda is in good hands.
I have since ridden Ed’s Honda several times and made some minor modifications and repairs to make it more “streetable.”
The day I picked it up Ed pointed out a few glitches that required repair. Damaged brake light wiring and partially seized front caliper were easy fixes. Originally when I first worked on the bike, I had set it up identically to my own CB750. Stock cam, 836 Kit and rejetted carbs with Dyna ignition. However, in my opinion, when Ed installed the 29mm Race Carbs, its “street ability” was compromised. Yes, it made slightly better top end power but idled poorly and lacked the ability for carb synchronization. Since these photos were taken, I have returned to stock carbs, rejetted with velocity stacks.
Ed also loved electronic gadgets, cell phone and Garmin holders were all removed from the top triple clamps for a clean ‘70’s look. I polished the bar clamps and installed period grips. Also, while riding, it bothered me to not have turn signal indication. The signals are tucked in so tightly they cannot be seen flashing. I ran a harness up through the steering stem with a modified Fender Guitar Amp jewel light for indication. (Ed would approve, he also loved vintage guitars!)
Other things that offend my sensibilities like the 16-inch Harley rear rim will likely be left. Ultimately, I do not want to change too much of Ed’s original vision as it will always remain his bike. His tongue and cheek license plate “CAFEH” is uniquely Canadian and 100% Ed. Finally, as an homage to Ed I installed the rear seat cowl decals “Ed Liu’s Legacy.” The boys at breakfast will appreciate that.
Written by Sam Longo