Friday, February 15, 2008

KO 360

What Isaac has dubbed the "Knockout 360" is a 1974 Honda CB 360 twin. This model had slick shifting, was a six-speed (versus the five-speed 350), and had superior--albeit vibrate-y--power, but it sat on the showroom floor.

The KO 360's previous owner had turned it into a chopper with plus-ten-inch forks--raking it out, setting it sky-high, and making it uncomfortable to ride. The guy who consigned it, upon later finding out that Ian shortened the forks, said, "Oh, good, I'm glad you took those things down. That was tough to ride around on."

Ian and Isaac had just begun work on the KO twenty minutes before I first came on the scene at Twinline.

Look at these handlebars," Ian said. "They're disgusting. They're like, 'Yeah! Easy Rider!'--but with a reject Honda 360. This bike can really be fast, though--and it's gonna be."

So we started taking the bike down to nothing, stripping weight off of it. Removing 7 pounds from a bike is equivalent to adding 1 horsepower for acceleration.

For the taillight, Ian got a chopper-style lens shaped like a diamond and then took seven hours to build a scrap-steel seat to complement it.

"Usually I go with cat-eye lenses--elliptical lenses--that reflect the roundness of the bike," he said. "They're smooth and blend in pretty well. But with this one, I wanted something more angular."

During the seat build, Isaac offered constructive criticism. "That looks awful," he said. "It's like the Bat Bike." This from the guy who wants to put the Transformers symbol on his bike.

"Dude, this is cool," Ian protested.

Later, Ian told me, "Isaac's a genius, but he's also a twenty-year-old kid. People come to him and say, 'What should I do with this?' He gives them the answer, but he doesn't tell them about the twelve other things they have to take into consideration. So they go out, follow his advice, and wonder why there are problems. He says, 'Oh, after you do that, you have to do this and this and this and this and this.' And they go, 'Uh, what?!' The twelve other things aren't a big deal to him, but to everyone else in the world, they are.

"I like to be challenged and I like to challenge him, though," Ian said. "When we collaborate, we're really happy with the way things turn out."

When Ian got the seat finished, Isaac said, "Okay, yeah, that did turn out nice, even if it is the Bat Bike."

"This has no need to be the Bat Bike," Ian said. "It's it's own thing."

In addition to constructing a new seat, the guys have rebuilt the carbs, put on new tires, drilled out the rotor, and put homemade, race-style, ghetto rear sets on it. Ian built a wiring harness from scratch, forgoing turn signals, high-beams, and an electric starter in order to save about three pounds.

"The old, hack wiring job was a fire hazard," Ian said, "but I don't know how mine is going to work until I actually get the motor running."

They're running a non-standard-size battery and building out underneath it to hide it, since there will be no side-covers on this bike.

"It will still be a very serviceable bike," Ian said. "My goal is to be able to service the bikes that I sell, because what's the fun of having a custom bike that nobody can work on? We can take apart our bikes and put them back together in no time. All the work is in getting them from their crummy condition to where we want them.

The guys have also made a custom tailpipe, painted Ian's favorite color: flat black. They also painted the forks black. Guess what color they're painting the rest of the bike?

Next, the KO will get a new chain. It will get its motor running and a proper tune-up--a lost art, according to Ian. Ben from Hellbilly will follow up the paint job with free-form, gloss-black pinstriping.

"Ben's one of the most talented pinstripers, period," Ian said.

It'll get new handgrips. Shorter brake and clutch cables. An engine cleaning, to make it sparkly.

"One of my interns, Brian, is phenomenal at that," Ian said. "Everybody has their strengths. I try to put them where they want to be and where they're really good at contributing, and I try to push them to learn what they don't know--what they're not so comfortable with--and be there to get them through it. Once they're through it, they go, 'That's not so bad!' That's just how life is."

The KO is now more than halfway done, with just a couple of days' work left. When it's done, it will probably weigh about fifty pounds less than it did in stock form, and it should hug the road.