Custom Motorcycle: Honda CB750 Custom Tribute

Custom Motorcycle: Honda CB750 Custom Tribute

Building a chopper in remembrance of Owen Berkefeld

“When I was a kid, I remember watching my old man slave over a gorgeous black CB750 he was building,” says Lenny Berkefeld in remembrance of his late father, Owen. “My dad always put 110 percent into his builds so I have always tried to emulate that.”

It’s memories such as this that spurred the creation of this 1972 Honda CB750K, a model that, amusingly, Lenny’s dad wasn’t too keen about at times. “He couldn’t have disliked the idea of me buying one if he tried,” Lenny recalls. “He always told me, ‘They’re slow, heavy throttle, and $#!+ brakes in the dry and none in the wet.’”

The “bike” had started out just as you would expect by our use of quotation marks: a collection of spare parts and junk that had sat rusting away in his father’s garden for 20 years. But upon Owen’s passing, Lenny felt compelled to put them together in his shed.

Though described as “reasonably sized,” the fact that the shed’s filled with five bikes, a pool table, and gear makes building there a challenge. “Other than spending 25 minutes looking for a bloody tool that’s usually right in front of me or in my pocket, it isn’t too bad of a place to be,” he explains.

Another reason why it might take Lenny half an hour to find tools is because there are so many. Not only Lenny’s father, but his grandfather left behind a plethora of tools. “As a third generation bike nut, I’ve been lucky enough to have every tool under the sun whether they’re mine or passed down,” says Lenny.

Tools, however, don’t solve everything, especially when you’re facing your first complete build on your own. “It was bloody intimidating,” Lenny says. “Up until a few years ago, I’d give Dad a buzz for advice and he’d call back in a few hours with 100 different solutions. This time around, I just sat there in the shed with chopper parts everywhere.”

At least Lenny had help from a family member during the most daunting part of the process: the wiring. “I’ve never been keen on working with electrics after being zapped pretty hard while installing air conditioners in my younger days,” he remembers, laughing. “As you could guess, nothing worked, so I decided to pull it all out and start fresh.”

But before he’d make himself less susceptible to zapping, Lenny had to first piece the bike together. Lenny knew what he wanted: “loud with little throwbacks to builds of yesteryear,” much like his dad’s gold 750 chopper, a bike that just “screamed old-school cool.”

So with this as his guide, Lenny immediately took a 6” angle grinder to the frame. “If I didn’t just go for it, I knew I’d overthink it and probably crap out,” he says.

But after that initial cut, Lenny found himself thinking quite a bit—for a few weeks, in fact—about whether he should try a technique that involves cutting and bending various tubes in a bike’s rear. “I chopped it with the intention of konging the frame to keep some form of rear suspension, but the more I looked at it, the more I wanted that clean chopper frame line,” he recalls.

So Lenny installed a universal hardtail kit, though it took many attempts at clamping the frame to keep the “backbone dead straight” to achieve classic chopper lines.

While Lenny did some clamping, he did not do any welding (nor did he weld on a oil tank later). “A local lad did that for me as I enjoy living,” he says jokingly. “My hands shake too much to be a good welder.”

Once the frame was done, Lenny started transferring parts from his other 750 four, including the engine (“I love the sound of the SOHC”) and a front bobbed fender, complete with brackets and triple trees.

He then traded parts with other DIYers whom he affectionately refers to as “chopper dudes.” Swapping saved Lenny money, but these dudes imparted something much more valuable—wisdom. “It’s okay to speak to bunch of social media people who have every idea in the world, but tried and tested knowledge comes from people who have built and lived motorcycles for 30-plus years,” says Lenny.

Lenny also made many of his own components. Though the 4-into-1 header is manufactured, Lenny fabbed the tailpipe out of stainless pipe by cutting it to length, shaping the end, and, despite how much he loathes welding, added a 45 bend. Luckily, Lenny wouldn’t have to weld again to attach his tailpipe to the header since he flared the end, though he did have to provide stabilization for the flared pipe, which he did by fabbing and installing brackets made from flatbar near the rear axle mount. “It’s not the best lines for a chopper,” he says of the exhaust, “but it does the job.”

He also made mounts from 4mm alloy flatbar for his Kawasaki tank since it has “very high” mounting points. “This would have taken away from the chopper lines,” explains Lenny. He installed one just above the carbs and two more above the front of the engine. The latter brackets also support the speedo.

At this point, it seemed Lenny had all the parts he needed, so he spent half a day hosing and cleaning his garage before applying acrylic paint using his compressor. “It was just time consuming and hard on the lungs,” Lenny says. “It was well worth it and a blast!”

But while the paint was curing, he came across a Harley Shovel chopper seat that was perfect for his build. Unfortunately, the seat was much too narrow, so he modified the seat base and foam to fit. As for upholstering, that was a present from Lenny’s wife for his 30th birthday.

In the end, what began as a multiyear endeavor became a nine-month project. Somehow, he got the CB on the road by the anniversary of his father’s passing—September 28.
“Thanks to my wife, Marilyn, for the support, as she knew this was something I had to do for myself and my dad,” says Lenny. “Lastly to my best mate, “Ants,” for help when I needed an extra hand and being around to bounce ideas back and forth.”

He continues: “I like to think Dad would be pretty happy, as he was not a person for keeping things standard, so I think I followed in his way of thinking pretty well,” says Lenny. “It was a build to test myself and to say ‘thank you’ to him for the knowledge and memories he gave me.” RC