Christopher came to The Handbuilt Show #5 for the first time two years ago and was blown away.
“There were so many incredible bikes it made me want to build something I would love to ride.”
He returned home to Iowa ready to hatch a plan. Being somewhat of an aficionado of early 1900's board trackers, Christopher began to formulate an idea to pay homage to the obscure but legendary FN Four - the world's first production in-line four-cylinder motorcycle, and in 1911 the world’s fastest production bike topping at a heady 40 mph.
Out in his shed lay a 1973 Honda CB350 that was wrecked several years ago A friend of his planned to restore it, but lost interest, So Christopher picked up the torch and began his build.
He started with the frame. After much research he found one online that would work, a far more practical option than building one from scratch.
“When it showed up the guy either was in a hurry or didn't care about the finished product. The bottom cradle tube from the headstock was twisted, and the rear hardtail section was not square.”
The frame required a great deal of remedial work to correct, which ate a big chunk of Christopher’s budget, and killed his schedule almost immediately. In fact, it was the low point of the build.
However, he persevered and tore the motor down, replacing the cam-chain, tensioner, fitting all new gaskets and seals, and installing a new clutch.
His favorite part of the build was creating the under-slung tank. It took more than several hours to mock-up with florist foam and cardboard to finally get the shape right. Christopher recruited help from his friend Mike Frieden, a fabricator by trade, who guide him through the shaping process. He recessed the Motogadget speedo and the peephole fuel sight gauge. The front end was repurposed from an early Harley big twin.
Christopher went back to woodworking class as he considered it appropriate for a board tracker to have wood accents. He used 1/8" thick Bolivian Rosewood over the backbone, rear fender, to encase the Motogadget M-lock, and the battery/Motogadget M-unit box.
The rear aluminum fender was rolled with a double bead to recess the Rosewood. He fitted an internal throttle and twist clutch, leaving the bars lever free. He turned a set of grips for the internal mechanisms from a solid piece of brass.
The biggest upgrade was the carbs. Christopher went with a set of Keihin CR26 that brought the little motor to life. The highpoint of the build was firing the motor for the first time with the Keihin carbs fine-tuned to perfection.
Christopher finished the build in August 2019, and despite almost doubling his budget, he’s very happy with the result. The bike turned out to be 90% of his original design concept with a few improvements along the way.
Christopher decided to take a punt and enter it for The Handbuilt Show 2020 and We’re glad he did. Come see this lovely board-tracker on show in Austin on the weekend of April 3 - 5, 2020.
This bike is a shining example of the Handbuilt ethos. The bikes on display each year are as much of a celebration of hand-crafted excellence, as they are an inspiration to future builders.