The early 80s Honda CB900C is one of the most unusual bikes Honda ever made. It has a ten-speed gearbox: five ‘normal’ ratios and then a dual-range high/low selector, much like you’d find in a vintage Land Rover.
It also has shaft drive adapted from the Goldwing, air-assisted forks and shocks that need to be pumped up with a bicycle pump, and a kerb weight of nearly 600 pounds. Most definitely not material for a café racer conversion then, unless your name is Grzegorz Korczak and you run Poland’s Unikat workshop.
Grzegorz is a man who likes to look for positives in anything, and in the case of the CB900, one of those is the engine: a 902 cc DOHC mill with four 32 mm Keihin carbs and 84 hp, and electronic pointless ignition.
“I bought the Honda in 2014 because I wanted to build a ‘strong’ café racer for myself,” he tells us. “I was a bit afraid of the unusual construction and the 10-speed gearbox—but the year of manufacture was the same as my birth, which told me it was destiny!”
Unikat have spent over five years building up this CB. “That may seem like too long, but all that time I was slowly and successfully reaching my goal,” says Grzegorz. “Today, only the engine, drivetrain and frame cradle remain from the original. Every other element is either built from scratch or heavily reworked.”
He’s shortened the front suspension, remodeled the tank and airbox, and repositioned the electrics under the seat. All the new aluminum components are hand-polished, and many others are now chromed for a classic cafe racer look.
“Café racers are above all light, so we also got rid of everything unnecessary,” says Grzegorz. “What does not have to be visible is hidden under the tank, or in the rear end. The battery is under the swingarm axle, and the cables are hidden in the frame. The center of gravity is much lower now, and total weight is reduced by almost 40 kg [88 pounds].”
There’s a definite drag bike vibe here, helped by the lowering and slimming down undertaken by Unikat. They’ve cut the bottom edge of the tank by over a centimeter, because “details make the difference.” The four air intake ‘trumpets’ took more than a week to make, with internal mesh, micro-threads and screw holes crafted with a watchmaker’s precision. There’s even a custom fuel tap.
Unikat have fabricated new clip-ons, designed in such a way that the screws that fasten them are not visible. There’s a Motogadget speedo in a custom bracket cut from a single piece of aluminum, along with new custom chromed headlamp brackets. Kawasaki Vulcan hand controls replace the square-ish Honda originals.
To get the stance right, Grzegorz has ditched the original F19/R16 alloy wheels for 17-inch spoked rims with sportier proportions. The first wheels he bought didn’t quite fit, but a subsequent set of Takasago rims worked—after the varnish was peeled off to match the rest of the bike. New brake discs were machined up too, but with the bulky shaft drive to cater for, this was no easy matter.
The mighty inline four engine is now finished to an even higher level than when it left the factory forty years ago, and has been treated to a full set of new custom pipes. There’s a Dynojet Stage 3 jet kit to fine-tune the four huge carburetors, so output will now be nudging the 100 hp mark. Grzegorz has even made a transparent Plexiglas shield that he can attach in front of the rear wheel, so that mud and water do not fly into the mesh intake filters.
The lighting is equally neat, with Motogadget turn signals embedded into the clip-ons and a brake light mounted on a swingarm bracket—along with the license plate holder.
Leather is another Unikat trademark, and this CB is sporting classy brown hide not only on the seat, but also the grips. It’s a good foil for the navy blue paint, which Grzegorz describes as “a good, noble and timeless color.”
It’s close to the original Candy Poseidon Blue, one of two colors the CB900C was originally offered in. “The only thing I liked about the original motorcycle was its navy blue paint. After a few attempts with our painter Marcin, we have achieved a paint that has beautiful depth.”
The CB900C is now registered and insured, and Grzegorz has finally been enjoying the fruits of his labor on the roads of Wroclaw. But there’s a blank plate just behind the speedo, waiting to be engraved with the name of the future owner. If that could be you, drop Unikat a line.