Not all new wave customs are fair weather bikes. This long, low Honda CB350 K4 comes from inside the Arctic Circle—or, to be more precise, from the small city of Rovaniemi in Lapland, northern Finland. The average annual temperature is a smidge above zero °C, and there’s snow on the ground for 175 days a year.
That didn’t deter industrial design student Timo Karinen though. He worked on the bike in a friend’s warehouse—heated, we hope—and fabricated the metal in a workshop at his university.
Why a 1973 Honda, rather than the BMW GS or KTM you might expect to find in such a hostile climate? “I really like the classic look of these bikes,” says Timo. “How the engine looks, and the symmetry of the exhaust pipes on both sides of the bike.”
In the spring of 2012, Timo bought the CB350 in original condition and rode it for the whole summer under the midnight sun. “I did a few longer trips, and realized that the bike was definitely a ‘keeper.’ Surprisingly, I was very satisfied with the power and speed from that small motor.” So Timo decided to dismantle the old Honda right down to the nuts and bolts, and treat it to a complete rebuild.
The biggest problem wasn’t the actual building—it was finding time to work on the fabrication while at university. “I had to sneak in to the metal workshop, because the university strictly forbids any personal work or crafting. I later found out that there was a teacher at the university doing the same thing, sneaking in to the workshop to make motorcycle parts!”
Timo rebuilt the motor with overbored pistons and rings. He also removed the starter and modified the original exhaust header tubes, adding db-killers to muffle the sound. “I didn’t have a lathe or milling machine available, so I made all the parts using hand tools. I’m not the biggest fan of bolt-on parts, so I made as many parts as I could, like the throttle control and tail light.”
Timo has shortened the frame but extended the swing arm by 80mm. It’s given the bike a new and eye-catching stance that really works, longer and lower than the original. The seat foam is covered by leather from an old jacket, and sits on a new metal pan. (It’s pretty good for a first attempt too.)
The Honda has had a complete rewire and the battery is now under the seat—just ahead of a sleek bobbed fender, and behind the repositioned horn. “There’s is not a single button or switch on the handlebars, and I love that,” says Timo. “It’s a huge difference to the driving experience of newer bikes, which have complete overkill when it comes to handlebar controls.”
The bike is a great icebreaker with older Finnish riders, especially those who rode small Hondas in their youth. “In almost every parking lot I meet a guy who used to have this kind of bike, and is willing to share his stories.”
Despite the unforgiving Lapland climate, it sounds like Timo rides in all weathers. “The bike’s even pleasant to ride in the rain,” he laughs, “because I like to get my face and back wet!”
Hardy types, these Finns.