Little bikes are fun; little classics are adorable. But little, rare Italian classics are irresistible—especially when they’re as fine as this ‘Honcati.’
Yes, we just made that up, because this fun-sized dynamo is as unique as they come. It belongs to Jeff Gittleson of Kinesis Moto, who built it by marrying a Ducati 160 Monza Jr. motor to a Honda CB175 frame.
“It’s not often I get to work on a project for myself,” says Jeff, “but when I do, I prefer to create something outside the box.”
“I’ve been wanting to play with a Ducati single for a while now, but every time I see one someone else built, it’s either a 250, 350, or 450. The little guys don’t get any love, so when the 160 fell into my lap, I jumped on it.”
By “fell into my lap,” Jeff means that he found the 1966-model Monza Jr. motor—just the motor—on eBay. Luckily he had a spare 1971 CB175 frame and front end stashed in his New York workshop…
“I always loved the aesthetic of the Ducati motors—the singles in particular,” he explains. “So I figured, why not marry it to what I had laying around? Seemed like a practical way to get another bike on the road, and it makes a great little commuter every day.”
Jeff wanted to give the Ducati 160 mill a proper makeover, so he turned to specialist Tom Bailey for guidance. According to Tom, the 160 is the closest motor to the original bevel singles used for endurance racing—and he knew just how they were tuned, back in the day.
Under Tom’s expert tutelage, Jeff set about rebuilding the baby Monza’s internals. He’s treated it to a hone and a minor port job, milled the barrel to raise compression (now 9.7:1), added a digital ignition and upgraded the charging system to 150W.
He then mated it to a 22mm Mikuni carb, via a custom-made intake manifold, and built a new exhaust system. “By adding length to the intake manifold,” Jeff explains, “and using a carb with an oval port, the torque curve was influenced, giving the motor beautiful grunt for its size at much lower RPMs than in its original form.”
But this is not a grenade motor. “Most of the time the bike will be ridden on local roads, for commuting purposes,” says Jeff. “So any performance increase couldn’t sacrifice the reliability these motors were well known for.”
To get the Ducati 160 motor into the CB175 frame Jeff axed the old mounts, then squared up the motor in the frame, while making sure that the proper ten-degree engine tilt was maintained. He also switched the chain over from the left to the right, and fabricated new mounts to hook it all up.
Jeff’s Honcati is also wearing the CB175’s front suspension, brakes and wheels—all refreshed, of course. The front’s been lowered by an inch, and there’s a new set of Hagon shocks out back.
The bike’s also sporting a new seat, clip-ons from Woodcraft and rear sets from Dime City Cycles. Jeff’s completely re-wired it too, and installed a new headlight and speedo.
Kinesis builds are usually painted, coated or polished right down to the last part, but Jeff broke character this time and left the engine casings untouched. So all the patina’s still there, hinting at the motor’s age and giving it an ‘unrestored original’ vibe.
For the paint, Jeff’s taken inspiration from his first performance car—a 2004 Pontiac GTO. The tank was done in Impulse Blue Metallic, with Action Powdercoating redoing the frame to match.
All told, Jeff reckons his little café racer now weighs somewhere south of 200lbs, wet. So he’s dubbed it ‘The Featherweight.’
“Since we upped the power, and put the bike on a major diet, it’s hard to remember it’s only 160,” he says. “Simple, lightweight, and distraction free.”
Distraction free… that sounds nice.