If there’s a builder entitled to look back on 2013 with a quiet sense of satisfaction, it’s John Ryland of Classified Moto. He’s enjoyed both critical and commercial success, with so many commissions he’s had to close the order book on more than one occasion.
This is the final 2013 build to roll out of Classified’s Virginia workshop, a 1992 Honda Nighthawk—better known as a CB750 to those of you outside the USA. “This one was built for a pilot in the UAE,” John explains. “He’d seen a bike we shipped to the Biker’s Cafe in Dubai, and wanted something ‘similar but unique.’”
“We’ve been looking for a new build platform to explore as we phase out the XVs that we’ve become associated with. We liked the idea of the Honda Nighthawk: the motors are pretty reliable, and the Nighthawk is readily available here in the States. ‘Classifying’ them provides a great before/after.”
For the Nighthawk, John wanted a street tracker vibe—a higher seat with less of a cockpit than usual, a narrow tank, and upright bars. “Maybe an inline four isn’t the motor of choice for trackers,” he observes, “but we like the way it looks. Like a big motor swapped into a small bike.”
Seth Ingham of Sleeper Designs worked with John to find an intake solution. It needed to be somewhere between the huge stock airbox and compact but finicky pod filters. “I was pushing for a slim aluminum airbox, until Seth came up with the twin intake setup,” says John. “It was an expensive process, but it fixed a lot of the issues that pods cause—and looks super clean.”
The motor has been completely rebuilt, and the stock carbs rejetted. The front end is from a 2008 Yamaha YZF-R6R, installed using Classified’s now-familiar Triple Tree Conversion and a custom billet upper clamp. The back is suspended via a Ducati Multistrada swing arm and Hypermotard shock. Sitting atop the powdercoated frame is a nickel-plated tank from a 1974 Yamaha RD250.
Visually, the Nighthawk has all the Classified cues: perforated nickel side panels, a stripe along the top of the bodywork, a Roy Baird seat and gold forks. “Oddly for us, this one also has turn signals, which came out looking pretty sweet!”
There are three more Nighthawks in the works right now at Classified, but the biggest news is a move into an amazing historic warehouse near downtown Richmond. “It’s been a long time dream,” says John. “It was sometimes frustrating to see all the other upstart brands in cool shops while we were still in the family garage!”
After the dust has settled, John will be delivering actress Katee Sackhoff’s second build (see our coverage of the first here) and a first bike for actor Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead and Boondock Saints. “And our episode of Cafe Racer TV finally ran, so we’ve been selling lots of t-shirts. That’s a lot easier money than building bikes!”
A wry comment on the realities of the custom business these days. But Classified Moto have proved it’s possible to make a living out of the custom business. We’re looking forward to seeing what John and his crew come up with for 2014.
Images by Adam Ewing.