Surfing and custom motorcycles are two cultures that, when combined, often produce radical results. For example, the ZedCat: a delightful Yamaha SR500 with a slightly juvenile slant, from relative newcomers CMBL.
CMBL (pronounce “symbol”) is the motorcycle-building side project of surfer John Eldridge. Based in Newquay, Cornwall, John’s been embedded in the UK surfing scene for most of his life. For the last ten to fifteen years his tastes have leaned towards more classic and stylized forms of surfing—aboard single fins, twin fins and longboards. (He even took first place at the Thirsty Fins surf comp during this year’s edition of the Wheels and Waves festival.)
It was during a wave-seeking expedition to Indonesia that John stumbled upon the Bali outpost of surf/bike crossover pioneers, Deus Ex Machina. Inspired by their take on the subculture, his mind was made up: as soon as he got home he passed his motorcycle license and hopped onto a ’78 SR500.
That was roughly four years ago, and since then John’s immersed himself in the new wave custom scene, even bringing influences from it into Strong Adolfos: a roadside café that he owns with his wife. He recently launched CMBL—a creative outlet for him to shape surfboards and build custom bikes.
The ZedCat’s the second motorcycle to roll off his bench, and the brief was pretty basic: “sleek and compact, with a dark yet seductive edge”. Since John’s daily runner is an SR, the choice of donor was a no-brainer—except this time he opted for a Japanese import model for its twin leading shoe front drum brake.
After stripping the SR down, it became clear that it had taken a serious knock at some point. The rear end was slightly twisted, so the frame went into a jig to have the rear rebuilt. Once it was 100% again, CMBL started modifying it to accept a café-style seat pan, aiming for a clean, bare-bones look. “We also wanted to see how long we could get away with a number plate behind the rear wheel,” says John, “so decided to give the rear loop enough kick to at least keep the cops off our backs for a little while.”
Laurent Amann of Storik Engineering was called in to shape the ZedCat’s aluminum seat pan. While he was at it, John discussed the option of a full stainless steel exhaust system with him. “We wanted to keep the sleek theme, so tucked the header pipe right in and let the rest flow down and slightly up the back. Laurent’s work is second to none, watch out for more from this guy.”
Working with the new exhaust system is a Mikuni TM36 flatslide carb, breathing through a velocity stack. By John’s account, it’s a good pairing: “we are happy to say it pushes way past stock and is a thrill to ride—the stainless hand-crafted exhaust has the sweetest tone.”
The SR’s stance was tweaked by shortening the forks internally by 1.5”, and kicking up the rear by 3/4” with a pair of YSS shocks. All the quintessential café elements are present: clip-ons, rear sets and a clean top triple tree. There’s also a custom wiring loom, hooked up to a smaller tail light and headlight, discreet turn signals and a compact speedo.
CMBL re-laced the rims with stainless steel spokes, machined cooling vents into the hubs and overhauled the brakes. For tires, John kept things practical—“I really wanted to feel the road with this motorcycle and wanted to give myself something to play around on, the Bridgestone Battlax had a look which would not stray too much from the brief while gripping the road nicely.”
The ZedCat’s most head turning quality has to be its paint scheme though. Inspired by some modern surfboard finishes, it’s an all-black zebra pattern combining matte and gloss finishes. “The zebra pattern is etched into the gloss black paintwork using a method we trialed a few times,” explains John, “before biting the bullet and laying it down. We can thank Paint Tech of Padstow, Cornwall for the great paint job and the willingness to try new things.” Breaking the monochrome theme is a custom oxblood leather seat with matching Biltwell grips.
With stripped back styling and outrageously cool paint, I’d be stoked if the ZedCat was mine. The good news is that it’s the first in a series of three planned builds.
“We will be illustrating two more ZedCat models which will be available for commission. They will be similar in style and based around the same donor SR500, but each will have its own unique bodywork and look.”