“My name is Nils J. Ksienzyk and I’m a 28 year old bike builder from Germany. From the age of 15 up to 24 I’ve owned several bikes from 50cc to 1050cc. I’ve always changed parts to give them my own style, but began feeling like bolting on parts was boring and fake. I decided to sell my bike and go for something older. Then I bought a busted up Honda CB550. It was in bad condition. I wanted to see if I was able to repair the Honda and make it my own.”
“The CB had a dirty red frame and a white tank that were in very bad condition when I bought it. The engine wasn’t running, it came with no documents, no keys, lots of missing parts and I didn’t even know if it would ever run again. I wanted an original fuel tank with a patina that showed it had history. My plan was to build a bike that appeared flat and low and had a seat that was as slim as possible. That was my vision for the perfect bike to match my style and attitude! No fancy leather boots, no white scarfs. I didn’t want that classic cafe style. I wanted something new school were I could wear my everyday clothes and just be myself, nothing over the top.”
“I disassembled the bike and bought all the necessary parts on the internet and at a local shop to get it running again. I then swapped out the old and broken parts with new ones. The rebuild began with powdercoating the frame in black, relacing the wheels, painting the forks, coating the rims and putting on new vintage style Avon rubber. Then I polished all the alloy parts such as the brake callipers, brake arms, engine side covers and so on. I also drilled holes into the side covers and the rear brake plate to give it an unique look and repeat the pattern of the front brake discs. I had to over haul the engine, carburettors and the entire wiring system because it was a real mess, one of the wires changed colour 5 times from its starting point to end!”
“I added pod filters, adjusted the carbs, cleaned the frame, added clip on’s and a different headlight. Small bar end blinkers replaced the bulky original ones and I mounted new switches. I fit the brake system from a CBR 600 to get the right pressure on the double discs and mounted a different triple tree to clean up the top of the forks. I found the right tank and a beautiful tail end. I then lowered the suspension from 350mm to 260mm, lowered the front forks about 40mm and shortened the frame so the new tail end would fit. I mounted a handmade leather seat pad, Side numberplate with mini custom brake and tail light and changed the exhaust using a customised muffler from a Harley.
When I was finished it started first kick and I then knew that my dream bike had become a reality.“
I think that custom bike builds generally come in two forms. There are those built to adhere to a particular style or genre such as Cafe Racers or Choppers that feature all the “required” modifications and design elements to be considered a correct representation of that style. Then there’s the builds that are created purely as a form self expression. Both of these approaches share similarities, but the big difference is that a bike built as an expression of personal style gives its builder the freedom to do what ever they want. Which way is better? Neither, but if I’ve learnt anything from building bikes it’s that personal touches are what really connect you to your bike. People will always have opinions, good and bad, but at the end of the day it’s your bike, not theirs, so have some fun with it…