Return of the Cafe Racers - Honda CB125s Cafe Racer

Honda CB125s Cafe Racer

My father knows nothing about motorcycles or cars for that matter. His career as a welfare officer gave him plenty of experience working with criminals and the mentally ill, but it didn’t really give him any skills he could pass on to me (other than a bit of self defence!). Despite this there’s nothing I like more than a story about one man passing on his knowledge and skills to a younger generation, especially when it involves motorcycles. This custom ’75 Honda CB125s owned by Jesse Sotelo in San Jose is the product of such a sharing of knowledge. A father/son team who combined different skills and overlooked differing taste to create one hell of a tidy little Cafe Racer.

“This thing (“Bowie” the Honda CB125s) was an impulse buy and was in pretty bad shape the day I took it home. Very dirty, some rust, a few broken components and not running. I like to think that i’ve always had a pretty good eye for design and with my perfectionist and (sometimes) OCD tendencies, I thought I’d have a shot at a total rebuild. A good eye I may have but I am definitely no mechanic, that’s where my Father comes in. My Father is both a heavy machinery mechanic of almost 30 years and a Harley enthusiast (I just threw up a little in my mouth) so it worked out perfect for the whole father/son project thing, especially since he has access to all the tools and scrap metal/steel in his shop.”


“With our conflicting schedules it took us nearly 9 months to finish but the result is something i’m very proud of. Diving into a project like this was a great experience and a great way to learn, especially on such a simple bike. Now I think there’s a CB550 out there calling my name.”


As Jesse puts it the Honda CB125 is a “simple bike” but looking over the list of mods he made it certainly doesn’t seem all that simple. The Honda CB200 tank was stripped and repainted in pewter before adding the Honda decals and applying a clear coat. With a new petcock and freshly blasted fuel cap in place the tank was fit to the frame with some modification and reinforcing. The exhaust from a CL100 was mated to the cylinder and wrapped with DEI wrap to stop Jesse’s calf from blistering. A new carb and gasket with UNI filter help the little cylinder to breathe freely while 12v upgrades to the electrics make it a reliable daily commuter.

The headlight was taken from a CL175 which they blacked out and an integrated stop/indicator tail light reduces clutter up back. Then at the front Clubman bars, new levers, cables and switches, Oury grips and a centered speedo replace most of the original pilot controls. Lastly the wheels, the frame and the shocks were powder coated and a new set of tires and custom seat had it ready for the road. Since it was finished Jesse has clocked up almost 5000 miles without a hiccup, I think he and his father should both be proud.

Photo credit: Drew Carlascio Photography

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