One builder who perfectly blends race track styling into his road-going motorcycles it’s Pepo Rosell of XTR Pepo. However, to assume these street bikes are all show and no go would be a huge mistake.
Pepo’s work is backed by years of racing experience and his knowledge of motorcycles is second to none. So whether the donor for a build is a trellis framed Italian or a Japanese inline-four he knows exactly how to improve upon its original design. What this usually entails is retrofitting different parts to achieve his goal and this bike, coined the Honda Hornet Sake Racer, is the perfect example.
The Sake Racer came to Pepo as a special customer request. Together they agreed on a donor for the project and Pepo began his search for a well priced secondhand example. The bike in question was a 600cc Honda Hornet and the one he managed to get his hands on was a 2001 model chosen because it already wore an Ohlins rear shock.
Once he had the bike back in the workshop Pepo began the process of planning how to upgrade each aspect of the Hornets performance. “This is an intuitive process” he explains. “Normally for suspension and brakes, I look for secondhand Ducati parts because they use the best standard equipment. Sometimes I am also driven by budget. When this happens I look for Japanese parts as they are generally cheaper.” As for the Sake Racer, he went with a balanced mix of both.
The Sake Racer’s suspension and handling upgrades are, for the most part, of an Italian flavour. At the bike’s pointy end is a set of Ducati Monster forks and yokes grafted to the Honda frame. In order to retain the Monster’s Brembo brakes, Pepo also kept the Ducati’s front wheel. All of the brake discs front and rear are ventilated NG items and that fancy Ohlins shock still remains at the rear.
For power improvements, Pepo began the upgrade process by blueprinting the 600cc transverse four. For improvements in airflow, the intakes have been worked and a Dynojet kit and DNA filters fit to each of the carbs. At the noisy end, there’s a 4-into-2-into-1 set of SuperMario headers that vent out through a tidy looking Spark megaphone muffler. In addition to the engine work, the bike also benefits from a sizeable drop in weight.
The Sake Racer’s new look is decidedly more retro than Honda’s original, rather outdated Hornet design. The fitment of an early model CB550 fuel tank proved to be one of the most challenging tasks of the build, but the result is a much sleeker, streamlined silhouette. The custom Italian leather seat sits on a new subframe that levels out the bikes bone line and the electrical systems have somehow all been hidden out of sight. Tomaselli clip-on bars set up a racier riding position and are dressed with Yamaha R1 and Honda CBR1000 levers. Hovering over the front wheel is yet another retrofit fragment, a BMW R Nine T mudguard which is held in place by XTR mounting gear. The stock dials have also been retired to make way for a single TT dashboard.
Yellow numbered racing plates give the Sake Racer an unmistakable racing veneer and tie in nicely with the gold Ohlins shock, DID chain and Ducati forks. For touches of raw alloy, parts of the engine, the swingarm and footrests were sandblasted. The fuel tank has been finished in bone white with metallic blue panels to match the frame.
Unsurprisingly the finished product rides much better than its former stock self. The only question we had for Pepo was why the chunky Continental TKC 70 rubber? To which he replied: “Simply because the customer wants to go to the beach with the bike via sandy roads.” This was, of course, the kind of answer we expected from a builder who always puts purpose first.