As you walk through the National Motorcycle Museum you’ll note the bikes and memorabilia are arranged topically. Machines by famous builders like Von Dutch welcome you, then you come upon replicas of the Billy Bike and Captain America Harley from Easy Riders. When you pass through the Harley-Davidson display section, then check out the Indians and note the Board Track display, you’ll see European and British bikes ahead. That’s where the Cafe Racer exhibit, sponsored by Cafe Racer Magazine is set up. It’s a combination of custom and factory made machines, street legal: cafe racers are like road racers but with lights. Bump seats, low bars and rear-set foot controls are typical. There’s Big Sid’s “hybrid” Vincati and nearby a perfect blue and silver Velocette Thruxton.
Among the hand built bikes in the cafe racer area is one by Iowa resident Mike Gustafson. A furniture designer by trade, Mike has built a few bikes, has ideas for more. The furniture he makes is primarily of wood, and given his skills, design talent and shop capabilities, he’s incorporated wood into his bikes as well.
Most striking is the fairing on Mike’s Honda CB350, and it is an example of what can be done with wood. When asked how he formed the fairing, a bent wood shape, Mike offered, “The fairing was crafted using one piece of 3/8″ bending luan with 1/8” bending birch ply on each side. I made a form and did this in a vacuum press, then I pressed a figured walnut veneer to each side. This was a common practice for me when I was building furniture, not always the easiest but you get a great result when it works!” So where most bike builders are focused on metal fabrication, Mike went with wood technology for the fairing and the nicely styled seat. Looking closely at these photos you can see Mike’s work fabricating mounts, selecting fasteners that serve as an interface between wood and metal. Walnut wood surfaces are highly finished, some with polished clear finishes, some in a brilliant candy apple red with real gold leaf striping.
Moving to the mechanicals of the bike, the engine went through a complete rebuild and some updates. Mike chose an electronic ignition from Charlie’s Place with Dyna coils. In place of the stock charging system a Rick’s Motorsport Electrics unit was installed. A weak point of CB350s is the cam chain tensioner so a KA slipper cam tensioner was used. Fuel mixing is through a pair of Mikuni VM30 carbs and Uni air filters. Mike fabricated new exhaust headers and went with stainless steel megaphone-style mufflers from Cone Engineering. Rear-set foot controls for shifting and rear brake replace the stock devices.
A 3.5 inch swingarm extension, longer stocks and dropping the front end through the triple tree brought the stance Mike was after. The frame went through some trimming and de-tabbing for a clean look.
- Engine: 180 Degree Parallel Twin
- Type: Single Overhead Cam / Air-Cooled
- Bore & Stroke: 64mm x 50.6mm
- Displacement: 325cc’s
- Carburetors: Mikuni
- Ignition: Battery / Points & Coils
- Compression Ratio: 9.3:1
- Horsepower: 33HP (Stock)
- Primary: Gear Driven
- Transmission: 5-Speed
- Clutch: Multi-plate, Wet
- Frame: Loop, Stamped Lugs, Tubular Steel
- Starting: Kick and Electric
- Electrics: 12V Alternator
- Suspension: Telescopic Fork / Swingarm, Dual Shock Absorbers
- Wheels/Tires: 3.00 x 18″ and 3.50 X 18″
- Brakes: Disk Front / Drum Rear
- Wheelbase: 55 inches
- Weight: 325 Pounds, Est.