I’m pretty sure, most of you have experienced in some way or another a similar situation: you’re shopping at the grocery store when you suddenly spot a very attractive woman at the end of the aisle, right next to anti-dandruff shampoo and nail clippers. Thankfully, you remember at that precise moment that you’re in desperate need of a nail clipper so you head in the direction of said woman toiletries. But now, standing right next to her you realize that she looks somehow familiar. Wait, isn’t that a girl you know from back in the day at school? You vaguely remember her thick glasses and her frumpy clothing style. Wasn’t she Christina, the school-hottie’s best friend? What was her name again? Nathalie? Nicole? Nadine! Yes, that’s Nadine from school! A few weeks back you ran into Christina and she’s not that hot anymore, lukewarm at best, but Nadine? Wow! A shy smile on her face seems to indicate she recognizes you as well so you do what a cool bearded and tattooed guy like yourself has to do: you grab the next best thing you can get a hold of and flee.
So now you might wonder what the heck this story has to do with motorcycles. Just think of a two-wheeled equivalent to our Nadine back in the days. In the history of motorcycles, you’ll find a lot of underestimated or overlooked bikes as well. Although having great potential, marketing decisions and budget cuts ended with rival products being simply more desirable. The two-wheeled equivalent of Christina, so to speak. Now, the Honda Clubman GB 500 TT you see in these pictures can be compared to Nadine. Only this time, it wasn’t age and a little bit of make-up that turned the wallflower into a looker but the expert pair of hands belonging to Oliver Aschenbrenner of 271 Design in Germany.
For Oliver (just as for many of us) mopeds and Vespa’s inevitably led to motorcycles. In 2007, he bought said GB 500, rode it quite a lot and did some minor improvements before finally deciding in 2014 to go the extra mile. Now, if your diplomas prove you’re an industrial designer as well as an aircraft mechanic, that extra mile can quickly turn into more extra miles. Just have a look at the pictures and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Oliver started with raising the gas tank for about 12mm in the front. This straightened the overall profile of the bike. Then, the rear sub frame was shortened and a new tail section designed with CAD software. The result was laminated by hand with carbon fiber sheets. A couple of reworked tubes snitched from a Honda CB 450S lowered the front slightly while the wiring was reduced and hidden underneath the tank. The remaining components were reduced or replaced with more sophisticated parts. The paint job as well as the pinstriping was applied by Chris from Chiko’s Pinstriping (learn more about his work HERE) while the frame as well as a handful of other parts were powder coated.
Oliver’s initial plan to build the fastest but yet reliable RVCF engine had to be buried after a closer look at the massive budget as well as the very long waiting times for bespoke parts this idea would imply. But backing off of the initial plan doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not allowed to improve anything at all, right? So first, he completely overhauled the engine. The cylinder head had to be repaired by ABP Racing due to a hairline crack, so why not beef it up a bit now that he holds it in his hands?
In the meantime, after seeing Alexander Winkler’s SR racer, Oliver had a new idea in mind; he wanted a clutch cover that allowed changing the entire clutch without having to open the casing cover at all. So he began twiddling with his CAD software, crafted cardboard stencils and basically struggled with every millimeter. But Erich Eberle from Drema GmbH welded and milled in perfection so the new clutch cover worked and sealed perfectly. The final assembly of the engine was a piece of cake for someone having worked for Triumph Motorcycles in England and Lego in Denmark. Due to higher compression and the new cam shaft that eliminates the auto-decompression system, the little Honda now demands a strong leg to be started. But Oliver says once turning, it runs like an A.
And that’s how Oliver turned the wallflower from back in the days into a real looker. The craftsmanship as well as many fine details make the Gretchen named Honda CB stand out of the crowd. Now if you see Gretchen somewhere, even if it’s near shampoo or nail clippers, take a second look. And don’t run away this time, will you?
Pictures by Philipp Wulk.