Ripon by Old Empire Motorcycles
‘Keeping the authentic classic lines to this build yet adding a healthy mix of unusual and modern results in our first build based on a Japanese four.
The Ripon’s simple but distinctive suspension setup declutters the rear of the motorcycle whilst the angled seat unit flows seamlessly from the modified tank into the minimalistic headlight shroud’
The build started when we were approached by a customer who had seen some of our previous work and decided that our take on a 4 cylinder café/brat was order of the day. A large capacity engine was not needed and the opportunity came up to purchase a ’79 CB550 which was promptly stripped and the surgery began.
In terms of fabrication it’s a complex build. The engine mounted parts of the frame stayed pretty much stock, however the entire rear subsection was removed and spliced into a new curved rear section and cowling where we have integrated the rear LED lights.
We had to break out the maths geometry set for the suspension area, as we removed the rear shocks entirely! It was decided that there was plenty of room under the engine for a pull type shock, so we duly obtained a second hand Buell shock, created a jig that mounted off the bench and began extending the frame. Various other modifications were made to the front end of the frame and the swing arm to accommodate the shock and damper unit. After many trials and tweaks we got it bang on and couldn’t be more chuffed with the overall classic, uncluttered look it now possesses.
In the tinware department, the tank was shimmied forward and knee scallops were added to stay in keeping with the classic Empire Style and the front cowling was hand rolled from sheet steel integrating the headlight with the clocks and ignition barrel.
As always we start with the running gear as this can hugely effect or even sometimes define the rest of the build. Front and rear were replaced to 19’’ aluminium rims and fully rebuilt with stainless spokes and vapour blasted hubs and draped them with Coker rubber!
At the sharp end it’s a stock set of forks fully rebuilt and dumped right down with a rework of the internals to house a custom set of super stiff shocks from Hagon along with a very heavy weight fork oil. We also decided to upgrade the braking system by opting for a twin disc set up rather than the standard single, a note to others similar to us that thought it was a simple case of just bolting on another caliper and disc, its not!
Our own aluminium clip on’s were fabricated, vapour blasted and rebuilt alongside the control units and levers and then finished with our laser cut leather grips. We wanted a ‘cockpit’ looking dash so opted for twin Koso units and remounted a simple ignition barrel between them. Led indicators were mounted discreetly front and back and tied into our one off loom that featured all upgraded or renewed components tied into the updated Shorai battery in a tidy little satchel along with the starter relay.
The engine had previously had the barrels honed and new rings installed, so we went about upgrading the usual things we inevitably have problems with, new seals, gaskets and a rewound generator and electronic ignition which all has work out very well. It was then soda blasted, repainted and the cases vapour blasted and fins polished to get what we think is a fantastic looking little engine!
The exhausts although simple took quite some time to figure out how we were going to work them as initially we wanted high level pipes but in reality it would be a choice between high pipes or calf muscles so we duly installed them tucked neatly along the sides, just long enough to make it run nicely but short enough to give it some bark!
We matched the leather grips at the front with our universal adjustable leather foot controls which we made as rear sets mounted on two curved struts, carefully integrated into the stock frame and mated everything with stainless linkages and rose joints.
Eventually we also replaced the standard Buell shock for a completely custom made unit from AST suspension which has fully adjustable dampening and preload meaning we could fine tune the ride.
Leather is always an important finish to our builds and we tied the grips and pegs in nicely with the leather battery satchel and smart diamond stitched, heavily grained brown leather seat and we have to say one of our most comfy seats to date!
After assembly we were a little apprehensive to see if the shock would work as we intended it to, but we are proud to say that it works flawlessly! It’s such a satisfying thing to see working and it keeps the whole bike super clean at the back and really ‘chunks’ up the main body of the bike giving it a vastly more aggressive stance.