Gypsy – Old Empire’s Honda


This bike started way, way back – it’s been a project that’s been on the burn for some time. That said, the best results usually come from things long matured and refined!

Words and pics: Old Empire Motorcycles

We were approached by a Welsh gentleman after he’d seen the Vulcan CB250 we did many years ago now, but initially declined the build because we’re so busy. He wasn’t to be put off, though, and began stockpiling suitable parts – a Honda CB250 donor bike, Aprilia RS125 forks, and so on.

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As with anything we build, once it’s done we always look back and wish we’d changed this or that or done something differently. In this case we had a thorough look at what we disliked about the Vulcan (not much really, just small things); firstly, the stance – it was too high at the front so, for this bike, we shaved off an inch, and lowered the top yoke right down on top of the headstock. Secondly, the tank was too big for the right lines, so that was carefully narrowed/angled/tapered to get the right profile. Thirdly, it lacked oomph, so we decided on the US 360cc version of the engine.

The fun began when we found that the engine needed a full rebuild. This was undertaken by our good friend Willy Valentine and, after soda-blasting and a repaint, was good to go. The frame was carefully cut, and manipulated in all the right places, to get the shortened look, and a tight loop on the back was made, along with little notches for the leather side-bags we envisioned. A neat little tail/brake light was embedded in the back, and we remounted the rear shocks as the angle looked too severe (and to raise it slightly at the back too). We also cleverly mounted our PIN indicators on the shock mounts, mimicking the fronts where they’re bolted into the yoke’s pinch bolts.

Wheels-wise, we re-laced the original hubs to 19-inch stainless rims, and shod them in what are perhaps not the most well-performing tyres, but ones that certainly look the part. A swanky new brake disc, and CNC adaptor plate, was made by Demeanour Customs (01953 681308 or to mount the front wheel to the new forks, and the new yokes were used as a mount for a custom triangular headlight with a very delicate aluminium cowling that was stretched and formed around it. Similarly, the ’bars, which’re integrated into the top yoke on this model of Aprilia RS125, we used to our advantage to mount our signature Empire controls and KustomTech levers.

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The tank was then remounted, and a custom-made OEM 48mm electronic speedo nestled in its neck. All the electronics needed redoing so, after a completely new charging and ignition system was installed, we hid all the components, and the Shorai battery, in an aluminium, vinyl-covered box under the seat. A Motogadget unit controls everything, and it’s all linked together in what has to be said is one of the neatest looms we’ve ever seen, provided by the talented Richard at Motorcycle Wiring Products (0115 930 5454 or

The whole bike was given little leather touches here and there, with our Empire grips and ’pegs, and handmade leather satchels (by the customer in fact!), and a beautiful hand-stitched seat using Bugatti ‘shooting brake’ aniline leather by GB Upholstery (01284 388777 or The finishing touches by Flying Tiger Coatings were all the Ceracoat work on the front end (and almost all of the rest of the bike too), along with a deft touch of the spray gun from Black Shuck and, finally, a tune-up by the boys at Ekquire Motorcycles (01284 765434) in Bury St Edmunds left us with what we think is maybe not one of our most radical builds, but something that makes us smile nevertheless.

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