Sumo's Honda CB750 Chopper


Sumo is an English bloke with a serious motorcycle problem. He hasn't owned a car in years (except the 80 year old one he recently bought and promptly blew up). In a country with only sporadic sunshine, one has to be a hardy fellow to commute an hour each way on a motorcycle every day for years on end. To get some sunshine, Sumo flies over to the US nearly every year for some grass roots bike event. He's done three EDR's and three Gypsy Runs, plus the Biltwell Bash and a low key Baja trip. He's shooting about 50/50 when it comes reliable bikes for these rides. So far he's commissioned friends to help him string together an old 2-stroke Suzuki T500, a cone shovel, a BSA chopper and now, this fine example of a Honda CB750 Chopper that I named the Praying Mantis.

When Sumo asked me some months ago if I'd help him get a bike together for the 2011 EDR, his parameters were simple; nothing stock or cafe, it had to be chopperish or cool in some way and it had to be cheap. Of course I agreed, and suggested that we search for a venerable old SOHC 750 for budget and reliability reasons. I asked Duane Ballard if he knew of any Hondas out there since that's his bag. Sure enough, a bunch of texting friends and friends of friends and I had the lead over in Orange County. A day later the Mantis was in the back of the truck and headed home. Sumo dug the pics of it and approved the purchase. Chopperish has been accomplished, oh my. I parked the bike and promptly went back to business as usual and procrastinated the winter months away. As the EDR got closer, I'd do an hour's work here, fifteen minutes there, and hadn't really accomplished much. Luckily for me our friend Shawn was hiding from the Canadian cold by hanging out in So Cal, and he offered to lend a hand. A solid day's work from Shawn and a little help from me and we had a new tires front and rear, wheel bearings, and oil changed. A week or so later I dropped the bike off at a local retired Honda mechanic who loves stock CB's but gets really nervous about choppers or custom work. He went through the carbs completely, adjusted timing chain, valves and added new points. When putting the carbs back on he discovered that the stock linkage hit the backbone, a lot. He was sure I should cut the tank off and make a new backbone and all kinds of craziness but I just cut down the stock linkage cam and return spring and made the whole assembly way smaller. Now, the bike had been this way a long time. Had it ever really been run? I guess it could have had dual carbs at one time that would have fit, but things like lack of a frame VIN or fork stops leads me to believe it was someone's broken dream and never really hit the road. With the linkage dialed and throttle working it was back out to Dennis' place for final carb tweaks, then back to the shop where we chased down a pesky oil leak and buttoned up a few more loose ends.

Luckily Sumo flew in a few days early and got to work on his own machine. After a day or so the beast had lights, a front brake, and some sick gold chain fork stops. Shawn again kicked ass at wiring and period correct jokes. Duane even drove over with the proper o-ring to replace the leaky one behind the points. I got the license plate just in time and Sumo started banging out some shakedown miles. 



By the time the pack left Denny's in Temecula, Sumo and some friends were already 100 miles ahead. They were smart and took off early just in case they ran into trouble along the way and he wanted to take it easy on the Mantis, at least at first. I had ridden the bike and had confidence in it, but was still pleasantly surprised to pull up in San Felipe and find it and owner already relaxed under a palapa enjoying the warm breezes from the Sea of Cortez. Now, choppers are supposed to be for freaking out the squares but I think this one even freaks out chopper dudes. The Ness Hard Head weld-on front frame section looks so weird, but the trail is correct and the riding position very close to stock. Other riders either loved it or hated it, not a lot of in-between opinions. When Sumo's flying down the road on it with his giant red beard and shit-eating grin, it was impossible not to smile back. Local onlookers were not shy about gawking.

The next leg of the EDR is a rough stretch of pocked pavement and lots of elevation gain and twisty roads. Sumo showed his skills as a rider of old machines and neither flogged it to death trying to keep up with faster bikes, nor did he overcook into corners or otherwise beat it up. He rolled successfully into Ensenada and two days later into Temecula and all the Praying Mantis had asked for along the way was a few gallons of gas and one quart of oil. 

In the end, a happy Brit road a Japanese bike to Mexico after it was worked on by a Canadian and a couple Yanks. Maybe we can achieve world peace after all...

You can read Sumo's blog here.

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Commented on 5-13-2011 At 04:07 am

Great story. Very cool.

The bike...

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 04:44 am

the last sentence made the article hahaha, very cool though...

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 04:56 am

thanks man - i know how lucky i am to know enough great people that will help a random drunk englishman ride period correct badass chopper shit in america and mexico. it makes me count my stars every time i ride over there. i think you might be shooting high with world peace though bill

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 05:07 am

Solid build. Solid bike.

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 06:08 am

World peace is over rated but chopper greatness can't get enough respect.
The bike is pure awesomeness ridden by one of the best guys anyone could ever hope to meet, nevermind ride with. Thanks for sharing some miles Sumo! I look forward to seeing the you and The Mantis on the road again soon.

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 07:12 am

man i told you i love that bike. sumo it was great to see you again.

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 07:53 am

Looks like a serious fun machine no matter what.

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 08:15 am


Commented on 5-13-2011 At 08:34 am

Great guy, great bike, great time!! It is an honor to spent time and the road with this combo! Till September and the Mantis will ride again. Tim

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 08:46 am

I drank tequila and ate tacos with Sumo by the pool in Ensenada. I thought he and his bike were dead sexy. If I ever take a gay lover, it will be Sumo. If I ever take a bike sexually, it will be the Mantis.

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 08:52 am

A true friend that i always look forward to seeing, hey Sumo how many guys does it take to rebuild and bleed a front caliper? or what else would you do in California while washing laundry other than watch Wayne's World hahaaha

cya soon!

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 08:59 am

I fuck'n love that bike. its like the girl in high school that was awkward as fuck but you know she'd really get down funky style if you ever got on her.

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 10:12 am

IDK why i really dig the fork stops, Very cool.

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 12:10 pm

Sweet bike, good name for it>

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 02:23 pm

Awesome . It great he had no issues . Gotta love hondas !

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 03:46 pm

thats a rad fuckin bike.

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 06:38 pm

Man I would cut that up and cafe that thing .

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 06:40 pm

gawd awful lookn scoot but oddly cool

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 07:47 pm

real nice chop. love the nostalgia

Commented on 5-13-2011 At 08:26 pm

Sumo, maybe I should have taken you up on your trade for the running Praying Mantis for my broke down Pan.. You got about 690 miles further than I did! haha

Commented on 5-14-2011 At 05:56 am

Very cool story and great pictures. EDR is on my bucket list for sure!

Commented on 5-14-2011 At 09:43 am

A lesson in "brotherhood".

Commented on 5-14-2011 At 10:10 am

Funkadelic awesomeness. In green. Rad.

Commented on 5-14-2011 At 12:31 pm

sick freak!
love it!

Commented on 5-15-2011 At 08:09 am

Sumo rules! It was awesome to see him arriving at the Biltwell Headquaters after lots of "Mexican kilometers". This bike did better than the expensive bikes and never needed a tow truck. It was nice to meet you Sumo.

Commented on 5-19-2011 At 02:41 pm

True dedication. Ride what you got no matter what it looks like in this case. Love the slimer green but not a huge fan of the rest. But hey if there is miles left on the tires keep em rollin.

Commented on 5-24-2011 At 05:23 am

interesting bars, not my cup of tea, but they suit that bike somwhow, nice work

Commented on 6-4-2011 At 06:05 am

World peace is not overrated, but doubtfully achievable. If you've been shot at or had shit blow up near you, peace seems quite appealing. Hopefully future conflicts are concerning: fuel types, belt vs chain, and which beers are best for drinking while wrenching.

Commented on 4-26-2012 At 08:29 am

Half this things in Street Chopper mag.

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