Common Tread

Stuff that doesn't suck: The "love it or hate it" CB360

Jul 22, 2016

Trends are never fun at the end.

By now, every customizer has built a bagger, each one more slammed at the rear and with a bigger front wheel. Is there a Honda CB360 left in the land that hasn't been modified into a cafe racer? Surely there can't be any territory left to mine in that trend, my curmudgeonly self says.

Then I see the bike Tyler Stepp calls his "love it or hate it" CB360 and realize that a creative type can still conjure up something new under the sun.

If this bike had been built by an experienced team at a professional shop, I would have stopped to check it out and then moved on. But it really caught my attention because this is just the second motorcycle this young guy out of Ann Arbor, Mich., has built.

Tyler Stepp
Tyler Stepp and the custom Honda CB360 he built in his spare time over the course of a year. Photo by Lance Oliver.

His CB360 custom is certainly not my vision of the perfect motorcycle, but put me in the "love it" camp, anyway.

The judges at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Bike Show at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days apparently didn't hate it, either, as it won the award for best Japanese custom, and that's in a show where historical fidelity plays better than innovative creativity.

Stepp's day job is painting concept cars. "I'm a painter so I get old stuff and just paint it up, make it new," Stepp said. "I started building these (old Honda CBs) because I've seen them running around Ann Arbor, where I'm from. Everyone just buys a seat right off eBay."

Custom CB360
The digital gauges in the tank allow the top triple tree to be simple and uncomplicated. Photo by Lance Oliver.

Custom CB360
Behind the smoked lens is a taillight-turn signals combo. Photo by Lance Oliver.
Obviously, Stepp wanted his second custom CB to stand out from that crowd. He bought a frame with a title for $75 and a box of engine parts came along with the deal. The tank is off a Honda CB900F.

""I fell in love with that tank when I was in Japan and I bought one of those tanks," he said. "I ended up having to stretch the frame so that everything proportioned out."

Custom CB360
Details: Note the brake wiring running into the frame and the glass tube for holding your registration. Photo by Lance Oliver.

CB360 custom
"Clean" is the word that most came to mind for me when I saw Tyler Stepp's custom sitting in the bike show. And that was after spending all day in a dusty gravel parking lot. Photo by Lance Oliver.
The tank was bigger than he needed, so he partitioned it off and the rear third now houses the battery and electronics, with remote battery terminals under the seat. To make the tail section, he made a clay model and then created the handmade fiberglass piece. And while there are plenty of other details if you take the time to look, from the digital display in the tank to the hidden wiring, the first thing you can't help noticing, naturally, is the color.

"I've never seen an all-white bike," Stepp said. "So what started it was to see how much white you could put on a bike. Do something different. A lot of people don't like it, but if I had painted it black, it would have just fallen in with all the other ones. It stands out because of the color."

Custom white CB360
It started with a question: How much white can you put on a motorcycle? A painter by trade, Stepp matched the ceramic paint on the engine to the white on the frame and tank. Photo by Lance Oliver.

"We like to stand back and listen to all the comments. Some guy says, 'I bet there's no oil in it.' And then you start it up and they just walk off. That's what I use as fuel. I like the criticism."

Tyler Stepp and his CB360
Probably no other motorcycle in the bike show at VMD drew as many questions. Photo by Lance Oliver.
Among the rare antiques and perfect restorations of the bike show, Stepp's CB360 stood out, drawing lots of looks and questions. Of course some would say it stood out like a Katy Perry set during intermission at the Metropolitan Opera. But then that's why he calls it his love it or hate it bike.

As far as I'm concerned, in this case, standing out doesn't suck at all.