[nggallery id=26] We’ve all found ourselves there at one time or another. Big life changes, lots of stress and uncertainty - a stepping out into the unknown. It’s at times like this that we might look to a little self-indulgence for comfort and to turn the page. That’s just what Brad Bartkus did. After going through a divorce, he decided it was high time to indulge himself.
He explains, “I found a nice CB750 in Holland, Michigan for only $850 and rode it home to Wisconsin. Being only the second bike I've ever had, I wanted to build something just for myself that I would never sell. My first was this little CB200T, which I only sold to buy the 750.”
Born in 1968 and growing up in the 70’s obviously had a big influence on Bartkus’ tastes and he found that he was drawn to Japanese bikes. The legendary CB750 is a fantastic bike that can be found relatively cheap and provides a great foundation to work from. He went back and forth trying to decide what he wanted. Finally he settled on a cafe’ racer style and wanted it to look like an option that Honda would’ve actually offered back in the day, so he kept the paint scheme the same as a stock bike. The graphics were done by Chuck Wenzel in Milwaukee. Wenzel painted the graphics instead of using the usual vinyl cutouts that were typical of most bikes of that time period.
Most of the things Bartkus did were for aesthetics, like the rising sun cut-outs in the motor mount which he did with a waterjet from an Adobe Illustrator design he created. In addition, the sprocket cover was cut out by hand with a jewelers saw.
Admittedly, not a mechanic or even a bike builder, Bartkus has to learn everything as he goes. But he’s not alone, “I'm lucky to have friends in the MilVinMoto group who really know what they are doing who will help out, answer all my annoying questions, and give me direction when I need it.”
He also gets some help from some of his local buddies. “My friend Tim helped me put in the dyna coil ignition, and Jeff told me about phenolic brake pistons so those are in to lighten it a bit as well. I'm just continually trying to improve it and maybe someday it'll be done with all the tweaking.”
Talking about his inspiration for riding he reflects, ”I want the wind in my face, feeling the elements around me and the rumble of a well running vintage bike under me. It takes me back to an earlier time, especially out on country roads. I want a bike that is like a time machine. I like the wabi-sabi design philosophy of Japan - which is basically that nothing is ever complete or perfect or permanent.”
Growing up outside of Milwaukee, Bartkus went to tech school for graphic design and has been working in the design and print field ever since. He’s developed a keen eye and deep appreciation for great design and it becomes obvious in the results of what he creates.
“I look at everything from the master Samurai sword builders of Japan to my local friends tinkering in their garages. I look at the way moss grows on a rock or the way copper gets patina over the years. I look at Steampunk designs as much as H.R. Giger for the way machinery is incorporated into the organic. There is a lot inspiration in every day common artifacts all around us.”
And summing up why he does what he does, “I'm not a bike builder. I'm an artist, graphic designer, and photographer who happens to love motorcycles. What better way to learn about them than to restore a couple?”