Staying True to A Concept

January 7, 2024 | By Mike Seate


Oftentimes when we’re wrenching on one motorcycle project or another, Nick Coumos, our resident Norton guru, will remind me that he’s not well-versed in Japanese or European motorcycles.  Nick is a gifted technician, having ridden and repaired classic Nortons since, well, since before they were considered classic motorcycles at all.

And though I respect his assertions that other, foreign and more modern brands leave him in the relative dark, he’s a great chap who presses on and helps out with whatever the task at hand may be, whether the bike in question was designed and built in Italy, China or somewhere in between.

Nevertheless, to witness Nick at work on a Norton is akin to observing a visual artist truly familiar with their chosen discipline. Wordlessly, he can select the correct torque specs for assembling certain components, and after six-plus decades at his craft, Nick seems to know ahead of time the thread count and pitch of every nut needed to assemble a Norton engine or chassis.

I’m far too scatterbrained (and indiscreet with my money) to stick solely with a single brand or model of motorcycle, but as time goes by, I’m increasingly impressed with technicians who choose to do so.

Next issue, in cafe Racer’s February/ March, 2024 edition, we profile just such a motorcycle design visionary. Salerno’s Andrew Silverio has dedicated much of the past few years to perfecting and then further refining a single model of motorcycle in the form of Honda’s Hornet 600. The zippy four-cylinder middleweight has long been popular with riders who appreciate Honda’s legendary reliability and flawless handling even though the somewhat ordinary-looking CB600R Hornet is far from a lust-inducing sort of ride.

Still, Andrea saw something lurking with the Hornet’s pedestrian looks that was eager to reveal itself. After studying the aesthetic and technological similarities (and many differences) between the Hornet and classic Honda Fours of the 1970s, he developed one of the most distinctive custom neo-cafe racers we’ve yet seen.

His is a fascinating story of found purpose, sheer ingenuity and plenty of elbow grease as the bikes created at his garage Aesse Lab have now developed a global following. His is a similar approach taken by other one-make custom motorcycle builders like Walt Siegel with his air-cooled Ducati twins and So Cal’s Dustin Kott with 1970s Honda CBs. Dig on the sampling of images from Aesse Lab and hang in their for the full story coming up in early February.