In this santized world, there’s a lot to be said for a big, bruising 1980s superbike. And they don’t get much ballsier than Honda’s CB900F. Although it was designed for Europe, the air-cooled straight four was a smash hit in the USA with journalists and owners alike.
Every now and then, a CB900F will pop up in the EXIF inbox and make it onto the site. But we doubt if many can match the speed of this German-built racer.
The story of ‘Banzai-Bolle’ is entwined with the ‘Built not Bought‘ race. Never heard of it? Neither had we. It’s a three-day event that happens once a year at the Spreewaldring circuit, an hour south of Berlin, and it sounds totally bananas.
Photographer Sven Wedemeyer is a fan. According to our man-on-the-ground in Europe, it brings “classics, customs, weirdos and vintage racers together. There’s everything from pre-war TT winners to sidecars, two strokers, and classic superbikes.”
That sounds like our kind of gig. Especially when the start line is graced by machinery like this.
To be precise, it’s a 1983 SC09 ‘Bol d’Or’ model, it’s a two-time winner in the Classic Superbikes class, and it epitomizes the chaotic spirit of the event. It’s fielded by the oddball ‘Banzai’ team, consisting of racer Sascha Bellon and mechanics René Freudenberg and Torsten Friebel.
The trio have been racing ‘Banzai-Bolle’ for four years now—but it took a few rebuilds to reach podium form. The early stages of development reportedly left the bike less and less rideable, with tales of oil leaks and unscheduled fires.
Last year, pilot Sacha kept scraping the side covers in corners, so for 2018 the team brainstormed ways to improve the lean angle. They also had the small issue of a blown con-rod bearing to fix. With an ethos of keeping things as DIY and cheap as possible, the Banzai trio set to work.
This Bol d’Or is now sporting 985 cc Wiseco pistons, a balanced crank with polished con-rods, and an upgraded clutch. The heads have been optimized too, thanks to countless hours put in by Sacha and a Dremel.
Banzai-Bolle now breathes in via a set of Mikuni TMR 36s, and out via four-into-one Scheibel headers and a Micron silencer. The combo looks pretty wicked, and we’re betting it has the sound to match.
Output’s currently sitting between 110 and 120 horses—up from the standard 95. And the team reckon that any power deficit compared to competitors “is easily compensated by for Sascha’s riding style.”
His mix of aggression and control on the track not only inspired the team name, but also prompted a serious chassis overhaul.
The team needed a donor bike to scavenge for parts. “A Ducati would have offered better parts, but was too expensive,” they say.
So they settled for a late-90s Yamaha YZF1000R Thunderace, grabbing its front forks, brakes, wheel and clip-ons. A custom fork stabilizer and a Suzuki GSX-R steering damper off complete the new front end.
The rear wheel’s from a 1989 CBR1000, and is hooked up to the CB900’s solid OEM rear brake system.
The frame itself has been shortened at the back, cleaned up and reinforced in various spots. Up top is an alloy tail section, borrowed from an old 50 cc Simson racer and in front is the stock CB900F fuel tank—but polished, clear-coated and adorned with the team’s own decals.
Under the hood, the crew have stripped down the wiring loom, ditched the starter motor and installed an Ignitech ignition. There’s also a set of custom-made foot pegs and a gearbox blipper.
Even though the Banzai-Bolle took 1st in its class at the 2017 event, most of the work listed here took place over this past winter. So it’s little wonder that the team repeated their success this year, sticking it to some pretty exotic machines in the process.
Everything happened at Sacha’s place—always after hours, and often over beers. And you can bet they’re nowhere near done; they’re already planning a carbon fiber version of the tail section.
According to photographer Sven, Banzai-Bolle is “a proper race bike with ambitious specs, and although it’s a DIY racer, it’s immaculate and really well-built. It sounds amazing, goes like stink, and is raced at its limit.”
“But more importantly, this story says a lot about motorcycle culture in general: friendship, joy and socializing—and low-key racing that you can do with pretty much any bike.”
Amen to that.
With thanks to Sven Wedemeyer / WHEELS OF STIL for the photos and tip. Burnout image by Klaus Angermann.
Another jaw-dropping Ducati from deBolex, a stunning endurance-style Yamaha DT250 by Enginethusiast, a 160 hp V-twin speedway racer, and a Harley cafe racer swathed in carbon fiber.
Yamaha DT250 by Enginethusiast The Pacific Northwest, and in particular Portland, is home to a hotbed of talent in the motorcycle world. And one of the clear standouts is Anthony Scott, better known as Enginethusiast. He’s not only mastered the command of light via his stellar work behind the lens, but also figured how to build impressive machinery.
‘Engine 25’ is Anthony’s latest creation. He originally had a flat tracker in mind but that plan was scrapped due to timing, parts availability and crucial bodywork that just weren’t going to make it. So he settled on a endurance racer build, and we’re glad he did.
Tapping into the resources around him, Anthony had top-class help to achieve his vision. Glass From the Past handled the gorgeous bodywork, and LED Performance Engines tackled a full rebuild of the air-cooled single and crafted a new pie-cut expansion chamber.
A friend from Project Moto PDX lent Anthony shop space to put things together and New Church Moto began work on that beautiful seat. The result is absolutely stunning, and when it was unveiled at Portland’s The One Show earlier this year, it rightly earned Anthony the Ichiban Award from Yamaha Motor USA. [More]
Ducati Scrambler 1100 by deBolex Engineering We’re debating which deBolex Scrambler we like better around here: The fully faired Scrambler Racer we featured earlier in the week, or this slightly milder take based on the all-new Scrambler 1100.
Any other shop would have their hands full with one Ducati Scrambler on the bench, but deBolex isn’t ‘any other shop.’ And Des and Calum love a challenge. With only three weeks to work something out, the 1100 was quickly sussed and a cafe racer design was sketched out.
The bodywork may look reminiscent of the plastics from Bologna, but every bit of kit here is aluminum, hand hammered, rolled and formed into an expertly crafted bikini fairing, mudguard and perfectly shaped tail.
To make the transition from bars to clip-ons, a new top yoke was machined and then the pegs were scrapped in favor of rearsets from Rizoma, to get the ergonomics of cafe racing just right. A custom cat-back exhaust was TiG welded together and finishes just aft of the tail with an HP Corse silencer.
As Wes reported earlier, the deBolex boys are flirting with the idea of creating limited series builds—and while this 1100 is still a ‘1 of 1’ creation, we hope it previews a future endeavor. [More]
MSM speedway bike by Royal-T Racing Every now and then a bike pops up that leaves us gobsmacked at Bike EXIF HQ. Like this Meirson Sprint Motor (MSM) V-Twin prototype, which was painstakingly put together by Patrick Tilbury of Royal-T Racing. There’s obvious attention to detail on the fit, finish and execution of this build. But equally fascinating is the story behind it, because this is the only bike of its kind in the world.
The Meirson engine powering this beaut is a one-off motor that was developed in 1967 by a father-son sidecar team from Australia. At 1,000cc in full race-prep, the V-Twin would develop 160 hp thanks to a F1-derived valve train, a heady 15:1 compression ratio and the go-fast knowledge being flexed by Clarry and Allan Meirs.
Patrick happened upon the engine, which had disappeared for 50 years, while working for Jesse James at West Coast Choppers. After sussing out its history, he contacted Allan Meirs and hatched a plan for a speedway racer. The engine was fully restored by Bill Combs of B&B Racing while Patrick began work on fabrication.
The frame is a surgically clean stainless steel unit that absolutely nails the proportions, while making a big twin seem right at home. Silodrome has the whole story on this one and you’d do well to pour a cup o’ joe and head there to read it all.
KTM 510 SMR by KMPH There’s just something about a vintage-styled Husky with high pipes that puts a smile on our faces. And this scrambled 2006 KTM from Finland’s KMPH Oy is definitely twisting lips.
Shop boss Panu Laakkonen had a vision for his build, based the mid-70s Husqvarna CR360—and in particular its tank. As luck would have it, Panu then found a client with a Husky racing history, who worked with him along the way.
With the tank sourced, Panu made minor modifications to the frame and shortened the swingarm by four centimeters. This not only helped with the aesthetics and stance of the bike, but also made the move to outboard shocks a little easier.
Despite its young age, the 510cc thumper was treated to a full rebuild and one of the most beautiful cooling systems of any trail bike we’ve seen. The twin radiators are Panu’s own design and were crafted from copper and brass. Up front, a custom set of triple-trees was 3D-designed and now clamp down on the forks from a Kawi ZX-6R.
The hoops on both ends are a nimble 17-inch size, which may limit off road abilities but help retain the Husky’s SuMo roots. [More]
Harley-Davidson Sportster by Danmoto Thanks to its omnipresence in the moto landscape, the Sportster has been transformed into all manner of customs. But few come close to matching the levels of show and go delivered by this exquisite Harley cafe racer from Danmoto, a performance parts manufacturer hailing from The Biggest Little City in the World—Reno, Nevada.
Little remains of the hog, save its V-Twin engine. The frame and swingarm are now custom aluminum units, with the frame being modeled on the Fritz Egli style from the 60s. That means the oil now resides in the bike’s beefy spine before being fed into the engine—which is a stressed member—via a vertical rib. Not only has that decluttered the number of hoses, but also helps shed 60 kilos off the weight.
The swingarm is a wider and lighter unit that meant thicker and stickier rubber could be fitted. The monoshock setup is from a Ducati Monster, and the suspenders up front are courtesy of a GSX-R, mounted via a custom, CNC’d set of clamps.
The carbon fiber bodywork had to be laid out twice, because the first attempt wasn’t to the liking of Wei Liya and his crew. The result of their patience and perseverance is a scalloped and flowing tank that meets one of the tidiest tails to ever grace a Harley. [More]
Bike giveaways are nothing new, but we haven’t seen one quite like this before. This terrific Honda CB750 comes from Ironwood in The Netherlands, and if you hire it for a day, you’re in with a chance to win it.
The people behind this unusual competition are Motoshare, a local bike rental company (think AirBNB for motorcycles) and the huge European parts supplier CMS, who mostly specialize in components for Japanese machines.
Tickets to ride (and win) cost 99 EUR, which is about US$115. And if you live outside the Netherlands, you can also just buy the ticket for a chance to win. A maximum of 120 tickets will be sold.
We suspect this Honda is going to have a busy life, but it’s no rent-a-dent: Ironwood main man Arjan van den Boom has built it to the same high standards as the BMWs he’s best known for—although it’s a little easier to ride than the infamous Mutant BMW R80.
The base bike is a 1981 CB750F, meaning it’s the later DOHC version with four valves per cylinder and extra frame and swingarm bracing over the previous model year, for even sharper handling (at the slight expense of weight).
“It was in pretty good condition,” Arjan tells us. “The engine had already been opened and worked on. And due to the budget and short lead-time, we wanted a bike that had less work required on the engine.” But just to be on the safe side, Ironwood replaced all the seals and gaskets.
They also upgraded the Keihin carbs to CR spec, and topped them with DNA pod filters. There’s a free-flowing new exhaust system too, terminated with Spark mufflers.
The engine has been overhauled and fitted with new gaskets, and the covers powdercoated for that factory-fresh look. The Comstar wheels have been powdercoated too, and suit the 80s vibe of the build perfectly.
They’re shod with Shinko’s highly-rated 270 Super Classic tires, protected by small fenders front and rear. (Fenders on a custom? Yes, but they are still vestigal.)
The fork tubes have been powdered as well, lowered a little, and upgraded with Hyperpo progressive springs and new seals. A CNC-machined new top clamp keeps steering flex to a minimum, and there’s an LED headlight that throws out considerably more lumens than the stock 7” bucket.
The cockpit has been completely stripped and rebuilt, with new clip-ons, new controls, and a speedo, RFID ignition system and bar-end indicators from Motogadget.
There’s also a low-mounted auxiliary headlamp on the left side, a signature motif carried over from some of Ironwood’s BMW builds.
The later DOHC CB750s lack the soft, classic style of the early SOHC models, and most builders struggle to make the lines work.
But Arjan has embraced the lines of the stock tank, modifying the indents a little and then marrying it to a new subframe. A simple aluminum seat/tail unit, built by Marcel van der Stelt from The Custom Factory, sports an upkick that echoes the base line of the tank. It’s finished off with a pair of Highsider lights.
On top of the tank is a Monza-style filler cap, originally designed for the R-series BMWs that Arjan is so familiar with. And underneath is a concealed lithium ion battery.
The paint, beautifully shot by Mark van Wijk, is a slightly remixed version of an early Porsche Olive color, found on 911s from the 70s.
There are auto exotica details elsewhere, too: the stitching on the custom seat (by The Leather Factory) is based on a style found in the new Lamborghini Urus.
It’s a bit different to the usual BMW GS rental bikes that are popular in Europe. And a lot more Instagrammable. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Netherlands, here’s your chance to try out an Ironwood bike. And if you live further afield, why not chance your luck with a ticket?
Like many of you, we’re total suckers for racing machines—especially flat trackers. And although we’re captivated by American iron like the Indian FTR750, it’s nice to see the odd exotic European take to the oval.
Enter Lloyd Brothers Motorsports, who have a thing for fielding Ducati-powered flat trackers. Back in 2010, they were the first team to break Harley-Davidson’s 19-year winning streak…with an air-cooled, two-valve desmo motor powering their race bike.
Since then, the Atlanta-based team has racked up respectable results, thanks to pilots like Joe Kopp, Brad Baker, Henry Wiles and Jake Johnson. (Even Troy Bayliss raced with them, when he tried his hand at flat track).
The bike you’re looking at is Lloyd Brothers’ brand new racer. With changes in the AFT Twins class rules ahead of this season—including a size limit of 850 cc—the team was forced to ditch their previous platform and start over.
The project kicked off last year, when Lloyd Brothers built two bikes as a proof of concept. Those used liquid-cooled 939 cc Testastretta motors, sourced off eBay.
Then the rules changed in the off-season, and the guys had to adapt—so they switched to the 821 cc mill in the Ducati Hypermotard 821.
Surprisingly, the motor’s quite close to stock. The heads have been ported, and the flywheel’s a heavier unit from a different Duc. The really trick work is going on outside the actual motor.
Regulations don’t allow for ride-by-wire throttles, and specify that the intake needs a 44 mm choke point somewhere within the throttle body itself. So this Ducati’s running modified 748 throttle bodies to keep things legal.
The exhaust system consists of stainless steel headers, flowing into a pair of custom M4 silencers, designed to conform to the AFT noise limits. Respected Ducati engine builder, Mark Sutton at the DucShop in Marietta, Georgia, handled all the engine work.
The radiator presented another challenge. With the wide cylinder spread of the L-twin engine, and the beefy 19” flat track wheels, placing the radiator behind the front wheel was simply not possible.
Car cooling experts Art’s Radiator jumped in with a custom-designed side-mounted unit, hooked up via Goodridge hoses with AN fittings.
On the electrical side, the crew had to ‘trick’ a Microtec ECU into thinking that the 821 was a compatible bike (it’s not). So they started with an 848 wiring harness, removed all non-essentials and shortened it to fit.
The two blue plugs poking out under the seat are to plug the SpeedCell battery into; the bike runs a total loss system.
Everything is packaged into a fully bespoke chromoly steel frame, complete with a mono-shock rear end. Fabrication gurus Fuller Moto built the frame for the Testastretta powerplant, to Lloyd Brothers’ spec. It’s essentially an evolution of the frame design that they’ve been running over the past few years.
There’s Öhlins suspension at both ends, along with a pair of 19” race wheels from Performance Machine. The forks are held in place by Baer Racing triples. As is the norm in flat track, there’s no front brake—but there’s a pretty nifty rear brake setup.
The master cylinder and caliper are from Brembo, but the caliper has been modified by TAW Performance to accept a vaned rotor. “Lloyd Brothers Motorsports was the first team to introduce vaned rotors to modern flat track racing,” David Lloyd tells us.
“It was an answer to certain riders applying so much force to the brakes, that they actually glow a bright red after a few laps!”
Quintessential flat track bodywork finishes the bike off, with a fiberglass tank and tail from First Klass Glass in Michigan. The seat pad’s from Saddlemen, and the livery is as Italian as it gets, with a matching set of ODI grips. And there’s a smattering of carbon fiber protective bits for a little extra insurance.
Lloyd Brothers had planned to run this magnificent beast for ten of this season’s 18 races, treating it as a development year. Stevie Bonsey was set to pilot it, but he injured himself (on a different bike).
He’s now set to return on Labor Day weekend in October, at the Springfield Mile. And David Lloyd is pretty optimistic: “We are very happy with the chassis. It was well sorted over many years and developed around the higher torque, larger displacement air-cooled engines.”
“A few minor adjustments in tube bends were made to fit in the 4-valve, liquid-cooled cylinder and heads. The characteristics of the 821 promise to be even better for flat track—should we get a proper program funded to race a full season.”
If you’re reading this from the UK, head over to the Goodwood Festival of Speed immediately—because that’s where Lloyd Brothers are currently showing this Ducati off. Otherwise, you’ll just have to drool over the photos like the rest of us.
Most customs live relatively sedate lives: buzzing around the city, maybe a blast into the country at the weekend, and then a couple of hours cooling down outside a café or pub.
If you’ve ploughed hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into a bike, you’re not likely to put it through a torture test. But that’s exactly what LA-based Alex Earle has just done with his latest build. He’s thrashed this Ducati dirt bike for two weeks and hundreds of miles through Alaska’s toughest terrain, and lived to tell us the tale.
‘The Alaskan’ is only Alex Earle’s second build, but he describes it as a return to his roots. It’s a supremely practical machine, designed for long distance, off road expeditions.
“It’s a middleweight ADV bike with all the necessities and none of the frills,” he says. “Rugged and capable.” And also, we might add, very sharp-looking too.
Alex is a man with his finger on the pulse. He’s a designer at VW America, and three years ago anticipated the current trend for street trackers with a sleek Ducati Monster conversion.
We were curious to see where his current inspiration comes from, and it turns out to be true adventure bikes: not the kind that dawdle through Baja California, but the kind that might tackle the Road of Bones in the Russian Far East.
He’s drawn to “the experience of thriving in an alien, inhospitable place” and cites the film The Martian as a trigger for this concept. Hence the dusty grey bodywork and the striking NASA-themed logo on the tank.
“The concept was to build and campaign a bike for the back roads and trails of Alaska, and make some memories. The vast distances and remote locations require a high degree of self-sufficiency and flexibility, so the bike is endowed with high capacity multi-tanks, armor and a winch.”
The Alaskan is based on a 2017 Ducati Desert Sled, which Alex selected for its strengthened frame, longer swingarm and taller suspension—as well as the relatively simple air cooled 803 cc L-twin motor.
“Admittedly the Ducati Scrambler could use a few more horses on the highway,” says Alex. “But in the dirt, the power is ample and easily controlled. All the more reason to stay on the dirt!”
Vital extra power is released by the high-mounted Termis, which deliver the usual Ducati bark (“My favorite sound”) and keep the exhaust up out of harm’s way.
Unlike many Ducati Scrambler owners, who gear their bikes a little higher to relax the engine at highway speeds, Alex has geared his down. He’s dropped the ratio about 10% using new sprockets, going from 15F/46R to 14F/48R.
He’s also lengthened the swingarm by almost three inches, to aid stability. “It takes the wheelbase out to 62”, which seems ideal for heavily loaded, high-speed dirt,” he says. “It feels a lot like my old [Yamaha] WR.”
The new rims are ultra-strong Excel A60s, a tough alloy design used by several factory motocross race teams. They’re laced to the original Ducati hubs, but Alex has boosted the front wheel two sizes to 21”.
“This wheel package is critical if you intend to use a bike off-road. The skinny 21″ front cuts through sand and mud, and climbs easily over taller obstacles.”
It also opens up a world of tire options not available to lesser specs. For this trip, Alex used Pirelli Scorpion tires—both Rally and XC Mid-Hards.
The biggest visual change is the bodywork, though. The hand-formed fuel tank holds six gallons, and is supplemented by an extra two in the tail unit. Which lifts capacity to almost double the stock 3.57 gallons (13.5 liters).
Right behind is a solo seat, narrow yet plush for long days in the saddle. It’s flanked by a heavy-duty luggage carrier system, with wide enduro-style foot pegs below.
To avoid mishaps, Alex has also fitted heavy-duty crash bars, a bulletproof Kevlar skid plate, and a Scotts Performance steering stabilizer.
Even in July, temperatures in Alaska can drop to the low 50s (11 degrees Celsius), so the Ducati is now sporting heated grips and bark buskers to keep wind chill at bay.
And despite the long hours of daylight in the northern summer, this bike pumps out a serious amount of light—via an LED headlamp in a customized protective cage, plus a ‘crazy powerful’ Baja Designs supplementary LED.
There’s a carbon fiber wind deflector to keep the icy wind away, and the low front fender is carbon fiber too. And if the fecal matter hits the air recirculation device, there’s a mount for a compact Warn winch to tug the Desert Sled out of trouble.
So The Alaskan is not just a pretty face. But after two weeks of rough track riding and camping, how did it fare?
Alex has just got back to LA, and he’s more than pleased with the bike’s performance. “It exceeded my expectations as an off-roader,” he says. “Really works well in that environment, with deep river crossings, mud, snow and gravel.”
“There were a few teething pains that I was able to fix in the field, like leaks from the fuel fittings. But the throttle response, traction, tire/wheel package, load capacity and 250-mile range were all better than I anticipated.”
The Ducati will arrive back in Alex’s garage in a few days, and he’ll tear it down again. “I’m thinking of building a second, stripped-down variant for trips in warmer climes,” he confides.
Sounds like an excellent plan. We’re just hoping we don’t have to wait another three years to see that one.
There’s always some trepidation when you meet a custom motorcycle builder for the first time. Is their work really that good in the metal? Or do they rely on expensive photographers and Photoshop to hide hack-jobs and shortcuts?
I’ve been lucky enough to hang out with Calum Pryce-Tidd of deBolex Engineering in south London a few times now. But it wasn’t until he took along a couple of his bikes to the Wildays festival in Italy that I finally saw deBolex’s work in the clear light of a crisp Mediterranean day.
When Calum rolled this alluring Ducati racer out of the van, I was gobsmacked. And I wasn’t the only one—the Duc stopped passersby in their tracks, all weekend long.
It started life as an 803 cc Ducati Scrambler, booked in by a very relaxed client. “We had full freedom on the project,” says Calum, “so it was a chance to build a bike that was true to our style.”
“We found a distinct style while building our Ducati 749 project. Since then, we’ve honed in on this, and carried some of the fundamental design elements through to our Thruxton build, and now onto this recent Ducati.”
Calum and his partner, Des Francis, are methodical and traditional in their approach. Their bodywork is always hand-formed from aluminum using age-old metalworking techniques, and they even do their own paint and upholstery.
“We’re forever inspired by classic race machines,” says Calum. “And we always had one direction planned for this project: a full fairing.”
“This diverted us away from our distinctive belly pan and radiator cowling design. And required a re-think on how we could incorporate more intricate elements, such as the oil cooler and air intake openings, using similar build techniques.”
That full fairing is undoubtedly the star of the show—mostly because deBolex got every last angle and contour just right. Though it encapsulates the Ducati’s motor, there are openings to channel air to where it needs to go.
The sides pop on and off in record time for easy maintenance, and are fitted via rubber rivnuts to help keep vibrations down.
The fuel tank’s another aluminum one-off, and traces a stylish retro racer line. Out back is a custom-built tail section and seat pan, complete with a signature deBolex mod. Using a combination of a custom-made latch and the original key lock, the seat pops right off, giving the rider access to the electronic components under it…just like on a stock bike.
Sitting underneath the new tail is a fully custom subframe. deBolex tweaked the main frame too—adding tabs in to mount the fairings. Every part is tasteful and harmonious—like that criss-cross on the new subframe.
The exhaust is another perfect fit. It’s a full, custom-made stainless steel system, front to back, and it complements the rest of the bike’s lines. Even the bracket that secures it to the tail is an exquisite little piece of engineering.
On the performance side, deBolex boosted the Scrambler’s suspension with Andreani fork cartridges up front, and a Maxton shock at the back.
The wheels are now matching 17s, with new rims laced to the stock hubs via stainless steel spokes. They’re shod with Metzler RaceTec RR rubber.
The controls are well sorted too. There’s a set of Renthal clip-ons and grips, sporting a Domino clutch lever assembly, and a brake master cylinder, throttle and switches from Accossato. The brake lines are from Venhill, and the rear-sets are Rizoma items.
Peek behind the fairing, and you’ll spot the Scrambler’s stock speedo, mounted on a custom bracket. Calum explains the reasoning: “We used the stock dial mainly because it looks great—it’s simple, clean and does the job it’s there to do.”
And it’s in daylight that this svelte racer really glimmers, with an almost-all-red livery that draws inspiration from cars like the Ferrari 250LM.
The all-red Alcantara seat’s a nod to classic racing MV Agustas, and the racing roundel on the nose has become a common theme in deBolex’s race-inspired projects.
The Scrambler wears a classic Ducati logotype on the tank, and deBolex’s ‘1/1’ motif on the tail, signifying that only one of its kind will ever be made. That’s their usual approach to projects, but Calum tells us that they’ll be branching out into limited series builds soon.
“With a new series run on the horizon this emblem will become less frequently seen,” he explains. “Using the fabrication and design skills we have perfected on the specials, we’ll be creating a unique (and customizable) limited edition run.”
If those bikes are even a frazione as cool as this incredible one-off, we’re predicting they’ll sell like hotcakes. Please form an orderly queue behind us.
Roland Sands massages the R nineT into a vintage-styled thing of beauty, plus the strangest official BMW Motorrad concept bike we’ve ever seen, and a sneak peek at the 2019 Norton Atlas scrambler.
BMW R nineT by Roland Sands Design If you’ve been keeping score over the past few years, you’ll know that Roland Sands has incredible vision. No matter which direction he chooses to pursue—tracker, bobber, chopper or racer—the result is invariably spot on. And this build is no different, with an R NineT massaged into the perfect mix of old and new.
Drawing inspiration from the ovals of the Hooligan series and the elegance of BMW’s extraordinary R5 Hommage, Sands’ R NineT is part bobber and part tracker. The aesthetic mix created by the 19-inch hoops, custom rolled fenders and iconic 1950s ‘Pagusa’ solo seat sounds weird on paper, but is a stunner in pixels. And the fenders aren’t the only new bits of metal either.
The bodywork, including the frame covers above the intake, was all shaped in house. And even thought the frame has been left mostly stock, it has been detabbed to clean up overall appearance. That bone-white paint, courtesy of Chris Wood at Airtrix, doesn’t hurt either.
RSD BMW R NineT Vintage - YouTube
Of course, the RSD catalog was consulted at length as well. The master cylinders at both front and rear are RSD units—as are the foot controls, valve covers and the gorgeous breastplate that adorns the mighty boxer. And that boxer respires a touch easier, thanks to a set of carbon K&N filters that replaces the old airbox, plus an RSD slip-on exhaust. [More]
Yamaha Virago by KSC Speedshop Remember a few weeks back when we featured a stunning Virago in this column that wasn’t a Greg Hageman project? Well here’s another one. And it may be even prettier.
‘MC02’ is the product of Massimo Carriero and his partner Fabian. They run Italy’s KSC Speedshop, an outfit that specializes in designing and developing aftermarket moto parts. They wanted to create a modern cafe racer, with performance that tipped its hat to racing roots. That meant ditching the Yamaha’s bars and mid controls for clip-ons and rearsets—but it wasn’t a simple affair. A new set of triples was machined and an R1 front end was clamped in to fit.
That meant an immediate upgrade to both handling and braking up front, so the rear was modified to suit. The swingarm was massaged a touch and a Sachs piggyback unit levels stance and keeps things under control.
The bodywork on the Virago is a mix of old and new, featuring a tank from a mid-eighties Kawa GPZ, a Ducati Panigale front fender, and a few CAD-developed one-offs. The rear hugger and the seriously stubby subframe are KSC originals, as is the new front fairing. [More]
Pagani Mini Cross by El Pasillo Is this this toddler-sized scrambler what the world needs to convince young ‘uns to embrace two-wheeled culture? The brainchild of Gonzalo Carranza, this custom Pagani Mini Cross scrambler was designed for his moto-loving two year-old son.
The lad immediately proclaimed “Dad, this bike is so good!” and we couldn’t agree more. The 50cc 2-stroke Pagani (called ‘Little Killer’) was designed with an old Jawa ML180 in mind, because Gonzalo’s son Hipolito always gravitated to one in the El Pasillo garage—but couldn’t quite swing his tiny legs over its saddle.
The plastic Pagani gas tank hit the recycle bin, and in its place now sits a custom 2-liter ¾ size peanut. As with many full size customs, the subframe is gone too, in favor of a custom perch that delivers a flattened scrambler stance. The new headlight admittedly looks a touch small on this Pagani, but proportionally speaking, everything else seems well sorted. And speaking of sizing, even Hipolito looks like he won’t outgrow the Little Killer any time soon. [More]
BMW Motorrad x Blechmann R nineT concept You may not believe it, but this futuristic bit of tinkering started out as an R nineT too. Commissioned by BMW Motorrad, Bernhard Neumann has churned out a concept that’s equal parts Magpul, Ridley Scott and moto designer Ola Stenegärd.
Neumann calls his bizarre creation Giggerl, which translates from German to ‘chicken’ in the King’s English. Because, as he puts it, “I have built a chicken with underarms and headlamps.” But don’t think for a minute that means that Neumann didn’t take the job seriously. He may have a penchant for obscure naming practices, but his abilities forming metal are second to none. Hence his own nickname ‘Blechmann,’ which means ‘tin man.’ In fact, the Tin Man has handcrafted everything here, apart from the levers, handlebars and forks.
The frame, tank, subframe, seat, exhaust and bodywork are all one-off units. One flows into the other and into the next with impeccable accuracy. Say what you will about the concept—which we really dig—but the execution is absolutely incredible. Observed alongside BMW’s in-house concept that we featured here a few weeks back, maybe it hints towards a new sci-fi infused design language for the Bavarians? [More]
The new Norton Atlas scrambler Triumph is set to reveal a bigger and even-scramblier Scrambler later this year, and the standout offering in the Scrambler Ducati range is the Desert Sled. So it’s not surprising that other brands want in on this action. What may surprise though, is that it’s Norton that wants your dirty money. And based on these renderings, we’re optimistic.
Norton has certainly pegged the Desert Sled as its design inspiration, but has stayed traditionally British as far as the motor is concerned. The 2019 Norton Atlas will be powered by the front half of Norton’s V4 superbike engine and is rumored to come in three levels of performance: mild (70 hp), wild (100 hp) and bonkers (175 hp supercharged).
Our guess is that this Scrambler will debut with the mild version of that motor and, from what we see here, should be decently outfitted for less-travelled paths.
There are spoked wheels at both ends, with what we’re guessing is a 19-inch front—which should keep things nimble in both paved and dirty conditions. The wide bars and tapered waistline should offer decent control from a standing position and, as long as it’s not made from tinfoil, that skid plate should keep the internals staying internal. Here’s hoping final executions don’t stray too far from digital intentions. [More]
Anyone who runs a modded Harley will know Biltwell Inc. The Californian company is a big player in the upgrade market, and its universal-fit items are even appropriated for new wave metric customs.
The guys who run Biltwell have petrol coursing through their veins, and the stable of daily riders in the Temecula parking lot is eclectic. It mostly leans toward Big Twins, but several of the crew have a dirt bike in their quiver. It’s often an XR400 or a TT500—or in the case of main man Bill Bryant, both.
“My roots in off-road racing go pretty deep,” says Bill. “I’ve pitted or driven for desert teams since 1983. Last year, during a spectating adventure to the Baja 1000, I convinced some co-workers and friends to do the impossible: race the NORRA 1000 on a well-prepped but mostly bone-stock Harley-Davidson XL883 Sportster.”
To Bill’s amazement, everyone said, Hell yes! And so we have Frijole (Spanish for ‘Bean’), the world’s most improbable rally raider.
Bill, Rob ‘Rouser’ Galan and a small crew built this Sportster with a single intention: survival. “We knew that the combined 1,300 miles from Ensenada to Cabo would take a toll,” says Bill.
“Since it’s a five-day rally, we built (or bought) back-ups of practically everything; wheelsets, foot controls, bars, shocks, the swingarm, you name it,” says Bill. “We even bought a donor bike one week before the race and pulled its engine for backup.”
To maintain the essential look of the Sportster, the Biltwell crew had to make some compromises. Frijole’s frame, swingarm, tank and rear fender are all OE spec, and the stock oil tank is heavily fortified rather than replaced.
“Wet and unladen, she weighs in at 475 pounds [215 kilos]—50 lighter than stock,” says Bill. “But on race day, she’s equipped with Lowrance navigation, a backup iPad, a road book, miscellaneous rider aids, safety and recovery equipment, tools, spare parts, extra fuel and EXFIL tank and side bags.
“Our Mexican thumper is plumped right back up to the 500-pound mark.”
During development and testing, Bill and his crew tried hard to replicate the terrain they’d encounter on Baja’s rugged sand washes and rutted farm roads. “For such a heavy bike that was never intended for this kind of use, Frijole 883 was surprisingly capable,” says Bill.
“Hotter cams might have made it easier to loft the front wheel over obstacles. And an extra inch or two of swingarm length might have improved high-speed tracking.”
“But we opted for reliability and serviceability over pure performance.” The three other riders on Biltwell’s four-man team agreed to run the Sportster under its threshold, with the goal of just finishing the race.
“Attacking the race in this fashion might have slowed us down, but I’m convinced it saved our machine. We saw more than a couple of race-prepped Husqvarnas and KTMs going home on trailers because their riders ran out of patience or talent.”
The race prep was smart rather than flashy. Case in point: in the stock location, a Sportster foot shifter hangs out in the open. So the crew welded an XR400 steel shift lever to a Harley clevis and mounted it backwards, so it shifts GP style—one up, four down.
The exhaust is tucked up and inward, as tight as it can be. But hands down everyone’s favorite modification to the Frijole 883 was its Rekluse clutch.
Essentially a centrifugal clutch, it allows you to come to a complete stop without pulling in the clutch lever. “This eliminated lots of anxiety over stalling when things got rough or out of control.”
Suspension for a bike this short and heavy was a challenge. “We went through several variations on the Honda CRF250 front fork until we got it right,” says Bill.
Cannon Racecraft custom wound the springs and Precision Concepts lowered and re-valved the forks to Africa Twin specs. Gigacycle Garage made a custom top tree and steering stem to mate the fork to the stock frame and work with the GPR stabilizer.
Out back, SoCal off-road suspension guru Doug Roll gusseted the swingarm, relocated the bottom shock mount and added a double brace. Since the new shock geometry conflicted with Harley’s stock brake bracket, Gigacycle also CNC machined a custom aluminum brake mount to relocate the Tokico 4-pot caliper.
A single set of 17-inch-long Elka Stage-5 shocks lasted the whole race, even the one directly behind the Frijole 883’s custom SuperTrapp exhaust.
Wisely, the crew also sleeved the hoses and wiring. “It kept more than a few cactus needles from piercing exposed oil lines. This kind of stuff is nothing fancy,” says Bill, “but it’s the kind of prep that’s helped hard-core desert rats finish races for decades.”
German-built Huenersdorff fuel cans and modified mounts on each side provided an extra 1.2 gallons of fuel, and on two really long stretches, the crew added a third canister in the EXFIL-11 tank bag.
Remarkably, the Frijole 883 made it to the finish. Out of 21 bikes in the Modern Open class, it finished 14th. And all the other Modern Open machines that finished ahead of the Sportster probably weighed under 300 pounds.
The Sportster is now enjoying a well-earned rest in the Biltwell showroom. “It smells like rotten fish and stale beer from fetid water crossings and the finish line celebration,” says Bill. “But it gives everyone who looks at it a big smile.”
And that includes us, too. More of this madness, please.
You could argue that the modern custom scene owes its success to Universal Japanese Motorcycles. They’re affordable, reliable and easy to pull apart—making them the perfect blank canvas for builders.
Not all UJMs get equal time in the limelight, though. And according to Ventus Garage of Kraków, Poland, there’s one that deserves a lot more love: the Suzuki GN400. So they’ve turned a GN400 into a cool street tracker coated in BMW’s famous matte ‘Frozen’ paint.
“The Suzuki GN400 is a very overlooked bike on the custom scene,” they tell us. “It has everything you want from a base bike. It has a big single engine that sounds beautiful, it’s simple in its construction, and it has nice lines off its frame.”
“We could go on all night, but long story short, the Ventus Garage team loves using the GN400. We’ve already built two bikes based on the GN, and we decided to put all our knowledge and experience into this third one.”
For this build, the guys aimed for that elusive balance between form and function. “With flat track bikes there is nothing more important than performance, but at Ventus Garage the ‘look’ is at the top of the list as well.”
“Who said that those two can’t go together?”
The biggest upgrade happened to the chassis. Ventus pillaged the remains of a wrecked custom Aprilia RS 250 to upgrade their little GN400: On went the Aprilia’s upside-down forks, along with its triple clamps.
They’re matched up to a pair of aftermarket rear shocks, fitted with custom bushings.
Bizarrely, the Aprilia also came with a pair of 18” spoked wheels—perfect for what Ventus had in mind. So they repainted the rims, chromed the spokes and fitted the wheels. The front brake was converted to a single 280 mm disc, before the guys got to work on the back.
With an upgrade from the Suzuki’s stock drum to a disc setup, the guys had to install a Nissin master cylinder, and modify the rear brake lever setup. A full set of braided stainless steel brake lines from Hel round out the package. Other pleasingly OCD details are the turned foot pegs, and there’s a stylish braid wrap on the kick-start lever.
Equal consideration went into the motor, which was stripped down for glass blasting, to get the metal to its natural color.
Ventus inspected the engine at the same time, and had to hone the cylinder and recondition the head. Everything was buttoned up with new rings and gaskets, and a new cam chain.
When it was time to work on the fuel system, the team fell back on a tried and tested method: they installed a new Mikuni carb with a pod filter with the help of an exceptionally mechanically-minded buddy, Bartek.
Getting an exhaust to complement the intake was vital. So Ventus turned to Devil’s Garage, who fabricated a complete stainless steel system from scratch, following the GN400’s revised lines flawlessly.
As for the frame, Ventus revised the rear end with a new, kicked up loop to match a new tail unit. They also designed it to hold a discreet LED taillight. Then they detabbed the rest of the frame, painstakingly sanding down imperfect factory welds to get everything neater than stock.
The actual tail unit was supposed to be an off-the-shelf flat track piece, but the guys couldn’t find anything that would sit right. So they built their own from fiberglass. The final upholstery is a mix of Alcantara and the same leather that Bentley use.
Right at the start of the project, Ventus knew the OEM fuel tank wasn’t going to cut it, visually. After heaps of misfires (including buying a Bultaco tank), they found the solution: a Yamaha XS400 tank that had been hiding in their own workshop for years.
Up top are a set of MX bars from Accel, with Renthal grips and an upgraded brake master cylinder: it’s a decidedly upmarket cockpit.
The speedo’s a Motogadget Motoscope Tiny and the switches are aftermarket, with all their wiring routed to inside the bars. Ventus upgraded the electrical system from 6V to 12V to work with the new speedo, and revised the wiring loom to hide everything away.
As for that stunning paint color, it’s one of the most unusual BMW car colors ever made: Frozen Gray. It’s a ‘metallic matte’ paint designed for the M3, with an eggshell texture that must never be waxed, and it looks stellar. Especially for this shoot inside HEVRE, a club in Kraków that started life as a house of prayer.
This is Ventus’ thirteenth build, so they’ve nicknamed it ’13.’ “For some this number is bad luck,” they say, “but for us it was always lucky.”
I’ve always had a soft spot for the machines built by James Roper-Caldbeck. Back in 2009, when Bike EXIF was only a few months old and still a casual side project, we started featuring Jamesville bikes—which were a breath of fresh air compared to the blinged-out choppers that still dominated the western Harley scene at the time.
James and I have kept in touch over the years. So I had mixed feelings when he dropped me a line the other day to say he was closing the custom side of his business, and was going to focus on restorations and traditional bob-jobs only.
Fortunately, the Denmark-based Englishman has built one last custom to sign off with, and he’s going out with a bang.
“This ’42 flathead came to me as an engine and transmission stuffed into a frame, rolling around on an old wooden dolly,” James says. “It was followed by ten boxes full of crappy old parts. I guess it was some kind of chopper back in the day.”
James’ client wanted something very different—a custom bobber. “He was in love with the first bike I built under the Jamesville name, a 1942 WLC flathead.”
James is coming up to his tenth anniversary in the motorcycle business, and this would be his 25th complete build. So he figured it would be fitting if he built a WLA flathead using the first Jamesville creation as a muse.
“Out of the ten boxes, I gave nine of them back to the client,” he says. “All I’ve used from the original basket case are the frame, forks, engine, transmission, wheel hubs and primary cover.”
Those components have all been completely rebuilt, and everything else is new.
“The client wanted a bike with a Harley WR feel,” James reveals. “Light, sporty and slim. It was important to him that there was no battery box, which is not needed on a WR because they use a magneto.”
But James won’t use a magneto on a customer’s bike—they’re way too trying for someone with little mechanical knowledge.
Instead, he found a small Antigravity battery. “WR-style gas tanks leave a perfect space in the frame between the tanks for the battery. The tanks are built in Poland I believe, which I am very happy about—as I don’t have to make them any more!”
James has finished the split tanks with a custom aluminum strip, which also houses an oil pressure light sat on a small piece of sculpted brass.
The handlebars are Speedster bars with six inches chopped out of the width, two from the rise and an inch from ends. Like many other parts on this flathead, they’ve been Parkerized—treated with a phosphate coating, similar to the process used on firearms.
The rear fender was made by Cooper Smithing Co., and James has welded the fender strut directly onto it—so there’s no need for fussy nuts and bolts. “I have to say his fenders are the best in the business. Just a beautiful piece of metalwork.”
James has kept the original hubs, but laced them to new 18’’ rims with Parkerized spokes. They’re wrapped in Shinko 270 Super Classic tires, with a vintage-style sawtooth tread pattern to match the looks of the WLA.
“Other than that, and the chopped down seat and the custom exhaust—which sounds awesome—the WLA is pretty much stock,” says James.
And that’s the way the Harley business is going right now in Europe. “People want to keep their bikes original,” James notes.
“So this is as much a restoration as it is a custom build. ‘Investment’ is a word often used in the Harley world today.”
The striking paint is most definitely not stock though, and we love it. “For the anniversary bike I wanted something that said POW! but still had class,” says James.
“Unfortunately the client was not crazy about the red, and said it looked too retro. So the bike is now hidden somewhere in Copenhagen, waiting until the lawyers have sorted out their shit.”
“Building custom bikes is always fun. It’s like playing Russian Roulette: you never know if you’re going to get the pay, or the bullet.”
We’re sad to see James leave the custom business, but glad to hear he’s going to carry old restoring old Milwaukee metal. If you live in northern Europe and have a barn find gathering dust in your garage, Mr Roper-Caldbeck is your man.