Showing posts with label Cafe racer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cafe racer. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

XLCR Reborn - Jamesville Shovelhead Cafe Racer

Back in 1977 Harley Davidson unveiled their American cafe racer, the XLCR Sportster. On paper and in the flesh the bike was certainly appealing. It was draped in black, had a unique siamese exhaust system, was powered by a torquey 997cc v-twin and wore bodywork unlike any other Harley. Unfortunately the press slammed the bikes performance and poor sales resulted in it becoming a rather famous flop for the Milwaukee manufacturer. Despite all of these factors the XLCR has become an iconic model in HD history and today they fetch high prices at auction. Not having ever ventured in to cafe racer territory before James Roper-Caldbeck of 'Jamesville Motorcycles' in Copenhagen used the XLCR as his inspiration, but paid careful attention to not repeat Harleys mistakes.

"Last year I received a rather sheepish email asking if there was any way I would ever build a café racer" recalls James. James' portfolio is almost entirely made up of Harley Davidson builds with Chopper and Bobber styling being his usual forte. For an outsider it might seem that he is set in his ways, but when the opportunity presented itself, he was more than willing to take it on.

"It can sometimes become a little monotonous always building bobbers and choppers so I gladly said yes. I have always loved the XLCR 1000 and that bike became my inspiration, right down to how we photographed it."

Rather than heading down the same route as the XLCR and using a Sportster as the starting point James opted to use a 1974 Harley Davidson FX Shovelhead. "I found a fairly stock FX that had an S&S 80 cubic inch motor and a 5 speed transmission, which is very nice."

With a powerful donor selected James started penning down some ideas. "To be honest I had no idea what I was doing when it came to building a Café Racer, but I knew I wanted it black with a fairing and for it to look F#CKING mean!"

The build began with the bikes new bodywork. Influenced by the design of Super GP bikes James fabricated an entirely new seat pan and tail from scratch, integrating a Triumph tail light at the rear and mounting it as high as possible on the frame. Surprisingly his front fairing was an aftermarket unit sourced on Ebay. James purchased the unit unsure if it was going to fit his headlight, but much to his surprise it was the perfect fit. For the fuel tank he decided the stock unit looked right for the build and so he stuck with it. "Everyone always asks what it's from and are shocked when I tell them!" jokes James.

To get the bike sitting right James designed a Progressive shock and spring package that lowers the front end and raises the rear, creating a more aggressive riding position. Taking cues from his favourite Ducati exhaust set up he handbuilt a 2-into-1 system that runs high before exiting beside the tail. Two well placed heat shields sufficiently protect the rider from burns (tried and tested by the man himself) and the hotdog muffler lets everyone know to make plenty of room as the Shovelhead approaches.

With loads of power on tap and a great suspension set up James knew he'd need to upgrade the bikes woeful stock brakes for it to be worthy of its cafe racer status. Using a configuration similar to the XLCR that inspired the build he mounted a set of twin drilled discs up front and a drilled disc with custom mounted, daisy chained twin calipers at the rear. Due to the Harley's dimensions it still runs mid controls, but they are custom made units that keep the rider's feet up high for improved cornering clearance.

Taking a measly 5 weeks to complete James finished the bike using a paint scheme inspired by 80s and 90s GP Super Bikes. Touches of XLCR can also be seen on the engine where black has been liberally applied to those distinct Shovel shaped heads, the lower barrels, oil bag and various covers. Then to liven up the monotone theme touches of red were added to the seat and front fairing.

Knowing full well that Harley's aren't often the first choice for cafe racer conversions,  James has done his best to create a bike with the right look and performance to be worthy of the title. "I'm not sure how the Café racer guys will like this" says James. "But I can tell you it's awesome to RIDE!" 

Photography by Mark Dexter of THE LAB Copenhagen

First published by returnofthecaferacers

Monday, August 29, 2016

Icon 1000 have just unveiled their newest range of riding gear and with it comes a new website and more importantly a new custom build! The latest motorcycle to join the Icon 1000 ranks has been baptised the "Three Martini Lunch". Less post apocalyptic in its design than the previous Icon 1000 bikes, I'm happy to say that the 3ML leans more towards the cafe racer aesthetic we love so much; and what better base could they select for such a build than a British born and bred Triumph Thruxton.

There's no hiding the fact that I've been a big fan of the Icon 1000 bikes since they first started appearing a few years back. While their styling may not be everyone else's cup of tea, for me they are a breath of fresh air. Taking a side step away from normality, each of their bikes appears somewhat rough and ready, but there's nothing slapdash about them. Make no mistake these are bikes designed to be ridden, and ridden hard (If you've seen any of the videos you'll know exactly what I'm talking about) and the 3ML is no exception.

Straight away some things become pretty clear as you paw over the photos of the 3ML Thruxton. For starters that bodywork is by no means of Triumph breeding. Up front is a half fairing that bares a striking resemblance to that of Ducati's iconic MH900e. Mounted low on the frame the fairing blends back into the tank for an ergonomic and streamlined finish. The tank itself is also a non-genuine part that appears more retro sports bike than modern classic. Then all the way at the back end you'll find a completely custom rear cowl into which the bikes twin mufflers are mounted.

Glancing down from the tail you'll also note some significant changes to the bikes frame. A completely revised rear subframe hovers the tail end above the rear wheel, which is now held in place by a retro fit monoshock swingarm. For suspension Icon looked to their friends at Nitron for a suitable shock while upfront they chose to replace the Triumph forks with a beefier set of Harley items. The fork and swingarm swap allowed from the fitment of matching diameter KZ1000 wheels which wear extra tall and swollen Avon rubber.

With the changes to the rear of the frame the Thruxton's airbox is no more, replaced by pod filters that live beneath cross drilled covers. The complete removal of the lower cradle of the frame makes the engine perform as a stressed member. To take advantage of the open space this set up has created the Icon team created a 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust system that runs beneath the engines bottom end before making its way up into the tail. You only have to watch twelve seconds of the video below to know that they've done a great job getting their Thruxton to sound right.

"We were on a high-speed burn out of the wretched SoCal gridlock, headed east in a heap of trouble. An olive-colored missile pitted against the red-tinged rock of southwest Utah. We had come looking for nothing. About 3 days in, we found it."

 Beneath the plexiglass screen of the fairing you'll find the original, white faced Triumph gauges, that do a solid job of looking great without any modification. Aftermarket clip on bars offer the rider direct control of the HD front end while custom mounted footpegs position their feet far out of reach of the roads surface. The 3ML riding position is designed for the express purpose of riding fast, which is exactly what the Icon team will be using it for.

When it came to choosing a colour for the 'Three Martini Lunch' you might think that Icon simply went with a classic British racing green, but this is in fact Pontiac GTO Verdoro green, a personal favourite of the builders. As with every Icon 1000 steed the bike features its fair share of Icon livery and tongue in cheek graphics.

If the Three Martini Lunch represents a new direction in style for these Icon 1000 builds you can bet you'll be seeing more of them appearing on these pages.

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‘Snipe’ Yamaha SR400 – Old Empire Motorcycles

The Snipe. A well camouflaged but otherwise nondescript bird that is native to the old world. But for such a seemingly average little fellow, it has sure inspired a hell of a lot of things to be named in its honour. The dictionary defines a ‘snipe’ as the act of ‘making a sly or petty verbal attack.’ That act is named after the military tactic of ‘sniping’, or shooting at the enemy over a long distance. This in turn took its name from the difficulties involved in hunting the bird with a rifle as its flight patterns are erratic, making it almost impossible to hit ‘on the wing’. But most importantly to this story, the bird also gave its name to the Sopwith Snipe, the replacement aircraft to the now famous Camel. And while it’s service began only a few short weeks before the end of WWI, it was renown for its rate of climb and manoeuvrability. Now fast forward to South Eastern England in 2016, where to likely lads with a fascination for old British aircraft have decided to build themselves a custom motorcycle…

“Our last thumper was the ‘Osprey’ which was based on a Suzuki GN400,” says Old Empire’s Alec. It proved quite the hit with the British public and off the back of that particular build, the boys had an enquiry about building something similar but unique in its own right. They decided, as they have done with other builds, to start with a new donor motorcycle so they could focus on improving the aesthetics and upgrading the components rather than restoring worn, broken or just plain skanky bits. Nowadays, the SRs are the only real big, air-cooled singles that builders can get new. And with the experience the boys had working with older SRs, they knew their way around it.

To get all important ‘stance’ sorted, the forks were shaved and lowered by an aggressive 3 inches – an act which also necessitated modding the yokes. “They were our first set of 3D-machined upper and lower yokes, and they were created specifically for this project with a 1″ offset to keep the fork travel sensible and to help us get that line.” After looking around for suitable bars and coming up unimpressed, they sketched up some custom examples. The final product is made in three parts; they are fully adjustable and are screwed into position then locked off; an idea intended to imitate the ‘sleeved and brazed’ bars of old.
“To set them off we couldn’t just use any old switch gear, and again after looking around and seeing some really nice, functional and aesthetically pleasing pieces of engineering, none would really suit. The idea behind these mark 1 versions is a blend of the shapely old Japanese switch gear with newer push-button functionality. “I’m all for minimalism,’ says Alec. “If we can get away with no switches at all, then that is probably the best option. However, if the bike is intended to be a daily rider, then we’ve learnt to make them as useful and usable as we can.”

With help from their mate Willy, some foam models were shaped for the front cowling, rear section, and tank. It was soon realised that the new tank’s design almost exactly replicated the profile of the original tank, just shifted forward and lower. “So we took the original tank, scalloped it and moved it to suit the lines, and then a new aluminium version was slowly wheeled, hammered and welded into shape.”

The front cowling took inspiration from classic aviation and automobile designs that recessed a vinyl-covered dash above a smoked visor. The dash houses all the warning lights, a mini speedo and a tacho. The headlight is a simple Bates unit, while the rear cowling is made to be removed, revealing a small pillion seat. “The seat’s design came from the idea that we wanted something slim, but with a gap down the middle under which we’d mount the electrics.” The fuel tank also benefited from all the internals being moved, as it was a lot easier to fit it properly. Then one of Old Empire’s custom-made fuel caps was added into the mix. Nearby, a simple aluminium cover hides the injection unsightlies and the ignition switch has been relocated in another vinyl-covered panel under the airbox.

The only work done on the frame was to carefully remove the rear rails at a specific point. Then aluminium extensions that integrate the rear LED lights were machined and slotted into place.“The effect is really minimal, but you can see the lights a mile off!” Road-worthy legalities were taken care of in the form of small Motogadget indicators mounted front and back alongside a rolled black and silver tin number plate mounted low and tight. The Tyres were changed to a more aggressive (but still quite classic) pair of Dunlop K70s. “At the back-end we run a smart-looking set of Ketch Bullet shocks. Usually reserved for bigger twins, a little tinkering and tweaking got them working for the lighter SR and allowed a visual match with the front forks, too.

A simple stainless exhaust was order of the day. “It’s short, it’s loud and it took quite some work to get the bike to perform properly and sound decent – but with the right baffles, we got there in the end.” Then all the unnecessary intake and exhaust gizmos and gadgets were duly removed and the ignition was upgraded with a Power Commander unit. The airbox was then drilled and the intake ducting was removed to free up space and improve airflow.

The air box and electrical covers were ditched and then machined wooden formers were used to press and mould the satchel’s leather side panels. “We are well-known for our leather work, and the Snipe deserved some nice touches; so our machined and laser cut leather grips, pegs, kick starter and foam-moulded knee pads all got some attention, as did the seat which is specially prepared and hand-dyed to get just the right colour.”

The final piece of the puzzle was the coatings. A lovely drop of Jaguar E-type grey was gilded with gold pinstriping and some airbrushed shading ties everything together perfectly. Other neat little details include machined and finned brake calipers, a custom Harrison floating brake disc, upgraded rear sprockets and chain, an oil temperature filler cap and some very nice K-tech brake and clutch levers. All up, you’d have to admit it’s one very original Snipe. We can only hope that this particular example chooses to migrate close-by us this summer. Anyone got some bird seed?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Accurate Description - Kawasaki Vulcan Cafe Racer

The Vulcan S ABS Café is Kawasaki's "learner approved" cruiser. It's styling is typical of all cruisers that follow in Harley's footsteps with its laid back riding position, wide handlebars and over inflated bodywork (in my humble opinion). However, at it's heart is an engine that uses the same configuration as some of the first motorcycles to ever be used for Cafe Racer conversions, a parallel twin. Granted the liquid cooled, Kawasaki 650 may not have the same aesthetic appeal as a pre-unit Bonneville, but to a romanticist the Vulcan engine is, in a roundabout way, a hommage to the legend. At least that's how Mário of MRS Oficina felt about it when he was given the opportunity to customise one himself.

The project began when Mário was approached by Kawasaki France to undertake a commissioned project in 2015. They had recently released the 'Vulcan S ABS Café' and wanted to see what Mário could make of it. Knowing that Kawasaki's claim to have been influenced by cafe racer styling when designing the Vulcan S was a bit of a stretch, he decided to follow their lead and build a bike worthy of the cafe racer moniker.

Despite being the lightest of the bunch in Kawasaki's cruiser range, the Vulcan S is no feather weight tipping the scales at a hefty 498 pounds (226kg). Mário was going to have to shed some serious pounds from the Kwaka if it was ever going to perform to his expectations. The weight reduction regime began by discarding the bikes fuel tank, seat and fenders. This was followed by the removal of the rear half of the frame, the cast wheels and any components that complimented the cruiser configuration such as the handlebars and forward control footpegs.

Stance was the next challenge to overcome. The Vulcan needed a less slouched, more aggressive posture if it was to have the geometry of a cafe racer. This required raising the rear significantly using a single, custom made shock absorber from Ohlins and modifying the swingarm to suit. The triple trees were then slid 20mm lower on the fork tubes and stiffer springs installed for optimum handling. A set of classically styled, laced rims with slick rubber donated by Pirelli were then bolted in place.

Mário wasted no time discarding the Vulcan's highly adjustable riding system, which Kawasaki had no doubt spent millions developing. In it's place he installed a single piece tank and tail that floats above the rear wheel and mounted the quintessential cafe racer control configuration of clip on bars and rear set footpegs. To continue to enhance the cafe styling the triangle headlight was also replaced with a yellow lensed Bates style unit, colour matched to the new bodywork and Ohlins shock reservoir. A slimmer custom front fender was also bolted in place for everyday riding practicality.

Reverse megaphone mufflers were the obvious choice for the exhaust system, mounting 2 of them using a custom made pair of stainless steel headers. Finishing touches were then mounted such as the cross stitched leather seat, the matching white faced Motogadget dials, Beringer brake reservoir assembly, Monza style filler cap and frame mounted, custom made indicators. 

Being a Kawasaki the obvious colour choice was always going to be green and Mário has smashed it out of the ballpark with a two toned, metallic scheme. Amazingly this entire build was packed into 4 short months leading up to the 2015 'Salon de la Moto Paris' where punters were lining up to place their deposits. Alas, much like Kawasaki Italy's 40th anniversary Z1000 from 2013, this bike will remain a one off, but here's hoping this won't be the last time we see the green team commission a build of this calibre.

Photography by Antoine Sayn

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Leather Clad Custom - Yamaha SR400 Cafe Racer

The Japanese custom motorcycle scene is arguably one of the most influential and progressive in the world. Japanese workshops like Cherry's Company, Brat Style, Custom Works Zon and Ritmo Sereno have inspired builders around the world and have even been commissioned by motorcycle manufacturers to modify their newest models. Unfortunately in the past it has been difficult to get in touch with Japan's home builders and enthusiasts, but all that's slowly changing thanks to social media.
I recently stumbled across the Instagram profile of Cyu-G and his Yamaha SR400 cafe racer. Despite a language barrier we managed to communicate enough to put together the following interview to share the story of how his cafe racer came to be...

ROTCR: Let's start by you telling us a bit about yourself and your history with bikes.

CYU-G: I live in Nagoya, Japan, I am 49 years old and have been riding for 33 years. Some of the bikes I have owned in the past are Kawasaki Z400FX, Suzuki RG250, Honda CT110 etc. When I customise them I usually get secondhand parts from auctions or shops and I build my bikes in my home garage when I have days off work.

I'm also into British vintage leather jackets and I repair and customise leather wear. In fact the blue Lewis Leathers I wear in these photos were originally a one piece race suit that I split to make a separate jacket. My skills are self taught with both leather and motorcycles.

What was the idea behind the build of this bike and how long did it take to complete?

As I collect and customise vintage leather wear I thought that a cafe racer styled motorcycle would suit these leathers. So I built this cafe racer using a 1994 Yamaha SR400. It took me about 2 years to custom like this and I did all myself apart from the silencers, which were modified by Motor Rock in Nagoya.

What custom work did you perform to transform the bike into a cafe racer?

I replaced almost everything, apart from the frame, engine and wheels. The fairing is a secondhand MINANI item, which I restored and mounted to the frame, using modified brackets from a different fairing. I also fabricated the mounting system for the instruments.

The long alloy petrol tank was hand formed from Aluminium and I made the petrol tank retaining strap using the buckle from a vintage British leather jacket as a fastener. The alloy seat was originally from an unfinished Harley Davidson project which I bought a while ago and customised by myself. The original subframe was shortened, and a new one constructed that also holds the tail light, indicators and fender.

The battery and electrical system are hidden under the alloy seat. The seat base was moulded from FPR and then upholstered by myself in real leather. I spent a lot of time designing my ideal cafe racer, and also in making the many brackets that hold it all together. A portion of the exhaust pipe was cut off and extended using a 20cm section of pipe, which is angled at 15 degrees to kick up the muffler.

I designed the bike more for style than outright performance. However, the engine was still mildly tuned thanks to a racing carburettor and the modified exhaust. The front drum brake was also changed to a disc brake setup, and the front and rear suspension were updated.

What do you like most about the finished bike?

The way the lines of the classic fairing and its rectangular headlight flow into the streamlined alloy petrol tank. I'm also really fond of the matching aluminium alloy petrol tank and seat, with my hand made leather seat upholstery. The Silver finish on everything looks great with leatherwear of any colour.

It's the perfect bike to combine my two passions.

Build sheet:

  • Faring:  MINAMI
  • Petrol Tank: Stinky
  • Alloy Seat: One off custom
  • Handlebars: TOMMASELLI
  • Front Brake:  320mm Disc, with Brembo 4 Piston Calliper & Nissin (Active) Master Cylinder
  • Rear Suspension:  OHLINS
  • Silencer:  Peyton Place (Customised by MOTOR ROCK)
  • Carburettor: Yoshimura FCR39 MJN
  • Fenders:  Peyton Place
  • Speedo and Tachometer:  DAYTONA

Photo by Keiichiro Netsuke 
Special thanks to Leather Girl HIROKO

Friday, June 10, 2016

Sacrilège: A Kawasaki Z1000ST Of Biblical Proportions

Ed Turner is one of Europe’s most extreme custom workshops. Owner Karl Renoult has a very clear and unapologetic vision: he builds each bike with “the sole purpose of giving it character and attitude.”This is Karl’s most outré creation yet, a Kawasaki Z1000ST heavy on biblical references and christened Ezechiel 21, ‘The Sword.’

The Z1000ST is interesting enough in its own right—35 years ago, it was Kawasaki’s first shaft-drive motorcycle, and pumped out a solid 93 horses. But it was also a little staid. And that’s like a red rag to a bull for Karl.The project was commissioned by Grégoire, a man counting his blessings after surviving the November 2015 attacks in Paris.

“He decided that his dreams had to be achieved in his lifetime,” says Karl. “After two or three phone calls, we had the outline of the project.”Grégoire wanted a machine with a powerful-looking frame, a springer front end, and beautiful finishes. The Z1000ST was chosen, largely for its powerful engine—this allowed Karl to devote most of the budget (“not crazy, but comfortable”) to the design.

The chassis took shape rapidly, with a sleeker profile at the back. But Karl resisted the temptation to mess too much with the stock wheels: “I find them pretty cool when polished and adapted to the CBR forks.”The Honda forks have been ‘emptied and springerized’ using custom dampers built by Shaft Racing. It’s a most unusual setup; the suspension duties have been moved from the fork springs to the shock nestling between the yokes.

“For this step, I admit I used some sketches—and even some math,” says Karl. “Not my habit!”“But as usual, surrounded by my mates Joe, Mikael and Gael, we tinkered with this thing and it works pretty well.”

Other cues come from the American vintage drag scene. Notably the proportions of the tires: an Avon 5.25/5.50 17-inch car tire at the rear, and a 3.25 18-inch Speedmaster Mk II rib tire at the front.Everything else is kept to the minimum—specifically, a tank that does not exceed five liters in capacity, and a microscopic brake light and flashers under the custom saddle, masterfully crafted by Red’s Leather.

“Restricted by the wallet, we were unable to satisfy all our pretensions for the preparation of the engine,” Karl says. “We had to play another card…”It was time for divine intervention, so Karl chose a few lines of Ezekiel 21 from the Old Testament to decorate the tank. “A rather creepy passage which speaks of a sword sharpened and polished—and a God who, for once, seems really pissed off and ready to fight.”

To complete The Sword, Karl called in extra manpower from the Breton artisans at Stick Your Cycles. They helped fabricated the bars and the stainless steel exhaust, and refinished the engine cases in green.After several months of work, the Kawasaki was finally ready to hit the autoroute.

Karl handed it over with a message to his client: “Greg, you run faster than bullets. Now let’s see what you can do behind the handlebars.”Amen to that.
Ed Turner | Facebook | Instagram | Photos by Francois Richer
Enigmatic French builder Ed Turner reworks the Kawasaki Z1000ST, with outrageous results.
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