MOTORCYCLE SPARK: FOR THE ONLINE PUBLICATION WITH ADDITIONAL TEXT AND PHOTOS CLICK HERE
Motorcycle SPARK — STRIKINGLY SWEDISH
After tantalizing the motorcycle world
Husqvarna finally consummates the deal by bringing the Vitpilen 701 to market. But has the pent-up anticipation been worth the wait? For 2018, Husqvarna enters the street bike market with the singular Vitpilen 701, a concept model now in production. There are some growing pains though.
Prototypes are often awesome, but they can also be extraordinarily frustrating. They come from pure, unfiltered, limitless imagination and are literally the stuff of which dreams are made… with a small caveat: we never get to possess and ride them. Well, almost never. For 2018, Husqvarna’s new Vitpilen 701 is making a rare transition from the world of concepts to the showroom. We recently road-tested this new production model at its global press launch in Barcelona.
There are a lot of good reasons prototypes are almost never built into production models, the main one being once all the limits of the production process are factored in, the result no longer looks like the concept, which defeats the purpose. This means in the rare cases the decision is made to turn a prototype into a production model, it’s of the utmost importance to respect the original creation that got people so excited about it in the first place: a prototype is basically hype the showroom version HAS to live up to. So it was very natural the first thing I wanted to do when I arrived in Barcelona was to take a close look at the street-legal version to see how faithful to the prototype it actually is. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed.
From just far enough to take in the whole image, the Vitpilen 701 definitely looks cool. But it’s no longer the prototype. It’s now a street-legal motorcycle with cheap goofy mirrors, a huge licence plate holder and a bunch of reflectors, all of which somewhat downgrade the sexiness of the original concept. That being said, a lot is still there, like the stubby yet elegant proportions, the smart, modern, intriguing silhouette, and that very unusual diagonal line splitting front from back.
One of my biggest pet peeves about the 701 comes as it’s examined up close. Some features really impress, like the complex shapes of the tank, the very particular instrumentation and headlight, and the generally light and airy feel of the design.
But the premium theme is somewhat sabotaged by a little mess of wires, boxes and hoses surrounding the engine and visible through the trellis frame, especially on the right side. The hand controls aren’t particularly impressive either and look like they belong on a motorcycle costing half as much. I realize I’m being tough on the Vitpilen’s looks and finish, but my view is they are central elements of what the bike is about: it seduced motorcyclists as a sexy and striking concept and it’s now being offered at high cost by Husqvarna as a premium machine. I’d give it a seven out of 10, but it should be a nine, particularly at $13,399. The good news is that many of the issues that hurt it visually can be fixed with accessories, which, on the other hand, will increase the price even more. I overheard some marketing types claiming the bike is so unique that cost simply won’t be an issue for the type of buyer interested in a motorcycle like this. Maybe.
The Vitpilen obviously isn’t just an object, and as far as the ride it offers, I quickly discovered I was in known territory. Husqvarna and KTM people just hate when ties between the brands are discussed. They’d rather have everyone believe each is its own entity. Well, sorry, but those ties do exist. Under the striking, concept-derived styling of the 701 is the mechanical base —rolling chassis and engine— of the KTM 690 Duke (okay, maybe 95 per cent of it), which is actually very far from a negative point.
The 690 isn’t KTM’s biggest seller, but it’s one of the brand’s most important models nonetheless. KTM’s history began with singles and the 690 Duke’s role is to establish without a doubt no one can touch the Austrians when it comes to this type of engine configuration.
This may be one of the most brilliant aspects of the Vitpilen: the idea of an extreme single—the 690 Duke—is a bit of an odd one in today’s market, kind of an answer to a question no one, or at least very few, asked. The Vitpilen, however, is all about sexy, simple, minimalist urban styling. It embodies the proverbial “wheels, engine and handlebar” concept, wrapped in cutting edge looks.
Isn’t a light and narrow rolling chassis powered by a high-tech single just the most appropriate mechanical combination to support such a concept? It absolutely is, which makes the Vitpilen the perfect use for the 690 Duke’s somewhat quirky platform.
There are no modes to choose from on the Vitpilen 701, and none are needed. Just fire it up and go. The only electronic-assist option offered to the rider is the deactivation of traction control to allow for wheelies, which the 75 horsepower single will easily make happen, even in second gear. Just remember that the swingarm-mounted licence plate holder is considerably lower than a tail section-mounted one. I found out the hard way.
There are no two ways about it: this is one fast single. It’s quite an unusual engine too. Contrary to tradition, it’s not torquey at low revs and will actually cough and stutter if it’s held below 3,500, and ideally 4,000 rpm in anything other than first gear. But between there and the 8,500 rpm redline, it rips. Full throttle runs are accompanied by an intense high-pitch braap and are followed by clings, clacks and congs once back at idle.
The noises are enough to make someone wonder if it’s all about to disintegrate but, rather, it’s just how this envelope-pushing single sounds. It’s no doubt an impressive and exciting engine, but if there’s one aspect I believe should be improved, other than its high-rpm vibration, it’s the top end biased power delivery.
On a 690 Duke making the point that KTM produces the most powerful single on the planet, it’s appropriate, but on the cool urban ride that the Vitpilen aims to be, I’d happily trade five horses on top for generous torque available right from idle.
In terms of ride characteristics, the 701 deserves very high marks. I had the opportunity to do some hard laps on the latest 690 Duke and every bit of that narrow chassis’ wonderful precision and tightness is felt on the Husky. Thanks to good suspension elements dialed in for real road conditions, the 701 is perfectly at home on twisty back roads, even if they’re not in perfect condition. Comfort is actually not bad because of this, but overall the Vitpilen is more of a short distance bike: longer rides will make the seat less and less welcoming with each passing half-hour while those somewhat low bars will begin to bother the rider’s hands.
The Vitpilen 701 is a very interesting case. Rarely do we see motorcycles with such hypnotic styling. KISKA, the design company behind the 701 (and all KTMs and Huskys) really outdid themselves: there aren’t a lot of bikes the average motorcyclist can identify at a glance and this is certainly one.
For Husqvarna, the majority of street riders will see the Vitpilen 701 as the first model of the brand under this ownership, as many may not be familiar with the Supermoto 701 or the extensive dirt lineup of the Swedish marque. As previously mentioned, it isn’t perfect, but it holds up pretty well to the huge hype built up by the prototype. For a first step into the world of street bikes, in such a crowded and competitive marketplace, I’d say it’s a pretty damn impressive one.
Motorcycle SPARK — LIGHT THE CANDLES
Harley-Davidson celebrates a birthday party every five years. While an ideal way to stay young, the five year spacing keeps the festivities fresh.
2018 marks the 115th year for the Milwaukee brand and, as is the tradition, there will be a weekend celebration in that city with a few others scattered around the world. While the 100th
anniversary saw riders converge on the company hometown in droves, including those on organized rides from across the continent, the 115th aims to be a smaller but still memorable event.
One of the intriguing aspects of the anniversary year is the theme paint schemes offered on anniversary models. While again the 100th stands out for its black and metallic pin-striped motif, 2018 does get a series of 115th presentations. We have to give the nod to the Forty-Eight, which wears the livery with dangerous aplomb.
Motorcycle SPARK — A BIG BEAR IN THE FOREST
When Yamaha introduced the SCR950, the bike had an obvious heritage feel that drifted back to the scrambler days of the 1960’s. While the look worked there were going to be constraints when building a new model, especially when it is based on an existing platform as the SCR950 was. The company has to present a machine that hits the middle ground to appeal to the broadest number of potential customers. It must at the very least give a nod towards comfort, practicality and usability. There are plenty of examples of machines built to a theme but ultimately compromised style for function and, with the exception of show bikes that are built for show rather than go, that lack of compromise leads to either the end of the bike or a major revision to try and lure back buyers. Case in point, the original Triumph Thruxton, a beautiful bike to be sure but as uncomfortable as hell. Considering the market that bike was aimed at, this didn’t work and Triumph modified the ergonomics to make the ride more palatable. But we digress.
The SCR950, a good looking retro theme cruiser/scrambler indeed…but what if? That what if was answered by Jeff Palhegyi of Jeff Palhegyi Designs as one of Yamaha’s Yard Built efforts. Palhegyi, who has a long history customizing Yamaha products including Royal Stars, Bolts, SR400 and Raiders, took inspiration from the 1966 YDS3C Big Bear Scrambler and turned the SCR950 into something truly special. Features including the two-toned paint, Renthal bars and a Fox rear suspension on a shortened swing-arm combine with a custom headlight bracket, skid plate and braided lines to make the bike truly scrambler-worthy. The success of the bike is retaining, and even enhancing, the SCR950’s original mission statement.
Motorcycle SPARK — THAT’S THE CONCEPT : MOTO GUZZI V85
Where does this offering fit into the picture? The Moto Guzzi V85 Enduro is referred to as a concept by the folks in Europe but we would bet cash to donuts that the V85 is as much concept as say, the unfortunately named VanVan 200, a distant but vaguely similar themed offering from Suzuki. So we aren’t buying the concept status but we do know that we want one. The bike is right there in all its Italian designed glory. There is nothing outlandish, there is nothing looking more style over function. There is nothing – and this is key – looking like it would cost a fortune to produce. It is a little retro (almost every Moto Guzzi is). It is a little modern (check out the suspension). It has a scrambler feel but it also has a 1980’s era ADV vibe. The motor at 850cc fits right in a sweet spot between too small and too big.
What are the competitors? That is a murky line. The V85 doesn’t appear to be heavy into the high tech sector so bikes like the BMW F800GS and the Triumph Tiger 800 aren’t in the wheelhouse nor are either the V-Strom 650/1000 or the Versys 650/1000. You might give a nod to the BMW RnineT Scrambler but it is more styling exercise than it is offroad capable. What about the Ducati Scrambler? Okay maybe we are getting somewhere but the Ducati is just a little too precious and perky (all that Land of Joy jargon). The Triumph Scrambler comes close but one would again question the offroad bones and the extra dose of retro flavour. So the Moto Guzzi V85 sits almost alone in its little neck of the offroad woods. That is a good place to be and, knowing Moto Guzzi, the bike will, if it comes to market (wink, wink), be priced aggressively enough to make the competition in scrambler / enduro / retro segment worry.
Motorcycle SPARK — DO THAT TO ME ONE MORE TIME – KAWASKI Z900RS
The 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS is pretty. But, what’s it “about?”
Damn, this thing is exquisite.
This ain’t no hastily put together Café or Scrambler. This is retro done oh so right. This is the 2018 Z900RS, a tribute to one of the most significant motorcycles of all time, Kawasaki’s record setting 1973 Z1, and I freakin’ love it.
As with baggers, the term retro isn’t always deserved. At the low end of the, let’s call it “respect scale,” is the simplistic and sometimes clumsy faux retro restyle of an existing model. To move toward the top of that scale requires a lot more effort, creativity and taste. Triumph is one of the best at it. Designers over there actually play with the retro theme, sometimes pushing it to the extreme as with a Bonneville T100 or, in other cases, blending classic and modern as with a Thruxton. As BMW demonstrates with models such as its R nineT Racer and Urban GS, the Germans are pretty good at it too.
Japanese brands on the other hand haven’t shown as much talent, which, I would argue, isn’t surprising. Style isn’t what they’re most renowned for. So, then, what happened here? Because good Lord this thing’s gorgeous!
I haven’t seen a modern Japanese bike styled quite like the Z900RS. The Honda CB1100 comes closest, but its retro theme is different, more replica-like, somewhat like the T100. There’s a brief temptation at first glance to call the RS a replica too, but it’s not. During the model’s press launch in L.A., much fanfare was made about the original 1973 Z1’s special place in Kawasaki’s history, with stories from people involved in its development and, of course, a beautifully preserved unit.
Strangely, despite its 46 or so records and its game-changing specs, the original ‘73 didn’t look like much more than an old Japanese bike, one you’d easily confuse from 20 feet away with a same-era GS or KZ. The RS parked just beside it, however, looked stunning and surprisingly different. The family resemblance is there, that’s unarguable, but the new RS is much more than just a replica: it mixes classic cues with modern technology in an extraordinary tasty way.
Its styling isn’t retro just for the sakes of retro. On the contrary, it’s smart and thoughtful; it’s both very respectful of the brand’s heritage and remarkably modern.
The tank and tail section are very good examples. Compared with the same parts on the original bike, they show none of the simplicity of the old design, but rather seem like a modern reinterpretation of the latter. It’s a very interesting bike to examine up close, especially if an original Z1 is near by. But when observed whole from a few feet away it’s then the gorgeous styling job is most appreciated. The neo-retro body parts, the cast wheels with spokes so tiny they fool the eye into thinking it’s a spoked wheel, the flat seat, the raised handlebar, the classic analogue instrumentation that discreetly hides a small digital multi-info screen; all of it blends gracefully into a package that just keeps you staring.
So, the Z900RS ($12,999 in black, $200 more for black and red) looks the part, but how does it ride? Well, if I’m honest, although the whole package functions very well, it’s not actually remarkable in any way. It’s a good handling streetbike powered by a torquey inline four that generally feels refined, as Japanese bikes do.
To be completely frank, it’s somewhat ordinary to operate: everything functions very well with nothing in particular standing out. It almost feels as if it’s not built to be anything special, which essentially means it doesn’t have a specialty. In a market where every bike is expected to be very good at one thing and built for one type of rider, riding something with such a vague nature is somewhat confusing. What is it exactly? You keep asking this about the RS at least at first.
But after some fun in twisty Malibu canyons, and some relaxed moments admiring the sun sparkling in the Pacific, and after dancing between cars and trucks while lane splitting during L.A.’s rush hour, the obvious is realized. The RS is just a bike. Not a sportbike, not a cruiser, not an adventure bike, not a touring bike… just a bike. You sit on it as if it was specifically fitted to you, and it handles gracefully doing no more or less than what your inputs command. It brakes hard without surprises (bravo Kawasaki for offering ABS standard). The seat is comfortable (the low version less so) and the suspension is reasonably plush. The 115-horsepower four-cylinder emits agreeable sounds and is full of grunt down low while offering satisfactory acceleration up top (where it could be smoother). Most operational aspects work flawlessly (though the throttle is jerky).
If the RS feels weird, it’s because we have forgotten about bikes like this. Over the past four decades, motorcyclists have asked and received ever more specialized bikes. And they’ve really gotten good at their thing. See how amazing the GSX-R1000R performs as a superbike or the 1090 Adventure R as an adventure model. But step back to a time when bikes such as the RS were once quite common, to a degree the brands were nearly forgotten in the process: they became known simply as UJMs, Universal Japanese Motorcycles. They weren’t particularly good at any one thing; they were just bikes. And that’s precisely the case with the Z900RS. Ironically, it now seems so different from anything else. Motorcycles have become so specialized we forget what a general use motorcycle can be.
NIP AND TUCK – HONEY YOU DON’T LOOK A DAY OVER 30
It is obvious that the Z900RS has had a little work done over the years. The key to this makeover is keeping it subtle and working with what there is on hand. Leading with the same bullet shaped gauges, the familiar shape is still present with an emphasis on the Motorcycle SPARK — same rounded curves of the tank. The bike has lost a little bulk around the rear end but it has balanced that by adding a few curves to the seat while retaining the rolled texture. The rear look is capped by the pert up turned tail piece which again has lost a little weight. While the bikes would be recognizable without it, the retro paint scheme is what ties the whole thing together.
Motorcycle SPARK — AIN”T GOT NO RESPECT – THE SUPER GLIDE
The Super Glide was chirped long and hard when it was introduced in 1971. Times have changed though, and today it’s regarded as one of the more collectible Harley-Davidsons.
It was the early 1970s and I was still a kid in a Winnipeg high school the first time I ever laid eyes on a “Boattail” Super Glide. It was collecting dust in a motorcycle shop on the north side of the city. There were places that sold Harley-Davidsons back in those days that weren’t quite as organized or sophisticated as they are today—and that’s me being nice. Its surroundings were a touch on the rude side, but I thought the Super Glide was the most beautiful bike I’d ever seen, all done up in its “Sparkling America” livery of red, white, and blue.
Didn’t take long for my riding buddies to set me straight: “The Stupid Glide,” they said, “It’s ugly. Forget it. AMF bike. Not a ‘real’ Harley.” Some of these friends were older than me, so obviously they knew better, right? In hindsight, I had friends back then who also weren’t very organized or sophisticated. But their chirping was fairly typical of the verbal abuse heaped on the Super Glide when it first emerged from the AMF-Harley-Davidson factory in 1971. Famously, this was Willie G. Davidson’s first big styling effort, and it’s fair to say that it wasn’t well received. How ironic that today auction houses such as Bonhams rate the Super Glide “among the most collectible of post-1960s Big Twin Harley-Davidsons.”
Ray Prince of Victoria, BC is a well-known collector and restorer who reckons he’ll ask upward of $25,000 for his minty 1971 Super Glide when he finally decides to sell (which seemed it might be this year when I visited his garage in February). Ray says he’s lost track of how many Harley-Davidsons he’s owned over the decades but even after just a few moments in the man’s workshop you get a clear sense of his long history with the brand. The walls are covered with H-D memorabilia and scores of photos from bikes he’s owned in the past. Also taking up room in the garage are a pair of daily (summer) rides: a gleaming red Knucklehead and a 1923 Model JD Harley-Davidson once operated by the Victoria City Police. On the workbench at present is a small displacement single-cylinder Harley that he’s restoring and assembling for the former Canadian H-D dealer Steve Drane.
Among Ray’s past inventory was the Super Glide he purchased new in 1972, making Mr. Prince at the time one of only an estimated 5,000 buyers of the original FX—a model that would eventually overcome the stigma attached to it and evolve into the seminal and highly stylized Low Rider. From that point a whole new breed of “Factory Customs” began to emerge.
The Super Glide was actually a hybrid, powered by Harley-Davidson’s 74-inch Shovelhead engine housed in a heavy FL frame to which was fitted a XL Sportster front end, Fat Bob tanks, and a fender-seat combo molded from fibreglass into one piece: the Boattail. The concept was outrageous, and people voted with their wallets. That’s to say, they didn’t. The model was returned to the lineup for 1972, but the Boattail experiment was drawn to a close with the fitment of a steel fender.
For Ray Prince though, it became a case of everything old is new again when at a swap meet in the US naval base town of Bremerton, Washington three years ago he made the acquaintance of a fellow who had a ’71 Super Glide and a willingness to part with it.
The guy had acquired the bike in tattered condition after its former owner was divorced from his wife who took possession of the motorcycle as part of the settlement. We can only speculate from a distance of course, but it seems the divorce must have been ugly. Perhaps not quite as wretched though as the condition of the bike, which Ray describes as “disgusting” after it had sat unattended for five years in an unprotected carport.
Though Ray admits that, “nobody liked them at the time” when he bought his first Super Glide attitudes have since changed and now that he was presented with an opportunity to again own a ‘Glide a certain nostalgia also kicked in.
Says Ray: “It’s one of those things when you get older and you look back and say ‘Hey that was a pretty cool bike.’
Though the Bremerton bike needed sweat equity and a few parts, Ray was certainly up to the task. And this time, the feedback was nothing but positive. “I put it together and everybody loves it today,” he says. “[Maybe because] it’s from a whole other era.”
The generally warm feeling people now express for the Boattail Super Glide is an object lesson in how the course of time can change perceptions. Some things though never change. One of the constant aspects of life (and motorcycles) is that you just never know what you’ll need once you’ve committed to a restoration project.
Even a very experienced hand like Ray can be surprised. As he sourced parts for the Super Glide it came as a mild shock to learn that the rectangular reflectors on the side of the Boattail are especially difficult to find, and even if you do, expect to pay $100.
“Guys used to just tear them off and toss them away,” says Ray. Lesson learned: never discard anything.
Motorcycle SPARK — TRIAL BY WIRE
If there is any motorcycle segment that is perfect for electric bikes, it is trials riding. The race distances are minimal, the speeds are low and the abundance of instant torque available from an electric motor is an advantage. The Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme, the overlords of much of the globe’s motorsport, has decreed that the Trial-E Cup will for 2018 be a two race series where only electric trial bikes will compete. As Europe is the hotbed of trials competition, the two events will take place in Belgium and France during July. Yamaha has embraced the e-movement with the TY-E. Weighing less than 70 kg, the TY-E is powered by a compact, high rotation motor connected to a lithium-ion battery for go power and a mechanical clutch for maximum control and feel: both of which are crucial when riders are hopping, dropping and stopping their way across rocks, boulders, logs, concrete blocks and the myriad of other vicious obstacles placed in the path of a trials competitor.
Motorcycle SPARK — De-CAf _ Custon Suzuki Cafe Racer
The original Japanese Superbike lives again! This time though in café racer form. Or is that ‘caf’ racer? You be the judge.
On Calgary’s southeast side in a busy light industrial neighbourhood shared by heritage warehouses, auto body yards, and a hipster recording studio, Vlatko Jarc opens the Old Motorcycle Shop’s bay door and rolls out a red-framed custom café racer emboldened by its polished steel Gus Kuhn tank. Vlatko thumbs the bike to life and it responds immediately with snarky notes blowing through a 4-into-1 Mac Exhaust system. Satisfied, Vlatko clicks his visor closed, rolls on some throttle and disappears up the street in the general direction of where we’ve agreed to meet for photos.
It’s an evocative moment for anyone with even passing affections for iconic Japanese sportbikes. The café racer in question here is an interpretation of Suzuki’s 1979 GS1000, the most feared four-cylinder litre-bike of its time. Targeted to compete against Kawasaki’s KZ1000 and Yamaha’s XS Eleven, the GS was a legitimate Superbike of the era, the platform of choice for the Wes Cooley/Yoshimura Suzuki combo that claimed back-to-back Superbike titles during the AMA’s 1979-1980 series.
Bolted into a five-piece tubular frame, the GS’s 90-hp eight-valve inline four was an air-cooled masterpiece of the time, having borrowed more than just a little from the Kawasaki factory. But big, heavy, and fast though it was the GS was not just another pretty motor. With three-disc braking, air-and-oil damping for the pre-load adjustable fork, and comparatively lengthy swingarm, the Suzuki was formidable in the corners, a superior handling motorcycle that belied its 233-kg heft. And with a voluminous 20-litre tank the bike had a dominating presence on the street, drag strip and roadrace circuit.
This particular GS came into the Old Motorcycle Shop environment as a commissioned piece for a customer who envisioned a café racer treatment but who ultimately walked away from the project leaving OMS co-owner Phil Bunton and his lead fabricator Nick Christian with some decisions to make about the bike’s future.
Old Motorcycle Shop is a diverse place with a multitude of bobbers, choppers, restos, and simple maintenance jobs representing marques and models from around the globe. But for all its polyglot nature, there’s a decided “Brit” feel here, obviously owing to the presence of Phil and Nick, who hail from the UK, arriving in Canada with journeyman tickets, and long histories with motorcycles.
In the GS, they saw the potential for the endurance racers of their reckless youth: exuberant bikes that might be called café except that, for Nick, there’s a subtle difference between today’s café racer and those he and his mates built back in the day. “We just called them ‘cafs’, not cafés,” he says. Beyond regional terminology, it’s not precisely clear (to some of us at any rate) what the precise difference is between ‘caf’ and ‘café’ but it seems somehow rooted in Great Britain’s post-war years when financial austerity took the measure of simply all of life’s aspects, including motorcycles, which were often the only vehicles families could afford. They were conveyances born of practicality, not of romance.
Yet, for young British men growing up in those parsimonious times, romance with motorcycles did somehow manage to blossom and then morph into a devil-may-care culture as is so famously documented in the stories of seminal hangouts like the Ace Cafe and its important role in the development of “custom” sport motorcycles.
Which brings us back to the “caf” on these pages. Or is it a streetfighter? Well, whatever the case, there has been a significant amount of fab-work done to render its present form. Owing as much to the variety of available motorcycles and components on the shop floor as it does to the bike-histories of Nick and Phil, the GS is infused with a multi-national parts list that includes its Yamaha YZF750 front end, the rear wheel from Honda’s CBR600RR, a Harley-Davidson strutless rear fender, and a broad selection from aftermarket catalogues including Lucas lights, Monza rear shocks, and a prize eBay find: the Gus Kuhn tank.
Many components such as the rear sets, headlight bracket and chain guard were made in-house with the expected degrees of difficulty, being that nothing is ever “Simply bolt-on” when it comes to custom fabrication and retro-fitting of parts—especially ones that were never intended to be there in the first place.
A good example was how problematic fitting the Yamaha front end proved to be. The solution lay in shaping scallops into the gas tank so the forks could clear the large-volume fuel hold. But for someone like Nick, who was raised full of reverence for the legendary Gus Kuhn, the modification of an out-of-production item seemed sacrilege. “To alter it was almost arrogance,” he says.
Yet, because the YZF forks were at hand and in keeping with the performance vision for this build, the scallops went ahead. There were to be other difficult decisions in the name of practicality, though none with so much emotional dilemma attached.
The fitment of the Mac 4-into-1 exhaust is an example. In stock form, the exhaust arrangement is 4-into-2. To get the current look meant adding six inches to the collector box to avoid fouling the custom rearsets. In this case it was the “path of least resistance,” says Nick, in order to ultimately achieve the desired look.
Technically speaking, the most difficult aspect of the build involved mounting the CBR wheel. To get there meant stretching the swingarm by 2.5 inches in order to make room for the wheel (which, again, was available in the shop so … why not use it). It’s the practicality thing, hearkening back to earlier days. Making the job that much more involved was that the swingarm is not simple box section steel but rather extruded aluminum with a complex internal shape that needed to be maintained during the cutting and subsequent Tig-welding.
So, with a custom seat, KZ1000 gauges, steel braid lines, Yoshi bar ends, and finned cam-end caps to get away from the “sleeping frog look” the custom GS1000 is now a finished project.
Nick confesses to some degree of “egotism” about the build, meaning he’s fully aware that if someone were interested in pure function, “then any R6 would just eat it.” But the pride he takes is in knowing there’s not another bike on the street quite like it.
“Except for a Norton Commando caf racer that just came back to the shop,” says Nick. “It’s almost identical! An amazing juxtaposition when you see them together.”
Motorcycle SPARK — BACK/FIRE
Board trackers were some of the very first motorcycles built in North America. The bicycle origins of these very simple machines was readily apparent in the frames, narrow tires, pedals and saddles – all straight from a bicycle catalogue. They were, without any doubt, a bicycle with a small internal combustion engine attached. But that was good. They were likely dangerous as hell but those early riders laughed at danger – they had to or they never would have got on something that was faster than a horse and slower to stop. But they had something and over the years the image of a board track style motorcycle evokes a nostalgia that will sepia tone the riding images in your head. If you have that board tracker hankering but want to ride without the grease, the wobble and the questionable reliabilty – let’s face it, your average board tracker is now over 100 years old and should be in a museum not on a run to Tim’s for a double-double – there is now something on the horizon for you. It has board track style, it has pedals, narrow wheels and a motor and, like those eary machines, it is kind of a bicycle. Okay it is a bicycle – an electric one. The Michael Blast Greaser is an electric bicycle from Australia that is propeled by either a 250W or 500w brushless motor and a lithium-ion battery via a five-speed transmission – and the pedals if you care to use them. In Canada the Greaser is retailing for $2,499 which seems like a pretty good deal for a machine with a 25 kmh top speed and better brakes than the originals. Now, to race a horse…