Guzzi cafe racers always seem to turn out just-right. They’re built for this kinda conversion with long, low lines, a flat top-frame and one of the prettiest bike engines out there. However, they do seem to come out all looking the same, but this shed-built creation from Arnie, is a little different.
Arnie lives near Seattle in the US and has been riding bikes for over 30 years, working his way though Hondas, Triumphs, a Beemer, and on to Guzzis. All his bikes get taken apart and assessed for improvements, and over the years he’s worked his way up the welding evolutionary ladder from torch to mig and tig. This recent build is his most involved and allowed him to break in the new tig welder, as he needed the gas tank to be just right too.
The bike started out as a fairly modern 1998 Moto Guzzi Centauro, which he now describes as part cafe racer (on the top) and part street fighter (on the bottom). It wears all kind of adapted parts from other bikes, including a Suzuki tank, Honda fender, custom rear subframe, etc, but most importantly it’s prettier, lighter (by over 50 pounds) and better to ride.
“I’ve been riding a 1973 Moto Guzzi Eldorado for 15 years or so, incessantly tweaking it, adding the one liter jugs, a B-10 cam, headwork, 40mm pumper Dellorto carbs, RAM low inertia clutch, and had tuned the thing to perfection using a wide band oxygen sensor and palm pilot bungeed to the speedometer to acquire and display data. This took me most a of a summer, but after rejetting the carbs multiple times, the old Eldo runs just about as smoothly and fast as any old Guzzi out there.”
“My concept was to take a modern Guzzi and turn it into a retro café racer. The donor was going to be a Sport 1100 or Centauro, preferably a Centauro, with the 4 valve high cam engine. This bike is nearly identical to the mythical Daytona, Guzzi’s first 4 valve model, very cool looking, rare, and expensive if you can find one.”
“The previous owner was a well known and respected local bike guy with a barn full of bikes, but he really liked this one, even sold it once and then re-bought it. He made me promise the bike was going to a good home. Technically, that was true, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was going to strip it down to the bones and Frankenstein it.”
“The first day I had it I started unbolting the fairing, chin spoiler, rear cowling, anything that world come off and the bike still function. Replaced the air boxes, which could double as the HVAC system for a small building, with K&N pod filters, and made some other recommended mods (replacing the ceramic temp sensor with a brass one, installing a transil diode to protect the ECU, replacing all the relays which were prone to failure).
Rode it around like this for a while, just to get the feel of the bike. It’s very fast compared to the Eldo, lighter, and excellent braking (compared to drums). It came with the adjustable swan neck clip ons, which are awesome.”
Arnie knew he wanted a bullet nacelle headlight, and found a 6” bucket on Fleabay from a Guzzi Stornello. The front fender came from a Honda 650 which he shortened. Making the mounts was difficult because the bike has upside down forks, so it had to mount to the lowers. Arnie finally arrived at the least obtrusive solution by replacing two of the Brembo brake bolts with longer ones and making these into the mounts.
The rear subframe was made out of band iron and steel tubing, relocating all the electronics, ECU, relays and fuse block. This took quite a bit of trial and error, tack welding and grinding. Arnie really wanted the subframe, tank, fender, and exhaust to all be parallel to the ground, with no up-swept angles, but couldn’t pull it off on the subframe without compromising rear suspension travel, seat height or and exhaust clearance.
“The pipes are from DanMoto, in China, via eBay. Very cheap, but appear serviceable. I try to avoid this type of product, but couldn’t pass up the price, half that of other exhausts. The metal and carbon tubing is very thin, the welds tiny. They are light. I just hope the 12 year old girl who made them did so at the beginning of her 14 hour shift, not the end.”
The tank is from a 1980’s Suzuki GS 1000. Arnie chopped off the front mounts, made and welded new ones to get the position right, and shimmed out the stock rubber donuts on the frame. He then welded NPT bungs on both sides, 3/8″ on the left to the fuel pump and 1/4″ on the right to the pressure regulator.
“I cut out the side panels and welded in sheet metal for the knee cutouts. I considered the hammering method, but don’t like the way those look. This took dozens of hours, tig welding at 20 amps, barely enough to trip the sensor on the welding helmet, but plenty to burn through occasionally. Also spent nearly a day pressure testing and fixing pinholes. The tank (another eBay gem) was very rusty, even came to me with a locked cap and no key. Had it boiled out and coated at a local radiator shop.”
The seat is from Dime City Cycles and Arnie describes it as light as a feather and very cheap, although a little asymmetrical, and taking quite a bit of jiggering to get it on straight. Arnie’s favourite part of the seat unit is that the stock Centauro tail light, turned upside down, is an almost perfect fit under the rear part of the bum stop.
The turn signals are the old bar-end kind, from Emgo. The instrument is an Acewell computer, with speedo, tach, clock, and indicator lights and modes in a 2.5” diameter gauge. It includes a fuel level gauge which connects to an Acewell sender which Arnie welded on the Suzuki sender mounting plate.
We think it’s a superb job and right up our street at the BSMC. You can follow Arnies’ own blog with more detail on the build here.