If enthusiasm alone could build bikes then Fabian from Zadig Motorcycles would be able to create things from the other side of the room. He’s not quite Merlin but does seem to posses that power whereby those around him have a good time, achieving great things, barely noticing the hard work in between.
Those unfamiliar with the Zadig way should check out their website, but in brief, the guys base a build around a star of stage or screen and once complete, auction it for charity. The proceeds going towards helping sick children either get better or at the very least, assist them to see out their young days in less discomfort.
This build had a very personal connection though. Where Zadig owner Fabian grew up, there was one man he looked up to. The man known as the ‘The Boss’. Not Bruce Springsteen, but the father of Fabrice and Julien, his childhood friends. In his own words, he says:
“Mario is the Boss. The legendary man driving the streets when we were young. The man building the dream of turning a BMX into a custom. The man who turned grunge into a fashion reality. The man owning the shop who definitely creates a community. The man who gave me the platform, the scrappy-stylish identity, I now use to tell you something that is important for the world.”
He sounds like quite a character; I’m sure we all know a Mario near us, and if you don’t, then have a pat on the back because you might well be him.
So when Fabrice and Julien turned up at the workshop with Mario’s stock 1976 BMW R60/6 which had lay dormant for more than 10 years, Fabien was curious. It turned out they had just ‘stolen’ it. Swiped from under Mario’s nose they wanted Fabien to customize the bike as a gift. A thank you to the man who had supported and inspired them all.
Using their Mother as a decoy they walked the bike more than 5 kilometers to Zadig’s base because they had no truck and weren’t willing to ask for one. It was a top secret operation. With the bike left with Fabien, the brief was to turn it into something cool and dark; fitting with the Boss’s style.
For Fabien it was complicated, an amazing opportunity to work on a bike for a man he’d looked up to all his life, but with that came pressure.
“It was an honor but, you know, it was like the Devil giving God an award!”
After getting over the initial nerves, and tossing around ideas, the lightning struck. The inspiration for this bike would be no other than the ‘Man in Black’ himself, Johnny Cash. This bike was going to be metaphorically burned to the ground and built back. In the words of Cash:
“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town, I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, but is there because he’s a victim of the times.”
Once direction was decided upon, the workshop doors were closed and the build began. The Zadig MC way is very particular:
“A lone wolf. I decide everything with no concession on the way I build!”
The bike was to be an upright, tracker style machine. Not intended to be a daily ride, it could forgo frivolities like mudguards. In the style of Cash, it would be very, very black: gloss, matt and satin, adding textural variety. Existing patina was retained where it could and some parts were, literally, burnt to age them.
The tyres were key to the look of the build. Knowing it wouldn’t be used on rainy days, the outright cornering performance was of less importance than how they worked in the vision of the build. Mixing timelines, the anachronistic combination of an oversize Firestone front with a classic Mitas trials rear is certainly eye catching. While the Firestone might be more common rolling on the boulevards of Los Angeles, Fabien has strong rationale for choosing it. Quite simply, he jests, people just do not understand Belgium is the new LA.
The rest of the rolling chassis was given a nip, tuck and a tweak. The frame was shorn of redundant brackets and the rear metalwork shortened for a compact, purposeful look. After a coat of the black stuff, the rebuilt front suspension was slid back up into the yokes. For the moment rear shocks remain stock but a new set are on their way to to increase the ride and comfort. Those sought after standard wire wheels wheels have been rebuilt and painted before being patinated to remove some of the ‘newness’.
The engine was completely rebuilt, to give it a new mechanical life, but Fabien was careful to ensure the aged alloy kept its charm. Though the beautiful cast airbox was retained, the bike runs on pod filters for a pleasingly throaty intake roar. That is of course if you can hear it over the reworked exhaust. The header pipes were modified to tuck in closer to the engine and opened out for volume. Fabien describes them as “perfect, the noise of thunder!”
Electrics thoroughly gone over, stock ignition, coil and regulator were all replaced and worked into the revamped loom, tucked out of sight.. A Solize LiPo battery now provides the cranking amps.
It’s that vintage front light gives the bike its swagger; it came from an old car, before the guts were stripped out. It’s now fitted with a modern Halo LED unit. Such touches are found all over the bike. Even the tank has been varnished to keep the original wear and look of the bike. The stumpy leather seat has been patinated to match the Brooks leather grips: the brown adding a little variation to the all black ensemble. Bars and controls have been brought together from other vehicles, with aged, drilled levers, hidden switches and wrapped cables all adding to the vintage vibe. The whole bike is made to look purely mechanical, Fabien likes minimalism and hidden controls.
We can picture Mario, reunited with his bike, cruising the streets and turning the heads of a whole new generation. I think Fabien can breathe a sigh of relief in managing to capture the essence of both Mario and Cash in this build. As they grow, Zadig are successfully carving out a distinctive aesthetic for their bikes, and the story behind each build is just as interesting.
Once again, the stunning photos are a credit to David Marvier’s skills behind the camera and thanks also, to Louise BLT for coming all the way from Paris to ride the bike and for brightening up our days.