Bike Building. A curious phrase isn’t it. We’re as guilty as anyone for the proliferation of a term that’s often a slight embellishment of the truth. Customising is one thing but engineering an entire motorcycle, that’s next level. Somewhere in-between there’s a space for talented creatives such as Bernard Mont from Namur, 60 clicks south of Bruxelles. Bernard popped up on Bike Shed’s radar a few years back with a radically altered Ducati 900SS ‘Difazio’ which subsequently won top spot at World Ducati week in 2014 and recently featured in the coveted Ride, 2nd Gear book.
I keep banging the drum for race car and bike engineers as being responsible for some of the more innovative customs, with good reason, focussing on how something works rather than how it looks can bring about refreshing results. Bernard raced in the French rally championship, European F3000 and Belgian production championship and for the last two decades has been working for a large chemical company, in both the engineering and mechanical maintenance departments. Or in other words, he knows his shit. Which is handy as he also has a hobby business repairing and tuning Ducatis.
Ducatisti out there will recognise this bike as a 2007 Monster S2R, which Bernard bought crash damaged with the aim of using it as a daily hack. Unfortunately his itchy spanner finger couldnt be controlled and he set about taking the front end off the aforementioned 900SS ‘TT3’ and grafting it onto the Monster.
Anyone who’s ridden a motorcycle will be aware of fork dive, or perhaps become so accustomed to it that it’s second nature adjusting one’s riding to accommodate it. Engineers like Bernard have been coming up with solutions for years that allow the front wheel to move in the vertical plane to soak up bumps without capitulating to the forces of gravity and inertia under braking. I’m not about to explain how but lets just say that if you’ve seen the video of Guy Martin riding the astonishing Britten and seen his reaction you’ll understand why this type of suspension setup leaves even the most accomplished of riders scratching their head. OK, John Britten’s bike effectively had posh girder forks (his own design) and Bernard’s setup is different but with a similar aim of separating loads and forces. Bernard has amassed over 10 years worth of information and suspension geekery on his blog documenting the progress of the FFF or Funny Front Forks, put the kettle on and click here.
In layman’s terms the front end consists of a centre steered hub upon which a modified front wheel is mounted. The lower wishbones, control arms and linkages are all TiG welded, high quality chromoly tubing and the brake caliper carrier and other hub components machined from aviation grade aluminium. The eagle eyed will have spotted the additional triangulation of the stock trellis frame that supports all this lot, although I dare say Bernard’s welding will be better than the standard squirty cheese looking lines formed by the robots back in Bologna.
Old fashioned forks have been replaced by a brace of 996 rear shocks, recalibrated with new springs and revalved internally. Stock Brembo stoppers wouldn’t have been nearly exotic enough so a pair of oversized rotors have been laser cut from stainless steel and are gripped by radially mounted 6-pot Tokico calipers. One’s eye balls would probably haemorrhage well before this setup runs out of power.
The rear of the frame didn’t escape just because the suspension is the traditional type, it’s been shortened and tidied up. The stock seat has been reupholstered and the removable tail cover painted. From here the fuel tank looks great painted in a purposeful matt silver but Bernard isn’t over the moon with the colour so this will probably change, let’s see if he’d able to simply paint it without incorporating some form of mega-McGyver functionality.
The S2R engine is a perfectly good unit but perhaps not punchy enough to give that front end the workout it deserves, so it was removed. Bernard had a 1000cc dual spark motor going spare so took it apart in order to realise a bit more of the v-twin’s potential. The flywheel appears to have been exchanged for a communion wafer and now weighs just 240 grams so the throttle response should be snappy to say the least. The cams have been reporofiled to make the most of the velocity stack intakes and exhaust, now free of catalytic conversion duties. Supertrapp mufflers dial in some back pressure and keep all but the most fastidious of noise police at bay. The ECU has been remapped to optimise Bernard’s fettling.
With the front suspension looking like a climbing frame of the future the headlight assembly needed to be visually simple so a pair of lamps mounted to an aluminium race number board do the trick nicely. Behind that lives a Motogadget speedo and that’s about it, nothing superfluous or decedent are needed on a build like this.
So what’s the point? Why has Bernard gone to all this trouble to customise a Ducati Monster? Because he can, probably the best reason for doing just about anything. And why the name Difazio? Well, Italian turned Devonian and engineer extraordinaire Jack Difazio developed hub center steering during the sixties & seventies, therefore becoming the spiritual father of the Bimota, Tesi/Vyrrus, the Atomo, and Mettis JBB.
Hats off to you Jack, the world would be less interesting had it not been for your ingenuity and two fingers thrust firmly up at conformity, and Bernard would be twiddling his thumbs in-between riding around on boring bikes with forks and triple clamps and stuff.
Photography by Sébastien Nunes