Whenever I’ve ridden through south west France I’ve imagined living there. The proximity to the mighty Atlantic, sand dunes around Archachon, the incredible Pyreneean roads and passes…. all just a couple of hours south of Bordeaux – if I’d concentrated on my French teacher’s lessons at school rather than her chest then emigrating would definitely be on the cards. No wonder that the inspiring environment has fuelled the birth of a bunch of custom workshops, many being established well before Wheels & Waves brought international notoriety to the region.
Baptiste and Edouard co-founded EMD Workers based in Hossegor just north of Biarritz and it seems they share my enthusiasm for the region, saying “it’s like a mini California here, mixing between surf, skate and custom bikes we knew we needed to be right in the heart of the action, as we skate and surf too… We recently built a concept store and workshop on the ground floor of our new building and there’s a showroom upstairs for apparel, gear and a range of our own EMD components produced by the third member of our crew, Nicolas who has his own brand Esteves Motorcycles Design.”
And this ally-clad beast is one of their latest projects that started life in 1991 as a Harley-Davidson 1340 Softail Springer, most of which was removed to be replaced with handmade and machined exotica. Part café and part Bonneville salt racer the guys wanted to showcase their fabrication talent alongside the EMD range of hard parts. The stock frame is hanging up somewhere in the timber lined garage/shop/mancave, replaced by an all-new, handmade version. A Suzuki GSXR swing arm has been mated to the original Softail rear suspension linkage, making for a super clean, seemingly springless rear end. Expresso was then intricately acid etched into the chunky ‘arm by Stick Your Cycle.
Although it looks like a cast aluminium fairing from the guys across the border at Valtoron it is, in fact, the result of many hours pushing and pulling sheet through an English wheel. The swage lines and hard edges must have taken an age to weld, file and hammer-out. Though this appears to have been a warm-up for the more arduous shaping that followed.
The fuel tank is beaten and rolled from harder steel, as is the tail and seat unit. While the front tank contains essence the rear is for the l’huile (see Miss Leech, occasionally I looked at the blackboard), saving the underseat area from visual interruption. Beneath the front tank lives a battery to power the minimal electrics.
About the only thing not handmade is the ZX7R fork, but it is modified. One leg has been de-lugged to make way for a single, 6-pot Harrison Billet brake caliper and Triumph disc. An aluminium clock surround was welded to the top yoke which looks about as seriously chunky a dash as I’ve seen. MMB gauges monitor rpm, speed and amps. The handlebars are a simple yet brutal looking pair made in-house with Beringer’s finest master cylinders and levers each side. Rizoma grips and Motogadget m-blaze disc LED indicators complete the cockpit.
70-spoke Harley wheels have been persuaded to fit thanks to a bunch of spacers and the rear brake is also a 6-potter from Harrison. Modern Metzeler Marathon rubber should provide decent grip in the twisties surrounding Hossegor, although the rather long wheelbase suggests that the Expresso might spend a fair bit of time dispensing with Jap four-bangers on the drag strip or at traffic lights.
The near one-and-a-half litre motor runs a modified 3″ Ultima primary with the guards removed – this is not a bike for sandal wearers. An S&S carb dumps-in plenty of fuel for the Crane Cams HI-4 ignition and Revtek camshaft to deal with before it’s spat out via a handmade snake of polished stainless and stubby mufflers. The Expresso might look clean but I bet it sounds really dirty. The rocker covers are from the EMD range, with brass fasteners matching subtle accents across the rest of the bike.
Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Harley based customs but I like what the guys have done here. I’m always impressed by people who can turn boring flat sheets of metal into intricate shapes, even if they are an amalgam of designs an genres. If I make it to Wheels & Waves in 2018 I’ll definitely pop into see the guys and ask for a blat up the road.
To order finned primary covers and tasty rocker covers for H-D’s and Triumphs plus a load of other parts check Nicolas’ EMD Website
Images by Arthur Romain