Sometimes in life you have to take a bit of a flyer on things and trust your instinct. When selecting exhibits for our Bike Shed shows I’m often faced with a grainy photo of a frame on a bench or fag packet sketch and expected to use my imagination, thankfully I have plenty of that. The submission email from V-Moto included a combination of photo and mock-up sketch that had the potential to be either a tasteful hybrid custom or awkward mechanical melange. As you can see here, the Speed V Twin that was exhibited at Bike Shed London 2017 is most definitely the former.
The company behind the bike is V-Moto, which sounds like just another custom builder but the credentials backing-up the project are a little special. Founder Viv Cowley has quite the CV; Silk Cut Jaguar Group C team machinist and mechanic, Arrows F1 and Williams touring car mechanic, Kenny Roberts MotoGP mechanic and until recently was Chief Mechanic for the Bloodhound SSC land speed record ‘car’. That’s a lot of pro mechanicing, so what’s he doing faffing around with old bikes? Passion for motorcycles of course, the reason I’m writing this and you’re reading it, or skimming through the photos at least.
The concept for the bike wasn’t Viv’s though but a customer who had the design simmering in his head and was introduced to V-Moto by a friend. He wanted to combine the beautiful proportions and elegant lines of Edward Turner’s 1950s classic, the Triumph Speed Twin, with the slightly more tall person friendly architecture and ergonomics of a Harley. In this case a nineties Softail Evo was sacrificed at the custom altar.
Once stripped of its American gaudiness the scale of the design became apparent but as with so many custom projects, it was the tiny hidden mods that would sap so much time. The Harley’s frame, engine, transmission, rear brake assembly and oil tank were kept, the rest of the components are either new or modified items from unusual donors.
The most obvious change is the fuel tank. Out went the huge two-piece Softail tank with centre mounted gauges and in its place there was a plan to adapt an early Triumph vessel to suit but the bulky mechanicals beneath lent themselves to an off the shelf 4.5 gallon unit destined for a Sportster. The tunnel required re-fabricating to achieve a closer fit to the engine and subsequent low and sleek silhouette. Using stock parts didn’t sit so well with Viv so he tooled-up especially to produce the three spears on each flank. Painstakingly shaped to the double curvature and neatly mounted with welded-in threads, rather than the easy 3M sticky-tape option.
The mudguards however aren’t off the shelf, they’re from under a railway arch in east London, beaten and rolled by classic motorcycle stalwart Steve Pain. Originally the pair were meant for a Triumph T100. The front required fettling by Viv to fit between the 39mm Sportster fork legs and the rear had to be re-fabricated to clear the belt drive and swingarm (cage). The excess removed from the rear guard now forms the numberplate mount and rear lamp housing which was lifted from a Frances Barnett.
To achieve the hunkered stance similar to early Brit bikes the suspension was dropped at the front with a Burly lowering kit and the rear is down 2″ thanks to a brace of Progressive springs. Lowbrow fork shrouds were modified to fit and the yokes smoothed of mass manufacturing’s casting marks before being powder coated. A 19″ Morad aluminium rim with Avon Speedmaster lives up front, hauled in by an upgraded disc and caliper. The chubby 16 incher out back has been replaced by another Morad rim, 18″ this time, with modern Michelin rubber.
One thing not on the nostalgic wish list was smokey British wiring so specialist Richard Prowse from Motorcycle Wiring Specialist in Cheltenham built a full Motogadget based loom. A Motoscope Mini is set into the bar clamp and wires to the Motone switches and M-blaze barend indicators are internally routed through Sportster bars. A smaller master cylinder, keyless ignition and traditional levers make for a much neater cockpit.
The 1340cc engine had been mollycoddled and therefore left alone internally. A K&N air cleaner the only lean towards performance, that and the weight reduction through binned stock parts. An old school look was needed for the exhausts so Paughco downpipes were mated to a custom peashooter silencer made by Armour Motor Products in Bournemouth. Viv welded a hidden thread to the silencer prior to re-chroming.
Massive seat mounting threads in the frame were brazed over and the seat base re-engineered with hidden fixings. Neil Tadman in Southend took care of upholstering the shaped foam in pleated black leather. Lustrous gloss black was the only colour option from the outset so while Neil Melliard at Prosign laid multiple coats of two-pack the rest of the hard parts were powdercoated to match. Neil also hand pinstriped the gold and red along the tank and guards.
It’s no secret that I’m not much of a Harleyist but when Viv and the guys rolled this elegant bitsa into Tobacco Dock I was more than a bit pleased. In part that one of the many gambles had paid off but more so that a very chuffed customer had commissioned his dream bike and there it was, gleaming in wait of thousands of eyes.
A few test rides since have lead to the planning of a few alterations. The reach to the bars is just the wrong side of a stretch so a sprung solo seat design is awaiting a slot in V-Moto’s busy schedule.
Images by Michael P Sannwald