Nick Sharp's Guzzi Le Mans
By Ross Sharp - 23 Dec 16
When the term shed built was originally coined there seemed to be two approaches to bike building. The make and do mend on minuscule budgets at one end of the spectrum and at the other were talented folk capable of putting the professionals to shame. Nick Sharp is the latter, a property renovation expert by day and shed dweller by night, as well as Bike Shed show volunteer, in fact if you've been to Bike Shed London or Paris Nick probably let you through the door. Dutch bumped into Nick at the Ace Cafe nearly five years ago when he pulled up on a seriously tasty Guzzi Le Mans MKII, made even more worthy of praise as it'd been built in a garage with no power. However nicely that bike rode, sounded and was praised, Nick became fidgety and needed to once again scratch that familiar itch. The MKII was sold to fund this project, a painful decision but we think wholly worthwhile. Being a serial Moto Guzzi fanatic Nick's garage had become a treasure trove of parts, including a frame from another MKII 850 Le Mans. "I learned a lot from the first build I did and I wanted to push the limits a bit further and make a 35 year old bike both look better but to also be as new as well and reliable as possible. I set out to recreate a MKI Le Mans I had in 1984 that I rode around the Isle of Man, the bike I built in 2012 was a first attempt at that, but this new bike made extensive use of modern CNC machining and products available that make owning an old bike fun, with modern reliability." The bottom frame loop was removed and engine mounts altered to accommodate the later engine timing cover, eventually the gearbox would be mounted using a machined bracket from German specialists Radical Guzzi. With welds tidied and extraneous tabs removed another example of Lino Tonti's near perfect demonstration of framework was shipped off to the powder coaters leaving Nick free to concentrate on the beating heart of the build. Well, not quite beating. There was a crankshaft and an engine case on the shelf but not much else. Internals are all new and some of the larger components like barrels, heads, gearbox etc were sourced second hand and fully reconditioned. The motor, in fact the whole bike is essentially 80% brand new. Whilst elbows deep it seemed churlish not to add at least a whiff of performance, keeping one eye on reliability and usability. A lightened flywheel helps the lumpy 850cc twin spin-up more quickly but it's not wafer thin and detrimental to that addictive wave of torque. A Raceco fast road camshaft livens things up, fed by a brace of 41mm Keihin FCR flatslide carbs. 48mm diameter HT Moto exhausts, with machined alloy flanges, are subtle in appearance but they sound wonderful. Even if you're not a Guzzi addict, Nick's bike sounds proper, like a proper motorbike should sound. The dizzy has been replaced by an electronic ignition, with the pickup on the front rotor. Nick wanted to maintain a classic style and opted for a traditional fork, rebuilt of course, rather than follow the trend for massive upside-downers and radial callipers. A pair of stainless steel semi-floating discs and twin-pot Brembos offer more than enough stopping power, especially with Nick concentrating a long way ahead to ensure 2 years of hard graft remain shiny like new. The top clamp was machined from solid to Nick's design, incorporating a tiny array of Motogadget dash lights. A Cognito Moto all-in-one GPS speedo is flush mounted thanks to a neat bracket.
A potential weak link on Guzzi's of this era is wiring and seeing as Nick wasn't about to leave reliability to chance the original loom was removed, replaced by a Motogadget M-unit controller. The M-button switches make for a much more ergonomic set of controls. Anyone who's tried to find the indicators on a stock Le Mans, or any old Guzzi for that matter, would appreciate this upgrade. Tiny smoked tail/brake lights now cap the rear frame rails and a five inch angel headlight is a definite improvement on the glowworm in a jam jar, especially when mounted on specifically CNC'd brackets.
The tail section and seat is a particularly favourite part of this build, both for us and for Nick. Dave Tucker from DTR performance panel craft in Devon turned Nick's ideas into reality, beating and rolling a beautifully proportioned seat unit that ended up being so lovely Nick couldn't bring himself to hide it under a layer, or six, of paint. An Antigravity battery is neatly tucked away and accessed by a small, dzus fastened panel. Dave also fabricated the aluminium collector that's tucked away between the carbs. These engines like to breathe a bit and when they get excited the rear tyre is inline for a dousing of oil, or at the very least a light misting, not so handy. The front mudguard is also Dave's work.
That gorgeous fuel tank. The eagle eyed might have spotted its origin but I'll hold my hands up, I didn't, despite having seen one before. Nick's buddy from Germany Hartmut Taborsky (HT Moto) developed these MV Agusta tanks which have previously featured on some of the sublime Kaffeemaschine Guzzis. Hartmut has now retired but Nick loved his work so much he managed to procure one of the tanks a while back and was set on basing a build around one, at some point.
The paint scheme is striking and accentuates the curvaceous form of the tank but I particularly appreciate Nick's cunning use of black. In these shots it's hard to notice the tank's mounting tabs, because they're painted gloss black and disappear into the background. Everything below the boneline is either painted or powder coated stain black, with stainless fasteners throughout. The fit and finish across the whole bike is more than just considered, Nick is clearly a perfectionist who must have spent many, many hours sitting and staring to make sure each and every part of this build looked just right, from all angles.
Nick showed us a couple of hastily shot iPhone snaps to which we immediately replied with an invitation to exhibit the bike at our Shoreditch HQ 1st birthday celebrations. It wasn't just us that loved his bike, the response has been unequivocally positive and more than one person has asked Nick to build them a bike. Having spent a good while scouring Nick's bike we wouldn't be surprised if he packed-in the day job.
So Nick, how does it run? "having finished the bike in the winter, I honestly havent had chance to ride it yet, it will take a few shake down runs to sort it fully, but it runs really sweetly and I'm sure it'll ride well. I'm looking forward to seeing what the frame and engine mods feel like on the road and after being in the shed for 2 years with just me staring at the bench, it's nice to get feeback from other people." We're hoping to get out on a ride with Nick at some point and look forward to seeing a proud, beaming smile spread across his face once that motor is run-in and on song.
Read about Nick's previous build here and follow his future work Bike Shed Archive | Instagram | Build Blog
Images by MJ Studio shot at Bike Shed London