We’d all love to drop into Deus, Roland Sands, SOS or Untitled and have them build us a stunning, one-off, bespoke motorcycle according to the bike of our dreams, but most of us either can’t afford it or can’t justify the expense…
…so instead we lust over bikes posted on blogs like Bike EXIF, wondering at what stage in life we have to get to before we’re dropping ten to fifteen grand on a custom bike just for the joy of ownership, …or perhaps wondering how hard it could be to try and do some of this stuff ourselves…
Somewhere out there, there is a world between the mass-market Oxford & Motrax aftermarket goodies listed on Busters and M&P, and the stunning one-off creations, custom built by the likes of Wrench Monkees…
Let’s call it Custom Lite?
Forums & garages across the land are full of bolder bikers, knocking-up brackets, fitting high quality parts from one manufacturers bike to another, modding what they already have extremely creatively, and sharing links to obscure places (mostly in Europe and the US) where specialists create more unusual parts and accessories in low-volume for aficionados and mates.
…so, I’ve tried to step beyond Motrax and into Custom Lite.
Here’s my story so far…
It all started few months ago when my little Ducati was almost bog standard.
So clean and unspoiled. Little did she know…
I found her on evilbay. She’d just been listed late in the day at £5500, and with only 5000 dry miles on the clock – and the Race cans and ECU fitted – I had to have her, so I rang the shop and left a message offering £5200 unseen.
The next day they called back and accepted my offer.
I was very lucky on a few counts. Firstly, an old mate of mine – Chris, from race/tuning shop XBikes – was up the road in Wisbeach and her offered to ride over to check her out (cheers Chris). He declared her almost mint.
Secondly, I had no idea the bike had just been immortalised in TRON, and as a discontinued model they were going up in value, especially against a backdrop of excitement around new expensive cafe racers from the likes of Norton, and retro bikes popping up everywhere in TV campaigns and even on thier own TV series…
Keira couldn’t work out why she wasn’t going anywehere, even at 7000rpm
But the bike wasn’t my own yet. … I had a very different vision.
All in all it’s a typical story of small changes and additions, each made one at a time until the sum of the parts added up to something a little more unique, but she’s still far from finished.
Does my Bum look Big in this?
I like big butts but I can not lie
I made my own tail tidy from one made for a Suzuki by RG Racing. They kindly drilled extra holes for an LED tail light from another model. I had to get the bracket re-cut, and re-bent to fit properly. The indicators came from a German company, ShinYo, (yes, I know they don’t sound German) who make all kinds of unusual stuff. (Well worth checking out, by the way)
Next up was the colour…
Ok, so Ducatis are supposed to be Red… but… When you see a red Ferrari, how often do you think WANKER instead of being impressed…?
… But if you see a silver one, or a black one, suddenly they’re cool.
Ok – be honest now, it’s partly envy – but we also hate show offs. …Well, I often feel the same way about some Ducatis. I wanted something a little more original and less, well, Italian perhaps.
Instead of paint, I decided to try a vinyl wrap. It was cheaper and easy to reverse. Brett at WrapMyBike in Slough did it all for a couple of hundred pounds, and they did a superb job.
This 900ss turned up at the Ace Cafe on Italian Car & Bike night
Other mods followed fast…
New Michelin Pilot Pure tyres replaced the AWFUL fake retro Pirelli Phantoms, which were flat-profiled and had about as much grip as tupperware. Really, I can’t emphasise enough just how shit they were. If you have them on your bike, change them now. The sharper profile of the Pures was possibly the best aftermarket handling accessory money can buy. It was like a new bike afterwards.
The basic suspension also needed sorting as the ride wasn’t right…
…so Mike Dawson at MD Racing fitted me some progressive Wilber springs in the front forks (German again!) and changed to heavier fork oil, and he set up the adjustable rear Marzzochis for my weight and riding style. This transformed the ride even further.
A lighter clutch action came courtesy of my mate Ian H (who has a lovely GT1000) when he offered me his unwanted Rexx Clutch slave.
I found an independent guy in Germany (again?) who was producing “gauge lowering brackets” which tilted the OEM instrument cluster back, flatter and closer to the yokes. (much more reto looking). In an effort to De-Bling the bike I also removed the chrome rings on the clocks (thanks to a how-to on the Ducati forum).
EvilBay furnished me with black anodised adjustable levers, I got crash protection from RG Racing, retro bar end weights came from Renthal, …and after a while she was looking closer to what I had imagined.
…but it wasn’t enough… and there was still too much gold. (ok, …I found some gold pinstripe tape on ebay)…
Step away from the Goldpinstripe, man!
I needed help. Adam & Rex at Victory MC / Untitled Motorcycles took the bike in, and disassembled the wheels, front fender and headlamp brackets to all be powdercoated black. I also wanted a smaller front-end look, so as well as removing chrome bits and re-angling the clocks, I found a 6.5 inch Clubman headlamp from ShinYo (again) in matt black, and also had that fitted to replace the 8 inch chromed Bosch unit. I needed two 17mm spacers to get it to work with the OEM brackets, and google found me a lovely fella up north somewhere who made one-off spacers to order. He charged me just a fiver to machine me exactly what I needed.
So far so good… But what next?
What she really needs is a proper old school, one-off rear tail and single seat unit.
My new biker friend, Ian W, has a lovely Paul Smart, and he sourced his old school tail end from another German company called Diopa (what is it with these industrious, cafe-racer loving Huns?).
Ian’s Imola seat unit just looks so right on his stunning Paul Smart
Louis the Lid thought he’d found the perfect hiding place
(Great photos Barry).
Ian H and I have ordered a pair of these seats and they should arrive in a couple of weeks – ready to paint and fit.
Other small tweaks will include fitting a black race-style filler cap. The 848/998 tank is the same shape, so there are a few aftermarket options which should fit, and more creatively, I’m desperate to hide those unsightly brake and clutch fluid reserviors.
One imaginative guy on the Ducati forum fabricated some brakets to remount them hidden under the yokes, but a debate is raging as to whether they will still function if they’re not at the high point of a closed hydraulic system. Who knows…
Also, I need to sort out the ugly black triangles…
The rearsets, passenger footrests and end cans all hang off two big black triangles, which are not awful, but not nearly as pretty as the setup that comes on the single seat (monoposto) version of the bike (just look again at the rearsets on Ian’s Paul Smart).
There’s a great company in the US who specialise is parts for the Sport Classic called JCPak selling one solution; “Mack hangers” – which are perfect, but very expensive at $550, so Hugo and I are looking to get some made in London for a fraction of the cost, and then I will fit the monoposto standard rearsets which are plenty nice enough. Here are the lovely Mack hangers from JCPak…
Nice, but $550 (with rear footrest adapters)!
So – here we are… black on black, stripped-back & beefed-up.
Imagine her in a few weeks with the Imola seat unit. …A lot like this one, belonging to MojoDuc.
So, all in all I’d say she’s about 75% done…
And if you want to know what CAN be done even if you’re not Roland Sand or Deus, check out this bike for inspiration.
It’s a home-build by GTRossi on the Ducati forum (who makes the hugger my bike is fitted with)… It’s not really a sport classic any more with an 1100 ST engine, GSXR front end, and handbuilt frame, tank and bodywork, custom pipes, etc… I’ll post up new pics when he’s finished it.