I’m a sucker for a good motorcycle story, and this Guzzi V50 has a tale to tell. In 1987 it was bought by a chap who used it for a host of tasks, one being the school run. His daughter would ride pillion and must have surely been the coolest girl in class as a result. Fast forward many years later and a designer from London, Joe Berg, proposed to said cool girl, Abi, and she said yes. The Guzzi though had been languishing under a sheet since 2000 after developing a compression issue. A BMW K Series replacement meant the poor little twin sat unloved for 15 years.
At the time Joe was riding an R nineT and had caught the custom bug but the modern Bavarian wasn’t quite scratching an itch to restore something old and more characterful. Then, one Christmas his father-in-law-to-be offered the Guzzi as a gift. With his feet well and truly under the table Joe set to work.
With limited facilities Joe took rolled his charm offensive into the Untitled Motorcycles workshop in NW London. Somehow he persuaded them to let him work on the bike with them, hopefully picking up the skills along the way. And here it is, the UMC V50 ‘Cigar Cafe’.
UMC de-tabbed, looped and powder coated the frame, maintaining the subframe length to cater for a decent sized, pillion friendly saddle – upholstered by Glen Moger with Untitled embroidery. The rear triangle is completely open, an Antigravity lithium battery now lives below the transmission, hidden in a steel tray. Small clips were added to carry cigar tubes, Joe is somewhat of a connoisseur and can’t be too far from a relaxing smoke. An Alchemy Parts licence plate bracket and taillight completes the rear, with a pair of Motogadget’s searing pin indicators bolted to the handy shock mount tab. The mostly hidden wiring loom was made from scratch by UMC’s resident electrical expert Anita to incorporate the old and new. Sadly this was to be one of Anita’s last wiring jobs as she was struck down by illness and passed away earlier this year.
Rex, UMC’s mechanical lead and Guzzi expert, rebuilt the all of the mechanicals after Joe had taken them all home for an extremely time-consuming clean-up operation. The compression issue was remedied with new piston rings, a re-hone of the bores and re-lapping of the valves. Running sweetly the engine required respiratory care. Modified stainless headers run into reverse megas and the airbox is superseded by 3D printed and coated stainless steel intakes – designed and produced by Joe. He was let loose on the lathe too, turning a fine set of knurled foot and pillion pegs on a 60 year old industrial machine.
The forks received fresh oil and seals but the rears were shot, replaced by a pair from Hagon, 20mm longer and with a spring rate more suited to Joe’s 6’6″ frame and need to continue the tradition of chauffeuring Abi. The brakes are now unlinked (a Guzzi thing – Google it) and the rear modified to accept a modern fluid reservoir. The brake lines and cables are all new, along with a hidden run of engine pipes and breather box. Another Google job, but simply, you can’t just stick a cheap crankcase breather on a Guzzi, unless you want to kill the engine.
Up front a pair of clubman bars give a clipon stance and feel without being too much of a stretch for Joe’s long limbs. Anita ran the wiring internally to Posh switches for a neat cockpit. The rev counter was ditched but the speedo retained, now mounted in a more stylish surround than the plastic original. The warning lights have been miniaturised and set into a modified headlight bucket, held by fabricated and powdercoated ears.
The last job on the list was a paint scheme for the fuel tank. This was entrusted to one of the scene’s go-to artists Black Shuck Custom over in Norfolk. Joe sent a vintage Punch cigar tube for inspiration and a brief to add a visually minimising black stripe to the lower third.
After 17 years of inactivity the little Guzzi roared into life and has been putting a smile on Joe’s face ever since. Adam Kay from UMC exhibited the bike at Bike Shed London 2018 and Joe is a regular at our Shoreditch HQ. In fact below is a video, but before that a pause for thought. The Untitled crew lost a key part of their workshop and a dear, dear friend when Anita died and it must be incredibly difficult to turn up to work every day to be greeted by an empty space at her bench.
Some words from Adam;
“In her previous life before motorcycles she was a junior judo medal winner in Switzerland, her home country. She ran a night club and spent many hours dancing her teenage nights away. After moving to London in the 1980’s she was a punk rocker for a few yeas. She had a skin head and did the rebellion thing really well. A few years later Anita discovered the rockabilly scene which she loved from the first moment she got involved with it and never went left it. It was one of the loves of her life, so much so she eventually became the manager of a 50’s vintage dress company above Victory Motorcycles of Camden where she eventually ending up working as a mechanic. Anita’s affair with motorcycles started before Victory and Untitled. One of Anita’s best friends had learnt to ride in the 1980’s and went out and bought a 1960’s Triumph, a raw and rough machine. Both ladies had no mechanical skills at the time and a few days after the purchase Anita decided it would be a great idea if the both rode to Amsterdam on the bike. Anita as pillion as she hadn’t learnt to ride and never did get round to learning. They set off in the pouring rain without much to protect them and managed to make it there and back with no major problems. That really sums up Anita’s life, just get on and do things when the moment is available.”“Rex the owner of Victory Motorcycles of Camden employed Anita as a mechanic once Anita’s job in the fashion business was over. Anita soon became party of the Victory scene going on rallies with Rex and the whole 60’s crew that used to hang out at the shop. Adam, co-founder of Untitled Motorcycles started employing Anita to help with the wiring on all his custom motorcycles once he joined the old workshop in Camden. He found Anita to be really methodical and understood wiring really well. When they all moved to Hampstead and business really took of Anita split her time between Victory and Untitled Motorcycles. Both Rex and Adam and the whole family and friends of both garages really miss her infectious personality. She will be missed by a large number of the 60’s motorcycle scene and the new wave custom scene that Anita embraced whole heartily.”