Michael Carusi has created this KTM 500 SX-F derived flat-track monstrosity. It’s awesome.
You don’t typically find flat-track motorcycles being built from highly-capable offroad wheelie machines, but alas, here we are. Michael Carusi took the liberty to combine a plethora of parts from the KTM 450 SX-F and EXC-F 500cc to produce this stunning MX influenced flat-track motorcycle.
The engine is completely custom-built with parts being shared from both of the bikes he sniped parts from meaning this engine is built for speed. Titanium bolts have been fastened throughout the bike and completely replace all pre-existing steel bolts (an ode to the MX legacy), meaning a lighter, more durable motorcycle.
“I’ve created a kind of ‘best of both worlds’ flat tracker. The engine includes a combo of EXC-F and SXF components that we have raced with and tested over the years to make this ‘wishlist’ kind of build.” said Carusi.
The tires have been outfitted with flat track-spec rubber and the exhaust has been modified to be a full titanium custom system to an FMF pipe. Carbon wark is seen throughout the frame inserts, skid plate, chain guide, and exhaust bracket to further save weight.
Although this isn’t your traditional flat-track motorcycle, it’s sure to crank out some insane lap-times at the dirt oval.
After today showcasing Roland Sands’ new BMW R 18 based drag custom on MCNews.com.au (Link), we thought it might be a good time to revisit this chat we had with Roland a couple of years ago in his surprisingly quite compact L.A. workshop that also pulls double duty as the Roland Sands Design sales office.
Despite being clearly pushed for time, the 43-year-old (now 45), was very forthcoming with his views on various subjects. He also allowed us unfettered access to his office and workshop to shoot photos which helped us to illustrate this insight into Roland Sands, and the firm he heads that bears his name.
What do you think of the current Harley-Davidson range and the dropping of the Dyna platform?
“For anything like that, especially a bike, it’s a departure, people have to get a feel for it, have to get their hands on it and have to ride the bike. In time they’ll find it’s a better bike.
“And when it comes to the custom market, as the custom market always does, it deconstructs that thing, and builds it back up. It makes something new to the market, to inspire Harley to potentially bring models to the market, maybe more in the vein of what people were hoping they would bring.
“But man what a strong offer, it was crazy to see that many motorcycles, I was blown away. That one thing was so polarising, that it almost took attention away from what I thought was one of the cooler bikes, the Road Glide, one of the most beautiful bikes Harley has ever introduced.
“I’ve ridden the Fat Boy and the Fat Bob, the front end was something else. The width of the whole thing to me is a little out of proportion, but the bike works really good. I enjoyed riding it. It’s quick. We’re going to work on a Fat Boy shortly.”
Where do you find your main business is from?
“I’ve been selling motorcycle parts since I was 16, but we started Roland Sands Designs in 2005, and have just been grinding away at it. It comes from events, motorcycle builds, parts, a little bit of everything. It’s been finding projects which would help grow the brand, and help to bring people to motorcycling.
“That’s what I’ve been focusing on this year, how do we get more people on motorcycles, how do we introduce new people to motorcycles, how do we take the racing to people, instead of getting people to the races.
“October 14th we’re going to throw a race in Bolsa Chica on the beach. There’s a really cool beach culture, there’s a parking lot and a concert venue right there, we build a flat track in the parking lot, a race course and a drag strip.
“It’ll be a small event, with only 7,000 people and it’s a first year event, but we’ve got some great sponsors, it should be fun. It’s going to be more grass roots, it needs to be bright and fun, riding motorcycles, with people just coming out to ride bikes and race all weekend.”
What about your two-stroke GP background, the class you were most successful in, winning the AMA 250 Grand Prix Championship in 1998. Do you get out on track on a machine like that these days?
“I haven’t ridden a bike like that since 2002, my last National, I’ve still got the bike, just as how it came off the track in 2002.
“Flat track is a totally different deal, I went from two-stroke GP bikes, to Harley-Davidson customs. I mean I’d still love to go back, and I still have a few flat trackers. I ride motocross and a bit of everything now. I like to do it all, with motorcycling you don’t have to do one thing, you can do a lot of different things.”
With designing do you prefer sketching and scribbling or do you put some metal together and check what it looks like? Or is it mostly computer based.
“It’s a little of everything, if I’m selling a bike or have an idea, I’ll have it all rendered out so we know where we’re going. Most of the time I’m down there working with my guys working out how to put everything together.
“We’ll mock stuff up, we’ll put pieces together and work to get the silhouette right. Trying different parts like a front fork, or a tail section or a fender eliminator, or wheel sizes. Custom bikes are all about getting the bones of the bike correct, and then putting everything on, all the pretty stuff, after that.
“If the bones aren’t correct then you won’t have a good bike.”
What about electric bikes, do those serve your passion?
“Yeah for sure, I had a blast when I rode the Harley LiveWire, and I had a chance to ride the Alta, that thing is mad. They built a flat tracker out of that thing, and a super moto out of it. I rode it on the street and it’s hard to keep the front wheel on the ground.
“Anything that gets the blood going, and the throttle hand twitchy. The fastest bike at Pikes Peak was an electric bike, that says something.
“I think aesthetically you have a whole new set of parameters to work with on an electronic bike. It may not at its core be as beautiful as a fuel motor, but you’ll be able to come up with something completely new.”
Are there any new metal finishing techniques or any processes, 3D printing, or anything you find yourself using more these days?
“We’re using a lot of different techniques to get our products to where they need to be quicker. 3D printing is a huge part of that. There’s also new stuff and finishes we’re working on, but I don’t want to talk about until we’ve got it on the market. But we’re always exploring new ideas. Customers are always evolving, in what they like, and the style that they like.
“We came out with our Black Ops finish (Link), so whether we have different colours like that, it’s a matter of giving people unique things. Then when they build a motorcycle they can do something unique no one else has done. You just don’t want your bike to be the same as the guy next to you. You don’t want to be on the exact same bike and looking at each other.
“So it’s cool to be in the position where we can give people those options.”
Where’s the inspiration come from, for the new designs?
“Sometimes it’s just as simple as sitting down with the new bike, like the new Harley, and we’ll sit down and we’ll look at that motorcycle, and see what we want to do to it, and what we can modify.
“We’ll pull parts off it, we’ll start deconstructing it, and then we’ll say, what can we do to make it a better motorcycle, more fun, aesthetically better. Harley have always done a great job of providing a platform for customisation.
“I think this one will provide a better platform than most, it has this really simple architecture, once people get over the swingarm, it’s a single shock swingarm bike, it’s going to work. Once people get over that and figure out how to construct some things to go on one… that’s what we do.
“I’ll strip the bike, look at the architecture of the frame, look at how the motor sits in the frame, look how the swingarm lines up with the top of the frame, the shock placement, the geometry of the frame.”
Talking about the engine and styling for an electric bike, how do you approach that?
“I thought the LiveWire was a pretty cool execution of it, but I like how they did use some cues to motorise it, I mean if I was going to design one from scratch I would try and make the electric motor part of the design rather than just covering it all up. But it’s all getting started.
“People just want to ride motorcycles and do big miles. You get on a motorcycle and the last thing you want to worry about is if you’re going to get stuck out somewhere because you don’t have a battery charger. Until they can figure that out, it’s going to be difficult for anybody to make an electric bike.
“I don’t really want to sit around for two hours and wait for my motorcycle to charge, and on a motorcycle it’s a bigger deal as you have a smaller battery. You don’t want to be saying I don’t want to ride hard or how will I get back.
“So I mean it’s still a bit of a toy, for city bikes it’s perfect, get to work plug it in, get home plug it in, but if you guys did it, it wouldn’t make sense . At least until they have a huge breakthrough with batteries, which they haven’t had in a long time. I really hope they do…”
Did you have any formal design training.?
“No, I just grew up in a bike shop and around motorcycles, I worked in a machine shop for a very long time, so I understood how to make things. I watched my Dad build drag bikes, and sand drag bikes, and you guys know who Bob Correll is? He built a jet bike, and then a kite bike, and he could jump the bike with the kite, in the coliseum back in the day.
“But I watched some really crazy stuff when I was younger, so I always had this bigger view of what was possible.”
Which of your custom bikes, which you don’t have any more would you most like to have back in your possession?
“Probably my first bike, a sportster flat tracker, I have no idea who has it, but it was clean frame, it actually had clip-ons on it, like a little road racer, 17 inch wheels, road race forks, carbon body work, I built it when I was 18. I’ll find it someday, it’s sitting in someone’s garage.”
Working on any projects for any companies?
“We’ve got a few projects going on with BMW at the moment, definitely Indian projects going on, and there’s a lot of customer builds.”
Any famous people? I see Brad Pitt’s bike downstairs.
“Yeah, but I can’t possibly talk about them, some of my customers just don’t want that.”
Do you still have the pressure time wise as far as builds go?
“Every fucking day! Yeah we’re throwing this event and its turning into kind of a beast, so I’m dividing the days I have for meetings.
“I have customer deadlines and you need to finish bikes to make money, and you have to put the nail into the coffin. If you have a bunch of half finished products, you have no money.”
How many staff do you have on the tools?
“We have two designers, and everyone works on everything. I have a project designer who races as well. Two in the shop, one chief fabricator and a mechanic. It’s not a massive stack to be building the bikes. My design staff are constantly working on Indian or truck projects, and a bit of off road stuff too.”
Are you a designer or a mechanic at heart?
“My heart is a motorcyclist, I’d rather ride a motorcycle than work on it any day, but I get a lot of satisfaction from bikes. I’m on the phone, on the emails, doing everything I can to keep everything coming in. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else, I’m a pretty lucky guy. I have a lot of fun and meet a lot of cool people.”
Your thoughts on a design point of view for the MotoGP bikes. When you saw the new Ducati fairings, what were your first thoughts?
“You know it’s hard, because to see something in photos and not in person, I don’t like to comment. But seeing them on the race track and watching them win, they must work… I think it’s pretty wild, and I don’t mind building out of the box.
“Before they had these wings hanging off them, I wouldn’t want to get impaled on one of those, so the fact that they kinda connected it now, makes it safer.
“Things are polarised now, and new things polarise people. BMW came out with this hood, and the hood and back of the car had this weird shape to it. People freaked out. Because people want to keep shit the same.
“A few years on, everyone’s looking at it and saying how much they liked it when it came out… Because by then people are used to it.
“I try and reserve a real partial judgement and let things marinate first, and let them become part of the culture or the scene. That Ducati is different, it’s wild, it may not be something you at first think is beautiful, but then you see it in action… I don’t hate it.”
Your work always seems to have a heritage, a constant reference to the past, is that how you see your own work?
“Yeah, I think the past is really important and I’m not one to duplicate the past, I try and take what I know from history and put it into our work.
“I always want to take it into account, what’s been done before, and a lot of people will say they are the first to do this or that, but everyone’s done everything.
“Some people do it better, some are creative and combine the right things. You take a café racer and a factory racer and smash them together and what do you get? What do they look like in your head? We make those thoughts a reality.”
The BMW R nineT that you did, the R5, were you hoping that they might take that into production, or is it something you’d like them to, as that’s a big hole for them.
“It’s a huge hole for them, I’ve discussed that with them, but they’ve taken some different routes with their projects, with their bikes, but that bike as a cruiser, as a bobber, I think that’s a missing hole for them.”
What was it like working with Ola? He’s a custom bike person going way back… but BMW is so corporatised… Does it hurt the bike has been so corporatised for the mass market?
“It was awesome, but if you work with the OEMs that’s just what you have to deal with. We work with more of them than anybody. We do our best to bring a flavor to each of the projects.
“A lot of people say how do you work with so many of the OEMs, at the same time. I try and separate the projects, compartmentalised, for different consumers and different customers.
“I don’t know, it’s really fun, as we get to work with designers. I speak that language, and it’s one of the most interesting things you do, to come together and see a vision. It’s hard for them to do internally, to do what we do for them.
“For the speed – we can build a complete concept bike in two months, if we get models and assistance.
“But they can’t do that internally, and they know that internally they wouldn’t be able to build the bike we come up with.
“Lots of the concept bikes never ran, but the concept R nineT was the first concept bike that actually ran . I said that’s the only way we’ll do the project, if the bike runs.
“We’ve only built one project that didn’t run, and that was for Ducati. That was the original Diavel, a full concept for them. We didn’t even get close to the satisfaction we got prior to that. I guess it rolls, but it doesn’t work…”
Have you been approached by Harley to do anything for them?
“We have been approached in the past, but recently, nothing. Crickets over there.”
What do you listen to?
“Recently a lot of Pandora… *laughs* I’d like to say I’m here DJing all day and drinking whiskey on the floor but I’m not…”
Brisbane-based French chef Michel Bonet has spent a lifetime cooking as well as cooking up some interesting custom motorcycles including an early supermoto.
The 76-year-old was born in Burgundy and came to Australia in 1968 and spends six months here and six months in his country of birth — that is, until the pandemic!
In this article, Michel tells his story about some of his custom bikes:
Being a chef and restaurateur can be sometimes be very stressful and irritating. So for someone that loves motorcycles, there is no better way to unwind than to customise your motorcycles. Unfortunately, starting an apprenticeship as a chef in the late ’50s didn’t give much time to learn anything else. Whatever I had to do on my bikes, someone else had to do it for me.
In the ’80s I had a couple of BMW K 100s and it was in a time where motorcycles had no fairing or a basic fairing.
But I thought I could do better than this – someone had to show them how it’s done!
So with the help of Peter Walker from All Bikes (formerly knowns as Universal Cycle) I dressed up the K 100 exactly the way I’d pictured it in my head.
The Silver Dream was my first attempt as an engineer. But of course this bike wasn’t designed for a full fairing, so it used to overheat.
One day at the petrol station, finishing up paying for petrol, I heard this huge bang. As I looked toward my bike I saw flames billowing out, engulfing the whole thing. Silver Dream went up in smoke.
My second attempt was a slight improvement on the last. This time I wanted to build a supermoto because it was very popular in Europe and not yet in Australia. I remember telling my bikie friends, “This bike would be used for flat track racing in years to come and if good enough, I will sell plenty of them.”
We started with a Honda XL 350 (I had to find a different friend to help me build this one, as Peter had had enough of me) and the result was amazing. The bike looked and felt beautiful. I was picturing myself travelling the world, taking meetings with people wanting to buy my design. But everything always seems bigger and better in your mind. I learnt this when I went to Japan to sell to the Japanese … you’ve heard of that guy who failed selling ice to an eskimo!
However, to this day, I still love that bike, especially the colours green and yellow and the Kangaroo. Something else I had to fight hard for was that paint job – needless to say, I lost that friend too. This poor bike had many more dramas to come to his life … just ask Phill Beaumont.
It took me long enough but I learnt a valuable lesson – leave the bikes alone and stick to cooking. So the next bike I bought was a Bimota YB6 Tuatara and leaving it alone was the best thing I did.
Until 33 years of loyal service later, not to mention 70,000km, as you would expect,she needed and upgrade – a new lease on life – and this time I got it right.
Thanks to me new friend Paul Dale who spent countless hours bringing the Bimota back to its most basic form. It feels better and easier to ride as I don’t have to lean over the tank.
And here we are and maybe I’m not done as a salesman yet! Because on my next trip to Italy I just might drop into the factory and you never know, they may like the design for future bikes.
As I’m past 76 years now and even though it’s easier to ride and easier to service, we all know that a 33-year-old motorcycle is always going to be in need of a lot of TLC, which basically means I’m going to need many more friends!
Paul has saved all the parts and bits and pieces because one day I’d like to donate the Bimota to a Museum in Italy. After all, only 60 of these Bimotas were made in 1987 and at the time it was the fastest production bike in the world and not to mention, the most expensive. Can you imagine how many of my other bikes and free fine dining experiences I had to trade in to get my hands on it?
I wish my story ended there but I’ve started working on my BMW K 100 RT in France (yes, I have friends in France too…well, for now I do).
As you can see the fairing has come off and I painted it the colour of my first motorcycle! But it is still a touring bike, as I use it for touring two-up. When one day I won’t be able to ride it anymore, I will do a real cafe racer.
(If you are interested in reading about Michel’s interesting life story and try some of his favourite recipes, you can buy his book, “A Boy From Burgundy” for just $20 including postage by clicking here.)
As a motorcycle enthusiast, you may like a variety of bike types. Some people fancy cruiser bikes. Some people totally love cafe racers. Some go for the naked designs while some people choose to buy or build a rugged hot dirt bike.
And if you fall in the last category, this blog post is for you.
Here we are sharing four simple tips that’ll help you build your custom dirt bike with ease.
1. Identify the Type of Dirt Bike That You Want
So, first things first. Before you start building your very precious dirt bike, you must know the type of dirt bike that you want for yourself.
Yes, there are different types of dirt bikes. For reference, you can look at the following list:
All these types of dirt bikes have different feels. Slightly different riding postures. Different riding experiences and different aesthetics.
To pick the right one for you, you may have to look upon the web and find out the designs that all these types possess.
2. Designer May Be Required
Unless you know automobile design or at least have some basic knowledge of how dirt bikes are designed, you may have to get in touch with a designer. The purpose is to ensure that your design is practical and feasible for your specific needs and budget.
Rushing into the project without keeping design in mind may result in costly end-moment fiascos, and we are sure that you wouldn’t want that.
So, do yourself a favour. Get in touch with a qualified designer who can turn your ideas and thoughts to a real design.
3. Don’t Shy Away From Help
Everyone has to go through a first attempt. Every professional custom bike maker once started with their first project and might even have failed with that.
So, leave the concept of shying away. You will get to learn a lot more than what you are learning right now.
Just be grateful to whatever help is being offered to you and if it feels fine and needed, simply nod a yes to it.
This way, your journey of building your custom dirt bike will become way easier and convenient.
Understand that there’s no point in troubling yourself. That’ll only waste your money, effort and time.
4. Prefer Genuine Parts Over Aftermarket Makeshift(s)
We know how buying genuine parts all the time can turn out to be a costly affair.
But did you know that aftermarket parts can adversely affect your machine’s health?
And then, in the long run, the aftermarket parts will require more frequent replacements plus, the repairing chores will become more expensive to undo the damage done from these makeshift components.
So, make sure that you don’t fall for such money pits. Instead, spend a few more $ and get genuine parts from certified vendors. These shops generally have all the genuine products ranging fromKTM plasticskits to Yamaha accessories.
If you are planning to build a custom dirt bike, there’s surely a bunch of things and tips that you must know about. In this post, we shared four such tips to help our readers turn their dream dirt bike to reality.
Yamaha’s leaning three-wheeler Niken is one crazy bike and now a custom version has won the Craziest Bike award at a German custom show.
Polish manufacturer of custom motorcycles Game Over Cycles (GOC) is usually known for its modifications of American motorcycles.
However, their GOC Niken pays special tribute to its nationality with Japanese characters taken from the Yamaha brand philosophy: “Courage to set higher goals without fear of failure”(失敗を恐れず、もう一段高い目標に取り組む).
First Niken custom
The build was done in collaboration with Yamaha Motor Poland and is believed the world’s first fully customised Niken.
Niken debuted on the global market in 2018 and is based on a unique Leaning Multi Wheel (LMW) technology developed by the Japanese company.
Except for two front leaning wheels the extraordinary construction of the motorcycle consists of four steering heads and dual-tube upside-down forks.
If you like to customize motorcycles, you should know how to do it properly. Modifications come in many different forms, but you may have to understand a few important basics before you can even start planning a major refinement.
Whether it’s adding small details or doing a major makeover, customizing your motorcycle takes time and money to pull off. That said, here are a few tips to make the most out of giving your bike an upgrade:
Change the seats
Over time, the leather of the seat can wear out with cracks appearing on the surface. You can always by replacing the seat altogether and choosing a more comfortable alternative that firmly supports you. The new seat should have the right amount of softness so you can avoid straining your back during a long drive.
Pick heavy duty tires
Performance-wise, your tires would make all the difference in keeping your motorcycle on the road and preventing it from slipping. If you want tires that are perfect for any road condition, look along the lines of all-weather tires for optimum stability on both dry and wet roads.
Create a laser engraving
Nothing says you’re the sole owner of your bike quite like a custom engraving. An emblem or a coat of arms could be added to your bike to give it a touch of added coolness. You can always create engravings by hand, but this usually takes a lot of time to pull off. To save time and create intricate patterns and designs to add to your motorcycle, you can use a laser that’s capable of engraving different metals accurately.
Add some lights
If you’re looking to be more creative when it comes to customizing your motorcycle, you might as well add some LED lights like those from XK Glow, especially on the bottom. Not only will this make your motorcycle look cool, but it also enhances your visibility at night. Don’t overdo it though as too much unnecessary lighting can actually distract you, other motorists, and pedestrians.
Add some custom stickers
Stickers are like tattoos to your motorbike. Each one tells a different story. So, if you’re feeling adventurous, start by adding stickers that could give your bike a boost in appeal. If you don’t have a thing for stickers, you may want to overhaul your color palette and update the paint job.
Look for hi-tech gadgets and features
There are a lot of gadgets you can attach to your motorbike. You just have to choose which ones to install. A GPS tracker, for one, is a good gadget to have, especially when it comes to traveling unfamiliar roads. You might also consider adding a GoPro mount to prepare your motorcycle for an adventure.
Conquer the road by riding a bike that’s fully equipped for any journey.
Use these motorcycle customization tips to finally give your ride the upgrade it deserves and impress anyone who might be dying to take it for a test drive!
Some 26 Australian and New Zealand dealers will again take on dealers from the United States, Europe, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, India, China and South America to win the title of Custom King.
Voting for the top ANZ contenders is now open to the public here until 15 August 2019 to select five finalists.
An expert judging panel will pick the winner in late August.
Last year the donor bike had to be a ride-away Harley-Davidson Dark Custom motorcycle.
This year dealerships can select their base bike from any of the Harley-Davidson model family excluding CVO and Trike.
There will be three build categories – Dirt, Chop or Race.
Five global finalists will be showcased at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan in November when the 2019 Global Custom King will be revealed.
Keith Waddell, Harley-Davidson ANZ Marketing Manager says:
Harley-Davidson ANZ dealers proved last year that we are a force to be reckoned with on the customisation world stage. With this year’s choice of 25 models and three design categories, dealers are excited to step up to the new challenge, showcasing not only our local talents but the range of what is possible to our customers both young and older.
Dealers have a maximum customisation budget of up to 50% of base bike value.
At least half of the parts and accessories used in the build must come from the 10,000+ Genuine Harley-Davidson Parts & Accessories catalogue.
To celebrate they are giving away a double pass to a lucky Motorbike Writer reader.
Just leave your name and a photo of your bike in the comments section below or on the social media post promoting this article.
The winner will be selected next week and announced in an update of this article on Wednesday.
Throttle Roll founder/director Mark Hawwa says this year’s show costs just $25 at the gate and will be their biggest yet.
“The show this year is two levels with over 50 custom show bikes, a mini movie cinema seating 50 people with free popcorn, a free mechanical bull, food trucks, coffee and more,” says Mark, who also founded the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.
“We are bringing bike parking into the show with over 80 bikes on the ground floor.”
“There will also be eight bands, three DJs, food from around the world, cold beers and bands galore,” Mark says.
This will be the last year the show is held at the Commune, at 901 Bourke St, Waterloo, as they are moving to a new location on King St, Newtown.
“There is a chance this may be the last year in Sydney as we struggle to find venues that fit what we do,” Mark says.
“We are looking at venues in Melbourne and Brisbane for next year.”
Win win win
If you miss out on the double pass, you can also enter the $10-a-ticket raffle to win a Yamaha XSR900 or a $1000 MCAS lucky door voucher.
If you buy your ticket online and save 20%, you also go into the draw to win a Himalayan Heroes Riding Experience in India worth $5000 and includes flights and accommodation.
Motorcycle fans will also be winners with a number of manufacturers showing their latest bikes, including Indian with their new FTR 1200, BMW Motorrad, Yamaha, Scrambler Ducati, Harley-Davidson and Sol Invictus who will show their build in partnership with Panhead Brewery.
When: SATURDAY, MAY 18, 2019: 11:00 AM 10:00 PM
Where: COMMUNE WATERLOO (901 Bourke Street Waterloo NSW, 2017)