Designed in the spirit of Tourist Trophy. Engineered and built as a complete road ready and high performance machine. Bolide has a classic look, top of the line performance components, and a raw metal finish. It has everything you need and nothing you don't.
The first time I was contacted by the future owner of Bolide I immediately got a picture of this bike in my head. We talked about different style bikes and riding. We got into his lifestyle a bit and talked about his other passions. He helped me paint a picture of himself. This helped define a direction for the design of the bike. He explained to me his interests and what his intentions were for the bike. He is a race car driver and appreciates high speed performance, quality, and craftsmanship. This bike would live in his front room of his home next to his Ford GT40 so it must be beautiful. He would ride the bike as often as possible on the street and at the racetrack. So it also must be a rider able to take the rough roads and harsh environment. Costa Rica is an unsuspecting place for such a bike but customs are penetrating a lot of unsuspecting territory these days. Although we don’t like it there are a few legal requirements we would need to meet as well; Blinkers, a mirror, speedometer, and a noise. We started formulating a plan and I was in a position to do some rough sketches. Several conversations later we had a strong design direction and were ready to get busy.
When I sit down to build a bike like this the task can seem daunting. Looking at the different components that will make up the whole is important but you must be careful to not get overwhelmed and stressed about all the little parts and pieces that need designing machining, fabrication, and finish worked. I’ve found it very important to make a plan that will outline the overall direction. Creating an image helps you stay focused. You then can refer back to the image like a map at anytime. Setting the big picture aside and focusing on one component at a time gets you to the next. This can help translate the massive sea of tiny parts into a complete project. I like to think of my designing process as very organic. I’ve found that being married to a design element or plan can be detrimental at times. Sometimes ideas sound good but when it is put into a system it breaks down and does not work so well. I often have a basic idea and then massage it into place as I go. This means you must also be willing so scrap things and try again. The pieces that stay are the ones that help complete the system. If it feels right, it usually is.
Many factors must be taken into account to build a chassis like this. Everything starts with the chassis. From forward and rear weight distribution to suspension and braking behavior. The ride-ability of the motorcycle depends on the combination of the rigid members and the moving parts. The chassis takes the work of the drivetrain, suspension, and brakes and translates it to controllable forward movement. If this system is not adequately engineered then it will not perform the way it should or worse will brake down. In contrast when engineered properly the chassis will supply the proper framework for a machine that can perform and be trusted by its pilot. The rear suspension on Bolide uses an uncommon design for an American v-twin drivetrain based bike. The mono shock swingarm is a very proven system but is not often used because of the configuration of the transmission, oil bag and swingarm pivot position. In Bolide’s case we were able to utilize a shock built by Foes Racing. This gave us a good ratio and was compact enough we were able to keep the wheelbase shorter. A shorter wheel base offers more agile feel to the bike with better cornering characteristics. This is where we get into wheel and tire sizes.
We decided to go with 17" wheels on Bolide. This size lends itself well to such a performance bike. There’s a large selection of great rubber for this size. I called up Alpina Raggi and had them send us a set of their Tubeless spoke wheels. Besides being super light one other great feature on this rear wheel is the cush drive. It makes things so smooth. Beringer Brakes set us up with some amazing equipment. The ergonomics feel great. No sharp edges on the levers, and the function is perfectly smooth and responsive. With this much braking power the bike stops on a dime. The telescopic fork is Yamaha R6. It is fully adjustable and uses good technology but still has a nice classic look. We chose to go with an S&S 93H Shovelhead motor because it is a motor that performs and also looks good. It has some nice lines and curves. Of course the finish was not right and it needed just a bit more shape here and there so we split it apart and worked the exterior. The primary started life as a BDL, we cut that up a little too and built a fancy belt guard. Of course the transmission would be the Baker Powerbox. Actually this complete drivetrain is the same as Achuma’s. Although they are such different bikes there are many similarities between Achuma and Bolide.
When we got into sheet metal on Bolide aluminum was the only option. I have been really enjoying working with aluminum lately and love the fact that it can be left raw and unpainted. There turned out to be a lot of aluminum work in this bike. I went through around 3 times the amount of Argon welding gas as if it where done in steel. But the weight savings alone is all worth it. Sometimes it’s all the little stuff that makes the bike but in this case the sheet metal is superb. For the gas and oil tanks we built mockups with foam to get the shape ideas. The gas tank then got a wood buck and finally the aluminum versions. I don’t usually like too much fender action but again on Bolide they just seem to work. All three of them! And yes they are aluminum too.
The thing that stands out most on this bike was how long it took. It seemed to just keep going on and on. Looking back it makes me realize how much work is in it. We finally decided to finish it when we made ourselves a deadline and decided to take the bike to the AMD World Championship in Sturgis. Deadlines are good. They get your ass in gear. Although Steve will disagree with me cause it took so long to write this article.
After doing this long enough you start to learn what is going to work and what will be the problems. You can schedule your project using past experience. It’s always close and there are always sleepless nights here and there but enough dedication and it will get done. We even left an extra 3 days to get on our bikes and ride from California to Sturgis. Throughout the build process we sent minimal pictures to the owner so he had ideas of what the bike would look like but after we finished the bulk of the mockup we went pretty silent. He scheduled a trip to come see the finished bike for the first time in Sturgis at the AMD show. When he walked into the show he couldn’t believe his eyes. Finally, the bike he had been dreaming of was sitting in front of him. Overwhelmed with joy he looked over the bike. His glazed eyes and fingers ran across the tank and onto the bars. He seemed to be very happy!
Riding a machine that has been designed, engineered and built completely for you is exhilarating. A machine that fits your individual personality so well you can’t imagine anything else. It’s not just the color of the paint or even the shape of a gas tank, what I’m referring to starts with the chassis and involves every little aspect. First taking into account the type of use the bike will see. What is the function? The design and engineering must be focused on complete purpose. If its cruising a long highway, riding the mountain roads, ripping through the city or on a race track we want the bike to do exactly what it is supposed to. Being completely comfortable on a machine makes all the difference, not only for the enjoyment of the ride but also your safety as a rider. The bike becomes an extension of you, your mind can rest and your instincts can take over. You can trust the bike to do everything right. This is the idea behind Bolide. Built with the intention of a solo rider and his machine. Performance, comfort, longevity, and style are the values we worked to instill into Bolide.
The way I see it a bespoke motorcycle is one of the coolest ways to define your individuality. I mean talk about the ultimate accessory to your lifestyle. It’s loud, visually exciting, and if engineered properly will do exactly what you tell it. All your friends will be jealous and the chicks will throw themselves at you. Even your wife will think your cool again! Your life will instantly become amazing!