In a world where the nostalgic resurrection of old tech battles the desire to travel ever faster, form and function can struggle to correlate. There’s no denying that a pair of 46mm USD forks and radial calipers look the nuts mounted to the front of a seventies runaround but the result is unlikely to set a smoking lap time. But as with everything, it’s horses for courses.
Nick Gravely, a Brit bike designer based in Munich, has been modelling cars and bikes in clay for some well know manufacturers including BMW and MV Agusta. As we all know though, there’s a difference between making something look good and making it work. This SV650 is his first attempt at building a bike from scratch, with a fairly straightforward self imposed brief; “For me, the exhilaration of riding bikes is the feeling of pushing the bike’s limits and tiptoeing as close as you dare to the edge of traction. It seems to me you have to be going so fast nowadays on modern sports bikes to feel like you’re pushing it, that doing so on the roads is just asking for trouble. What I decided I needed to satisfy my urges, was a bike that was designed for ‘fun-under-a-ton’ on real roads, in the real world.”
“Back in 2013 when I was thinking about starting a project, the custom scene was really on the rise, and everybody was on about building cafe racers. Now, I like the cafe racer style as much as the next guy, but with memories of riding in India on a hilariously incompetent Royal Enfield Bullet, I wanted a starting point with modern engineering that was already a good bike, but one that I could make better. Rough initial spec for the bike read – single seater, 60 – 80bhp, predictable handling, and holy-shit-check-that-out styling.”
They’re are probably many, many websites and forums dedicated to Suzuki’s plucky mid-sized twin, after all the engine is a peach, but in the looks department there’s no denying that in stock trim the SV is a bit of a rotten tomato. Nick’s wife passed had recently passed her test and the chance to repair an ’08 model wafted potential right under his nose. So with a small workspace, small budget and a small person on the way Nick was all set to try and fit a bike build around a new family and a 50+ hour working weak. Love is blind, right.
The SV’s perimeter frame is fairly uncompromising in its design and apart from the subframe there isn’t a lot that can be removed or customised. The weedy stock front end was binned in favour of a full set up from a GSXR750 K5 which should not only allow Nick to find the edge he’s searching for but provide a visual balance to the beefing-up of the bodywork. Which is obviously the main point of this project.
Doing something you love and getting paid for it, the holy grail right. Still loving it enough to come home in the evening and carry on, nirvana. Nick spent three months in his cramped shed carving, shaving and shaping lumps of clay that would become the final fibreglass bodywork. Initial plans had been to create a load bearing fuel cell beneath the seat to lower the centre of gravity and create a super-sleek overall shape. The ethanol resistant GRP used turned out to lack the integrity required to support a grown man pushing the limits of adhesion so a small steel frame structure was grafted in, shrinking fuel capacity to a puny 6 litres, enough for a 9okm blast which suits Nick just fine.
With its Autobahns and factories spawning ever more powerful creations Germany might seem like the customiser’s dream nation, but the mean people at TüV go to bed in their high-vis tabards and make sure anyone trying to be creative is immediately reported to the fun police. As Nick had dreaded, the man with the clipboard wouldn’t sign-off his GRP receptacle so a modified mould was shipped to a friend in India for copying in aluminium. Fingers are crossed to see if he’ll be given the seal of legality for use on German roads.
Fuel storage issue aside Nick has built something a bit different from the normal air cooled, retro bikes we mostly feature on Bike Shed but we doff our caps to his ingenuity and perseverance to build a bike not for accolade but for personal enjoyment and satisfaction.
“I’m not sure how much weight I’ve managed to strip out of the original bike, but I’d say it’s quite a lot. It’s so incredibly responsive to ride now, with handling reminiscent of my old Honda RVF400 track bike. Having the headlight (KTM Duke 125) and speedo (Koso) so low mean you have an absolutely unobstructed view ahead, which gives you the sense of flying. I’m incredibly happy with the end result, and reckon it satisfies my original intent. Problem is, I have no idea what type of bike this is now… Maybe Caferacer 2.0. The ethos is the same, single seater with everything stripped out that needn’t be there, to be ridden in a very spirited fashion in the real world. I dunno.”
As for a type or label, we’re not sure either, but perhaps Avantgarde would look good as a ‘tank’ badge.