“There aint no replacement for displacement.” Sometimes Americans hit the nail on the head, but occasionally they really drive it home. Erik Buell opted for a sledge hammer when he began squeezing Harley motors into his own frame design and creating a star spangled banger of an alternative to the overly smooth naked sports bikes rolling off the boat from Japan. 17 years ago the term custom motorcycle conjured up a different image than it does today but the owner of this bike, Adrian White, knew what he was after, it’d just take him a while to get there.
Right after ordering a shiny new Buell X1 Adrian removed the plastic side panels to expose more of the meaty motor and tubular frame, but it took nearly two decades before he felt a full overhaul was required. Being in no particular rush meant plenty of time flicking through websites and blogs to form a foundation of the visual changes but it was whilst helping out at Bike Shed Paris 2015 that Adrian solved the conundrum of what to do with the seat and tail. Inspiration came in the form of the awesome JVB Infared Vmax on Yamaha’s Yard Built stand, the final piece in the jigsaw was in place, he just needed someone assemble all the ideas.
Also at the Paris show was Calum from deBolex Engineering who was displaying a lovely pair of CB750s, the two chatted through the brief and they both decided that an organic build without a hard deadline was the way to go, saying “let’s do it right, not fast”. Flashy renders and Photoshop weren’t necessary, instead Adrian relied on having seen the quality of Calum’s work and dropped off the old faithful Buell to deBolex’s Croydon HQ.
With such a hulk of a Milwaukee muscle dominating the X1’s silhouette Calum and Adrian decided on powder coating the frame diamond white to emphasise that it’s actually a pretty good looking structure and from a period where visually overbearing extruded aluminium twin spar frames were the norm the Buell’s sinewy little number juxtaposes all that mechanical shouting.
The stock bike’s arse is propped up by an overly burly cast alloy subframe, Erik Buell seemingly undoing the efforts made with the rest of the frame. Calum fabricated a tubular replacement to compliment the remaining structure and thankfully powdercoated it black to give the illusion of a floating seat and tail. With all those cubes and what looks like a tractor’s gearbox taking up all available real estate the beefy swingarm actuates an underslung shock, further simplifying the rear end. Up front the stock headlight had to go. If you’re going to have such a squat machine the front needs either a super tiny lamp or a derivation of the popular tracker number board. Calum went with the latter and rolled aluminium sheet to form the surround which is supported by a neat steel subframe. E-marked spot headlights will keep plod happy, Adrian safe and look the business with the Motogadget Motoscope Pro hidden behind – super clean. Number boards are often a hastily fabricated finishing touch and can look out of place but this effort is exquisite.
A set of high rise Renthals add to the tracker look and courtesy of a gentle sweep bring hands into a commanding position and negate the need for Adrian to stretch out over the tank. Speaking of which, there were plans to paint the original tank skin but Adrian found an original carbon version which is simply perfect as is. A run over with the polishing mop and the aramid weave beneath really ‘pops’ as they say in custom shops across the pond. Apparently.
Another benefit of being 17 years old is that this X1 left the factory on a gorgeous pair of slotted PM forged wheels which look just right. A 180 section Dunlop was squeezed onto the rear leaving just enough room for the chunky drive belt to whir.Adrian is far from a Sunday cruise kind of rider but with the stock engine packing more than enough punch, internals were left alone. A K&N filter poking out-the-side inhales school children at zebra crossings and the exhaust upsets old people and ponies; tame it is not. An increasingly popular high-tech ceramic coating for the exhaust seemed like a good way to go as it gives a matt black finish to match the engine barrels whilst helping hot zorst gases to flow better and not cook the rider. The tail section caused Calum a few headaches as achieving the correct proportions would wither make or break his hard work. As with the headlight surround ally sheet was beaten into submission and rolled through the english wheel. A small LED strip is neatly frenched-in so as not to spoil the view. Calum’s right hand man Des is a master upholsterer and stitched a lovely seat to finish the job, the shape flowing perfectly from tank to tail. Perfect, yup, used that word again. Seriously though, come and check this bike out for yourself, after a few short years the deBolex team are mastering the art of making custom look OEM. Or at least look like the sketches the original designers dreamed up before engineers and accountants got in the way.
Adrian’s bike has been wintering in our restaurant and not a day goes by that we don’t have to resist firing it up. In profile view you can see why Adrian and most Buell owners can’t bear to sell their bikes and hang on to them forever, it’s just all engine and tranny with a couple of wheels bolted onto each end. I think I want one. Scrap that, I need to have one.