OUR BIKES

Vinyl wrap­ping the Fireblade means the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. So the se­lec­tion process isn’t mov­ing quickly...

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Chippy Wood

2008 Honda Fireblade, 2017 KTM 500 EXC-F, 2005 Yamaha YZF-R1.

THE PB TEAM has many pos­i­tive at­tributes, but style is not one of them. I’m lucky if my socks match, Johnny’s so big he has to buy out­fits from in­dus­trial es­tate ‘big and tall’ shops, and the less said about Whitey’s pas­sive-ag­gres­sive ve­gan pro­pa­ganda T-shirts, the bet­ter...

So we haven’t re­ally put much thought into the colourscheme of Project Blade. In hon­esty, mak­ing a bike on the cusp of 1:1 power to weight has taken the bulk of our brain power, so what it’ll ac­tu­ally look like hadn’t been dis­cussed. But the bare Kevlar looks grim, and the half-prepped tank cover is even worse. As ev­ery te­dious gob­shite on so­cial me­dia queued up to point out when we posted a pic of it in post-MoT, shake­down state. ‘That looks shit’. Yeah thanks, dullard...

We knew we wanted to wrap it – paint is mea­sured in litres, litres equal ki­los. No es bueno. Vinyl is light, and as it can be printed to pre­cise re­quire­ments, and the op­tions are far greater. It’s also easy to re­move if we have a sense of style fail­ure...

To do that, it needed a com­plete set of body­work. Which we have in hand, but not fit­ted. The stick­ing point was the bellypan: the long, high sides of the race-spec catch tank isn’t cut to clear ex­hausts, as the belly si­lencer on this Blade sits dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on what brand you choose. And it’s not in­tended to clear a side­stand at all.

First things first: pick an ex­haust. It has a Ter­mignoni ti­ta­nium sys­tem, but the can lets down the light­weight head­ers. The light­weight car­bon sleeve is com­pletely negated by a chunky alu­minium end cap, and to our eye, the ori­en­ta­tion of the can makes it look up­side­down, but it’s not, and won’t fit the ‘right’ way. It also sits out a long way – bad for body­work fit, and ground clear­ance, and it doesn’t look very good ei­ther. See ya.

Round one of Project Blade saw it wear­ing a Hawk ti­ta­nium si­lencer – a lovely, yet in­ex­pen­sive (£300 as a ready to fit slip-on for OE head­ers) light­weight can from Brit firm Pipew­erx’s tra­di­tion­ally styled sub-brand. So we dug it out, and paid Pipew­erx a visit to get it tweaked for the new head­ers. It’s noth­ing new for them

– al­though they gen­er­ally sell slip/bolt-on kits, they’ll also do si­lencers to suit other header sets.

Whitey shipped the bike up there, and they wasted no time in short­en­ing the long can to suit the low mount (as op­posed to its pre­vi­ous high-level fit), fit­ting a new in­let at an an­gle to tuck it up nice and tight and adding a spring mount. Be­fore he’d fin­ished his soya latte, it was good to go, both look­ing and fit­ting bet­ter, and he was back.

Briefly, any­way. He dumped the bike in the PB lock-up and set off for Am­s­ter­dam, I pre­sumed, to find sub­stances ca­pa­ble of chas­ing the pupils out of his eyes, or women ca­pa­ble of... I won’t go there. He didn’t even stop to fit the bellypan...

So I did. I’d al­ready ar­ranged with Mike at MKS Cus­toms in Peter­bor­ough to drop the bike off for the wrap job. His work­shop is op­po­site The Mo­tor­cy­cle Works: a lo­cal busi­ness tol­er­ant of the last-minute lib­erty-tak­ing any good mag­a­zine heaps on their kind...

“Pete, can I bor­row a die-grinder to trim the bellypan a lit­tle?”, asks big-shot edi­tor type. “Sure,” says too-busy-to pay-at­ten­tion owner Pete. 45 min­utes and a fair chunk of cut­ting and sand­ing edges later, the fair­ing clears the si­lencer and al­lows it to fit. And his work­shop is cov­ered in car­bon-Kevlar dust...

I quickly exit be­fore Pete turns the die-grinder on me, and wheel it into MKS. First im­pres­sions are good: the sim­ple curves of the Fireblade are far eas­ier to work with than some­thing like an S1000RR or GSX-R, with small fid­dly curves and edges, so any de­sign will be eas­ier to de­sign and ap­ply.

Oh yeah, de­sign... My first thought was a race rep. Rut­ter’s 2012 Bathams Honda looked pretty cool, but the early in­car­na­tion of the black/gold style they’ve now de­vel­oped into one of the coolest looks in the BSB pad­dock was pretty sim­ple. And he doesn’t share enough of that tasty bit­ter they pro­duce, so I’m damned if we’re be­ing a rolling bill­board for his team bene­fac­tor...

Suzuka bikes are an op­tion – from fac­tory en­tries to bizarre pri­va­teers (Mo­to­bum Honda, any­one?), there’s plenty of left­field choice. But any­body who can drive a search en­gine can do that. We con­sid­ered cool retro paintjobs like Mar­tini, Gulf and so on, but none of it re­ally lit a fire.

Then I found the an­swer, on the Dis­cov­ery chan­nel, no less. I won’t tell you what it is yet, though it clearly has some­thing to do with the doc­u­men­tary chan­nel’s sta­ples of sharks/Nazis... So Mike’s favoured graph­ics de­signer Rob Baker of Rac­ing Liv­ery is work­ing up my po­ten­tially awe­some/pos­si­bly shite idea into a work­able re­al­ity: it’s fairly con­vo­lute so it’ll be printed and laid as one sheet on each part.

I’m re­ally ex­cited, and even Whitey, when he’d come down from what­ever he’d con­sumed in the ’dam (though th­ese days, it’s more quinoa and rice milk than mush­rooms and hook­ers), ex­pressed ap­proval for it. Al­though, given his pre­vi­ously-de­scribed near-to­tal lack of taste, that might not be a good thing...

‘Suzuka de­signs were an op­tion. But then I found the an­swer, on the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel...’

Race bellypan now clears a side­stand and suits our ex­haust op­tion

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