The traps and pitfalls, dos and don’ts, highs and lows, and ways and means of doing it right
It can be a long, hard, frustrating road building a special. But it doesn’t have to end in abandonment and tears. Here are ways and means of making it less difficult (nobody ever uses the word easy)
There can be few riders of Ps-era bikes who haven’t modified their machines. Many will have done a resto or two as well. Building a special lifts skills to a whole new level. Radical deviation from standard takes us into uncharted areas, especially where a proposed special is without precedent. A mechanic has to become engineer and even fabricator and designer if a decent result is to be achieved. Get it right and the rewards are immense. There is no greater shed satisfaction than creating a true one-off, built to your vision and performing as well or better than any factory bike.
We talked to builders both amateur and professional who have been there and done that, most of them more than once, to glean the wisdom that will make your first special build as painless as possible – or the next one easier than the last one.
So what are you going to build? Special building is never easy but if you’re considering a hybrid that’s been done before, things are a little simpler.
Other builders just want to put their favourite engine into a chassis that meets their needs. “I have a customer at the moment who wants to build a full-on track bike around a Hondavfr750 engine,” says Mark Lumb of Madasl Racing. “Not everyone’s first choice for a track bike but he loves the engine and its character so much, that’s the route he wants to go down. And why shouldn’t he?”
David Howard, whose speciality is exquisite race bikes under the banner of DHR Racing, finds inspiration – especially when it comes to trick details – as a scrutineer in BSB,WSB and Motogp. “There’s no end of smart engineering in race paddocks,” he says, “The trick is getting close enough to see it.”
Sometimes necessity drives the desire to build a special. “I raced in the 1980s and in 1987 I crashed my Suzuki RG500 Gamma,” says David. “It took me a decade