By Craig Els | Published on 2020-04-10
The inspiration came about when I wanted a GP bike to Park next to the TV and look at it while watching the races. #BB41 had just won the Moto3 World title and I thought, while still Highly emotional ....Hold on a minute, I have a 2006 KTM SMR 450 Motard in the garage that would work for this purpose. Now bearing in mind, this is a Dirt and Tar mixed kind of bike, Basically an off-road MX bike that has Tar track tyres and used on a mixed track in races. So the bike had a more off-road Bias and when I bought it, it had already been raped of its Motard Wheels by the previous owner and had MX wheels with Knobblies on it. Never the less...this didn’t stop my NEED for this bike to happen!
Firstly I had to get the motor running to make sure this wasn’t going to be a dead loss project that didn’t have a running motor..My Son Dylan and I had it running in no time and Boy OH Boy does this bike Haul Ass!!! Front Wheel comes up in every gear and it sounds like it has the Devil himself up its arse! Those Twin Acropovics are the BOMB!
DONE! This was going to happen no matter how long it took! And the Following did take a few years, in between a few other completed bike projects while waiting for this process to complete. First point of order was the Wheels, I would have loved to get the Motard Spoked wheels with the bike, but that didn’t happen, so we made another plan, and anyway, MotoGP bikes don’t have Spoked wheels! They have MAGS! I found a set of used Aprilia RS250 wheels on Gumtree and soon after they were in my garage. They didn’t fit! No problem, off to JJ Engineering with the bike and the wheels, and many hours of Machining The Hubs, Spindles and Disk mounts and and and and, they were on!
From there I took the Bike straight to MP Custom Valve and spoke to Martin himself about keeping the KTM suspension and shortening the forks and rear shock and adding Proper road race valving etc, after many many head shakes telling me I’m crazy and this might not work....he managed to get it all sorted, as he had previously done something very similar for me on my 520 Cafe racer a few years before, But that’s another story all together. Back to the GP bike. From Martin I took it to Anthony Lane, he builds all the Race Bike fairings for the CBR150 series and some KTM RC390 race stuff, including many other bikes. I showed him what I wanted and we agreed on a CBR150 race BumBox with the RC390 tank cover with Top and Bottom Fairings. He had a bit of a mission with the fitting and made it work to a point!
Enter the Maestro of Bike painting and Customisation... Lionel Trollip from LT Customs in Retreat, he has done ALL my painting on all my bikes in the past, so I felt he would support and accept this enormous challenge of getting the fitting and painting sorted out for full use on a track if I wanted to! He had also just made rudimentary brackets out of whatever steel he had in the garage to make it work, so when I fetched it, I had to Draw the brackets up on CAD, have them all laser cut and bent as they needed to be! While this was all happening I got busy on the frame, a full strip down, De Tabbing all the Un necessary brackets and things on the frame that we wouldn’t need. Need I say that I have No problem at all taking an Angle grinder to a frame and making it what I want it to be! Once completed, I took the frame, wheels and other steel bits that needed cleaning to Ben at FineBlast. He put his magic touch on all my Bike bits and once done, it all looked brand new! At this stage, I had a list of where everything was all over the western cape at different places to have all these different elements done for the build, it was a nightmare at times, but this all adds to the excitement and joy of doing this kind of thing. And all my suppliers are awesome anyway! Dylan and I put the bike together...well sort of and then lost a little interest in it as some elements weren’t meshing the way I had it in my head. But as always, put it down for a bit, take a breather, give it some more thought and when you have it in your head, take it on again with a rejuvenated energy. At that stage, Dylan also got a Bee 🐝 under his bonnet and started to take his CB400 build very seriously as he had made a commitment to The Woodstock ManCave to show his bike there for their annual Garage Built Bike show! ( I’ll cover this bike on his behalf on another day!) I thought, what the hell, I’ll take my bike with and show it as well...Father against Son! That night we both spent long hours way into the next morning working together on our bikes to get them ready to show. His one running, a little rough, but running at least, my one didn’t even have a chain on it! 😳 But I took it with and it was very well received at the show. Dare I say it, but the Student surpassed the Master in this case and I couldn’t have been prouder of my boy! He won some accolades and some Beer from JackBlack breweries, and also a new client for a new custom built bike, as his one wasn’t for sale that day! It’s funny how the Human mind works when you have some good feedback and shown appreciation for all your efforts, it spurs you on to go further and do better! That said, when we got home, I decided to finally finish the bike and get it running!
Wow, this bike is insane, it rides Beautifully and Handles like it’s on Rails! Dylan joins me on his CB400 and off we went for our usual HOON up Chapmans Peak drive late one afternoon, on the way back down headed for home...POP, Bang, crunch......Pull over! Motor stopped, what could have happened??? We tow the bike home only to pull the motor out and find that one of the Tappit rocker lock nuts had come off and fallen into the motor! It’s a highly tuned RFS 450 Thumper and I have never ridden a 450 that ran that well..up to that point anyway. Both of us decide the 450 motor would be a job for another day and luckily we had a spare KTM525 motor we had marked for another build, so we started moving things over to the GP frame and all was going well until I see that the Exhaust won’t fit because the new motor is slightly taller, 10mm in fact, so the header pipes can’t go into the motor as there is a frame gusset in the way of where the pipes should go!
While all this is going on, Brad Binder comes to CapeTown for a meet and greet, my Awesome Friend Cindy says she will take the Tank cover for him to sign while we were all away for a weekend Riding scooters to Plett and back! She Did it!!!!! My bike has been signed by the guy who inspired me to build this bike!
Many ideas and thoughts of the best solution ended up with me holding an Angle grinder in my hands again and taking some frame material out so the pipes will fit. It ended up being the trusty Angle grinder, a Dremmel tool and a few hacksaw blades later and the pipe slipped on like it was meant to be! We started it up last night, Much to my Neighbours disgust I’m sure, and it runs so well. Checked the fluids, made sure Nothing was near the exhausts as they get really hot and prepared for putting it all back together the next morning. I’ve only, as I type, just finished putting it all together again and it’s ready to go for a ride! And once again, I’m stumped by our current situation in our country at the moment so will have to wait until we need something from the local Friendly Cafe down the road before the next and hopefully final test ride. That said, I’m going to try and Finish all the Coke (With Rum) in the house now, so I have a valid reason to go fetch some more! When that’s done, it’s coming inside and parking next to the TV. Thanks for reading my story, I hope it left you feeling as happy as I was while building this bike!
We will be emailing weekly digests of new content. We won't sell your details and we'll never spam you.