Base Bike Honda VTR250 (MC33 Carb Model)
There is something undeniably magnetic about the image of a flat track rider exiting a turn, bike slew sideways as the rear fights for traction, inside foot extended, skimming the track and stopping rider and machine losing their battle with the laws of physics and being pitched unceremoniously to the earth or into the fence.Though Honda's VTR250 would not normally be linked with this imagery.
In the late nineties, Honda’s VTRs, a 249cc V Twin screamer, were raced, scratched and toured across Japan and thrashed merciless at the hands of a legion of Tokyo couriers (invaluable combat testing). The pint sized V Twin pulls harder than it has any right too, is a fiend for high RPM and handles better than many bikes with twice its specification.
While the rev happy Honda’s pair of pistons willingly spin upwards of 12000 rpm, with the soundtrack and poke to match, the trellis frame and stonking great airbox where the gas tank usually sits, has thwarted serious interest in the bike in the custom world. Till now. “Once you’ve had the vision, it’d be unfair not to build it so others can enjoy it too” offers Matthew Roberts, Deus Japan’s man behind the custom motorcycles. Sagely advice from one never known to shy away from a design challenge, and the creator of The South Paw Street Tracker.
Unlike the hidden frame backbone or spine of more commonly customised machines that happily allow dozens of tank configurations to be achieved, a trellis frame stakes its claim on the design and requires gallant effort on the part of the customizer to have it yield to serious customisation or re-imagining.
Working from a series of 1:1 sketches, the body form was shaped by hand before being formed in a carbon fiber, woven glass and epoxy composite. The curves and purposeful air were inspired by the bodywork of modern day flat track machines, though Roberts highlights his thinking was infused with a nod to the past “borrowing lines from 1970’s Champion style tracker fuel tanks and seat units”.
The hefty standard air-box and CV carbs were originally planned to be dropped for a set of flat slide carbs and create the fuel cell in the space afforded. But the little twin had other plans. The flat slides were a dream at full noise, but try as the team might, they couldn’t get them set up for any useful gains without upsetting the VTR’s bottom and mid range, and it is that seamless midrange that makes the VTR fun in the first place. So it was hats-off to Honda’s 1990’s R&D department as the air box and factory carbs were returned and the build sent back to the drawing board.
The solution – junk the back half of the bike, a cantilevered fuel cell that does double duty as the rear sub-frame in its place. Access to the fuel filler is under the seat, with a one-off quick release fastener being machined up and visible at the rear of the seat. The seat itself has a hand formed alloy pan and graphite alcantara upholstery with a neat burnt orange accent stitch making it feel at home with the paint scheme.
Foot control position has been moved 130mm forward and 40mm down from the original machine to give the control needed in cornering when the rear of the machine tries to overtake the front. “So often overlooked, when people make trackers or scramblers. You start sliding round with standard rearset pegs and things tend to get outta hand real fast” notes Roberts.
A set of 17 inch Excel alloy racing rims, 4.5 inch rear and 3 up front, were laced to Honda hubs and are wrapped with the sticky black goodness of Metzeler Sportec M7 RR tyres. Braking duties are taken care of with an uprated 320mm front disc and a mix of Nissin and a Brembo components, a 2 piston caliper at the front helps provide stopping power while still clearing the spokes.
Up front the number board-come-fairing was sculpted from aluminum and a rugged LED spotlight encased in this hand formed surround, giving the South Paw the obligatory race face.
Exhaust gases exit via stainless tuned length headers from Mugen and a one off stainless end can (we hesitate to use the word silencer) which is “delightful” or “raucous” depending on if you’re asking the rider or the neighbours.
Unveiled at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show, the bike is shown here as displayed, with a Motogadget mini speedo and other road going necessities waiting to be fitted once the camera bulbs stop flashing.
Nakata-san for the lacquer magic
Miauchi san for the stylin’ suede work
Metzeler Japan for the sticky hoops
Kono-san the fixer