DROOP SNOOT BEAUT
IT ‘ONLY’ TOOK MIKE NEWMAN FOUR YEARS TO GET HIS BANDIT/’BUSA/ZX-9/10 HYBRID INTO EXACTLY THE SHAPE HE WANTED. NOW IT’S PRECISELY THE MACHINE HE HAD IN HIS HEAD ALL THAT TIME AGO
When you’ve been around bikes all your born days, it follows that you might pick up a few clues as to how they go together. Either that, or you develop a fierce and deep seated hatred of anything to do with two wheels. Fortunately, Mike Newman has made the most of his immersion in all things motorbike. His long and lucky apprenticeship with his bike-restorer dad Pete has reached its current high point with this, his Banditbased Murder One. Murder One being the monicker given to the late Ian Kilmister’s Marshall Super Bass Head amp (Lemmy of Motörhead, lest any poor soul struggles to recollect the high priest of rock ’n’ roll). Mike likes his metal. And what more fitting tribute to the great man could there be than this beast of a machine.
Dubbed an XRB1200R (XR as in its vaguely 69-ish credentials, B for Bandit and R because it is very R). There’s also a fair bit of Hayabusa in it too. You may have noticed the more than distinctive nose fairing: perhaps the standout feature of a machine positively dripping with invention, craft and painstaking fine-tuning. Aside from the rear shock linkage (more of which later), the front end underwent more changes in concept and execution than a Parisian couture catwalk collection. “When I finished it first time round in April, I took it to the Big Breakfast meet at Lynn’s Raven Cafe at Prees Heath, near Whitchurch,” says Mike. “I had ZXR250 lights on it, the really tiny ones. Someone took a picture of it and when I saw the pic I thought NO – that’s just not right.” Since the whole creation had been nearly four years in the making, another return to the drawing board was not going to hurt the non-existent schedule.
“Then I thought about the early streetfighter style where people used cut down Peugeot Speedfight noses, that was a style that worked. I’ve got two ’busas, both Mk Is from the first six months of production, the ones with the 220mph clocks – the bike that was built to really prove a point. The second generation bikes are more of a tourer. I never thought about that frontal look until a mate said he had a spare Hayabusa nose. On its own it looks like a cross between an Alien and the Unnamed Ghouls from the Swedish doom metal band Ghost B.C. – which is what it looks like on the bike too. But people go ‘That’s actually alright, that is’.”
The reasons for a nose fairing were more than merely cosmetic. “I do like a wheelie, when the time and place are right, and there was a bit of a stability issue at about 80/90mph. The frame-mounted nose piece calms all that down and makes higher speeds much less of an ordeal than they were too,” says Mike casually. You might ordinarily take that with a pinch of salt, but he spent a fair amount of his formative years riding ACU Youth Motocross (“Until the money ran out”) so he’s unlikely to be a stranger to motorcycles doing things a bit beyond the comfort zones of more pedestrian riders. So much for the decorative and effective faired elements. The rest of the front end is almost pure Kawasaki. “It’s only Kawasakis and Suzukis for me,” says Mike, without any need to expand on the statement. People have preferences, mild prejudices even, and strict boundaries beyond which they are often not prepared to go. Fair enough.
“I WAS WAVING AT A MATE WITH ONE HAND AND TRYING TO GET OVER THE FRONT TO KEEP IT DOWN”
ZX-9RB forks and bottom yoke are mated to a ZXR750 top yoke with a Bandit 12 steering stem pressed in, a ZX-6R front wheel and ZXR750 calipers complete the deal. “People tend to use GSX-R forks and they’re always too short,” he says. One look at the attitude, the stance of Mike’s bike bears this out. If it sits right, it is right. The front end was a breeze to piece together compared to the aggro the back end caused. The rear proved an utter pig to engineer correctly. Employing a Hayabusa swingarm and an ’04 ZX-10R linkage made Mike’s life almost unbearably frustrating for a full four months. “Getting the linkage right was an absolute nightmare,” he recalls. “The rate was really hard to get right. Lots of people said with some justification ‘YOU CAN’T DO THAT’, and they were of course right.
- Bandit steering stem pressed into ZX-9RB bottom yoke wearing a ZXR top yoke. A Kawasaki front end is always a safe bet.
- Black finish on carbs is Gun Kote – hard as nails, in a super-thin layer, refuses to discolour in any way. Works on steel and alloy.
- Pipework proved a bit of a palaver, but Mike eventually settled on this short exit Pro-Race device mated to original Bandit headers and collector.
- If the back end doesn’t work, you’ve got a horribly compromised bike. Mike took the severest pains to ensure the Hayabusa swinger mated perfectly to the ZX-10R linkage and Bandit mounting points. He made life tricky for himself, but triumphed in the end.
“The ’busa arm has short linkage rods and the two components were really not meant to meet. It either rode like a pogo-stick or a hardtail, until by trial and error, we moved the mount to make the shock more upright. The problem wasn’t the shock itself (Hyperpro), it was the point where the shock mounted to the linkage that was the issue. It’s got an adjustable linkage on it now for aesthetic reasons, but that job took more than a few hours out of my life.”
At a mere 43, Mike can live with that. And he knows how much time a ground-up build can take. “My dad used to restore Brits when I was a kid,” he says. “We used to go the shows at Belle Vue (Manchester), he’d sell stuff there. He had a Domi 99, BSA A7SS, a few more Nortons, then he moved on the Japanese stuff, a 400/4 then some GT Suzukis. He let me do an ex-GPO Bantam D14/4 on my own for my first resto and he was patient enough to watch me work things out. And he didn’t mind me looking over his shoulder if I got stuck either. He really let me rip with things and always said, ‘Be flexible, things never quite turn out how you think.’ He’s in his early-eighties now.”
Mike learned a few golden rules. One of them being if you get the chance to ride your project a bit before you mess with it, do it. “When I bought this as a stock Bandit, I took it for an MoT and the bloke said, ‘I’m sure this isn’t quite straight.’ When we were checking the wheel alignment, sure enough, it wasn’t. It had been flipped like so many Bandits were. So I hacked the back off it.”
A straight frame is a number one requirement before embarking on spending precious time and money modifying. “I promised the other half I’d ride this one until the wheels fell off. If I hadn’t found out the the frame was bent this project would never have started. Anyway, I braced up the new frame, ground the side plates away, rebraced the headstock, and soon had a rolling chassis to fit all the bits to.”
One of the bits being the big Bandit engine. Never something needing too much extra attention in terms of producing ample levels of propulsion, Mike decided the best plan was a home blueprint. “I matched the piston and rod weights, removed all the casting flash from the cases, cleaned it all up and bolted it back together. I wasn’t after monster power, I just wanted to tighten it up.”
This meant attention to induction and exhaust systems too. “No one ever seems to pay much attention to the externals of carbs, they always seem to be either freshly cleaned or grubby and fuel-stained,” laments Mike. “Someone recommended a finish called Gun Kote, used, like you’d imagine, in the firearms business. It’s solvent and impact resistant to a huge degree. I got the calipers coated with it as well as the carb bodies and you can literally hit the calipers with a hammer and they just DO NOT mark.
“Same with the carbs. I was a bit sceptical about using it, so I soaked them in fuel for a couple of months, then ran them on the bike and they’re as good as when first done.” Exhaust work involved more trial and error. “I started out trying a front exit pipe on the left side – that had about as much cornering clearance as something with Harley cruiser footboards. Then I did a hi-level, and now I’ve ended up with stock headers and this Pro-Race M1 replica which is really compact, sounds like a Wellington bomber, and doesn’t mask too much of the rest of the bike, which is what I was trying to avoid doing.”
And the only thing missing is… “Unfortunately Lemmy isn’t around any more. I’d have loved to ask him to sign the bike. I know he signed some US cruiser thing once, but this would have been more his thing.” No doubt about it.
“AND IF I HADN’T FOUND OUT THE FRAME WAS BENT THIS PROJECT WOULD NEVER HAVE GOT STARTED”
SPECIFICATION SUZUKI XRB 1200R BANDIT
1996 SUZUKI BANDIT 1200, DOHC, 16V, INLINE-FOUR, MATCHED PISTON WEIGHTS, CLEANED UP CRANKCASE INTERNALS, BLUEPRINTED TO BOG STOCK SPEC. CARBS TREATED TO GUN KOTE FINISH (HARPERSULTRASONIC. COM 07752 008698), RUNNING PIPERCROSS SPONGE POD FILTERS, STANDARD HEADER AND COLLECTOR PIPES FEEDING INTO PRO-RACE M1 REPLICA CAN
1996 SUZUKI BANDIT 1200 FRAME WITH SUBFRAME REMOVED AND TABS WELDED ON TO TAKE KAWASAKI ZXR750 SUBFRAME AND TAIL UNIT, SIDEPLATES REMOVED AND HEADSTOCK RE-BRACED FOR MORE SPACE ABOVE ENGINE. ZX-9RB FORKS AND BOTTOM YOKE, ZXR750 TOP YOKE AND FRONT WHEEL. HAYABUSA SWINGARM, WITH ZX-10R LINKAGE ON RELOCATED BANDIT MOUNTING POINTS RUNNING A HYPERPRO SHOCK AND MODIFIED NWS HAYABUSA REAR HUGGER. MARBLED CANDY BLUE SHOT BY MIKE AND DAVE ON BLACK BASE COAT WITH STIPPLED SILVER UNDER BEFORE BLUE TOP COAT. ZXR750 SEAT MODDED WITH PILLION PAD FOAM AND COVERED BY ALAN AT CUSTOMCOVERSUK.CO.UK (07979590360)