Being first with fresh ideas is important to Richard Stevens. So important he’ll go to almost ridiculous lengths to avoid the obvious
I ADMIRE PEOPLE who do nut ’n’ bolt restos, but I just can’t bring myself to do them,” says Richard Stevens. It’s slightly ironic, then, that his Yoshimura Bandit – the result of a five-year build process – is so brilliantly done that he freely admits people often walk past it at shows without giving it a second glance. “It can get ignored – I’m not sure whether it’s a compliment or an insult,” laughs Richard. “I’ve got mates who have heavily modified bikes with paintjobs that look like an ’80s shellsuit – they’re the kind of bikes that get attention. People are visual, and they tend to notice a paintjob rather than engineering.” Make no mistake, though, this is a bike that keeps revealing its secrets the more time you spend with it. Have a look at the fuel tank – are you sure that’s standard Bandit? The seat unit looks great... but what bike is it from? What on earth is that nose fairing? All ofthese questions don’t immediately come into your head, such is the deftness with which a range of complex and fiddly modifications have been carried out. “Making the bike unique was a key part of the project,” states Richard. “The idea behind it was to make the bike look like a factory special that had escaped from Japan.”
That noble ambition seemed like a tall order five years ago, when Richard was standing in his garage staring at “a £900 shed of a Bandit 1200.” Various pieces of cutting equipment meant it didn’t stay that way for long, with the first modification being a set of upside-down forks from a 1990 Suzuki GSX-R750 Slingshot. Then it was time for some swingarm modification. “I cut the brace off a 1998 GSX-R750 and had it welded to the Bandit ’arm,” says Richard. “I’ve got a good mate who’s a spot-on welder, so I had it powdercoated, sold the bits I didn’t need and ended up with a properly braced swingarm for only £42.”
At the heart of this project is an unerring desire to make a bike that is a complete one-off, meaning Richard was determined not to follow the host of Bandits that feature well-known modifications like R1 seat units. “The pursuit of uniqueness is timeconsuming – but it’s really important to me,” laughs Richard. “You see quite a few specials with seats from an R1, GSX-R or RGV, so finding a seat unit that had never been used for a Bandit took ages.” Any ideas what this one is from? If you guessed a 1997 Laverda 668, you’d be right. “There’s not another Bandit anywhere with this seat unit,” states Richard proudly.
The nose fairing is another one that’ll have you scratching your head. “I get asked all the time what it’s from – it’s actually off a Japanese market Honda CB1000 from the late ’90s,” reveals Richard. “If I smash it I’ll never find another one, but if I see a part that I think might work, I’ll just go for it.”
Richard’s approach of marrying disparate parts from an array of manufacturers to create something that’s never been done before reached its peak with the fuel tank. For a change he actually stuck with Bandit parts this time, but took sections from both a 600 and 1200 tank to create a new one that’s exactly the same capacity, but has a different shape that works with the bike’s lines. “I cut the indents out of a 600 tank a mate gave me, swapped them over, turned them up the other way and then filled it – this gave a smooth shape without the indents. I then chopped the back of the 600 tank off, reshaped it and put it onto the 1200 tank,” says Richard. “It didn’t take too long to do once I’d decided to do it. There’s a lot of thought and no action sometimes with specials. You have to think things through for days – sometimes weeks.”
What Richard’s ended up with is a bike whose lines work flawlessly. “The tip of the seat unit flows through the tank to make one line,” says Richard. “If the seat was just an inch higher at the back it wouldn’t work. I just put it on the bench, offered it up and adjusted it – you soon know if it’s going to work. I think part of the knack of making a good special is recognising if something doesn’t look right and moving onto something else. I’ve done that loads with this bike. Initially I bought a twin-headlight, GPZ-style front fairing but it looked rubbish – it was back on eBay within 20 minutes.” One of the many impressive things about Richard’s Bandit is that unlike a lot of projects, whether they’re straightforward restos or out-there specials, his bike has remained on the road throughout most of the five-year build process. The only period of garage-enforced tarmac avoidance came with the engine – an exercise in lavishing the Bandit 1200 motor with a series of exotic modifications like Wiseco 1216mm pistons, GSX-R1100 cams, Mikuni flatslides and an FBM lock-up clutch. Even with that, Richard’s still managed to take the bike to the TT every year since he’s been building it.
“This year was a bit touch and go because the tank was only finished three days before I was due to go – I didn’t even know if it would hold fuel,” laughs Richard. “But the thing about this bike is that I’ve built it to be used. Each TT trip puts about 1000 miles on it but I’ve never had any issues – I just stick a bag and a tent on and I’m ready to go.” And go the bike most certainly does. “Bandits are known for their torque, but since I’ve really sorted this engine it pulls from nothing and then goes ballistic at 8000rpm,” says Richard. “I had it on a dyno the other day and it made 143bhp. Not bad considering that it only had 100 brake when it left the factory.”
Richard’s Yoshimura Bandit has so many details that it’s hard to cram them all in, but suffice to say that with parts from 15 different bikes ranging from the Ducati Monster rear light to the Yamaha R1 brake mastercylinder, it’s about as far from standard as you can get.
“The only thing that’s been left completely untouched and unmodified is the left-hand switchgear,” smiles Richard. “At the end of the day, quite a fun part about making a special is confusing people. The bike deliberately doesn’t say the word ‘Bandit’ on it anywhere – you can see people getting really annoyed with themselves when they don’t recognise what it is...”
“This engine goes ballistic at 8000rpm and makes 143bhp. Not bad considering it only had 100bhp when it left Japan”
Suzuki Yoshimura Bandit
ENGINE 1999 Suzuki Bandit 1200, dohc, 16v, inline-four, Wiseco 1216mm pistons, ported and flowed head with oversize valves, HD springs and retainers, 1989 GSX-R1100 cams, MTC spacer plate with FBM lock-up clutch, Mikuni RS38 flatslide carbs, Akrapovic conical exhaust system with Yoshimura end-can, Dyna coils and Taylor leads, HEL oil-cooler and lines, Yoshimura engine covers, modified wiring loom
CHASSIS 1999 Suzuki Bandit 1200 frame with subframe removed and tabs welded on to take Laverda 668 subframe, 1990 GSX-R750 forks, Bandit 1200 swingarm with GSX-R750 brace added, GSX-R Slingshot front mudguard, Laverda 668 tail unit, modified Bandit fuel tank, Japanese market-only Honda CB1000 nose fairing, Pyramid bellypan, Koso RX2N clocks and temperature gauge, homemade gear indicator, Ducati Monster rear light, Kawasaki ZX-7R right-hand switchgear, Technoflex rear shock, Yamaha R1 mastercylinder, Kawasaki ZX-7R clutch cylinder, modified Suzuki RGV250 rearsets, SV650 pillion ’pegs
Loads of parts needed a bit of persuasion to fit – like the RGV250 rearsets and SV650 pillion ’pegs.
SEE THE LIGHT
Rear light is off a mid-’90s Ducati Monster. And note how the bike ndoesn’t say ‘Bandit’ anywhere...
“Welding parts of a 600 and 1200 Bandit tank together to make a new one was a ball ache,” admits Richard.
The ’bar-end mirrors are pushbike ones by a company called Zefal Dooback. “I’ve used them for 15 years and they’re great,” says Richard.
Richard’s Bandit has been in constant evolution, but until a few months ago the engine was largely stock with black powdercoating. “Then I added a few goodies,” smiles Richard. “1216mm high-compression Wiseco pistons, heavily ported and flowed head, 1989 GSX-R1100 cams, heavy duty springs and retainers – the lot. The rest of the bike had changed so much, I thought it would be a shame for the engine not to follow suit. The Yoshi parts are a bit of a homage to XR69s.”
“There are a lot of Bandits with Heron paint schemes but I haven’t seen any Yoshimura Bandits, so I made sure I swiped the idea before anyone else thought of it,” laughs Richard. “The first thing I did was paint the generic mid-’90s Slingshot front mudguard and post it on a Bandit forum to stake my claim. At the top you can also see the Slingshot top yoke, with GSX-R1000 clamps welded to it for some extra length in the forks if I need it.”
Getting the Laverda 668 seat unit on was an interesting experience, to say the least. “The seat was exactly the shape I was after but the build quality was absolutely shocking,” says Richard. “I had to reconfigure the subframe to match the Bandit frame. So we lopped it off, blanked off all the holes, welded on new tabs and it all now bolts on as normal. It was a bit of a pain, but the great thing is that the shape of the seat unit just works – and no one else has one fitted to a Bandit.”