Design and music, not just two of my favourite things but two pillars that hold my world together.
I’m well versed in both, as far as distinguishing the excellent from pretty good, but as far as actually doing either of them goes, I suck. Thankfully for all of us there are people like Winston Yeh who were put on this planet to show how things should be done.
Winston set up Rough Crafts from his base in Taipei in 2009 and has been wowing us ever since. And not just us, his creations have scooped multiple awards at the most prestigious custom bike competitions on the planet, including the AMD Championships and Mooneyes.
So why the music reference? Well, Winston doesn’t claim to be a mechanical whiz whilst farming-out a load of work and claiming it all as his own. Winston is a conductor. One who is able to express his designs not just through the medium of CAD but also via the powers of enthusiasm and passion. The orchestra of talented craftspeople he’s assembled to bring his imagination to reality are on another level. Heck, it’s Winston’s fault that I now own a Harley-Davidson!
In a break from the more muscular metal Winston usually works on comes this carbon clad stunner based on a donor from a stable responsible for infinitely more refined engineering, MV Agusta. MV Taiwan commissioned Rough Crafts to impart their flavour onto a machine that doesn’t often see a customiser’s bench, the Brutale 800RR. It does seem a bit odd to me that people will pour fistfuls of dollars into a 30-year-old BMW airhead or spend months trying to inject soul into a benign Japanese in-line four when there are options out there that ooze style and panache straight-off the factory floor.
A 2015 Brutale arrived at Winston’s workshop and he began composing his masterpiece.
Inspired by the dustbin faired racers from the 1950s Winston set about returning swooping elegance to a world of stripped-down minimalism. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that although great for head down, arse up streamlining, huge fairings were banned for good reason, the merest guff from mother nature and the rider would find themselves fighting to stay on track.
Winston’s design is clearly more modern in it’s aesthetic but also follows a fundamentally different approach, the whole unit is mounted to the forks and therefore moves along with steering. The mock-up was CAD modelled and CNC cut from wood to provide an accurate buck to work to. Modern tech perhaps, but the method is as old as the hills and responsible for some of the most beautiful curves to grace a motorcycle, or car. Or plane for that matter. Once Winston was happy with the shape a mould was made to accept the sheets of carbon fibre. Taiwan is one of the world’s epicentres for carbon fibre production and fabrication so finding experts and autoclaves to work to Rough Crafts’ exacting standards wasn’t too hard.
The ducting may look menacing but it’s functionally vital to not only keep air flowing to the brakes and radiators but also to feed the 798cc triple with plenty of oxygen. Intricate yet simple bracketry allows removal of the whole fairing, leaving a plug and fitting for a headlight. No point having something this beautiful if you can’t show it off at night. The tank panel, made from carbon of course, remains in place. Partly due to having to house the stock MV electronic dash which is grafted-in, just behind the headstock.
The exotic componentry doesn’t stop there, behind this sculpture lives a WSBK spec Öhlins FGR800 fork, held by Rough Crafts triple trees. And then the party really gets started, if you’re into performance engineered parts. The wheels are a collaboration with Wukawa Industry and this pair of RCVGP-6 wheels were machined in the most high-tech of facilities yet with a nostalgic cap-doffing to the bronze Campagnolos from yesteryear.
Of course nobody makes brakes for such a setup so the crew at Beringer stepped-in to help. Their solid cast iron, floating rotors not only look the business, they are the business. Radially mounted callipers are also Beringer’s finest four-pots and the whole lot sits on Pirelli Diablo race slicks. Even the rear sprocket is custom, machined at the last minute by AEM Factory.
There must have always been a man at MV’s Varese factory in charge of exhaust notes and presumably he doesn’t let a bike leave until it can make music. Agostini used to pedal some amazing sounding equipment and a good dollop of that soul remains to this day. Don’t believe me, well spend some time on the Youtube and listen to the difference between the angry four-bangers and Satan himself who hides in the manifolds of an MV triple – listen here.
Winston spent ages drawing pipes but couldn’t come to a conclusion that he was prepared to commit to metal. HP Corse are renowned for making some of the finest zorsts for MVs, and others, and they’ve been following Rough Crafts for a while and agreed to ship a Hydro-Tre system from their very first batch of production. The curve is just right and of course the sound is wonderful.
It’d be a crying shame ruin that svelte body with sticky-out indicators so Motogadget’s barend mounted M-blaze LEDs were fitted to a pair of Bonamici Racing clipons, along with Motogadget grips. The stock switchgear is pretty well thought-out so that stays put. Levers and master cylinders are by Beringer.
It’s not just the front end that received attention. A tubular subframe was fabricated and bolted to the main frame. A tailpiece was fabricated to incorporate the stock rear light, topped-off with a diamond stitched saddle. Just out of sight lurks more Swedish beauty, an Öhlins TTX shock matches the high specification of the fork, and that gold anodising tantalises against the black paint and carbon fibre.
Apparently pictures paint a thousand words and these studio shots might nudge that number up a bit. So I’ll try and shut-up for a minute.
Winston finished the MV just in time for the annual Mooneyes show in Japan, and boy did it cause a stir when the cover was whipped off. We didn’t make it out for the show but word on the street is that the fit and finish is fantastic. No surprise there then. We did take a trip to Eicma last month and enjoyed our time hanging out with Winston, talking about all things bike and how his company started, gathered momentum and became world renowned. And I really like his honestly about the Rough Crafts build process. I could learn a thing or two about delegating.
Winston is one hell of a designer, and don’t take my word for it, just ask a certain Roland Sands. Winston has created some of the most striking customs of the last few years whilst keeping his fingernails pretty clean. In the faux ruffty-tuffty world of mock endeavour I admire people who excel at their particular skill and with the inertia of success harness the same in others.
It’s just a shame that Rough Crafts is based in Taipei and not Tower Bridge as we’d gladly move some furniture to exhibit the Ballistic Trident in our showroom.
And the reason it’s Winston’s fault that I own a Harley? Six years ago he built this.