A round barrel Moto Guzzi, is there a finer looking motorcycle engine.
I struggle to think of one. There’s something about the aero-esque cylinder configuration that gets me all worked up. Adam Kay, co-founder of Untitled Motorcycles and bossman of the London branch, shares this obsession and despite UMC being world renowned for their BMW builds, the chance to work on a Guzzi is relished. I know when one is gestating as my inbox lights up.
Sender: Adam. Subject: Guzzi!!!
Potential customer Beni wandered into UMC’s Finchley (NW London) workshop asking for Adam, “Guzzi” was mentioned and the kettle got a workout. Beni wanted a summer ride for high days and holidays, in a café racer style, something raw and visceral. Chief mechanic at UMC, Rex, had just the donor in mind. A machine gun toting 850 T3 Carabineri (police) bike from 1981 that had been in the UK since 1998 and had spent the last few years languishing in a front garden was on Rex and Adam’s radar as a potential build for someone. The owner was persuaded to sell and Beni’s dream build could begin.
UMC builds start with a series of sketches by Ian Glavin, prior to a complete and utter strip down. Not just engine out, but crank-out and back to bare cases. Once Adam has made his additions to the design a completed drawing is shown to the customer for approval.
Engine & transmission cases, barrels and cardon assembly have been vapour blasted in preparation for Rex to carry out a comprehensive rebuild, using the best parts and components available, rather than cheap kits from eBay. Ultrasonically cleaned and rebuilt Dell’Ortos run stubby alloy bellmouths, creating a wonderful induction roar. Custom exhaust headers, along with reverse megas, received an ultra-thin ceramic coating.
Brakes and the fork received the same strip-and-rebuild treatment, stainless Goodridge lines offering a bit more bite from the Brembo calipers on solid rotors. An under-tank master cylinder for the rear brake keeps the rear triangle super tidy, Guzzi’s standard fit linked braking system is really useful on the stock bike but not very sexy. A traditional lever for both fronts and pedal for the rear looks and feels better. Modern but tasteful rear-sets replace the clunky, stock peg arrangement. Rear suspension is British, made by Hagon (just down the from Bike Shed), the custom shocks were built to suit the bike, Beni’s weight and riding style.
Anita, UMC’s in-house electrics expert is particularly fussy about exposed parts of the loom and naturally wanted to hide as much as possible, while maintaining accessibility. There’s not a lot more infuriating than trying to work on a wiring harness that’s been wedged, packed and squeezed into a bespoke space. Anita prefers maintenance to be a planned pleasure, not fiddly inconvenience. The decent sized box beneath the seat houses the gubbins but not the battery.
Posh switches mounted to bars from a Vincent, wires internally routed of course, power the smallest indicators in Motogadget’s range and the headlight is UMC’s own, developed over the last few years to incorporate classic or modern speedos – in this case an old looking but digital chronometric styled unit by Smiths. Levers are from a nineties Kawasaki and the throttle’s brand new.
The biggest challenge on this build for Adam was the tail. He wanted to mirror the classic yet slightly angular tank and incorporate a taillight that used neither a futuristic LED strip or overly nostalgic Bates style bulb unit. He spent a few weeks shaping fibreglass until happy with a twin rebated setup. Despite the finished article looking slick and meant to be it was apparently a real fiddle to get right. UMC’s fabricator Nick (who’s now abandoned grey London for a life of sunnier riding Downunder) made neat brackets to hold the tail and sizeable battery within – these old girl’s need proper power to spin-up and get going in the morning. Upholsterer to a host of UK builders, Glen Moger, worked his magic on the black leather saddle.
Adam’s background is fashion design so it’s no surprise that UMC-037 VIVO is a considered and subtle looking machine, but he’s also a bit of a diplomat. Beni is a huge fan of Italian football, specifically the 1982 World Cup winning squad, and wanted their effigy emblazoned on the tank. Adam’s compromise was a subtle Tricolore stripe, executed by south coast paint wizard D’Luck. The black plimsoll line along the bottom of the tail, seat and tank is a simple but effective way of introducing the eye to the mechanicals gently, while reducing visual bulk (an overly artisanal description but you get the idea).
There’s pressure and temptation these days to produce evermore radical customs, which definitely have their place, but often it’s the simple, slick and clean looking machinery that win hearts. UMC London have delivered on the brief of building Beni not only a dream bike but one that proudly sits alongside their best builds to date. You can cast an eye over it yourself next week if you’re in London – Thursday 23rd March. Adam and the crew will be unveiling ‘Vivo’ here at the Bike Shed from 19:00, pop in for a beer and bike envy.