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Custom of the Week: ’13 Zero XU by Colt Wrangler

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IT’S NOT EASY TO BUILD a good-looking custom bike. The classifieds are littered with abandoned projects—and even the top pro builders sometimes struggle to get it right.

If the donor bike is electric, you can multiply the difficulty level by ten. Without a traditional engine to anchor the visuals, it’s fiendishly hard to create an attractive machine. Which makes this Zero XU street tracker from Colt Wrangler even more remarkable: it’s one of the freshest-looking bikes we’ve seen so far this year.

We don’t see many electric customs, and even fewer that look as good as this Zero. So how did this build come about?

“A customer came to me with the idea for a custom electric motorcycle,” Colt reveals. “My original thought was to build a cafe racer, possibly with full fairings. But after riding the bike in its original form, I really enjoyed the stance it already had. So I decided to go for a street tracker look.”

Colt’s customer tracked down a 2013-year Zero XU at local dealership, but it spent nearly a year gathering dust in Colt’s workshop before the go button was pressed.

“My plans for it changed over time, because of the extra skills and tools I acquired over that year. At first, I planned on gutting a vintage gas tank to set over the top tube,” says Colt. “But once I had the proper shaping tools and a welder—and some instruction from friends—I decided to hand-form everything from aluminum sheet.”

The Zero is actually quite a simple design in factory form. “It comes with some really great, minimal components,” says Colt. “So all I added was a rear wheel, new LED lighting, tires, and the aluminum body work.”

Colt’s kept the original wiring harness, but did move a lot of electrical components around. “The digital gauge is under the false tank, which lifts up with the push of a button.”

With the tank lifted, a button on the tail section is revealed, which allows it to be removed completely. “The Zero has the option of a second battery pack up front,” says Colt. “Since this one didn’t come with the second battery, I used the space for two hard cases—which hold the charging cables and adapters, and extra room to empty your pockets.”

The Zero ships with a 16” rear wheel. To get the tracker stance, Colt sent the hub and a 19” rim to Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim, and they assembled a new wheel.

Hand shaping the aluminum body and TIG welding was a huge learning curve for Colt. “I had never shaped or welded before, and I decided to dive straight in with thin aluminum.”

“It was terrible at first—it took me hours of practice before I could even tack two pieces together. I’ve gotten a lot better since, but I still have so much to learn.” Thankfully Colt has good friends to advise him: Junior at Retro Moto, and Andrew at Free Ride Fab.

“I wanted to keep this bike as simple as possible,” says Colt. “Most of the Zero was already black—apart from the plastic bodywork—so I felt the brushed aluminum finish was the perfect contrast.”

If we had to pick out a signature feature, it’d be the sculptural headlight surround. “Headlight and number plate combos have been done so much over the past few years, I was hesitant to build another one. But I think it turned out to be unique.” That assembly alone took Colt almost three days to finish, and is made up of four pieces. The headlight itself is a flush-mounted truck bumper light.

The tail section, says Colt, was inspired by both superbikes and flat trackers. “It’s a combination I’ve been dreaming up for a while.”

Trackers are all about light, flickable handling, and this Zero delivers. Unlike many custom bikes, there are no dynamic compromises. “It’s as light as a scooter but handles fantastic,” says Colt. “It’s a blast to ride and is the easiest machine I’ve ever operated.”

“When I started, I wasn’t sure if the whole aluminum thing was going to work. But being able to form the lines from scratch was an awesome experience.”

So is the customer happy too? “The customer is happy, but has also made styling suggestions that I just can’t bring myself to do,” Colt admits. “Building a bike for someone is definitely a compromise—but it’s also my duty to guide my customers. I think that this bike is very well balanced visually, and has a look that will stand the test of time, even as trends come and go.”


This article first appeared on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with permission.

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One Year On: Remembering Nicky Hayden

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The news that Nicky Hayden passed away was devastating to the whole of the motorsport family.


This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.


Nicky was a champion to his core; from the way he raced to his fierce devotion to his family and the way he made time for everyone. He fought for every single position on every lap of every race and never once gave up. He was firm, leaving no room for doubt on track, but he was always fair and he was one of the hardest workers you’ll ever know, even in a world that includes nothing but riders who push themselves to the limit constantly.

In every way, Nicky was a shining star; images of his tear-stained face when he won his championship in 2006 will forever be ingrained in the collective MotoGP memory, his joy was so tangible that you could have wrapped yourself up in it. And that was Nicky, always inclusive. Whether it was a quick-witted remark in that wonderful Kentucky drawl that we’ll miss so much, his easy manner that made him a friend of everyone who knew him or the way he never turned someone away when they wanted a photo or an autograph. Nicky came from a racing family and he became an integral part of an even larger one.

Losing anyone is always heartbreaking but the loss of a rider when they were out training, doing something as everyday as cycling, makes Nicky’s death at just 35 years old even harder to comprehend.

Nicky holds a place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame, his status as a Legend firmly cemented long before he left for World Superbikes. But he holds something even more valuable; a spot in the collective heart of the entire motorcycle racing family.

His accent will forever raise a smile, at least for me, and his own superstar grin will now bring with it an indescribable sadness. But remember Nicky as he would’ve wanted; that fierce big-hearted champion who pushed himself and everyone around him to be their very best and as that young man who brought so much joy and who left us far too soon.

My thoughts are, of course, with all of the Hayden family, Nicky’s fiancee Jackie, his friends and his teams both past and present.

Now, I’m going to wipe away the tears and watch Valencia 2006 again. I hope you join me to remember Nicky Hayden; a champion, a gentleman and a star that can never truly be extinguished.


This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

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Custom of the week: ‘V09’ BMW R80 by Vagabund Moto

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BMW AIRHEAD CUSTOMS are like AC/DC songs: after a while, it’s hard to tell them all apart. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the style is usually pleasing to the eye.

But no one could ever accuse Vagabund Moto of following a conventional formula. Their approach is unique and their bikes buck the mainstream trend. So it’s ironic to learn that the owner of this razor-sharp R80 asked Vagabund to replicate the style of a custom R80 they finished two years ago.

Not surprisingly, builders Paul Brauchart and Philipp Rabl weren’t keen on the idea. “We don’t like to remake bikes we’ve done before,” Paul tells us. “So we suggested sketching out a concept that related to the V05—while adding some special parts.”

Paul and Philipp do their wrenching in a workshop in Graz, Austria, and do as much work as possible themselves. “We’re trying to stay a two-man operation for as long as possible,” says Paul. “We’re good friends and perfectionists. It’s hard to think about trusting someone else, or giving up our awesome workshop relationship.”

The pair started out with a relatively fresh classic tourer: a 1992 R80 RT with only 25,000 km on the dial. And thanks to BMW’s historically good build quality, there wasn’t much engine work needed.

“We took apart the engine and carbs, checked everything, and replaced the not so good parts. And then blasted and painted it.”

Getting the striking Vagabund ‘look’ meant ditching the bodywork though, apart from the fuel tank—but even that’s not quite original. The back end of the tunnel has been closed off, where the gap would normally be blocked by the bulky OEM seat.

Just behind it is a svelte new perch. Vagabund designed the tail hump digitally, then got it 3D printed. It means they could pack a ton of detail into a small space—from the multi-faceted upholstery by Christian Wahl, to the sculpted recess under the tail that hides an LED back light.

Everything sits on top of a custom-made subframe, and the main frame’s been liberated of any unneeded mounts. The rear’s now propped up by a new YSS shock. The wheels are stock, but the rear’s clad in a pair of glass fiber-reinforced plastic covers.

Up front, Vagabund shortened the forks by 60 mm, milled and powder coated the lower legs, and added a pair of fork boots. There’s a custom-made top triple clamp too, playing host to an integrated Motogadget speedo.

The handlebars are from LSL, and have been trimmed down. They wear a Grimeca master brake cylinder, a Domino clutch lever, and custom switches in a 3D-printed housing. There’s a small headlight out front, and a pair of Motogadget bar-end turn signals.

The rest of the bike’s been treated with equal consideration. It’s sporting a set of Continental ContiRoadAttack tires, K&N filters, and a Supertrapp muffler attached to the modified stock headers. And then there’s that striking livery, quite unlike any other we’ve seen, and expertly applied by Graz neighbors i-flow.

But it’s what’s missing that’s just as important: there’s no mess of wires vying for your eye’s attention. The bike’s been totally rewired, with a new diode board and two tiny Ultrabatt lithium-ion batteries, hiding under the tank.

“It’s very important to take care of every cable and braking line, and so on,” says Paul. “Even the handlebars are as clean as possible. It’s one of our biggest jobs to do a totally minimalist wiring setup, and we put a lot of work into parts that nobody ever sees.”

Despite the sano approach, this BMW is completely street legal in Austria. On top of the usual lighting, there’s a license plate bracket at the back that holds a pair of tiny Motogadget turn signals—with just the right amount of visibility to check legal boxes.

“It’s really difficult,” says Paul. “Every light has to be ECE-approved, and has to be mounted at the right angle and position. We have to examine all our builds and every point of customization with a civil engineer before we‘re able to (hopefully) pass the vehicle license authority.”

Titled ‘V09,’ this BMW leaves us thunderstuck. It hits the mark with its stance, proportions and finishes—so we’re counting it as another win for the Austrian duo.


This article first appeared on Bike Exif; It’s republished here with permission.

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