Written by Sam Bendall.
Originally Published for Pipeburn
The sun is rising, the air is cool and crisp, and the wildlife outside my tent sporadically announces the start of a new day. As my eyes open and begin to adjust, the faint scent of hickory wafts through the air as the covered embers emanate amid a semi-silent dawn. As I emerge from my tent, I see my friend Yoshi in his own shelter rustling about. My other friend Erik is at the picnic table prepping food and getting coffee ready. I turn to look over at the BMW R nineT Scrambler that brought me up here, and realize how cool it looks poised beside Yoshi’s Land Rover. I think to myself, “There’s a lot of manliness going on right here. Every weekend should be this amazing.”
Praying for curves
Twenty-four hours earlier, I awoke early to mount all my gear to a lovely 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler prior to meeting up with Yoshi at his place in Highland Park. As this was only a three-day trip, I opted to pack as lightly as possible with only a tent, sleeping bag, and whatever I could fit into my 50L Velomacchi Duffle Bag. You might be thinking, “Why would you take an R nineT Scrambler on a trip like this?” My response would be a sassy “Shut the fuck up. I drink overpriced, fair-trade, hipster-roasted coffee out of an Aeropress, and I’m on this bike because I want to look cool. Also, I have a scrambler addiction.”
As far as support vehicles go, that’s a good’un
But semi-seriously, I like many of the modern scramblers OEMs are producing and I had yet to test the R nineT Scrambler. Also, I like to punish myself. I did just ride a 2009 Triumph Scrambler 2000 km over six days through Thailand a couple months earlier, and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time on a motorcycle.
Though short-lived, this quick trip up north would be a much-needed camping getaway with two fun and immensely talented photographer friends, Erik Jutras and Michael “Yoshi” Jasionowski.
DAY 1 – The Longest Road
Yoshi and I met up around 9:45 a.m. at Highland Park Cafe for some much-needed caffeine. We agreed to stick together along the Angeles Crest Highway but that didn’t quite go as planned. Immediately my wrist became liberal with the throttle once the roads began to get twisty. I was off into the horizon. Yoshi’s Land Rover became a speck in my rear view, but as the gentleman that I am, I called him to say I’d meet him at the start of highway 14. I needed to get in my moto fix. I was also curious to know how well the BMW R nineT Scrambler could handle the twisties of “The Crest.”
Loaded with 40 extra pounds of gear, the BMW R nineT Scrambler was capable of mashing through the corners at a considerable clip. The 1172cc boxer engine pulls well on corner exits, power delivery is smooth and crisp. According to BMW, the R nineT Scrambler puts out 110 horsepower, and max torque is achieved around 7,500 rpm; however, most of the power is felt in the lower to mid range. With no tachometer to read engine speed, it would take me a little while to learn the characteristics of each gear, and when to shift to obtain that maximum fun factor. Once found, there is a lot to love about this engine.
The R nineT Scrambler doesn’t dive into the corners with the lightness of a sport bike or the finesse of its predecessor, the original RnineT. Many of my colleagues have attributed this to the slight variation in the front fork rake, as well as the Karoo 3s, and the scrambler-spec suspension. Maybe I’m a simpler and dumber motorcycle journalist, but I had no problem pushing this bike into the corners, holding my line, and scraping the pegs. Could it have been easier? Does it take a little work to get this bike where you want it to go? Is the regular R nineT a more nimble and road-focused machine? The answer is yes to all of those questions. Still, the Scrambler is an incredibly fun bike on the road. In fact, I was surprised in my ability to manhandle this bike given its size and weight. I was even more surprised that the Karoo 3s provided such excellent grip on the tarmac.
We stopped briefly at Jawbone Canyon in Mojave to sip some java and relieve ourselves. We also discovered that the howling and relentless winds of the mighty mojave laid claim to Yoshi’s newly purchased Land Rover’s front-right turn signal.
As we neared Lake Isabella, the winds began to kick up, and I could feel a serious chill in my bones. Once we turned onto CA-155, we were met with a stunning scenic mountainscape being enveloped by clouds and fog. The winds kicked up harder and harder. I pulled off to the side of the road to bundle up. On went my insulated mid-layers and winter gloves. I closed up my jacket vents and cranked the heated handgrips to their highest setting.
“The mountains welcomed us with progressively thicker fog. It felt as if we had been magically transported to Vermont during fall.”
The mountains welcomed us with progressively thicker fog, but before it did, we came upon these beautiful trees and winding roads. It felt almost as if we had been magically transported to Vermont during fall. The color and vibrancy of the trees contrasted with the muted grey of the asphalt and fog which presented a photo opportunity we’d be insane to pass up. After snapping a few shots we continued on. About a quarter-mile down the road I got a call from Yoshi. His Land Rover would not start. I guess it’s not a true adventure until someone breaks down. I turned around and pulled up next to the Land Rover to find Yoshi huddled over the engine with a flashlight.
“The battery is dead. It won’t turn over,” he said.
I asked him if he had any jumper cables. Unfortunately we were without. After standing by the side of the road, I was able to flag down a good samaritan who fortunately was able to lend assistance and jumpstart the Land Rover.
Continuing on, 20-foot visibility relegated us to a snail’s pace. As the wind faded, cocooned inside my helmet was the soothing sound of the Bimmer’s seamless, second-gear purr. My mind went straight to Stephen King’s movie The Mist. I expected a monster to jump out at me. Instead, around a bend we were greeted to three cows standing in the middle of the road. They all began to slowly move out of the way, but the baby of the bunch began sprinting down the highway as though he stole something. I slowed down not knowing which direction he would zig or zag but the calf ran with us for almost a minute before darting off into the valley below.
Just oozing rebellion
Eventually the fog dissipated and we continued our descent toward Delano. The road was devoid of all traffic, featured beautifully paved tarmac, and a combination of sweeping turns and technical esses that begged to be attacked. This particular section of CA-155 between Glenville and Delano became one of my favorite roads of the trip. I once again began to wring out the scrambler through some corners. So much fun.
Just before we hopped on highway 99, we stopped for gas. Yoshi’s Land Rover also decided to stop working, too. The culprit again a dead battery. Luckily, the local auto parts store was across the street and still open. We slapped in a new battery and prayed it would solve the problem instead of being the tip of the iceberg.
We made a judgment call to stop at the local market and grab a sizable amount of firewood and beer. Really, if there are two things you cannot have too much of at a campsite, it’s firewood and beer.
After nine hours of riding and driving, we arrived at camp. The Sun was beginning to set, so we quickly set up camp, sparked a fire, cracked open some beers, and cued up the tunes. Forty-five minutes later, Erik arrived and we all got settled in for the night. By settled in, I mean we drank beers, laughed excessively, and kept trying whiskey every half-hour to see if we still liked it. Science proved that we, in fact, still enjoyed whiskey.
Day 2 – In the Valley of Heaven
I faintly remember one of the guys saying, “We won’t sleep past 7 a.m. The Sun will rise and it will force us awake.” I looked at my watch and it read 9 a m. Yeah, so much for that theory. Erik is already up and about, I’m slogging along trying to get out of the tent, and Yoshi, too, is in the process of rising from his sleepy grave. Gathered around the picnic table, we consumed perhaps one of the most satisfying campground breakfasts ever, along with coffee so strong I felt like my heart was going to hop out of my chest. Once we were properly fueled, we ventured on toward Yosemite.
Yosemite is easily one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. It’s also one of my personal favorites. John Muir, an American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States wrote eloquently of the Sierras and the Yosemite region as being a place where, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”
Where we’re going we don’t need roads…
As I began to ride through the park on this well engineered, modern, and powerful machine, I could not help feeling the energy and witness the glory of the land I traversed. Gone was the need to test the limits of the machine, but rather enjoy it as a vehicle that brought me to this wonderful place. When navigating through the park, the R nineT Scrambler moved along perfectly. The proven boxer engine was delightfully torquey and powerful enough to move me past RVs and minivans with a flick of the wrist. It even looked glorious parked among the trees and by the side of the road overlooking the Yosemite Valley. I cannot imagine anyone being upset or disappointed after purchasing this motorcycle.
We found ourselves at the top of Glacier Point Road, which had just opened for the season a couple of days before our arrival. Prior to the trip, we all agreed it was mandatory for us to visit this spot of the park because of its iconic view of Half Dome and El Capitan. It surely did not disappoint.
Sam beats a hasty retreat from the Half Dome
So the R nineT works well in the city and on back roads, but does it Scramble?
While it retains the scrambler name, we all wondered if it possessed the chops to navigate dirt and gravel roads or any kind of technical routes. We found an OHV park on the outskirts of Yosemite, and I began to put this bike through its paces.
“We found an OHV park on the outskirts of Yosemite, and I began to put this bike through its paces.”
The R nineT Scrambler offers all the power to push itself around off-road. The motor has excellent shove, and just propels the bike forward like a laser beam into outer space. The Karoo 3s provide excellent feedback and grip, especially when you choose to get a little sideways. The ability to disable the ASC /traction control and ABS systems puts the bike fully at your command, and makes for a spirited off-road ride. Standing and shifting one’s weight forward over the front forks can be difficult due to the shape of the tank, but it can be done. The hydraulic clutch provides perfect and easy control at slow speeds and throttle control is beautifully smooth and immediate.
Overall, the R nineT is capable and comfortable on fire roads and moderately uneven terrain, but there are times where you have to keep your speed up to keep all that weight from bogging you down in the softer stuff like mud and sand.
The thing that concerned me most about riding the R nineT Scrambler off-road was its lack of ground clearance. I first learned to ride in the dirt on a BMW R 1200 GS, and this bike is far from that level of off-road pedigree. However, knowing how to ride a big adventure bike translates into riding the R nineT Scrambler quite well. Both are heavy and powerful machines that require a different type of finesse when compared to regular dirt bikes.
Testing the traction control
I found a fun, but small section of rocky trail and gave the Scrambler a chance to prove and challenge itself in something other than a finely groomed dirt path. Though I was careful and took the section slowly, I did manage to bottom out the suspension and sustain a good whack to the header and undercasing. Like its GS sibling, the R nineT Scrambler took the abuse without flinching. It’s not a “dirt bike”, but it is a dirt-capable bike, and by God does that still translates to tons of fun if you choose to venture off the asphalt.
As the Sun began to fall, the light and landscape developed this effervescent glow. Erik, Yoshi, and I were giggling like five-year-old school children.
“Oh man! Look at that path, and look at the light breaking through the trees!”
“Do a burnout, kick up some dirt, and ride through it!”
“Go around that bend and just goose the throttle!”
Goose, but no Maverick
We were having way more fun than adults should be allowed to have. Sit for a moment and enjoy the photos that these two grown men created. They are pretty awesome.
We were all so eager to see the photos from our daily outing, but before the computers came out, the whiskey began to flow and the fire temperately licked the air. Yoshi, being the designated DJ of the trip, put on a spectacular playlist consisting of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Muddy Waters, and many more. As freely as the whiskey flowed, so did the jokes and conversation. The funny thing about our relationship is that Yoshi, Erik, and I had never hung out together prior to this trip. We all bonded over our love for motorcycles, photography, coffee, avocados, the great outdoors, and camping. It served as a great reminder to never underestimate the power of mutual interests and travel to bring good people together.
Hot dogs, anyone?
Day 3 – Death By Interstate
One day is simply not enough time to experience and enjoy Yosemite. Erik, Yoshi, and I conversed and made a strong case over morning coffee to stay an additional week, bucking any adult responsibilities or commitments we had for the upcoming week. But alas, the need to pay rent, keep jobs, appease and take care of significant others, and attend school usurped our innate desires to be mountain men.
Instead of taking the long way back to Los Angeles, Yoshi and I opted for a straight shot back via highway 99. With 231 miles and about 4 hours and 20 minutes of straight — and I mean straight-up boring — highway in front of me, I expected the R nineT Scrambler to be fairly uncomfortable, but it was not. The bike cruised along quite easily in 6th gear as I averaged about 85 mph. My ass began to get a tad sore around the three-hour mark, but for a scrambler, that is downright comfortable and pretty amazing. I have to give BMW kudos for designing such a lovely and comfortable saddle.
“It’s more than capable of taking you on an adventure while allowing you to feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Even at speeds north of 65 mph, I didn’t find wind buffeting to be immensely uncomfortable. Occasionally I would tuck into the wind and hug the tank, but the R nineT Scrambler felt more comfortable than most other bikes I’ve ridden without a windscreen. Though I doubt most people buying the R nineT Scrambler will be taking it on a long-haul trip, you might just do so after reading my take on it. It’s more than capable of taking you on an adventure while allowing you, the rider, to feel a sense of accomplishment.
Understandably, the R nineT Scrambler is not the road-going piece of perfection that is the original R nineT. It does, however, exude a particular level of charm and style that will make you and every passerby fall in love with the machine. It did for me and every fourth person who walked past the bike during our trip. In the city, it made commuting, splitting through traffic, and rocketing past cars a breeze. It took me on an adventure where I could attack canyon corners one moment, tear ass down fire roads the next, and stand at the altar of giants and gaze upon magnificent vistas with two good friends.
As I arrived home, I pulled into my garage, took my helmet off and walked away. Just before closing my garage door, I glanced back at the R nineT Scrambler. It stood poised and dirty like a confident child in overalls, covered in mud, grinning at their parent. I could only smirk and think to myself, “Not bad. Not bad at all.”
– The heated handgrips were a lifesaver
– Great low and midrange power
– Great ergonomics and amazingly comfy seat
– Overall a superb, well-balanced machine
– No tachometer, gear-shift indicator, or fuel gauge
– Suspension is not the best, but certainly not the worst
– Low ground clearance when riding off-road
About the Author
Sam Bendall is Pipeburn’s U.S.-based Editor-at-Large. He is a man of many talents, but what matters most to him is his coffee in the morning and his whiskey at night.
By Sam Bendall |
Originally Published on Throttle Roll
“Don’t call me Minabear!” screeched the fire-haired young lady at James. She was clearly blessed by some recreational substances – but none the less, with that name James’s ’83 Yamaha XS650 had now been dubbed. This chance encounter with a stranger on the street would be the perfect match for this vagabond machine and it’s adventures.
Growing up in Illinois, James had a ton of space to kick about on as a kid. With his buddy next door owning two Honda Express 50cc mopeds, the opportunity for adventure was ripe. “We’d race those things around our connected yards, jumping into the ditch off the drive way and bashing into each other along the way. We’d break these machines; then scavenge parts off of a donor moped, fix them up, and get back to race bashing.” Bigger bikes would now follow, as nature intended. “Left to my own devices, I scored a sweet deal on a `71 Suzuki 125 Enduro for 25 bucks at a garage sale down the street. It was caked in mud and grease, and had been sitting for nearly 20 years with flat, rotted out tires. Naturally, I forked over some of my lawn mowing money I had made that summer and dragged it home.”
With this truly decrepit new (read: old) bike sitting sullenly in his family garage, new skills were to be learned in order to get it running – if it would ever run again. Fortunately for James, his Dad – like all Dads, was handy and was able to donate some knowledge upon the young wrencher. “My old man showed me how to rebuild the carb. I then put some new tubes and tires on it, a fresh spark plug and oil. Sure enough, she fired right up! I rode that beast for the next seven years or so. I kept up on maintenance and fixed things as I broke them, pushing that old bike harder than it was ever intended. I ended up selling the bike to a friend and moved out west. He still has that bike, and rides it to this day around his farm.”
Since this James has beaten about on just about all styles of bike. Everything from Modern motocross bikes, vintage enduro’s, sports bikes, you name it – he’s fanged it. Then he came across this particular machine in question, his 1983 Yamaha XS650. “This bike has been a group effort between a very close friend of mine and myself. I had wanted to do a full ground-up custom build for a while now, and my best friend Luke had this crusty old 650 he’d been riding around for the last few years that was in need of some TLC. Having just moved to the city, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to put together a custom motorcycle to showcase my work and help my friend get his wheels done up the way he had always wanted at the same time. So we went over everything he wanted, set a budget, and I got to work.”
This bike had originally been picked up stock a few years back, before having some brat style mods applied to it. “He swapped his factory tank straight up with a friend for that cherry XS400 square tank that sits on it now. I keep saying he stole it. He changed out the bars, rims, and some bits here and there and basically rode it. He wanted a dual purpose type of bike that he could commute to work and hop around the city on, but one that would also keep up on the dirt trails and fire roads we often find ourselves tearing down on camp runs. So, staying in line with his needs, I kept the build in the direction of more of an urban scrambler.”
“My main goal with the bikes I work on is to preserve these vintage moto’s that are often either cannibalized for parts, or left to rot somewhere. There’s a great satisfaction I get out of taking rusty old metal that has been forsaken, and putting my blood, sweat and time into it, transforming it into something new again. I’m a big ‘form-follows-function’ guy and don’t put anything on a bike unless it serves a purpose. I feel like that creates an honest, and clean looking motorcycle. I also like to retain as many original parts as possible for sake of not simply buying a bunch of modern parts and bolting them on, but also it preserves the character of these classic machines. So things like progressive springs and heavy racing oil in the forks updates the performance of an otherwise unassuming front end.”
Despite staying true many of this old bike’s sensibilities and style, it would still receive some kick to make sure walked as good as it talked. A complete top to bottom rebuild on the motor would be completed with performance firmly in mind. The engine would be rephased, a big bore kit, port and polish the head, hot ignition, upped the jets – all the things that could be done to squeeze the most out of this road and track basher. “I’ve built exhaust systems for hot rods before, but never one for a motorcycle, so this was a first for me. Many hours of cutting, grinding, and welding later, and the exhaust was able to move from the head out to the rear in a manner I felt was aesthetically pleasing.”
“This bike represents a lot of firsts for me. I’ve been restoring cars with my old man, and maintaining and modifying my bikes in my garage basically my entire life, but always on the side. The last few years or so I’ve been operating under the name L`Moto Designs. It’s a mash up really, the L for my last name (Licari), and my lineage coming from Italian craftsmen. I just moved to LA, while still very much a garage builder, I’ve dedicated full-time to building these custom bikes in my home workshop. With my background in engineering and manufacturing, I decided to apply my skills and experience to reviving vintage bikes with a modern twist for myself, not some corporation. While I’ve built many engines, done plenty of performance and fabrication work, made complete wire looms from scratch, and painted more than I care to recount on one bike or another, I’ve never had a chance to do all aspects at once on a single bike as a major project like this. I will say though, it is far less time consuming than restoring an entire car! This was my first ground-up, frame-off restoration on a motorcycle, and it was my first fully commissioned custom build to suit someone else’s needs. I thoroughly enjoyed building a performance oriented XS650 engine, and will continue building these killer motors in my home based shop here in LA. I’ve already started on the next one, actually. My goal is to turn them out, offering engine building services locally as well as to continue building one off bikes, resurrecting rotting 40 year old motorcycles so that they can once more rip down the streets to cafes and bars.”
“In the end, I’m really happy with the way the bike turned out. It has the aesthetics and design cues both my buddy and I drool over, and it meets the needs originally intended for it, making it a very functional machine that gets ridden daily. I’ve owned XS650s before – have one now, and worked on plenty. However, this was the first XS650 motor I’ve built from scratch, and I’ve never done a rephased crankshaft before. So I was beyond stoked when the engine came together so well and fired right up without issue. It didn’t take much tuning to get her dialled in which was nice, that’s thanks to the fact that I’ve been playing with these Mikuni BS series carbs for a long time. They transform way this bike performs, it’s one of those things where you just have to ride it to understand. Before it was torquey, but it was harsh, and it vibrated so bad it would just shake itself apart, no matter how much thread locker you squirted on. Now, the thing has the smoothest power curve, just roll on the throttle and she rips, “gobs of torque” as the Harley guys say. It idles perfectly; you get that front tire shake at stoplights, but its not jarring your teeth. Then there’s the exhaust note, perfect for in the city. Its quiet and tame at idle, just a subtle lope to it. When you open up the throttle though, the beast roars to life and everyone notices. Its deep and throaty, yet refined, not obnoxious. Hearing that gets me excited every time.”
Photos – Sam Bendall
Words – Pete Cagnacci
By Sam Bendall |
A life of travelling the globe planted the seed of adventure in Murray, which only naturally would bud into motorcycling. Using one of the greatest forms of creating adventure, Murray and his Machine have forged a bond through thick and thin – and picked up something special along the way.
In his travels, Murray found himself adventuring on a variety of bikes as he explored over 50 countries. This pure form of transport became the essence of adventure, and as his life became more grounded, a solid machine was on the cards. “I decided to get my full licence and become legal, so I completed my riders test in the UK the day before flying out to Canada. I landed in Vancouver, and in that very day went to a dealership to find the machine that would be for me.”
That dealership happened to be a Triumph dealership. “I wanted a Triumph as it was a brand that was synonymous with exploration and heritage, for me. I was originally looking for a Bonneville but I fell in love with this pre-loved British racing green Thruxton as soon as I walked in. I then had it done up as a classic style café racer as it was intended to be. Adventure called once again, and I was on the road, headed for Mexico.”
“It was on this trip that I met someone very special, and it was actually because of this bike that I had met her – but more about that later. After a lot of riding – and I mean a lot, I decided riding a café racer wasn’t the most comfortable so I started changing the bike into more of a street sled. I removed the air box, put a two into one system on and did a few more engine tweaks. I added some Biltwell tracker bars and stripped everything off I didn’t need, opting for led strip signals and brake lights.”
The next morning, after spending about two weeks in the garage working on his bike, Murray and his machine were ready. “Five minutes into my ride I felt the back of my bike lift up, and heard metal crunching and plastic tearing. I was being pushed into a main road and had no control of my bike.” A young driver with a brand-new 4WD had decided whatever was on his phone use was more interesting than paying attention to the road, and so Murray found his adventure machine half devoured by the large four-wheeled beast. “Her truck was lifted off the ground – they’re tough bikes, but I was gutted. All that work, and all those miles.”
It was in the ambulance to the hospital that the situation really sank in for Murray – the bike was done for, or was it? (plot twist!) “Now, as you may remember, I had met someone very special on my trip, Well, she’s now my wife. I had some met some guys in Mexico and ended up riding to Arizona and back to LA with them – one of the guys was dating a chick down in Orange County. I cruised over with him, and little did I know but they had set up a blind date for me with her best friend. It was super awkward, so to break the ice I asked if she wanted to come and grab a pizza with me, on the bike. We jumped on, and we knew that was it. Fast forward to the ambulance. I realised that this bike was more than just transport, more than just the first bike I owned, more than the bike that had got me through snow, rain and hail driving through the Rockies in January, it was the reason I met my wife.”
Murray knew this bike was not done for, that he could breath life back it – but not without a fight. The bike had been declared totalled by the insurance company. Not taking this as a final answer, Murray took it to Triumph, who inspected it for themselves. “It was only the sub frame that was slightly bent. I got the insurance money, bought the bike back and immediately began planning how to rebuild it. First I replaced and upgraded the brakes, shocks, chain and cogs. I then had to address the sub frame and the fact the seat wouldn’t fit anymore.”
“If necessity is the mother of invention, then this was a necessary move. Personally I loved the look, slightly tracker, slightly bobber, slightly cafe. The big problem now was it was a little waspy in its handling, it was front end heavy. I took all the wiring and hid it under the tank, removed the headlight and gauges and started looking for options. I went down the face plate route with LED lights to keep in with removing everything unnecessary.”
“I love the memories of this bike. Everything I’ve been through in the last four years, this bike has been there with me. It’s forced me to take the hard route and discover unseen lands, meet new people and remind me that the world is a lot smaller than it seems. The bike is a vehicle, but not in the main sense of the word. It is a vehicle for movement, it forces involvement and it drives life.”
Photography by Sam Bendall
Words by Pete Cagnacci
By Sam Bendall |
The need for 2-wheeled hoonery kicked off 24 years ago for Rob, from humble mopeds to more adventurous dirt bikes with mates he ascended the motorcycle hierarchy. It would be classic Hondas that would really drive his passion for riding and customization, with his latest being a classic cafe racer styled machine with that famous CB750 charm.
Fond memories of Rob’s first bike, a 1978 Honda CB400, still illuminate his mind as a much younger version of himself would ride this machine till he could ride no more. “I can remember the first time I ever took that bike out onto the Highway. I rode straight to Connecticut from Long Island NY. I was truly addicted from that moment on.”
This addiction was not simply for motorcycles, but 1970’s Hondas it would seem. This current fix is a 1976 CB750 Supersport, the 6th classic Honda Rob has owned and what will no doubt be among the ranks of many more. “I owned a ’77 CB750 before this one, but it got totalled in a hit and run accident – I was very lucky to have walked away from that. I knew I wanted another ‘70’s CB750, so was on the lookout for just the right one. I always like to buy a bike as stock as possible. This means I can start with a blank slate and change or customise things to really make it my own.”
Hours of trawling through adverts of CB750’s for sale would provide him with a win. An orange Supersport, that was (mostly) stock, just what the doctor ordered. “This would be the first Super Sport I’ve owned. I liked the idea of the longer wheelbase and tank, which I felt would provide a really great basis for a café racer build. The second I saw this machine I knew the design I had in my head would fit it perfectly.”
The work behind getting this orange stock CB750 to a mean green café racer machine would start with a major top to bottom engine rebuild, some exhaust work, tidying up the electrics and switching out the pod filters that had come with the bike. “Most of the work would be aesthetic. I cleaned up the whole front end, removed the gauges, lowered the ignition with a spacer, chucked on some clubman bars and ran the blinkers out of the headlight to keep things tight. I removed the entire seat and rear end to add a single cowl unit. Next would be the knee indents in the tank and a few other fun little tweaks to get it how I wanted, but nothing too crazy. There was no need for rear sets as the position fit me perfectly.”
The end result is a culmination in very British cafe racer aesthetic mixed with Japanese super bike legacy. A massive nod to some iconic ’70’s design and performance. “I think the design of this bike is really simple. That’s what’s so great about these machines. It took a few months to really get it dialled in mechanically, but it looks and rides and exactly how I envisioned it.”
“I love everything about my bike. I feel like it’s an extension of myself in so many ways – I just love riding in general. Riding forces you be present, be in the moment. There’s no better feeling than that.”
Photography by Sam Bendall
Words by Pete Cagnacci
Written by Sam Bendall.
Originally Published in Pipeburn
My Pando Moto Karl Indigo jeans smell like the inside of a garbage can at this point. That’s because I’ve been wearing them for almost 4 months straight and they’ve never been washed. I wear them to the market, I wear them on the couch, I wear them in the car, I wear them at the cafe and, well, wear them everywhere. Especially on my motorcycle. My fiancé gets especially annoyed when I wear them at home because she cannot believe they are just as comfortable as my super-hero lounge sweats. Maybe they also don’t smell as bad I led you to believe because she has not said anything either.
I’ll be honest, I like to look good. In my profession, I believe that wherever I go, there is an opportunity to do business and my outward appearance and attitude is a reflection of my style. Because I am a motorcyclist in Los Angeles it is imperative, that whatever I am wearing, protects me in the event of an accident.
As the motorcycle industry begins to shift toward understanding the mentalities of young working professionals and cool, hip riders that are growing in number, so are many motorcycle apparel companies. Riders have shouted loud enough that “we want look good off the bike and ride protected in case of an accident.” Some brands heard the call and even newer ones have stepped into the fray with new products.
I was intrigued by Pando Moto having never heard of them prior to wearing my current pair. Pando Moto is a Lithuanian company that hand tailors premium Cordura denim with embedded Kevlar panels. They are also one of a few companies making apparel with a fabric known as Dyneema which is 50 times stronger than steel and thus ultra abrasion resistant.
Other features Pando Moto features in their apparel are removable SAS-TEC® CE approved knee protectors that can be inserted or removed from the outside and flex points at the knees to facilitate a motorcyclists’ stance whether on a cruiser or a sport bike.
USE & ABUSE
The stinky and awesome pair I have been wearing for the last 4 months is the Pando Moto Karl Indigo. The first outing with the Karl Indigo came when I was tooling around town on the Rev’it #95 Double Dare. Knowing I would experience a potential fall in the dirt, I opted to toss in the SAS-TEC Knee Protectors. Luckily for me the only time I went down on that bike was at a stop in some very slippery mud. The rest of the time in these jeans were spent on my own bike, and an awesome Vespa commuting and running errands in and around LA.
FIT AND FINISH
The Karl Indigo fits my tall frame well and the sizing runs true to size. In the last year, I’ve gone up to a 36 waist (too much work, and iffy diet and not enough time in the gym) and I have always been a 34 inch inseam. My thighs and posterior have some definition and that has proven difficult in the past to find pants that fit very well. It’s either a battle between waist and hip fit versus leg fit. The latter is naturally compromised leaving me with an ill-fitting pant in the leg.
Regarding the Karl Indigo, the fit in the waist is comfortable and fitted but not too tight to restrict any movement or create serious “swamp-ass” on a warm day. The thigh and leg portions are also nicely fitted with a little room to breathe. “Baggy” or “skin-tight” are not the words I would ever use to describe these pants. They are simply perfect. Having a little room along the waist and thigh also makes for comfortable and roomy pockets. Fitting in my field notes sized leather wallet and iPhone 7 Plus in the front pockets is easily achieved and there is no pressure on them in a seated position. The same can be said for the back pockets as well. On occasion, I have stuffed my riding gloves in my back pocket when dropping in and out of a store.
My favorite feature is the removable SAS-TEC® CE approved knee protectors. I often do not have the knee protectors in but they alway manage to stay in my bag in the event I choose to put them in for some spirited riding. Being able to toss them in without having to remove my pants is very convenient. Once in position, they are secured by a heavy-duty velcro strip and fit snugly over my patella and 4 inches down my tibia. There is very little wiggle room once they are in place.
Nothing is ever perfect but these jeans come close, so what are the pain points regarding the Karl Indigo’s? Because it’s something I have been so use to all my life, the Karl Indigo is missing the ever-present “fifth pocket” just inside the right front pocket. I never realized how much I missed the little stash pocket until it was gone.
12.5 oz Cordura denim has incorporated “CoolMax” technology that allows for breathability but when coupled with Kevlar lining, the jeans do retain body heat. On hotter summer days, like the ones that are coming up and the few that have descended upon Los Angeles in the last couple weeks, I don’t anticipate these jeans being that comfortable off the bike for extended periods of time. However, I believe that is a natural compromise if you demand a durable fabric to protect in a slide.
I have never really been down in these jeans, and I hope I never have to experience it. But I have experienced the abrasion resistance of kevlar and cordura in the past. The quality of the fabric in the Pando Moto Karl Indigo is top-tier and I believe will protect you during a prolonged slide. The reinforced chain stitching of each Kevlar panel to the Cordura denim uses Kevlar thread which means it’s not coming apart. From a style perspective, they look utterly fantastic and my friends, family, and students have been oblivious to the fact that they are protective motorcycle jeans.
So, if your body type is like mine (athletic and trim) the Pando Moto Karl might be your best bet for a three season riding pant that’s also suitable for everyday wear off the bike.
At $236 USD (€199, A$320) the Pando Moto Karl is a steal. It comes in at nearly $70 less than other competitors which try to pull off this similar style with none of the aforementioned protective fabrics.
GET THE KARL INDIGIO JEANS HERE