Road to Stardom
Yamaha-Star devotees are no doubt familiar with Jeff Palhegyi’s (pronounced pol-uh-jee) prolific imagination. Working with Yamaha’s product development team, Palhegyi was instrumental in the development of the Road Star, Warrior, Roadliner and Stratoliner motorcycles. In addition to his work crafting Star production bikes, Palhegyi builds customs, concept bikes, and is responsible for hundreds of the parts found in the Yamaha accessory catalog.
In 1995, Palhegyi laid eyes on Yamaha’s first Royal Star motorcycle. The thunderous retro-cruiser’s “Elemental Design” concept made it amenable to customization and resonated with his long held interest in hot rods and all things shiny. Palhegyi explains his enthusiastic conversion: “I said, ‘I want to do motorcycles. This is what I’m going to do.’” As he points out, it was the beginning of a new era, not just for his career, but for custom-friendly production motorcycles as well. “Back in 1995, bikes weren’t what they are now,” he says, “it was the beginning of everything.”
Over the last decade, Palhegyi’s lustrous Star customs have made frequent appearances in magazines, bike shows and recently, on cable TV. With his rawboned purple Road Star custom, Palhegyi has taken a Spartan approach to the look and stance of a traditional chopper. Built around a polished 102 cu in Patrick Racing Star V-twin, the bike hunkers low and lean, at once elegant and aggressive. Palhegyi’s design philosophy is as understated as the Road Star’s spare lines. “My inspiration was to do a chopper just a little differently than anyone else and see if anyone noticed,” he offers modestly. What people are likely to notice first is the sleek, swooping frame, which strikes an austere chord. The unfettered design is a reaction to many of the choppers Palhegyi has seen on the market recently. “I hated the frames,” he says with a measure of disdain. “The rear sections had all these complicated bends. I wanted a real smooth, flowing frame.” (Click image to enlarge)
As is often the case, what appears effortless is often deceptively complex. Fabricating the Road Star’s clean, rolling frame proved a vexing exercise. “As simple as that thing looks,” Palhegyi observes, “it was one of the most difficult things to make.” While the design sprang from a modest cocktail napkin sketch, Palhegyi notes that no two pieces of tubing on the bike are the same.
To accomplish the bike’s flowing, organic style, nearly every aspect of the Road Star was designed and fabricated exclusively for the bike. “There’s a real difference between a custom-made motorcycle and one made from parts that are off the shelf,” Palhegyi notes. All of the bodywork was made from scratch, from the fenders and sidecovers to the graceful teardrop tank. The pipes are also a Palhegyi Designs creation. The forks were custom made by Mean Street, then ended up being too long for the project. Just as the frame had presented Palhegyi with challenges to overcome, the forks required his improvisational skills as well. “We had to shorten them,” Palhegyi recalls while discussing the build. “It was just one thing after another.” (Click image to enlarge)
The swept-back handlebars are an original design Palhegyi created after rejecting several off–the-shelf options. “The frame and the bodywork were so unique that to not make a set of handlebars would have been short-changing the whole project,” he says. Practically the only components not exclusive to the Road Star chopper are the Performance Machine wheels and forward contour controls. Palhegyi cites the Performance Machines Method chrome wheels as the best looking rims on the market and has framed them with Metzeler rubber, featuring a de-rigueur 250 plumper in the stern. A big Headwinds lamp points the way, while a Duane Ballard Custom Leather stitched and tooled cushion provides the perch, complete with a Palhegyi Designs logo worked into the hide.
The Burple and Candy Flame paintwork by Benny Flores, while understated by comparison with the florid graphics common to modern customs, is Palhegyi’s reluctant concession to the genre. This beautifully lean machine requires no bling to turn heads and sucker-punch salivary glands. In an arena that often celebrates the gaudy and excessive, Jeff Palhegyi’s Road Star chopper is as organic and rewarding as the open road.
102 cu in Patrick Racing Star V-Twin
110 ft lbs
Custom Palhegyi Design
Mean Street Custom
Performance Machine Method
Benny Flores Burple with Candy Flames