"I've always been an extremist," Frenchman-turned-Floridian Christian Travert says as he swivels around in his chair and smiles. He displays 17 months of design work: 4,972 computer files with pre-production renderings of his V-Rex motorcycle. Clearly, he is extreme in his perfectionism. "With this bike, I set out to redefine the basic elements of a motorcycle."
His logic evokes Descartes. "I asked myself, ‘Why does everyone continue to try to perfect what are essentially antiquated solutions? Why not design a motorcycle, as if the motorcycle had never been designed?' That's what I wanted to do. And the V-Rex offered that opportunity."
The full-color illustration by Australian artist Tim Cameron on the wall of Christian's Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office underlines his point. Cameron, clearly influenced by Japanese science fiction anime such as "Akira," drew a motorcycle that dared to be built. "When I saw Tim's drawing, I said, ‘That's the bike I will make, exactly as he imagined it.'" Out on the warehouse floor, its doppelgangers, a fresh crop of V-Rex motorcycles, pick up the gauntlet with a flourish.
Travert's on-bike experience in French Super Motard series, motocross and desert racing, complements his engineering background. "Because I was a privateer racing against factory teams, I always had to come up with an ‘unfair advantage'," he laughs. "So I would invent and manufacture my own go-faster parts."
He started building custom motorcycles for other designers, but soon found his engineering rigor and aesthetic did not always coincide with their thing for bling. "For me, above all, a motorcycle has to be easy to ride, without sacrificing performance," he explains, "so I founded my own company." (Click image to enlarge)
Transforming an artist's fantasy into moving metal devoured two years of trial and error, and more than a little resistance. However, Travert has made a habit of proving suppliers wrong. "When they would tell me a part couldn't be made," he says, "I would just come back to them and show them the mold I had done."
With the V-Rex, thinking out of the box was endemic. Its most obvious characteristic is the absence of front forks; the solution, however, was not hub-center steering, but a swingarm. "The back end of the motorcycle married to the front," Travert explains. The steering head is a single piece that allows the front end to swivel on a double swing arm. "This facilitates a tighter turning circle," he says, "and provides greater rigidity than a fork.
"In terms of suspension, he was also obliged to go his own way. "The rear shock we invented displaces oil from the ‘wrong' side of the piston," he remarks, citing his consistent contradiction of convention. "With twin progressive shocks in the rear's single swingarm, you get a fully adjustable ride equal to any Softail." The rear braking system is similar to automotive designs, using discs mounted between the wheel and the swingarm. The front inverts the caliper set-up using a floating disc.
Selecting Harley-Davidson's V-Rod powerplant with belt final drive may surprise some, but Christian cites it as the most appropriate. "With all of the Porsche know-how in that engine, it has a potential that can really be exploited in a motorcycle like the V-Rex," he says. "It's a reliable motor and very simple for owners to get parts and service."
The frame, using the engine as a stressed member, carries just short of five gallons of fuel accessed by a patented flush-mounted gas cap. The side covers easily snap off to check fluid levels. The instrument nacelle has a sixties feel, while the LED turn signals mounted on the extremities of the handlebars are futuro-Roppongi laser beams.
120 peak hp 74 ft lbs torque @ 7,000 rpm
682 lbs in running order
Steel tubing and cast aluminum
Front: Aluminum twin
swingarm and fully adjustable hydraulic monoshock
Rear: Aluminum single-sided swingarm and adjustable hydraulic dual shocks
Front: machined cast aluminum assembly hub/rim
Rear: slotted machined cast aluminum
Front: 140/70x18 Metzeler Marathon
Rear: 280/30x18 Metzeler Marathon
Front: 6-piston inverted caliper with floating disc
Rear: 2 piston caliper with floating disc.
At 673 pounds, one imagines this long-wheelbase go-bot to be daunting, but Travert has worked magic with the chassis. With a low center of gravity, aided by a 2-into-1 cropped exhaust and load distributed to the extremities, the V-Rex feels light at rest.
At speed it glides through corners, soaks up unfriendly pavement, makes U-turns with no worries, and stops crisply. The V-Rod motor never lets you forget this its heritage. Christian knows well that engine mods and Screaming Eagle kits will be the order of the day for V-Rex buyers as they personalize their new steed.
The Hollywood fantasy factory has already gotten wind of Christian's creation—offers are multiplying for the bike to make its big screen debut. Those who have secretly wished their custom motorcycles be fashion-forward can now breathe easy. Seeing the spectators salivate over the V-Rex at the most recent California Bike Week, and the resulting sales of this new extremist, one senses Travertson's time has come.