Custom Cafe Replica Bike
Roger Goldammer is as sensitive to the stigma of simulacra as the next connoisseur. "Whether it’s an auto manufacturer re-doing the Mustang or a screenwriter re-writing a movie," he admits, "borrowing from the past is a risky thing." And yet his latest creation, a stylized re-interpretation of the mid-century Manx Norton, embodies a certain purists-be-damned exuberance.
Manx Nortons were built to celebrate the British manufacturer’s 1950s domination at the Isle of Man, and their tall fuel tanks and rearward seat positions gave the bikes a distinctive proportion. The so-called "Featherbed" chassis provided exemplary handling, and the successes of the Manx at the hands of privateer racers attest to the functionality of the bike’s unique design.
"I love café racers. The first bike I ever customized was a 1968 BSA Lightning I bought in milk crates," Goldammer says. Not surprisingly, he was smitten by the sparse utility of the Manx. "Those overfed barges with a foot and a half-wide tires; they’re all wrong. Static displays of ill-handling bikes," he adds, "are what motivate me to build something like this."
His modern take on the iconic classic, playfully nicknamed "Nortorious," is infused with enough ingenious technology to do justice to the groundbreaking innovations of the original, and then some. Starting with a Harley-Davidson Evolution V-twin, Goldammer converted the powerplant to a single cylinder by removing the aft cylinder and replacing it with a blower. Not content with typical forced induction techniques, and faced with the inherent problems of airflow in single-cylinder designs, he utilized a mechanically driven Rotrex unit that incorporates a turbocharger housing and spins at 120,000 rpm under full boost. The hybrid setup permits the efficiency of a turbo with the responsiveness of a supercharger. "I had to change pushrod angles and make my own camshafts, but that’s just a fun challenge, right?" he says, entirely seriously.
Other aspects of Goldammer’s "fun challenge" included shortening the main shaft, the clutch pack, and the belt drive, in order for the bike to pay proper homage to the Manx’s abbreviated proportion. The sole cylinder was rotated back 15 degrees so that it sits almost vertically, and an Engenuity head was incorporated for its induction system, which hides modern distractions such as fuel injection sensors and electronics. The flipped cylinder setup required the intake to be configured as an exhaust and vice versa, and more aggressive intake and larger exhaust valves were used in order to cope with the supercharger, which creates a massive 20 lbs of boost.
Lubrication is provided by an S&S oil pump via two oil tanks (one for the engine, the other for the supercharger), both of which are hidden from view. The single cylinder produces 83 hp at 6,400 rpm, and power is routed through a Baker 6-speed transmission to the rear wheel, which was constructed by welding two Kosman rims together for a spoked, yet muscular look.
The engine isn’t the only place where a retro exterior hides modern technology. The front and rear wheel hubs, for instance, have the appearance of the drum brakes of yesteryear but are, in fact, decoys. Manually milled from two 100-pound slabs of 6061-T6 aluminum, the 18 lb "drums" hide modern 4-piston disc brakes. LED taillights are discreetly hidden in the frame, and front turn signals are incorporated into the front headlight, which was sourced from a European Volkswagen Beetle. The headlight, which also acts as a wind deflector, recalls the novel pie plate deflector found on the Manx Norton. (Click image to enlarge)
Cradling the engine is a chromoly chassis that was shortened three inches in order to maintain a compact proportion. The body and fenders are hand-hammered, naked aluminum skins that reveal no traces of welding anywhere; the only paintwork on the bike is the lettering and a layer of protective clearcoat. How does it ride? "Unlike 99% of the custom bikes out there," asserts Goldammer, who cites ground clearance, turning radius, and maneuverability as qualities largely absent in other one-offs.
A builder with an unwavering knowledge of what he likes and what he disdains, Roger Goldammer has created another custom bike that expresses his love affair with minimalist design, innovative engineering, and unapologetic personality, all while offering an admiring nod to motorcycling’s past.
When asked if he has ever ridden a Manx Norton, Goldammer openly admits that he has not. But when one considers that nostalgia often improves upon the past, one could say that Goldammer’s innocence might have actually helped him build a better bike.
Single-cylinder 965cc electronically fuel-injected Harley-Davidson Evolution-based unit, with Rotrex supercharger.
MAXIMUM POWER OUTPUT
83 rear wheel hp @ 6,400 rpm
Goldammer Cycle Works pipes
6-speed Baker unit w/shortened main shaft, Prime/Rivera clutch pack, belt final drive
Chromoly Featherbed-style; 29.5° rake, shortened 3.
Hand-hammered aluminum with lettering and clearcoat.
Front: WP-type forks, cut back 1 1/2 inches for improved handling with Goldammer Cycle Works Trees.
Rear: Dual shock.
Front: 18 x 3.25 inches
Rear: 18 x 6 inches (two Kosman rims fabricated together and hand-milled)
Custom 4-piston discs front and rear, housed in 12-inch hand-milled aluminum "drum hubs."