Spare from the start, the Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen is a likely candidate for customization. While there may be a temptation to expand on the Vitpilen concept, Arjan van den Boom went in the other direction. The Creative Director & Founder at Ironwood Custom Motorcycles in Amsterdam stripped the 701 Vitpilen down to let its mechanicalistic nature bloom with The Chain Smoker.
Motorcycling runs in the Van den Boom family—as a youngster, his uncles were motorcycle officers. Mopeds got van den Boom started, and he describes an experience on a Honda CBF500 when he was 18 as the “best moment ever.”
A 1995 Honda CBR600F PC31 led to a 2008 Yamaha YZF-R6 for speed on the street and track. As the café racer scene took hold, Van den Boom bought some parts from Dime City Cycles to personalize his ride.
Van den Boom’s first complete build was a 1978 Honda CB550 he morphed into a bratstyle café racer. The modifications included fat Firestone tires on wire-spoke wheels, a lowered front, open-air intake filters, Megaton mufflers, no fenders, and a long flat seat.
After starting Ironwood Custom Motorcycles in 2012, Van den Boom suffered a near-fatal 2013 crash. Although the accident understandably slowed him down on the pavement, it did not dimmish Van den Boom’s desire to customize motorcycles. Van den Boom says he is inspired by “anything around me, from food to buildings to materials, travel automotive, drawings and art. My brain is storing it all to let it out at future projects.”
The Ironwood Custom Husqvarna 710 Chain Smoker is a bit of a departure for Van den Boom’s brand. “We are known for our vintage BMWs,” Van den Boom reminds us, “especially the Deathstar R100 models. But we can do more than this—aiming and hoping to work more on modern bikes and being more diverse on brands and models next to BMW.”
A part of the Ironwood business plan, The Chain Smoker is a commissioned work. “Obviously, no customer involved creates a way to go all out in our own style, or a client who says, ‘Do whatever you want.’ Create and sell is what we did in our early days to get noticed and make super one-offs.” Van den Boom explains. “Working with the right customers will still provide the same freedom of creating something cool,”
The Chain Smoker is definitely something cool, and Van den Boom is proud of its “bold and radical, hate it or love it vibe.” The goal was clear: “Overall, it should be recognizable as a 701, but make it mean and edgy. Keep the key features like the tank with the humps, OEM wheels, speedo, and lightning. Change the lines. Make it unique, but, in a way, it could be made by anybody. The 701 was already hella cool, but now it has more confidence and matching our ABCD genetics: Aggressive, Bold, Clean, Dazzling!”
The more you look at The Chain Smoker, the more it reveals. The Akropovič muffler and custom header grabs immediate attention. Then, you notice the custom subframe and leather seat. “The seat looks like a reversed chopper saddle,” Van den Boom observes. Well-hidden rear turn indicators are integrated into the subframe.
With the new subframe, the side panels and airbox were jettisoned. A pod-style filter cleans the air and is on full display. Farther back, a custom license plate holder was fashioned, with its steel-tube braces done in the style of the new muffler hanger. Bodywork was executed by Marcel van der Stelt at The Custom Factory.
Back at the midpoint of The Chain Smoker, the chin fairing has disappeared. Above that, the fuel tank gets a custom geometric paint job by Lisa Ottevanger of Dutch on Wheels, and it’s a favorite part of the build for Van den Boom. The 13-shades-of-gray paint is inspired by the angular camouflage used on older warships. Aftermarket 701 tank badges add a finishing touch.
In the front, the headlight is stock and repositioned. Motogadget supplied the grips, mirrors, and bar-end turn signals. Van den Boom also slimmed down the casing for the stock round instrument panel.
The result is a custom motorcycle that retains the excellent Husqvarna powerplant with an Akropovič boost, while helping out the WP suspension and handling by dropping 33 pounds from an already-light chassis. Except for the seat, which Van den Boom allows is uncomfortable, The Chain Smoker is all out riding the streets of London—the home of the build’s commissioner. Of course, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it venture into the hinterlands.
“It started just to make a couple of bikes for customers in the beginning—working with my hands, be creative, and make people’s dreams come true,” Van den Boom remembers of the early days of Ironwood Custom Motorcycles. “That grew more into becoming a known brand or shop with an own look and feel.” Clearly, more dreams are on the agenda.