Never underestimate the power of a Monkey.“When I was about 8 years old,” Jorge Rodrigues relates, “my mother had a friend that had a Honda Monkey and a CB400. Portugal had a lot of 50cc locally built old-fashioned motorcycles then, and these seemed from another planet. He let me ride the Monkey, and I was hooked. The freedom that you experience from riding a motorcycle on a good day is something I can only summarize as ‘happiness’.”We often feature custom motorcycles cooked up by the elite among master builders. However, sometimes a home-brewed recipe is incredibly tasty. Lisbon-based Rodrigues is a software engineer who builds performance custom-oriented motorcycles in his garage.
Inspired by Roland Sands and Holographic Hammer, Rodrigues has three to his credit, including a retromod 1998 Yamaha XJR1200 and a Ducati Panigale 899. His 899 is festooned with lightweight parts he designed using a CAD program, and then manufactured on his newly purchased 3D printer. His Panigale build weighs 33 pounds less than stock—something of a DIY Superleggera. The XJR featured Ducati 999 wheels and a Suzuki GSX-R fork and brakes, and it ended up in a Nissan television commercial.Despite Rodrigues’ skill, he still runs into a few issues that are familiar to many motorcyclists. “I have been keeping all my builds. Unfortunately, my wife tells me we are running out of space in the garage—her car is sitting outside. So, I need to sell a couple of bikes to make room for a new build.”Rodrigues’ latest creation is his Ducati Hypertracker, which is a supermoto motorcycle turned flat tracker.“Flat track is amazing,” Rodrigues enthuses. “The level of skill (and guts) you need to race that close to the other competitors with those grip levels and no front-brake, [so] I decided to build a tracker. The obvious choice would be a Harley, but there was none that had the sportiness I was looking for—power, frame, suspension. Additionally, the Harley is an easier build since there are a lot of bolt-on parts out there. Being a Ducati man, I looked at the alternatives within their range. I had the Scrambler option—not sporty enough, and its trellis frame is not sexy enough—and the Hyper. The Hyper fitted the bill nicely, but had quite a few challenges.”Any real flat tracker needs up-pipes, so Rodrigues set out to build his own. “The pipes were difficult for several reasons,” he explains. “They required a new subframe, made from scratch. The second challenge is how to route the back cylinder pipe around the shock and other components. The third was how to make sure you don’t burn your right leg while riding. The original Hyper, being an S model, had carbon fiber racing mufflers on it. The noise with the new mufflers is comparable but ‘barely legal’. It sounds otherworldly, though!”As Rodrigues mentions, the subframe offered its own challenges. “The subframe was built together with a friend,” he says. “The most difficult part was to find the right geometry that fitted the new body and exhausts. There was a lot of trial and error in the process, and it had to be sturdy to support the new exhaust. If I had to do it again, it would weigh half what it does now. I think I could remove three kilograms there and still have the job done.”The get the look he desired, Rodrigues had to reposition parts of the Hypermotard. “The gas tank on the original Hyper is beneath the seat,” Rodrigues notes. “The Hyper is a very unusual motorcycle with its under-seat fuel tank, and side covers hiding a lot of the electrics.”Rodrigues picked up a salvaged Ducati Scrambler fuel tank, and modified it to work on the Hypertracker. The fuel pump on the Hypermotard is at the back of the bike. According to Rodrigues, he moved “the original fuel pump onto the cut Scrambler tank and adapted the injection hoses to the new tank position.”“[Now,] the fuel pump seats at the back,” Rodrigues continues. The original tank is the airbox, and all the electronics are on the side body. By removing all of these parts, I had to build a hidden frame backbone beneath the tank and hook all the electronics and ignition electrics to it. Finding the space for the piping of the new K&N air filters was difficult, as well, but the wiring was the worst. I had to change a lot of the original wiring harness to make it fit the new configuration. Even the key lock had to change location.”Building the Hypertracker in the COVID-19 era had its own trials. “[It was] a bit harder,” Rodrigues says. “On one side, you have more time. On the other, all the suppliers and logistics are more difficult. The good part is that if you are locked in your house, this is way better than Netflix the whole day.”Rodrigues personalized the ergonomics by adding a narrower handlebar bend from Rizoma, and a seat from Lisbon’s X&M Custom Leather designed by Giorgi Pashov. The headlight came from Purpose Bult Moto in Australia, with Motogadget of Berlin adding the mirrors and turn indicators. A Ducati Scrambler donated the taillight. Finally, the paint was done across the Gargalo do Tejo by Johnny Ink.Riding the Hypertracker is the true reward for building it. His test circuits are the twisting roads of Arrábida and Sintra. Comparing the Hypertracker to the stock Ducati Hypermotard 1100 S, “it is lighter, the sitting position is way better, the mirrors work, and the masses are more centralized.” Rodrigues reports. “I find it more flickable and easier to control.”Rodrigues does allow that all is not perfect on his Hypertracker. “On the downside, there is the exhaust that you need to be careful with not to get burnt, and the leather seat slides a little when you push it hard. I still need to get some softer springs on the fork since I cannot dial in the right sag. [It could use] a stickier seat and an engine retune to make it friendlier around slow traffic—not easy on a Ducati.”Still, Rodrigues finds the Hypertracker to be superior to his much-loved 899. “The Hyper is the best bike I own for those roads,” he states. “The Panigale is lighter and more powerful, but it gives you less control.”An additional performance enhancement is the HealTech iQSE-1 quickshifter, which uses Bluetooth technology and a smartphone app. “The HealTech was plug play,” Rodrigues says. “I had it on a Ducati Multistrada Enduro and, when I sold that bike, I just had to buy an adapter for the Hyper, and that was it. You tune it using the app, and it works like a charm, especially for gears 3rd to 6th.”“The end result, after 18 months of weekend work in my garage, is a bike that is not only beautiful to look at, but also a delight to ride in the canyons—way more fun than the original Hypermotard while being fully functional,” Jorge Rodrigues enthuses. “And the exhaust note is absolutely bonkers!”Ah, the Portuguese hills are alive with the sound of music.Photography by Pedro Messias / Mess Photography
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.