Taimoshan’s Aprilia RSV Cafe Racer

Aprilia RSV-based cafe racer by Taimoshan Cycle Works
Most café racers are built by stripping down a stock bike and “adding lightness”. This one, however, was built from the ground up and designed around an Aprilia RSV motor. It’s from Taimoshan Cycle Works, a Welsh company run by John Pellew. He focuses on “building cafe racers with a steampunk feel—classic racer designs underpinned with modern technology.”

John started by spending hours hand-drawing the bike, with all its lines and components, then searched high and low until he found the right parts. And when parts were not available, John designed and built them himself. The motor was the starting point: “I spent months looking in detail at the aesthetics of the 1000cc V-twins available on the market … What I was trying to achieve was my version of the Norvins of the 1960s, but with all the good bits of modern tech, like big horsepower, fuel injection, big brakes, good handling, electric start and so on.”

The challenge was that modern V-twin sport bike motors are water cooled, and have big, ugly radiators to deal with. John chose the RSV Aprilia motor (made by Rotax) because it it’s good looking, technology-rich and “a well-respected beast of a motor with an almost cult following.”

Aprilia RSV-based cafe racer by Taimoshan Cycle Works
After designing a frame to house the motor, John got JW Motorcycles to build it. It’s a featherbed-style frame that hooks up to a mono shock rear suspension. The swingarm was built with the help of engineering guru Steve McFarlane, and the tank was next. “I originally wanted the Norton sprint tank,” says John, “but it was a stretch too far when trying to fit in the electronic fuel injection components. “So I opted for the much bigger Manx tank, which turned out perfect—and probably a more striking design too.”

Aprilia RSV-based cafe racer by Taimoshan Cycle Works
The stainless steel exhaust was made in-house: “I ordered a stack of stainless pre-bent tube, and spent a couple of days cutting and tacking it all together so that both pipes are identical length and also finish at the same point.” The pipes were loud, at around 113 db, so John tweaked the inners of the reverse megaphones and repacked them, reducing the noise down to around 97 db—under the 99 db limit for the UK.

Aprilia RSV-based cafe racer by Taimoshan Cycle Works
The radiator is mounted under the seat, and apparently works well. “The cooling fans are standard … they draw a huge amount of cool air from around the engine into the front of the wedge, and of course all the hot air is blown down and away from the seat. So the seat temp is quite normal.” The last big piece to the puzzle was the electronic ignition and fuel injection: “The racers use the standard ECU with a Power Commander, so they don’t need to know any of the info. Reverse engineering the engine parameters and spark and fuel mapping took months of work. Even a well-known race dyno shop gave up on it, and handed it back in far worse shape. But now, after hundreds of hour of fine tuning, the bike is running very sweetly, with sharp throttle response and a smooth power curve.”

Now that the Aprilia RSV Super Cafe Racer is finished, John has some other very interesting projects on the go, including two carbon fiber framed Triumph Bonneville prototypes. There’s also a Vincent racer called “Nero Superleggera”—built around an original 1955 Vincent Rapide Series C and a high performance 1356cc new build Vincent race motor. That bike will also feature an improved geometry ‘girdraulic’ front end with 6-pot AP racing calipers acquired from an Isle of Man TT racer. Keep an eye out for that one on Bike EXIF later in the year.

Aprilia RSV-based cafe racer by Taimoshan Cycle Works

  • BoxerFanatic

    Holy hell.

    What else can be said…

    Quite possibly one of the best motorcycles I have ever seen.

  • elven

    Very nice…. but at what price?

  • Steve

    Turn signals are a bit sissy. The rest has a nice, but predictable, look. But I’m lovin’ that radiator set up!

    • elven

      yeh, can you reverse the fans for winter rides ;-)

      • Steve

        Reverse the fans? I would ride this thing all winter if I could get a set of chains for the tires.

  • Surly

    Where’s the EXIF data?

  • Dave Enfield

    Get outta my way , get the f——– out of my way , where do I sign ? I SAID STAND ASIDE ….. ( in my dreams )

  • Dariusmoj

    This thing would be a beast on the track…

  • Davidabl2

    I am surprised that anybody might have anything bad to say about this bike..
    Except of course the turnsignal setup… Probably a U.K. requirement to do it that way?

    • elven

      UK laws require E-marked lights and indicators/turn signals or their obvious equivalent. Bikes with just 1 seat can often get through the test without a mirror.
      A good UK rule is one that allows “daytime only” bikes which don’t require regular lights or indicators, but a stop light and electric horn are advised… intended for trail or enduro bikes that need to use normal roads.

      • elven

        …and bikes over 30 years old can get away with all kinds of sh¡t that newer bikes can’t….

      • Kumo

        More or less like in Spain.

        The headlamp looks old among that amount of tech.

  • Anonymous

    Love it. I would take one if it was for sale.

  • iRivas

    Not my favorite look for a bike, but, hell, I’d take it anyways. It just seems a bit busy with the brushed look of the tank, chrome look of the pipes, gold color on the engine, carbon fiber fenders, red leather seat….I think the bike could be simplified a tad and look even better than it does now.

  • Just Joe

    Ho Hum, another ground up handcrafted cafe racer built around an RSV engine…J/K I LOVE this bike!
    I wonder how it is that people complain when a bike has no turn signals, and also complain when it does?
    Nice that it’s actually street legal and rideable, it’s a great take on a classic style.

  • Wow. Marvelous piece of engineering work, but I never understand how some builders can go so wrong with the color scheme. Where does the red seat cover fit in? And the gold engine covers and heads? Ok, wait, gold, black and silver are looking great, they tie into the calipers, shock, master cylinders (maybe) and forks. There’s a great color scheme. Then you throw in this horrible shade of red leather seat. Sorry to complain so much.
    On the positive side, I love the creative radiator mounting, but I’m itching to route the wiring on the radiator in a better place than dangling. Ok, last negative thing, why a Manx tank? After making so much custom stuff on this thing, design and fab a custom tank rather than sticking a bloody Manx tank on there. I don’t know why everyone loves the Manx tank so much. The tank and the leather seat are preventing this bike from being really incredible, and taking it to the stratosphere. Absolute stunning build though.

    • It’s tough to do much more with wiring like that as you want to avoid having it touch the radiator itself for fear of vibration causing a metal edge to wear through the wire.

      I think those are set up as puller fans, drawing air from under the seat. I wonder if there is room under the seat to mount the fans configured as pushers, so you don’t see anything under the seat other than the radiator (if you even notice it). Make ’em wonder how you cool the engine!

      Agreed, stunning build. Nothing extra, no “hey lookit this” parts to distract you, but the entire picture is pure craftsmanship. Do love the Manx tank, it’s a classic for a reason.

    • BoxerFanatic

      Silver metal and red leather are a classic combination, although somewhat of a german motorsports tradition.

      I love the red diamond weave seat much more than the taupe brown horizontal-stripe leather seat cover on the otherwise immaculate Moto Guzzi Ambassador that Ritmo Sereno built, featured a couple of days ago.

      The gold on the engine covers is pretty bold… on a black engine I might have gone with a cast-finish dark gray, or slight bronze like the axle clamps on the bottom of the forks. Something slightly more subtle than bright gold powdercoat.

      I would have changed the fan wiring, as well. I am not sure where the fuse block is, if it is above the engine, under the tank, or if it is under the rear cowl behind the seat, but whichever direction, that wiring could have been loomed/covered and fastened down, and the metal strap between the two fans at least painted black.

      Pusher fans within the triangular air intake cavity might have also been better.

      A tank with a bit more rectangular profile when viewed from the side, might also have been cool, but the tank on there doesn’t really upset me much.

      But frankly, my ideal bike in this idiom would be based around a different twin… a BMW HP2 Sport engine and driveline with a classic aesthetic makeover. But a craftsman who could build this, could just as well build one based on a BMW. Easier without having to worry about a radiator.

    • GeoKan

      Ha,ha there is a word that this builder’s bike doesn’t know:ALCANTARA !!!
      This is the proper material for a new-era cafe racer, like the carbon front fender.
      I also agree for the tank, I want something more fresh, how about a tank from Radical Ducati ?
      The guys from Spain know for sure to build modern cafe racers.
      Overall I don’t like the color combination, I would stick to black and gold only (but this is just a personal opinion).
      All these details though can be fixed easy, if you decide to buy this bike, the real problem for me are these radiators.
      The whole work there is very improvised, this wiring….well my son could do it better for sure!
      This project generally with an update will rock for sure.
      I am waiting for the next edition…

      • BoxerFanatic

        Alcantara is an interesting suggestion.

        1: is it weather-safe? I don’t see a lot of it used on exterior surfaces, but it is an engineered polyester fiber textile…

        2: would it be too “grippy” for a motorcycle seat? depending on riding style, sometimes the rider wants to move around, especially side to side, on the seat. Alcantara is usually used in cars to keep the driver in place and not sliding around on a leather or vinyl seat during aggressive driving.

        I believe that Taimoshan is being offered as a component kit, if I am understanding their website correctly. One could finish it according to taste, or with enough $$$, probably get the proprietor to finish one to taste. Different tank or tail, different colors, or whatever.

        The frame, engine, suspension, and running gear are the heart of this bike. One could vary the bodywork within the cafe racer genre, and still come up with mostly the same effect.

        • GeoKan

          Alcantara is not weather-safe, but are the radiators under the tail weather-safe ?
          After a few kilometers-run in a road with bad weather conditions, they are going to be mud-build, (this is very embarrassing for me!)
          …But, I think we can do some granting to usability, after all it is a hand-made motorcycle and not an everyday bike.
          By the way MV AGUSTA F4 (Tamburini version), has an alcantara seat, and the side panels of the seat are more slick to have a vinyl ‘feel’ when you attack to the corners, so there is no ‘grippy’ issue.

  • Ted

    This bike just makes me smile!

  • Damo

    I want one….no two, One to ride and one to park in my living room just to look at.

  • Anonymous

    I want one, thats the best modern cafe I’ve seen yet!

  • Paint785

    Ok, do I get to be the first one to say it here…………Norilia

  • wow…should be a prerequisite of Bikeexif to have a high quality audio file of all bikes. the carbon bonny sounds exciting!

  • hi

    All that work to get the radiator out of sight and then you throw an oil cooler in the same place? Other than that bit of execution I love the idea.

  • just looking at the first picture, all that comes to mind is, “fucking beautiful exhaust.”

  • Kerry

    Looks very, very expensive to build and for me that spoils all the nice engineering and design. Just doesn’t do it for me. The Aprilla motor just makes it look like a luxury customized modern street bike and nothing that is true to a café spirit, except a few shiny parts.

    • Rob K

      I’m wondering what you’re referring to as the the ‘true café spirit’, (btw – those original lads called it ‘caff racer’ as they weren’t a bunch of frenchies).

      From what I know about the original cafe scene it was a made up of Teddy boys trying to go as fast as they could with the machines they had. At the time it was Brit twins. Japan and Italy were still building small displacement machines and BMWs were German, weren’t they?

      If could take this beastie back in time I reckon those lads would have that thing howling ’round the ring road without a complaint to be heard. The best i can figure, the ‘cafe spirit’ is about going real f*ckin’ fast with your own machine and not getting’ nicked in the process. Then again what do I know, I have a Japanese bike.

      • elven

        Occasionally there were tuned Ariel Golden Arrow 2-stroke 250 twins or Ducati singles, but most of the guys rode English iron, singles or twins (where were the bike builders in Wales, Scotland , Ireland?).
        Last paragraph is absolutely right: the whole point was to ride fast on your own modified machine and have fun.

  • x

    clever engine mounting compared to the original design aluminum twin spar.
    great build. It is not easy pulling off a legitimate blend of old and new that satisfies both eras (except for the old bike snobs)

  • Septic the Sceptic

    Almost perfect. If it was in my shed, then it would be perfect.

  • Eric H.

    What? That seat screams SEXY!!!! This machine is [email protected]#&ing awesome! Nice job and INCREDIBLE ATTENTION to details both obvious and on 2nd and 3rd looks!

  • Rob K

    Stunning and from what I know about the RSR – it’s very worthy of having such a beautiful and innovative bike built around it.

    Also, did anyone else click through to the site and see the monoshock set-up – specifically how the upper shock mount is attached to the swing arm, not the frame?

    Anyone else seen this before?

  • Rob K

    opps – that should have been RSV (long week).

  • Lancehouston

    This looks like a twenty-first century take on a classic Norvin! I think modern interpitations,and
    componets can only help move the Cafe Culture forward for newer generations.WELL DONE!!

  • Micah

    A true piece of ingenuity and craftsmanship. Stunning. However, when I saw this bike six months ago, I was dismayed to see the wires for the cooling fans hanging down and uglying up the tail. They’re still there!

  • MaSK

    A must for the next calendar!

  • this, i like!

  • Kai Ju

    I’ve been running an underseat radiator on my VTR for the past 5 years, using pusher fans.
    Puller fans are actually more efficient in moving air so I don’t blame him for running pullers. I would if I had the room.
    This bike looks so much better than the Tuono which Aprillia cheaped out on by covering the ugly bits instead of properly integrating them. On that note, the radiator fan wires do need to be cleaned up to finish this one.

  • Teo

    Uhm… maybe put a grille or something to hide the fans? They look too “computer modding” to me…

  • Gerrard

    Can’t believe all the positive comment for this. One of the worst looking bikes I’ve seen in a long time. It’s brash, showy, incoherant and plain ugly. Not for me thanks.

  • Xsbank

    I would have spend a little longer hiding wires and hoses (rubber radiator hoses?) but otherwise it is stunning – well done!

  • Cobrar00

    You’re just missing the point, Gerrard. That’s all. It’s just not for you.

  • Hh0207

    Color scheme. F*** the Color scheme. I love this bike. V-twin Sound on a caferacer. From 0-100 kmh in 3 seconds. What a perfect bike.

  • eightjack

    It’s a beautiful machine, but those loose wires hanging from the faces of the fans seem like an unintended detail. Kind’ve unattractive and odd, considering the level of attention to every other part of the build.

  • ranj

    Beautiful bike, but as far as modern cafe racers go, I prefer the Radical Ducati or the Rooke KTM. By the way the color scheme of silver, gold and red is great.

  • Mule

    I’ve seen this bike in “Cafe Racer” the magazine, on “Cafe Racer” the TV show and now here. Never noticed the droopy wires before. That’s detail that needs to be tidied up for sure! Especially on a bike of this caliber.

    As far as the rest of the bike goes, to me it’s confusing. An odd combination of old and new. It looks like the chassis would be holding back a state of the art motor and the motor would overstress the chassis to the point of failure. Mixing eras requires the eras be a little closer together from a performance standpoint and for aesthetic value. I really like the front view and the front half of the bike. The back half I like not so much.I agree with the comments on the seat color and it would have been nice if the rear section/side panels maybe hid the radiators a bit more.

    Building a retro bike with a large radiator requirement is tough for sure and this is probably the best I’ve seen at pulling it off. The pipes are awesome!

  • John

    Hi to everyone that has made the effort to comment on my Taimoshan Super Cafe Racer, I am glad that the majority of the the Bikeexif fans have enjoyed my bike.

    I think the obvoius thing from all the comments is that I need to take the rad fan wiring untidiness on the chin and do something about it, but at the time there was literally no practial way to hide the wires due to the location of the fans and unfortunately it was a prudential decision to mount the fans as puller fans due to the much greater cooling efficiency vs push fans, which maybe could have been squeezed into the wedge and out of sight. I did add 50% cooling area to the rad over the std OEM unit, but due the rear location i was being extra careful to ensure the engine would not overheat. The setup as is works like a dream, without a hint of overheating trouble, perfect…. just need to deal with the wires!!

    ( ps the photos taken from this very low rear angle overly highlight Taimoshan’s flaws re the wiring, but when you see the bike in the flesh you do not acutally see the wires unless you are looking for them :-), no excuse though really!! Sorry !)

    Knowing now how well the rad set up works , it might be possible to rework design without compramising the cooling.

    re the Colour scheme, personally I LOVE the colour ( Oxblood Leather ) of the seat, i think it really works with the overall bike and with time it will get that well lived in feeling of a classic old chesterfield …. gorgeous! :-)

    Thanks again
    Taimoshan Cycle works
    [email protected]

    • Kai Ju

      I for one really like your bike, especially since I also went with the underseat radiator setup. Kudos on a nice build.
      I wonder how many of the people that have commented actually have gone through the painstaking process of building a bike and getting everything just so. It’s a lot easier to criticize than to do.
      Again, nice job.

      • GeoKan

        I think that our comments have been misunderstood.
        John built something special and we ‘try’ to find all these little details to make it even more special.
        I imagine myself, (and a lot of bike-exif readers I think), to sit around the bike, and talk for hours about it.
        We don’t criticize in a NEGATIVE way, we are sharing our PASSION and give John our credits and our thoughts to go even further with this project !!

    • BoxerFanatic

      Fantastic work.

      Everyone has their monday morning quarterback analysis, myself included. That is easy when looking at someone else’s results. Creative criticism has it’s place and perspective.

      Everything about this bike just shouts effectiveness dressed in classic style. The engine, cooling, suspension with the rear pro-link, and the modern rolling stock and brakes.

      I like the oxblood red seat, too.

      But these are your results, from ground up, and to your credit. Again, fantastic work.

      It is among my favorites, but that is just me.

  • K1W1

    When the page first opened I though we had a Voxan.

  • Raulpinavicente

    Exhausts and radiators stuck beneath the rider or pillion seat are, in my opinion, just not good engineering. I don’t give a damn about racing technology that pours out into fashion on the streets… But to each his own and if it works for the owner, then so be it. This put and dangling wires aside, it IS a wonderfully built machine!! Congrats!!

  • KIK

    best bike here ever !!!