Wacky engineering always makes for good eye candy. But every time we see it, we think the same thing: does it work?
For Dutch builder Wido Veldkamp, that question is a deal breaker. Bikes that come from his shop WiMoto have to perform as good as they look.
“Our slogan is ‘We build show bikes for the road’,” he says, “and that is what we truly believe. A bike should look great—but it may never be more important than the way it drives and handles.”
Wido’s background has a lot to do with this philosophy. He’s been tinkering since childhood, eventually studying industrial design and engineering at Delft University of Technology. (He even designed and built a new chassis for the university’s race bike.)
A lot of his work is bread and butter stuff: making components like swingarms and exhaust systems. This board tracker-cum-cafe racer called Timber is his third ‘ground up’ build.
It started out as a rather vanilla 1979 Suzuki GS550E. Wido’s client picked it up for cheap, and had started chopping it up himself. He soon ran out of skill, and handed the project over.
“He did have money to spend, but wasn’t sure that the GS550E was the right donor to spend it on,” Wido tells us. “He was very skeptical about the possibilities of this bike; ‘what the hell can you make with a Suzuki GS550E?’ he said. ‘Wouldn’t it be a waste of money?'”
“Well… it was my challenge to prove that it wasn’t!”
Wido certainly rose to the challenge. All that’s left of the Suzuki now is its engine, and the part of the frame that cradles it.
The project started with a digital sketch—where Wido worked out the bike’s new geometry, down to the last number. Then it moved to CAD, to generate a final 3D render of the whole bike.
The front end and mono-shock swingarm were designed digitally too: “Because the client wanted something special,” says Wido, “we thought it would be nice to have some kind of special front suspension, and decided to go for a girder front end.”
The suspension characteristics were then simulated using software designed by Tony Foale. And a finite element analysis was done to test the stiffness and strength of the design.
Once the client had signed off, Wido started getting his hands dirty. Both the front end and swingarm were fabricated using chromoly tubing. There’s a custom-made, fully adjustable Wilbers shock at each end, supplied by HK Suspension.
The girder’s wishbones and yokes were CNC-machined for precision. The 30mm handlebars are hand-made too, and have been set up with internal wiring. (The rest of the bike’s also been rewired, using Motogadget components.)
Wido needed big wheels to get the board-track vibe just right. So the 21” front and 19” rear wheel from a Kawasaki KXF450 motocrosser were modified to fit.
The fuel tank’s from a Harley, and had to be fettled extensively to fit the Suzuki’s backbone. The bobbed seat is custom, upholstered by Tijgerleathers.
Wido’s kept the finishes simple, though slightly bizarre. Aside from the red accents, the brown finish on the front and rear ends is actually a faux wood texture, executed by Ger Zweers Coating. “Some like it, some hate it,” he quips.
As for engine performance, the Suzuki ran surprisingly strong when it rolled into the shop. So Wido simply treated it to new gaskets and fluids, and re-jetted the carbs with a Dynojet kit. He also fabricated new stainless steel headers—they’re mated to an aftermarket muffler, and the whole system is ceramic coated in black.
“I choose the best tuning there is,” he explains, “and that is weight reduction! I managed to get 55kg off the original weight, and that makes a big difference in handling. It now has enough power for its weight: 50bhp for 160kg.”
“Next to the weight reduction I took a lot of time figuring out the best geometry for the suspension. The girder front end feels solid and stable as a rock, you can really fly with this thing.”
That’s what I like most. It looks really uncomfortable, and impossible to ride—but you’ll be surprised when you get on it!”
“I’m very happy with result and my client even more. He now has a GS550E which handles like a GSX-R!”