Batten down the hatches and don your flak jacket: The purveyors of the world’s most hated motorcycles are back. This time, the infamous El Solitario crew has done unspeakable things to… a Zaeta.
That’s right, you’re looking at a Zaeta 530 DT: A street-legal flat tracker powered by a 528cc DOHC single, making close to 60 hp and weighing a meager 255 pounds (115 kilos). It’s perfect for going sideways around a dirt track—and wholly inappropriate for long distance road trips.
So that’s exactly what El Solitario did. Once they finishing working their black magic on the Zaeta, they took it on a 1000-mile tarmac jaunt and raced it at Dirt Quake V.
Shop boss David Borras tell us how it all started: “I think it was in the Sideburn blog where I first saw the Zaeta, maybe five years ago,” he says. “The bike immediately seduced me and got me fantasizing about how cool it would be to ride it like a hooligan on any terrain.”
“Then I read about Paolo [Chiaia, Zaeta founder] and his original ideal of what his dream bike was, and how he put all the meat on the grill to make it happen. F—, I admired that man and I didn’t even know him yet.”
“I guess it was meant to happen, the meeting of the troublemakers. Some years passed and one day… BANG! ‘Paolo, I want to make a Solitarization of the Zaeta. What do you think?’ His answer was a straight ‘F— yes—let’s do it, wolf!’ Some months later I had a black-framed, sexy-as-hell Zaeta arriving in our studio.”
The Zaeta 530 is a phenomenally radical machine out the box. Tasty bits include an aluminum frame, Keihin flat-slide carb and Kineo tubeless wheels. This is not lost on Borras and co.—who sought to keep the best features intact while infusing the punchy little tracker with their signature dark aesthetic.
“At El Sol we have evolved,” says David. “The ethos remains the same, but we are more confident and know better now.”
“In the first days we felt an urge to prove what we were capable of and sometimes pushed too hard just for the sake of it. Nowadays we are more collaborative, and appreciate when something is good enough—not suffering the urge to force our DNA on our allies.”
The first big idea came from Paola: a girder fork. “I went nuts, like a ten year old,” says David. “We needed to make it happen!”
Giulio Bernadelle, the founder of Kineo Wheels, was called in to assist. Designs were drawn up in CAD, and a plastic prototype produced before the final aluminum parts were made. A custom Öhlins shock makes it all work.
“The final part was incredible and looked menacing and fast,” says David. “How would it handle? This was the million dollar question, but no one had a clue…”
A shakedown was in order, but time was running out. The forks arrived just hours before the El Rollo flat track race at Wheels and Waves—where El Solitario’s new technical partner, Mauro of Classic Co., managed to get the Zaeta onto the podium in the final.
While the front-end was being developed, El Sol were busy transforming the rest of the Zaeta into the machine now known as ‘E.S. Pluto.’
Finishing touches include customized brake rotors, a number board and some eye-catching plumbing. There’s a PIAA headlight attached to the girder fork, and a F1-approved LED taillight. El Sol also installed grips, a speedo, mirror, blinkers and switches from Motogadget.
With Wheels and Waves behind them, it was time to really put E.S. Pluto to the test.
“Only a handful of custom houses in this world would unveil their most precious exercise in a flat track race,” David says. “And why not kick the shit out of her alloy bones? But even less would ride their race bike for a thousand miles before racing it at a famous event in another man’s land.”
“At El Solitario we always bid to lose (as only then, we might have a chance to win)—and that’s exactly what we did.”
David pointed the bike towards the UK, intending to run the Zaeta in Dirt Quake’s ‘Run What Ya Brung’ race. And he made it, too: filling up every 80km, and changing the oil twice along the way.
So, David, what’s it like on the open road?
“Vibration, vibration, vibration,” he says. “I’ve known guys that pay good money at their gym to suffer what the Zaeta gives you for free. Because of this, I lost the shifter twice, the license plate once and the left mirror for ever and ever in the midst of Buckinghamshire.”
But it was awesome, and gave me a familiar vibe only felt before, when riding for days on pre-war machines! It made me think of what Shinya [Kimura] said: For him a bike is a primitive tool, such as a knife.”
“My old belief that the harder you make a bike ride, the the sooner you will enjoy riding it and at lower speeds, was re-confirmed. You don’t need to go 100-plus to walk the line, and savor that exquisite mix of power and fear that keeps us alive.”