We’re always intrigued when a superbike goes under the custom knife. But this is no ordinary superbike: it’s a Honda RC51, the same projectile that Colin Edwards piloted to victory in the 2000 World Superbike Championship.
Honda’s liter-size V-twin was always a looker, but this radical reinterpretation is off the scale. It’s the work of brothers Sylvain and Florent Berneron, the masterminds behind PRAËM.
PRAËM is more than a workshop, or a collection of tools and lathes: Les frères Berneron have a compelling philosophy.
It starts with the selection of a motorcycle revered for its dynamic prowess or noble race pedigree. The bike is then analyzed in minute detail and enhanced, both technically and aesthetically.
It’s a no-holds-barred approach for building exclusive, hand-made machines. And the Bernerons are well equipped to handle it.
Sylvain is a former BMW Motorrad designer with a Masters degree in design; Florent is a prototypist and former French army aeronautical mechanic.
Despite the pedigree of the RC51 (known as the RVT1000R in the US and the VTR1000 in Europe and Australia), the brothers noticed a few shortcomings—even in this 2002 race-spec version.
The brakes and suspension didn’t measure up, and the tank hugged the rear cylinder enough to cause overheating.
So PRAËM left the good stuff alone—such as the core geometry—and finessed everything else. After all, technology has moved on in the ten years since the RC51 left production.
For starters there’s a new Brembo brake setup, equipped with Sicom carbon-ceramic discs.
Öhlins have supplied top-shelf suspension at both ends, custom-finished in black. And carbon fiber wheels from Rotobox are shod with Pirelli’s highest performing rubber, the Diablo Supercorsa SC2 superbike tires.
The 90-degree V-twin has been rebuilt, and upgraded with titanium valves and a ram air intake (see the spec sheet below for full details).
It’s now good for 165 horsepower and 125 Nm of torque. Titanium exhaust headers and stainless steel cans provide a soundtrack worthy of the looks.
And those looks … this is one of those rare machines with no precedent. The radical new bodywork is hand-made, blending aluminum and stainless steel in contrasting finishes.
“Each surface is treated depending on its type of use,” says Sylvain. “All the mechanical and structural elements are blacked out. Brushed aluminum and stainless steel define the ergonomic and aerodynamic surfaces. The colored parts are ornamental features.”
The fairing, tail section and front fender are wire mesh—crafted during 600 hours of shaping and welding 2mm stainless steel rods together. (The inspiration came from the sculptures of the Brooklyn-based Korean artist Seung Mo Park.)
There’s functionality built in too—PRAËM have varied the density of the wires to help direct airflow where it’s needed.
The fuel tank is an aluminum one-off, designed to give more breathing space to the rear cylinder. The fairing side panels and the engine spoiler are aluminum too.
Under the hood, there are subtle mods to the substantial frame: this is an RC51 SP2, so it has the same frame as the HRC machines, designed to withstand the rigors of a race season.
A custom subframe replaces the aluminum original. There’s a carbon fiber rear hugger, and the seat’s covered in Alcantara. Side-mounted LEDs, projecting through the fairing just under the bars, act as headlights.
There’s a curious addition to the cockpit though—a Tag Heuer watch. It rests in a one-off case, complete with its strap should the rider prefer to wear it.
“In history, there’s a strong bridge between the world of watchmaking, and the nautical, aeronautical, and automobile industries,” says Sylvain. “But it’s somehow never happened with motorcycles.”
“The prestigious chronograph brand Tag Heuer has therefore joined PRAËM, and let us integrate a Monaco Calibre 11.”
It’s an unusual and classy touch on top of a hundred other fascinating details.
PRAËM have re-branded their RC51 the ‘SP3’, but place it in the grand tourer rather than superbike category. “The goal is not to make a pure race bike or a comfortable touring bike, but a vehicle that can live in between these two worlds,” Sylvain says.
“In the car industry it could be the Aston Martin DB9—fast and powerful, but also timeless and elegant.”
It’s a fitting analogy. But we’d pick these two wheels over four any day of the week.
SP3 project started in January 2015. Complete design and building process done in-house and required approximately 4000 hours of labor. The new tank has a 12L capacity and the dry weight is 180Kgs.
Tires: PIRELLI Superbike SC2
Wheels: ROTOBOX carbon fiber wheels (6.8kg a pair)
Discs: SICOM carbon ceramic brakes (optimal operating temperature: 450°C)
Brakes: BREMBO CNC 484/108 and CNC 84 (all on ceramic pads)
Suspension: ÖLHINS FGR300 and TTX36, finished in full black
All non-suspended parts use titanium bolts.
1000cc 90° V-twin / DOHC / 4 valves per cylinder
Lightened crank shaft
JE high-compression pistons
Tuned cylinder heads
Racing air filters and ram air
Front wheel axle / CNC Steel
3 disc holders / CNC Aluminum
Triple clamps / CNC Aluminum
Ram air / Aluminum
Gas tank / Aluminum
Wired fairings / Stainless steel / 1150 wires / 7.8kg
Front fairing edges / Aluminum
Windshield / Plexiglas (PMMA)
Windshield carrier / Aluminum
Sub frame / Aluminum
Number plate holder / Aluminum
Modified Frame / Aluminum
Battery carrier / Aluminum
Engine spoiler carrier / Aluminum
Engine spoiler / Antique brass
Modified engine covers / Magnesium
Seat / Aluminum & Alcantara
Fairing brackets / Aluminum
Exhaust silencers / Stainless steel
Silencers holders / Stainless steel
Rear mudguard / Carbon fiber
Rear caliper carrier / CNC Aluminum
Expansion tank / Aluminum
Watch carrier / CNC Aluminum