Steve McQueen’s name’s been used to sell everything from apparel to motorcycles. If McQueen wore it or rode it—or something vaguely resembling it—you can expect to see his name in the sales pitch.
Which is ironic: If the man was still riding today, he’d pick modern machinery over a reconditioned classic every time. McQueen’s bikes, as stylish as they were, were always contemporary choices.
Take his Rickman Metisse desert racer, for example. It combined a Rickman-made Metisse MkIII frame with a Triumph TR6 power plant.
At the time, McQueen was quoted as saying, “This rig is the best-handling bike I’ve ever owned.”
João Barranca’s a fan of the Rickman Metisse legacy. An electrical engineer by day, he spends his downtime building custom bikes as Redonda Motors, out of Coimbra, Portugal.
João wanted to build his own Metisse-inspired rig, but with a more up-to-date donor.
“In my imagination I saw a modern Rickman,” he explains, “with modern design and mechanics. Like any Rickman, it had to be simple, robust, reliable, practical, fun and sexy.”
His weapon of choice: a 1998 Husaberg FE 501. Sure, it’s not a current model, but it’s considerably more modern than a 60s-era Triumph. It’s light, weighing in at just 109kg (240 pounds), and with 52 horses on tap, has ample power for a dirt bike.
To get the look just right, João went to the source: the fuel tank, side panels and tail piece are all Rickman Metisse items.
The tank’s been mounted as-is, but the fiberglass side panels and tail unit were modified to work with the Husaberg’s proportions. João had to tweak the frame in places to accommodate everything.
The seat itself is custom, with sand-colored upholstery as nod to the Metisse’s success in the desert. There’s a small LED tail light embedded in the back, with a custom-made headlight and speedo shroud, equipped with twin LED bars, doing duty up front.
“Either you love it, or you hate it,” quips João.
With the bodywork in place, João set about editing the Husaberg’s tall stance. The suspension’s been stiffened and lowered at both ends, and the original 21F/19R wheels have been swapped for matching 19” units.
They’re now wrapped in Dunlop trials tires—chosen for their classic look and off-road grip.
Since the Husaberg is “already a monster,” João left the brawny engine mostly unmodified, but fitted a Hebo hydraulic clutch for ease of use. The air intake is custom-made, with a HKS fitler feeding the new carb.
The exhaust is from IXIL; “It fits perfectly with the air intake system, and gives the bike a spectacular sound,” says João.
The Husaberg’s new livery is on point—a tribute to McQueen’s own Metisse. It’s an alluring finish, with fantastic details like the mismatched engine casing colors, ‘Metisse powered by Husaberg’ lettering and Swedish and British flags on the tank. And the polished aluminum parts (reminiscent of the era) really drive the point home.
The Redonda Husaberg-powered Metisse is as quirky as it is purposeful. But more importantly, it has the go to match its show.
“Everything about this bike is designed with a single purpose: simplicity and driving pleasure,” says João. “And that’s what the motorcycle has to offer in very high doses. It’s very, very fun to ride!”
Would McQueen approve? Who cares—we certainly do.