There’s a story behind most bikes, but there’s more of a story behind Team Badger than most. At heart, it’s a sturdy 2007-model Royal Enfield Bullet. In the bigger picture, it’s an experiment in collaboration, social media and bike industry commentary.
The man behind this raw and curiously appealing machine is Leon Stanley of Cycle Icons in Trenton, NJ. It’s a vintage-oriented shop, ‘dedicated to preserving the spirit and sport of vintage and classically styled motorcycling.’ Cycle Icons used to be a Royal Enfield dealer, and the brand is still a big part of what they do. ‘I’m afraid to call myself a Royal Enfield specialist,’ says Leon, ‘but I suppose I am.’
This particular Bullet is owned by Cycle Icons customer Pete Raymond. ‘We batted some ideas around,’ Leon remembers. ‘One night, tossing and turning and thinking about it, it hit. It was a flash of inspiration, with all aspects coming together at once. The bike, its design, the collaboration, the project, the mission, the team.’ Leon wrote a 4:00AM blog post and Team Badger was born.
The idea was to take some of the pre-War rat bike aesthetic, and apply it to a café racer. ‘Loud, raw, and fast.’ Central to the project would be a Fireball engine built by Sumanth “Chumma” Janardhan and Tom Lyons of Ace Engineering. ‘I was aware of what Ace was doing in sussing out what makes a Bullet motor tick. Chumma’s test mule is getting some real power, 38 HP at the rear wheel, vs. about 18 for a stock Royal Enfield Bullet. And just as important, he’s put over 15,000 hard road miles on his bike, without a failure.’
Team Badger was formed, and they decided to fund a documentary on the project through the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter. It was a quick build with a deadline looming, and more than a little midnight oil was burnt. The bike made it to Mid-Ohio’s Vintage Motorcycle Days, leaving on a brutally hot (105F) day with 450 miles in front of them. ‘It was a tough row to hoe. Not exactly ideal circumstances for breaking in a brand new bike,’ says Leon. ‘We were off the pace, but improved through out the day, and the Badger saw both its checkered flags.’
So what exactly is this bike? ‘Mechanically, the Ace Fireball engine was integral to the concept and mission,’ says Leon. ‘I drew on the American hot rodding tradition for much of the inspiration. Its two most striking features—to my mind—are the tank, and the wheels.’ Leon approached the Philadelphia-based artist Mark Rounds about doing a WW II nose art treatment of a Badger on the tank. ‘But Mark upped the game. Inspired by a early 70’s Indy Champ car—resplendent in hand-painted sponsor logos—he proclaimed, “No stickers on the bike. Everything will be hand painted.” His work was done over the raw steel.’ It now regularly receives a fresh “clear coat” of 10W/40 via rag, and is aging nicely.
Despite more than 60 backers, Team Badger didn’t reach its film funding goal via Kickstarter. That’s a shame, but the story and film project will continue.
Images by Scott Rounds.
Leon Stanley: Project Manager, Beverage Procurement.
Peter Raymond: Project Architect, Promotional Director, Media Liaison.
Sumanth “Chumma” Janardhan, Tom Lyons, Ace Engineering LLC: Ministers of Power, Performance bits, Engine Builder.
Stu Carter: Racer and Badger Pilot
Corey Lloyd, Lloyd Vintage: Strategic Partner, Parts Support.
Mark Rounds: Art Director.
Ron Truch: Team Photog and Documentarian.