This is a totally unique bike, with loads of clever, and innovative engineering on show coupled with masses of chrome and gold plating, and even some ornamental engraving to boot. A real craftsman’s project bike.
No matter what your views on custom bikes may be, love them or loath them, you’ve got to marvel at the forethought and the engineering skills that went into the design and building of this bike. It is quite simply, stunning.
John Bolt gives insidebikes the lowdown on Hank’s FZ 750, The Fly.
Just to give you an insight into just how much forethought went into this bike, it didn’t hit the streets straight off in the guise you see in the pictures. Despite having very clear ideas on what the finished bike would look like, Hank decided just to build the frame initially, and give that a thorough testing before progressing with the rest of his ideas.
The frame, built by Hank and his friend, Robin Davies, uses the FZ engine as a stressed member, and is triangulated at the top to take the stresses imposed by the headstock. This was all panelled in, which gives the appearance of a fuel tank, but the fuel tank doesn’t live here, oh no. Not much room left in here with all that triangulation, and after the speedo and rev counter decided to make their home in here. You will find the fuel tank hidden in the belly pan, along with the radiator from the cooling system. The fuel tank being connected to the filler cap up top by means of a gurt long pipe that winds its way down through the innards (or thorax) of this machine.
The project started with Hank and Robin sitting down and drawing some unusual frame designs, and they decided to build a bike with no front downtubes, similar to frames used on old Panthers, but considerably more technically advanced.
A conventional front end was then fitted, along with a quick application of Nato green paint, along with some matt black for good measure, and the bike was used for about a year. Including a trip to Holland, (some test ride!) just to make sure their ideas would work and then they could continue to put the rest of their ideas into action.
Now the main criteria that Hank and Robin had when they first sat down to plan the bike, was that it would be built as an exercise to see how far the boundaries of engineering could be pushed in relation to bike building. If you look closely and carefully at the bike, you will see that the boundaries have not only been pushed, they have been thrashed into submission. And when I tell you that the bike first hit the road, in it’s test guise in 1990, perhaps you will realise just how innovative some of their ideas were. With nary a computer or cad program to be seen. Believe it or not, this bike really was designed on the back of a beer mat!
In 1992, with the shakedown duly completed without a hitch, work started in earnest on the rest of the bike. The fact that the ensuing “finishing off” took a whole year should give you some idea how much head scratching, and hard work went towards the completed item. And that’s practically full time work. Perhaps the most noticeable feature is the single sided fork set-up. This was fabricated from steel tube and triangulated to give it the necessary rigidity, then plated, incorporating a housing for the mini Bates headlight.
What is not so immediately apparent, but is very unique nonetheless, is the fact the bike runs on 16 inch Compomotive Specials wheels, more normally seen on Rally cars. The front wheel is mounted on a solid spindle from the single fork leg, and spaced off to accommodate the offset of the wheel.
In keeping with the high tech theme, the front brake has two four pot calipers and the disc, which fits neatly into the dished side of the wheel. Another clever feature up front is the speedo drive. How to drive a bike speedo from a wheel originally destined for a car? They got round it by mounting it on the back of the fork leg and connecting it via a belt drive. The ingenious way that Hank and Robin have overcome problems such as that just beggars belief! That one snag alone would have had lesser mortals scratching their heads for several millennia.
Something else you may not notice straight away, is the lack of any control cables on the antenna like tiller bars. Surprisingly, Hank said that, along with the forks, this was one of the hardest jobs on the bike. Both the clutch and brake are hydraulic, but the master cylinders are located under the false tank, to where cables run inside the bars from the levers. The throttle is a similar set-up to that found on a Brough Superior, and uses a worm drive, which pushes the outer, and pulls the inner of the throttle cable.
Now then, that single sided swinging arm is another of Robin’s creations, made in a similar fashion to the front forks. None of your stock stuff on this bike! Also like the front forks, the swinging arm has been hand engraved by Don Blocksidge, the Zeus in the engravers’ Olympus. Don is one of the old school of craftsmen, having started his apprenticeship with gun makers Webley and Scott at the age of 14. Don has also executed some more of his exquisite work on the various casings on the bike.
Another clever and unique touch, again from a source not previously connected with motorcycles, is the exhaust system. Originally that rather large bore pipe was at home on an Iveco turbo truck. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. Robin has incorporated a Honda Spacey moped headlight motor, to control a flap within the exhaust that changes the pipe from straight through to muffled at the flick of a switch. That could be very handy for overtaking Police cars and MOT tests.
Once all the engineering tasks had been completed, the bike was then shipped to Chris Ireland and Boots for them to further enhance the insect like appearance. Boots made the seat, while Chris did all the polishing and chrome and Gold plating. Yes, in this instance, all that glitters IS gold – 24 carat gold at that.
Ian King, a guy who normally paints weathervanes for a living, handled the paintwork, which was designed to resemble a bluebottle’s musculature. The insect theme running all the way through the bike, even down to the airfilters, chosen for their resemblance to a fly’s eyes!
In common with some insects, even this story has a sting in its tail. On a trip to Belgium in 1994, Hank had a very serious crash and has not fully recovered from the effects of it yet. In fact his doctors have only just allowed him to start driving cars again. Feeling withdrawal symptoms, as would any true biker, Hank has built an absolutely gorgeous trike around a Harley Evo engine, again with some very trick engineering like independent suspension. The Fly is one of the few bikes in the world that has been displayed in a museum as a work of art!
Speaking of museums and works of art etc, we used two locations for the photographs, Caerphilly Castle, and Castle Coch. Both very picturesque settings, I’m sure you’ll agree. The best bit, unfortunately not for me this time, was at Castle Coch. We wheeled the bike halfway up the slatted wooden walkway to get the position for light and other photography demands. Due to the fact that the ramp had a steep slope, we had to position Shaun, a friend of Hank’s, under the ramp with a strap round the footrest to stop the bike falling over. When the manageress came out to tell us to vacate the premises, she paused in her admonitions to admire the bike. Right above Shaun.
Apparently they were blue.
Best wishes to Hank for a continued, and speedy recovery.
Get a Carole Nash bike insurance policy for the your Fly FZ 750.
Engine Yamaha FZ750
ENGINE MODS: engraved
FRONT FORKS: one off single sided
FUEL TANK: under engine belly pan
MUDGUARDS: one off from flat plate
EXHAUST: one off from veco turbo truck with electric valve
LIGHTS: Mini bates front, hand made rear
PAINT: By I an King-Muscle and sinew to look like a fly
CHROMING AND GOLD PLATING: Desperate Dans
WIRING: Nightmare Part1
Engineering Details Belt drive speedo, Single sided swinging arm and forks, One off radiatorand fuel tank in belly pan, clutch brake and throttle cables run internally through bars,dummy fuel tank, side panels and mud guards all formed from flat sheet.