Voxan’s dream with the Black Magic Roadster was to create a no-compromise street special, like the original British cafe racers of the early 1960s. A slice of lean, mean, pure rock ’n’ roll.
Featuring a 1000cc V-twin motor, lightweight chassis, huge alloy gas tank and track-orientated suspension, the Black Magic Roadster is a raucous, old school motorbike that your Mother would hate. Vive le difference.
It barks into life. Gruff, vibey, the noise resonates from the big 1000cc motor.
You slowly ease yourself into the spartan saddle, your knees pushed high by the rearsets, and the 21 litre gas tank – yes, a bike with a real fuel range – gleaming silver beneath your chest, reflecting back a fairground mirror image of your head and shoulders.
It’s a long stretch to the ace bars in front, then a slight graunch as you boot the bike into first gear and away. The clutch is lighter than you expect, but the gear selection is notchy, old fashioned. On the upside, the fuel injection system on the Voxan Black Magic works well, especially above 4,000rpm when the bike really begins to sing. Within seconds, you’re peeling off a roundabout, arcing the Voxan past slow moving traffic, then accelerating hard into the distance, crouched low into the metal of the machine. This bike has guts, pizazz, a hard-edged brutal style.
Suddenly a grin appears on your face and you start to realise that the Black Magic makes sense, up to a point, on the right kind of roads. This is exactly what Voxan say the bike is designed for; backroads scratching, not motorway touring, or slow commuting, but an explosive blast along a favourite road one Sunday morning, early as you like.
In that respect it succeeds, but it’s single-minded sense of purpose, the narrow focus of the old fashioned cafe racer, doesn’t do it for me now I’m creaking into my 40s and worried about the damage hard suspension does to my spine, shoulder and hip bones. Guess I’m too old to rock `n’ roll…?
A Moveable Feast, A Flickable Beast?
The Voxan Black Magic is powered by a one litre, DOHC V-twin motor, that makes around 100bhp at 8000 revs, which is just enough to make life interesting. Set at 72 degrees, it sits relatively high in the frame, but the lack of sump allows Voxan to place the monoshock underneath the motor, yet retain decent ground clearance, plus a short-ish wheelbase.
The twin tubular spine frame is very clever, in that it has two screw-in adjustable sections at the steering head and swingarm mounting point, which allow the factory to set the exact angle and height of the frame. So a touch of adjustment on the Black Magic sets the weight of the engine slightly forwards, compared to the Cafe Racer model and you can feel the difference – this bike steers and rides from the front end, it feels stable, albeit with rock hard Marzocchi forks up there too.
Another stiff shock, taking care of bumps and bounces at the back end does you no favours when threading your way through grids, poor road repairs, or pot-holes either. Sometimes it simply bounces the rider out of the saddle at speed – the factory suspension settings are simply too harsh I reckon. The Black Magic Roadster needs to be ridden hard, but preferably at a smooth race circuit, which kind of defeats the idea of building a cafe racer par excellence – it can’t cut it on the road sometimes because it lacks the finesse that the Voxan Cafe Racer has for example.
In one regard, Voxan have captured the fire in the belly that inspired the likes of Dave Degens when he melded Norton’s cat-quick cradle to Triumph’s vibey old Bonnie twin back in the 60s. It looks superb; a quaint blend of retro and modern, stripped-to-the-bone, bad-ass motorbike.
For example, some details, like the Voxan’s `rocket launcher’ exhaust pipe end cans look great, ditto the rear sets, footpeg mounts, the headstock and the classy twin clock instrument display. The huge gas tank isn’t quite as beautiful as one straight from a Triton, or a Manx Norton, but it has a simple elegance. Considering that Voxan have recently recovered from bankruptcy and are a minnow in the shark pool of world bike manufacturing, they’ve done remarkably well to produce something this good.
But odd bits, like the headlight, the 80s style Superdream mirrors and budget indicators, suggest to bystanders that the Voxan is a home-brewed special, something you haven’t quite got around to finishing off. For an estimated eight grand – the bike is due in the UK later in 2005 – that really isn’t good enough.
The Bespoke Option
The bottom line is that buyers will have to accept that Voxan bikes will be different, feel unique, sometimes unusual to ride. Also, they might not be perfect. Each bike is virtually hand built, by a small workforce at Issoire, so in some respects, it is like buying a Bimota, or a Benelli – a bit of a gamble.
But the fact that Voxan went racing in the TT in 2005, rather than some one make series at home, also suggests that they are trying to build bikes that road riders will appreciate, rather than complete track addicts. Voxan are trying to develop something genuinely good, a concept that works in the real world – good on `em for trying I say.
So Voxan’s Black Magic Roadster is a cool remix of classic biking, but with modern tyre choices, suspension, fuel injection and electrical systems, plus a distinctive styling package which you either love or hate. They have made a bold statement here and you have to admire them for it, even if living with the Black Magic would have me seeing an osteopath on a fortnightly basis…
For me, the Voxan Cafe Racer (or a Suzuki SV1000, Aprilia Tuono or Honda VTR1000) performs much better, on a greater variety of roads, plus feels more comfortable to ride. But I can’t deny that the Black Magic looks, sounds and rides just like a proper cafe racer motorbike should. If Vincent had staved off bankruptcy back in the 50s and made it to the 1990s, I think they would have made something a bit like this; an engineer’s cup of espresso.
Test bike supplied by: Voxan Moto, Issoire, France. www.voxan.com
Get Voxan motorcycle insurance for the Black Magic 05.
|Engine||72 degree V-twin, four stroke, 4 valves per cylinder, liquid cooled.|
|Bore and stroke||98mm X 66mm|
|Peak power||100bhp @8000rpm ( claimed)|
|Carbs||None, electronic fuel injection|
|Frame||Twin tubular, with engine as stressed member, featuring screw-in adjustable section at steering head and swingarm mounting point.|
|Forks||USD Marzocchi 43mm|
|Rear suspension||Underslung monoshock|
|Front brakes||Twin 320mm Brembo discs, 4 pot calipers.|
|Rear brake||Single 245mm disc, 2 pot calliper|
|Wheels/tyres||120/70 ZR 17 Michelin front, 180/55 ZR 17 Michelin rear.|
|Fuel capacity||21 litres|
|Estimated top speed||160mph|
|Price||£8000 (estimated, July 2005)|