The Spencer Evo: Devilish Detail
The Spencer Evo has a hold on me. In a decade-and-a-half of travelling the motorcycle world looking at one-offs, specials and race machinery, it is the one motorcycle that has made the biggest impression on my life. It is the one that took years of carefully honed contentment and did a fourth gear burnout on its face. It is the perfect mix of glamour and attainability. It’s not Casey’s Desmosedici, yet, in my eyes, it’s as well built. I’m never going to own a factory MotoGP bike (and couldn’t keep its complex electronics working if I did), but I could imagine creating something like this. This machine has been built from the ground up. There are barely two components on the whole bike that have ever sat together before in their entire lives. That adds up to 2000 problems to solve.
The frame and swingarm were made to order by GIA in Nottinghamshire. It’s hand-bent, 7030 aerospace-grade aluminium alloy. Each joint was scrupulously cleaned before being TIG welded, by a man who has been making high-performance, alloy motorcycle frames for over 20 years. Every weld is a little example of perfection. I don’t believe in describing cars and bikes as works of art. They’re not. To me, they’re better than that, they are machines with a purpose. I’m not anti-art. I’m just very pro-machine. And while this machine isn’t art, those welds have a hyper-organic beauty only carefully melted metal can possess. The chassis has been anodised black, so all that beauty almost disappears. That’s the sign of a man who is building bikes for himself, not to enable him to splash in a shallow pool of public admiration.
The Spencer Evo is drenched in craftsmanship. Every nut, bolt and screw is titanium, including the swingarm pivot bolt and wheel spindles. The titanium fasteners alone cost well over £1000. Yet this isn’t a race bike, just the focus of an obsessive character. The shocks were made to order by Works Performance in California, while the carburettors are hideously expensive Yoshimura Mikuni TMR-MJNs personally imported from Japan. They run without filters.
The bodywork, and the special’s name, is designed to evoke images of the 1980-81 AMA Racing season – when Superbike racing went stratospheric. A time when budgets for this production bike racing class were close to unlimited. There was only so much you could do to a Honda CB900, Kawasaki Z1000 or Suzuki GS1000, and stay within the rules. There was a hell of a lot more you could do if you regarded those rules with all the disdain as sabre-tooth tiger could muster if presented with a Pizza Hut salad.
The AMA seasons from 1980-83 helped launched the road racing careers of Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Freddie Spencer. The three of them would win a total of nine 500 GP world championships (and one 250 title). It was a special time, when engine’s out-performed chassis, and tyres were so hard they made sparks. Steve set out to build an evolution of the bike Spencer raced 30 years ago. This is not a replica. It is more of a manga interpretation. If Spencer rode Peter Parker, Steve built Spiderman.
And, because it isn’t a replica, but an interpretation, there was no wrong way to do it. So if he wanted to fit a Suzuki engine, no one was going to stop him. So he did. The engine is an 1157cc air and oil-cooled inline four from a GSF1200 Bandit. It’s extremely closely related to GSX-R1100s that date back to 1985. Needless to say, it’s not standard, but it hasn’t been excessively tuned.
The wheels are magnesium, and made in England by Dymag. The brakes are rare British Spondon one-piece calipers, long before the mainstream made them, Spondon discs and MotoGP spec master cylinders. The wiring loom is RAF jet aircraft-spec…
I could go, because not one single corner has been cut.
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