Somewhere in a graveyard in Bologna, Italy, Dr. Fabio Taglioni is flipping somersaults in his tomb. For 35 years, Signore Taglioni served as chief designer and technical director of Ducati Motor Holding, where he designed the company's signature desmodromic-valve L-twin engine and acted as the architect of the roadracing successes that eventually came to define the company. Taglioni had grand visions for the future of Ducati's motorcycle design, but we doubt he ever considered an application as out-there as Roger Allmond's outrageous, tube-framed, Ducati-powered "Techno-Bobber."
Not that it's entirely fair to call Allmond's Techno-Bobber (or T-Bob, for short) a Ducati per se--aside from the 996cc L-twin motor, fork legs and Brembo brake calipers (all sourced from a Ducati Monster S4R), there is nothing else that remains from the Italian company in place on this bike. Every last remaining component was handmade by Allmond himself, including the frame, swingarm, bodywork, wheels and even most of the nuts and bolts. Talk about one-off...
Allmond operates a firm called Allmond Cycle Design in Oxford, England, an hour outside of London and deep in the heart of Formula One country--Renault, Williams and Jaguar team headquarters are all within 20 miles of his home. A former overworked engineering contractor, Allmond has since downshifted out of that gig and turned his energy (and considerable engineering and fabricating talent) to building custom bikes full-time. The T-Bob is only Allmond's sixth custom bike and his first ground-up custom. It's also his first chopper-styled design. The previous five customs were all sportbike-based streetfighters, but with this bike he wanted to do something different.
Allmond dubbed the bike the Techno-Bobber because he wanted to create a more modern take on the traditional, '50s-style bobber, the predecessor to today's choppers. Even though he greatly admired the bobber style, he knew that he didn't want to use a Harley-Davidson V-twin motor for his ideal version. "I really wanted to make an impact with this bike," Allmond tells us, "so I decided to do something different and use a Ducati motor. I'd never seen anybody build a chopper around a Ducati, so I knew that people would be amazed by this."
Allmond originally planned to use a mid-'90s Ducati 916 engine that he had lying around his workshop, until a chance phone conversation between himself and Luke Plummer, Ducati UK's Press Relations Manager, took the project in a slightly different direction. Plummer invited Allmond to visit Ducati UK headquarters in London to show the company reps some drawings of his project, and following that meeting Ducati UK agreed to donate to Allmond a crash-damaged, late-model Monster S4R test bike to form the basis of the project--complete with a much stronger, 110-hp, 996cc desmoquattro engine.
Allmond's original concept utilized the standard Duc chassis, but once he had the support of Ducati UK he decided to take the project one step further and create a one-off, handmade chassis unique to this bike. Allmond began by constructing a completely adjustable frame jig capable of holding the engine, fork and wheels--"I never begin a bike until I can see it from front to back," Allmond says. Once he had the general position of the major components adjusted to his liking on the jig, he began constructing a chassis around it. Built entirely of TIG-welded, chrome-moly steel tubing mated to a machined (and internally braced) steering head, the frameset is a true work of art, with nearly every tube featuring complex, 3D bends.
Mated to this gorgeous trellis frame is a hand-formed, tubular aluminum, single-sided swingarm that Allmond says was the most difficult part of the project, taking a full 14 days start-to-finish to complete. The swingarm mounts in the stock position on the rear of the gearbox casing, and Allmond took extra steps to bulk up the front "box" section to make a bolder visual statement and aesthetically enhance that area of the bike. Allmond says he toyed with the idea of building a rigid frame, only to reject that on the grounds that it was, in his words, "too blasphemous" to the sporting character of the Ducati brand. Look closely and you'll see twin shocks from a Harley-Davidson Softail tucked underneath the swingarm, providing three inches of rear wheel travel.
Hung from the polished swingarm is a custom billet rear wheel carrying a fat, 300mm Avon tire. Allmond hand-machined the wheels himself, starting with blanks provided by All American Wheel, another sponsor/supporter of this project. It's worth mentioning at this point that Allmond did all of the machining on this bike by hand--there's not a single piece of CNC-controlled tooling in his shop. Up front you'll see a matching All American-by-Allmond wheel, this one also carrying a substantial, 180mm Avon tire along with an Allmond-original brake rotor. The fork legs are the factory Ducati Monster pieces, sheathed in oversized covers turned by Allmond on a lathe to give the front of the bike a suitably muscular appearance.
The Ducati motor is mostly stock--"The stock S4R is good for nearly 150 mph," Allmond points out, "which is plenty for me!"--though the cases have been cleaned up and most of the lines, wires and other visual ugliness have been tucked under a host of hand-machined covers also made by Allmond. Earl's Hoses contributed a few yards of braided stainless hoses and tubes to further dress things up, and a hand-formed exhaust by Allmond finishes the powerplant off--that exhaust is another standout feature, with the rear pipe wrapping sensuously around the open clutch cover, and the front pipe bent to a radius that perfectly matches the rear.
Bodywork on the T-Bob is kept to a minimum--basically the fuel tank is it. That tank actually performs multiple functions--in addition to carrying approximately four gallons of fuel, it also conceals the fuel pump and filters, covers the battery and solenoid and carries the gauges in a custom housing mounted on top. The "saddle" is little more than an aluminum dovetail tacked onto the rear frame spar. "I originally meant to have it upholstered, but I couldn't settle on a design," Allmond says. "The more I looked at the bare pan sitting there, the more I liked the way it looked. It's funny how if you look at something long enough, it just starts to look right!"
The simple paint scheme is the product of Allmond's friend Andy Peck. The red basecoat with off-center white racing stripe nods to the Ducati racing heritage, with black fogging to add a bit of subtlety to the mix. The remaining aesthetic accoutrements are likewise Allmond creations, including the twin projector beam headlamps that are actually lenses from the Ducati 999 Superbike set into hand-machined housings. The entire cockpit was hand-built by Allmond as well, including the beachbar-style handlebar, grips and levers, with all the cables routed internally to keep the front end extra-clean.
Though the T-Bob was conceived and built in the UK, it actually made its debut December '05 in the United States at the AMD Pro Show World Championship of Custom Bike Building in Las Vegas. There Allmond joined some of the best bike builders in the world, including Russell Mitchell, Jesse Rooke, Roger Goldammer and Belgium's Freddie Krugger, to compete for prizes. Allmond finished the bike the same day that it was loaded on to a plane and flown to Vegas, where it was entered in the Metric Custom class. The T-Bob dropped plenty of jaws on the show floor but finished a disappointing second-in-class in the judging, losing by just eight points to a mild-custom Honda Shadow--a result that was later attributed to ambiguous placement on the show floor near the higher-profile American V-twin bikes, which caused some of the judges not to realize that the T-Bob actually belonged in the metric class. Allmond's not bitter, though--"Everyone said we were robbed, but I didn't really expect to win anything anyway," he says. "The reaction to the bike--to see guys like the crew from Exile Cycles absolutely freak out over it--was enough for me."
The bike has since returned to the UK, where Allmond is planning to hit the European show circuit--no doubt he'll see more success on the Continent with this mad sportbike/chopper mash-up. Allmond says he might even ride the bike a little, too--he had only ridden a single mile on the T-Bob when we spoke with him in Vegas, but he tells us that the bike handled quite well (geometry is almost identical to the stock Monster, minus a bit of trail to better accommodate the fat front tire) and the open pipes sound like a Top Fuel dragster to boot.
A radical custom Ducati that goes as well as it shows--maybe we were wrong in the beginning of this story. Perhaps Dr. Taglioni wouldn't be so against that.
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