Why we love getting dirty

It’s a beautiful thing, this art of mechanical repair. Using your skills, your brains, your logic, to improve an item to something more that what it is now. It allows us to run the full gamut of emotions, to feel the entire spectrum of what it feels to be human. You feel stupid if you mess up, you feel happy if you achieve your goal, it hurts if you smash your hand against cold hard metal. You get that awesome feeling of ‘I fixed this and now I’m doing 100kmh’, then the fear of realising ‘I fixed this and now I’m doing 100kmh’.

It is an art, it’s effort to achieve something subjective and desirable, and it’s therapeutic. Get out in the shed today, you owe it to yourself.

Something unique

It was still early. The show had only just started, but I had seen what I had needed to see. As I nosed my way out out of the car park, dodging BMW touring bikes and Goldwings, something caught my eye. Low slung and packing a V-twin, there was nothing on the bike which jumped out at me, but it still held my gaze. I knew the bike from somewhere, but couldn’t pick it. Pulling up slowly, I saw the half round emblem on the tank and had trouble believing my eyes. Roughly 200 in the world, asking prices up to the $300k mark, I had come face to face with my first Crocker motorcycle.


Way back in the day, Albert Crocker was an motorcycle engineer, racer and dealership owner. After dabbling with an Indian powered bike of his own frame design, his inner engineer screamed that he could build a better power plant. In 1936 Albert Crocker released a machine of his own design. Although Harley and Indian parts were utilised in the build, the engineering was all Crocker, and Albert was a man who stuck by his product.


So sure of his design, Albert Crocker made the guarantee that if a Crocker motorcycle owner should be beaten by an Indian or Harley motorcycle, then the owner could hand his Crocker bike back for a full refund. Not one Crocker motorcycle was ever refunded on those terms. And it’s easy to understand why. Overengineered, the Crocker 61 cubic inch could be blown out to 100 cubic inches. Even in stock form, the V twin put out 55-60 horsepower, twice what it’s competitors were offering at the time.


And there, on a Sunday morning, on the opposite side of the world to where it was made sat this Crocker motorcycle. I spoke to the rider, it wasn’t his. His Dad brought it into the country from the States in 1989, and the rider wasn’t entering it in the show. He was more interested in the other bikes there. DSC_0242

Each to their own I guess.

Pros & Cons


So both my bike projects have somewhat stalled. So I decided to get off my butt, and do something productive. I scored a cool old school toolbag off my mate which needs some work, and the GSX250 needs a new earth lead for the new starter solenoid. So in doing these I found out some things.

On the up side:

tonight I made quite possibly one of the neatest looking bits of auto electrical engineering I have ever done.

On the down side:
I put the wrong sized eye terminals on it.

On the up side:
It turns out I can sew.

On the down side:
I’ve got a long way to go yet.

Braaaaaap by name, Braaaaap by nature


Congratulations, you now have your motorcycle licence. It’s time to get a bike, and you want to stand out from the CBR/Ninja learner’s brigade. Luckily, two Australian motorcycle firms have come together to give you just that. Today’s review bike is the Braaaap Mercury, born of a collaboration between the Braaaap bike firm and motorcycle custom workshop Sol Invictus. Lightweight and learner legal, this modern days café racer draws on classic styling cues, while achieving the reliability that rarely comes from refreshing an older machine. And I doubt your old school Honda or Suzuki will come with a lifetime warranty.


Comfortable yet not bulky, the Mercury has been built for zipping around town and short blats further afield. Running at 18hp, and matched with a five speed transmission, the little thumper is the best way to start out in the motorcycle world for those looking for something basic and fun. Whether it’s ducking down to the local café on Sunday morning, or a more spirited run through the twisties, the Braaaap Mercury covers a lot of bases for those just starting out.


Built for reliability and comfort, the Mercury features quite a few options that that make it stand out from a lot of other LAMS specific/rated bikes on the market today. The bike offers kick as well as electric start, to cover for those times you want to look cool. The front shocks are upside down units, a la sports bike, but look awesome in powder coated black. The modern day café racer rolls on 17 inch rims, wrapped in fat balloon rubber to allow you to really roll into corners.


Jumping onto the bike for the first time, you’ll notice a couple of things. Firstly is the side covers may sit out a little further than what you are used to. Never mind that, once you assume the riding position you will not even notice they are there. A handy addition for learner riders is that of the spring loaded kickstand, which flicks up as soon as you take the weight of the bike off it. Once moving, you’ll notice how simple this bike is. One speedo gauge, no bulky cluster and simple switch setup means a learner rider can spend more time focused on the road.


Probably the biggest aspect, the biggest reason to purchase the Braaaap Mercury is the lifetime warranty. That is correct, lifetime warranty. All the hard parts, the moving parts, the engine parts, all covered by Braaap on the proviso you take it back to one of their dealers for maintenance. These guys at Braaap are the only bike manufacturer in the world to offer that sort of warranty. If that isn’t a reason to purchase this bike, then surely the $3999 (plus on roads) will be. Now it’s time to hit the road, and do it in style.


The Beemer that broke the mold

Hans Muth is one hell of a designer. One of the driving forces behind the legendary Suzuki Katana, it is a lesser known fact that Herr Muth is also the designer behind the BMW R90S of the mid 70s. Built to throw off the idea that BMW built only plaid boring motorcycles, the sporting German machine was given both mechanical and aesthetic upgrades to make it stand out from the vanilla BMW bikes of the period. Packing 67hp, and the ability to reach 200kmh, this is definitely one motorcycle that had BMW thinking outside the box.


Today’s bike comes from Australia, an incredibly clean barn find 1976 model R90S. With only 861km showing on the speedo, you can see the lack of use it has had. The seat cushion looks fresh and untouched, all switchgear is still legible. Not bad for a 38 year old bike.


This Beemer comes in the popular silver over orange psychedelic paint job of the period, still looking as fresh on the outside as when it left the plant in Berlin. All the rubber and vinyl looks brand new, and the toolkit still has the original BMW towel in it from when it left the factory. Yeah we don’t know why it’s in there either.


With a starting bid of $29,950 AUD, you’d wanna get in quick to get a hold of this museum piece, yet easily registered piece of German motorcycle history. You can find the eBay listing here:


The Aussie building what BSA wouldn’t – Doug Fraser

It is a rather exciting fact that one of the world’s leading BSA customisers is from our very own country. I’m not talking customising as in ‘bobber’ or ‘cafe racer’ customisation, I’m talking of a man who builds the BSA engines that might have been, and mounts then in period specific frames. This man is Doug Fraser of Emu Engineering, and he has been kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about his craft.

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So where did it all start, when did you first take part in the world of motorcycling?

I started riding at the age of 13, on a mate’s BSA Bantam. When the time came to getting my own bike I started off on a Bantam as well.

When did your first V twin idea come about?

I had been toying with the idea of building a BSA V-twin for a couple of years. I loved the older BSA V-twins like the G12 and Y14, but they were such fragile engines. Good for touring, not so much for spirited riding. I conceived the idea of the M46, wanting to put my own V-twin motor into a period specific frame, to show what BSA might have been able to produce back in the day.

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How did that first project pan out?

I designed and made my own crankcases, using Harley rods, and put the whole lot in a chassis relevant to the time period I was aiming for. 1400 man hours later I had a bike that BSA themselves might have created, which turned out to be surprisingly fast.

So once you’d finished, you figured that a single one off V-twin wasn’t enough?

Well as soon as the M46 was done I decided to see what I could do with a later model frame. I quite like the layout of the B series model, but I wondered if I could manage to create a V-twin motor to sit inside the frame.

So tell us about the finished product, your one off BSA B66.

I took an A7 chassis and modified it to suit the 1140cc V-twin motor of my own design. The engine has an 88 x 94 bore and stroke, running at 9.25:1 compression, giving a healthy 55 horses at the rear wheel. I created the crankcases, rounding off the cases to give that 50s/60s look.

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So what is it like to ride?

It’s a good all rounder, as much a touring machine as a sports bike. Easily capable of cracking the ton, it’s been clocked at 125 miles per hour on a dyno. Through tight corners, it’s one of the best handling bikes I have ridden. Just ask anyone who has tried to chase me.

Your B66 isn’t a trailer queen though, is it?

We took the BSA to an international rally in America, and took the opportunity to take it touring whilst over there. We travelled through:
*San Francisco
*Las Vegas
on a 3000 mile round trip. We did get a lot of people walking up and saying ‘I didn’t know BSA made a V-twin like this’.

It’s not like anyone can undertake a project like engineering and building your own engine, so what exactly is your background?

I started out initially as a toolmaker, from there I moved into motorcycle engineering, then into automotive engineering, and now I’m an electrical engineer.

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That’s quite a CV. So where will your engineering skills take you next?

My current project is developing the E120R, a thoroughly modern bike built from the ground up, featuring a quad cam 1200cc engine, cassette gearbox and upside down forks.

From the initial idea to build a V-twin, to being onto his third project bike, Doug Fraser has shown what motivation and passion can produce. Helps if you are a hell of an good engineer as well.

With thanks to Alan Cathcart and Steven Piper for supplying the images.

Five minutes with….Hanks Engineering


Experience. It is what makes all the difference in a bike workshop. Experience is what ensures your bike will have a quality finish when it rolls out of the workshop, and experience is what will ensure your bike still has that quality finish 1000 kilometres down the track. Tucked away in far north Queensland, Hank’s Engineering has been doing quality work on bikes for over 40 years now, and Hank Koebrugge has been kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for The Manifold.


Every great mechanic, or in your case, engineer has to start somewhere, so how did you get into fixing bikes?

When I was a teenager I started working on my own bikes, as well as my mates’ bikes. From there it grew, and Hanks Engineering was established twenty years ago. Although it’s a primarily an engineering business, we seem to have a bit of a bike problem. Although we have three bike benches in the shop, they always seem to be occupied.


So tell us about your latest build?

We just finished work on a 1974 Bultaco Pursang 360, the bike has been part of a two year ground up restoration. With the owner wanting it restored to original condition we have been lucky in that it has been easy to source most of the parts we needed for the build. It’s a nice bike to ride for it’s vintage, although it’ll never go head to head with a CFR450 because the chassis isn’t up to it, but the power from it is amazing.


Got any other interesting bikes in the shop at the moment?

Sitting here at my desk, let me run through the bikes we currently have in our tiny little showroom:
• Aprilia RS250 packing a Yamaha XT500 powerplant.
• BMW GS1000 replica.
• Yamaha HL500 replica
• Suzuki RGV Supermono equipped with an XT500 engine
• 1974 Jawa Speedway bike.
• Moto Guzzi Monza, currently a 500 but we have just acquired a 650 Lario engine to wedge into it.
• Suzuki SV650, Hank’s everyday rider. Yes it sounds boring, but it has had a full front end replacement so it’s now sporting Brembo Gold four spot brakes, and the factory exhaust has been swapped out for full Yoshimura system. Next on the board is fitment of a ZX10 front end, mainly because we can.


The SV650 sounds interesting, that Hank’s only bike?

Not by a long shot. Hank still has the Ducati M900 he used to ride in the BEARS motorcycle racing club, but has been put back to road trim. It’s main use now is scaring the bejesus out of inline 600’s on the tight mountain roads behind Cairns. If you have never been to Cairns for a ride, you should really consider it, the Great Ocean road has nothing on the Captain Cook Highway. As well as the 900cc Duc, Hank also wields a Duc 748SP for carving up the mountain curves as well. For straight line speed, a first gen CBR1100X sits in the garage, good for a 10 second quarter and this year will be treated to a full overhaul. Last but not least, the runt of the bunch, a Sachs Madass. Yup, a Sachs Madass. But this one features a 140cc hi comp engine, Mikuni flat slide and a dry shot nitrous system. Super fun little bike for getting around town, will even beat the Blackbird…across a set of traffic lights.


With many thanks to the boys from Hanks Engineering for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out their website at http://www.hertmotorcycles.com/ and check out some of their other builds they have going on.