This isn’t the first time we’ve featured a build by Japan’s Ask Motorcycles. After meeting workshop owner Rad Yamamoto at the Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod Show in 2012 we struck up a friendship. Then in 2014, I arranged to have his beautiful ’61 Triumph 3TA grace the pages of Tank Moto issue 4. In October of 2015, I was lucky enough to head over to Tokyo again and spent a day with Rad and his mates. We visited his modest Ask Motorcycles workshop in Fujisawa (an hour south of Tokyo’s centre), took in some local sights and, of course, a few beers. At the time he disclosed details of a new project that was going to be his 2016 Mooneyes project saying ‘it will be a very different build for me’ and I headed home excited to see what he had in store.
As the months passed I kept a close eye on the Ask Motorcycles Instagram page and received regular updates via DM from Rad. Just as he’d mentioned this build was very different to his previous ones. Rather than the small capacity British and Japanese motorcycles he’d completed in the past, this was a large capacity, America made Buell XB and it was shaping up to be his most ambitious creation yet. Pushing his skills in metal fabrication and his body to its limits he transformed the bike into a futuristic looking, alloy-bodied beast named ‘Kanna’ meaning ‘No God’ in Japanese.
As December drew closer Rad worked late nights to finish the bike before its debut at the Mooneyes show. Then on the evening of the show, I received an exclamation filled message from Rad. His hard work had paid off. The Mooneyes judges awarded him with a trophy for ‘Best Cafe Racer’ and the invited judge, Jeff Decker, selected the Buell as his personal pick of the show.
After the dust had settled and Rad’s adrenaline levels were back to normal we found some time to talk about the experience in more detail.
Congratulations on your win at Mooneyes! What was it like coming home with 2 trophies under your arm?
Rad Yamamoto: I was very excited. Mr Shige of Mooneyes told me that the ‘Best of Cafe Racer’ trophy was an award created especially for my Buell. It was the only one they have had in that category since the HRCS (Hot Rod & Custom Show) began 25 years ago. It was a great honour for me and it was a moment that has changed history. Then, I won the award for ‘Jeff Deckers Pick’, no one had predicted that Jeff would choose such a sports bike. Everyone in the hall was surprised, including me! I was immersed in the afterglow from the day for a while.
What was the design concept for this build?
I tried to refer to organic shapes. The shape that the owner imagined did not look like any work I have ever made before. One thing I can say is that the owner trusted my metal shaping ability very much. The goal was to challenge myself with new things by using the basic technology that I have.
The aluminium bodywork you’ve created for the bike is amazing. What were some of the techniques you used to create it?
It was created using basic metal shaping with an auto hammer and hand hammer. In 2015 Christian from Sosa Metalworks stayed at my home and assisted me for 2 weeks with the auto hammer work
During the build we saw you faced some challenges. How did you overcome them to finish the bike in time?
Normally, when I construct a show motorcycle it is a private process. The shape that I imagined was different from the one the owner imagined. That problem was the hardest to overcome, but I finished it using a combination of the two ideas.
The shape of the Buell’s frame also tormented me till the end! I finally found harmony when I positioned the body panels as close to the engine as possible. It’s a concern that is probably common to everyone who customises Buells. This also lead to concerns about heat collecting under the fairing so I had to equip the fairing with functional air scoops on both sides of the bike.
I also hurt my arm early in the build and had to struggle through the pain the entire build.
Now that you’ve got your Mooneyes trophy what’s next for ASK Motorcycles?
Even though the style of motorcycle I usually make is not applicable to the Mooneyes’ ‘Best of Show’ award I will keep making bikes for the event. I want to create work that affects Japan’s custom culture. This is why getting the new cafe racer award this time was so special!
Along with sculpting the Buell’s incredible aluminium bodywork by hand, Rad made a series of modifications to the rest of the bike to improve upon its original design.
The factory rear shock has been replaced by a Nitron racing mono-shock and the brakes upgraded using parts supplied by Beringer. To position the rider correctly on the bike it now wears Aella rear set foot pegs and clip on handlebars. Tucked behind the mesh stone guard at the front of the bike sits a Honda VFR400 oil cooler and the exhaust is a custom made 2-into-2 stainless system. Nestled beneath the smoked windscreen is a carbon fibre panel that houses a MotoGadget MotoScope Pro digital dash and the clean top clamp comes from Aella.
To offset the mass of raw silver aluminium and satin black Rad then applied a copper powder coat to the Buell’s wheels and foot controls. Rad’s good friend and go to upholsterer ‘Bill Wall Leather’ completed the build with a tuck and roll perforated leather seat, finished with a hand-engraved, co-branded brass plate.