Silverwing

    The Silverwing concept question: how can the hellaflush style tire-fender proximity be translated to motorcycles? This has been a core challenge for Laughing Alligator for several years, and the (seemingly) best design option is being applied to the motorcycle. However, the story starts with the frame. At first it seemed best to use much of the original frame; the main frame structure has little bearing on the mechanism that enables the hellaflush style, and that frame is a tried and true base for cafe racer builds around the world. So the rear triangle of the frame was chopped off, and the front half trimmed and… then it became clear that the original frame is bad. There is too much sheet metal, the mig welds are sloppy, and it’s a heavy, ugly pile of recycling. So a jig was made from its dimensions and a new, better frame was improvised by Morgan in the final months of 2019. There were no plans or diagrams, or even a mental image of the end result, it was merely piece by piece, all the while asking: Steel tubes, would you care to dance?

    The swingarm was done in the same manner, but part of the original structure was retained. There are several pieces of the swingarm that are very tricky to replicate, and were nicely made in the first place. So the left and center portions were removed, redesigned and rebuilt, and the right and front retained. Most of the material used was DOM steel, same as the frame, but also included an aircraft grade streamline tubing the swingarm upright. 

    Before going further it’s worth noting that the frame and swingarm were based on the wheels and their placement in relation to the frame - set in the rear by the swingarm and in the front, by the forks. The original forks were tossed in favor of a good used set from a CBR1000RR, and custom triple clamps and hubs were made to get the spoked wheels sitting in just the right place. CognitoMoto machined the hubs based on parts they produce, and convert to spokes front and rear and to disc brake in the back. Cognito also machined the triple clamps based on several of their designs which I requested they mash up to my specs. The clamps’ most unique element is riser mounts in the bottom clamp rather than the top, perhaps a world first? 

    The wheels were finished off with matching cerakote and assembled using Buchanon spokes and Sun rims. The tires are Euro-only Metzeler Racetec RR in K1 compound - well you can get that tire globally, but these are 18 inch instead of 17 inch. These are not available in the USA, and had to be imported from Italy, but achieved the design goal of using larger than normal high performance tires. So we got sports bike grip without the small wheels that don’t fit the style of older, longer wheelbase bikes.

The engine was a collaboration between Laughing Alligator and Mototech. The engine itself required a largely uneventful rebuild, but the Cerakote process was a story in itself. It’s no wonder ceramic coated engines aren’t done in white!

    When the engine was done, and the frame was largely complete, the engine was mounted so the design constraints for the high-mount rear coilover could be determined. After making and discarding several brackets, the design was solidified and the mounts welded into the frame. The rear shock actuation rod was made by brazing an RH and LH nut in the ends of a tube and filing flats in one end to allow easy adjustment. The rear caliper tension rod was made in the same manner although not strictly requiring such ease of adjustment. 

    The calipers and carburettors were all rebuilt (despite one caliper and both carbs being brand new) and cerakoted with custom stenciling cut by Weapon Stencils in Florida. Before this could be done, the original Tokico and Brembo branding was removed and remixed into the designs you see. The forks, rear bevel drive and starter were all similarly rebuilt and coated, though without the stencils. 

    The bodywork and gas tank were initially planned along with the front hellaflush mechanism, and a wireform was built in the early stages of the making. However, it had some problems, so a new one was made based on the new frame. This allowed “proto flexible shape patterns”, and then aluminum panels, to be made to fit the wireform. Since the wireform, the patterns and the panels all represented only the left half of the design, flexible shape patterns and gauges were made, and from those, the perfectly matching right side. This part of the project is not complete and will be updated at a later date when the rest of the sheet metal is done.

© 2020 Laughing Alligator Design - Created by Elias G. Elliot