If you follow the custom-bike scene in the Middle East you would undoubtedly know of the Bikers Cafe Build-Off.
Introduced by Bikers Cafe – Dubai in 2015, it showcased three amazing builders like Moto, 86 CYCLES and Deus Arabia. This exciting event paved the way for other budding-builders to throw their creativity into the mix and see what they can produce.
Fast-forward to a year later, the 2nd Bikers Cafe Build-Off was held on October 27th 2016 and was very electrifying in many ways. Yes, once again three teams did battle including biking heavyweights Sebsports and custom-shop Lycan Customs but this year a group of us gnarly amateurs jumped into the competition in the form of Cafe Racers Middle East (CRME).
Definitely a loveable bunch of underdogs, CRME is just a group of likeminded bikers buddies with a flair for customizing, retro styling and modifying bikes!
As the first “non-commercial garage” to take part in this competition it had been our dream from day one to build a bike that the average Joe would want. Something affordable, awesome to ride and in all essence, fun.
On May 7th 2016, we turned up with butterflies in our stomachs to Bikers Cafe for the launch night. Not sure of what the donor bike would be, who we would be against or what we were getting ourselves into, it was sheer excitement. Eventually we were summoned to the stage along with recognizable faces Sebastian from Sebsports and Omar from Lycan Customs, then we knew we were in for a serious challenge! The sheets came of the donor bikes and there stood a stock Honda XR125 in all her shiny glory. Oh boy we had our work cut out for us!
After pats on the back and well wishes from on-lookers we got a tow-truck and took it her home.
Four buddies, three tool boxes, a lot of zip lock bags and an underground car park with a flickering tube light set the stage. We managed to strip-down that bike in a number of hours, tearing off the fairings, unbolting what every we could, labeling parts and getting it down to the bare bones. Once bare we took a step back and took in the raw potential this bike had to offer.
The following morning we received a call from our old friend Alain DuPasquier from Skull Cycles DXB. He mentioned that he had seen on Facebook that we had stripped the bike in a underground car park and offered us space in his garage ‘Skull Cycles’ in Al Quoz, we happily accepted. With the bike now secured in a workshop we could now put our heads together and figure out our concept and the direction.
Our team made up of Kevin Sheepwash, Paul Woolford and Aimen Al and myself. We toyed with the idea of a cafe racer, but perhaps that was what people expected from us? A scrambler or a tracker would be more in the nature of this bike. With that in mind we started listing what hurdles we had to overcome with the donor bikes shape. To start off with, there was an upward-kink in the seat shape, the tank wasn’t the ideal shape for a retro style build and the front forks were too long. After weeks of deliberation, planning and ‘out-voting’ each other we were finally set to go.
Step-one was to lower the front suspension, adjust the rear frame of the bike and weld it back on. Then the nitty-gritty of re-shaping the rear sub-frame, customizing a seat pan and as much modification to the frame as you can get away with to get the lines clean.
Once we had the lines and the concept, we then had to decide on the color scheme. We knew we wanted a beach scrambler. Something that ties in the UAE’s love for the ocean and the outdoors. We went with a powder-coated cream frame and a sky blue tank with retro Honda badging airbrushed in Arabic to really take make it ours. We reached out for support to the internationally recognized Dime City Cycles for help. They were so encouraging and donated parts for our build. I still remember the day we opened the ‘care package’ from them with all the parts we picked. Tracker bar, Biltwell grips, reverse megaphone exhaust, larger carb, exhaust wraps, leavers, clutch cable and more. We were now ready to rock!
In order to set our build apart from the competition we had to have a unique concept, we knew Lycan was renowned for their bobber and chopper builds and that Seb would be a ‘mix bag’ but his finishes are clinical.
We kicked-off by removing the key for start, just two switches under the seat… one for ignition and one for light. We had a custom fabricated seat pan and custom made leather seat in an old dirt bike style, with integrated break light and indictors in the seat. Custom foam pad around the tracker bar in matching seat leather with ‘Bikers Cafe’ embossed on it. However the most cherished features on our build are our hand bent surfboard rack and an integrated custom-designed leather storage bag.
Fast forward to 2 nights before deadline, final tweaks and sleepless nights. The tank was on, the rims powered coated, the exhaust wrapped. Now wax, wax, wax and oh yes, she needed a name. Reading about the history of Honda’s and there builds form the 70’s I came across the SL125 dirt bike, also known as the ‘Turtle Chaser’. A name that tied in our sea / land concept and had a nostalgic Honda tie-up. Exhausted from lack of sleep the night before, the team and I got to Bikers Cafe pretty early. We had a spot in the middle of the cafe. The general impression, due to the odd shape under our bike cover was, ahh it’s a sidecar, little did they know it was a surf board.
Our bike was the first to be revealed. The boys and I pulled off the sheet to applause and cheering from on-lookers, we couldn’t help but fight back our smiles! One by one people came over and had a gaze, the responses were fanatic!
Our competitors’ builds where also top-notch and were really something to aspire to. Sebsports built a very unique and futuristic cafe racer and Lycan a very detailed and customized bobber.
Sebsports walked away with the big trophy that day, but the boys and I left as winners knowing we overcame a great challenge just by taking part. Whilst we got a trophy too, the biggest prize was receiving so much love and support from both the local and international biker community!