Some of us have more money than sense, and some of us have little money and less sense, which is a good thing, because we’d probably spend our money on a bunch of crap. Some of us, however, are blessed with both money and sense, and can sit down with somebody who knows what they’re doing and build the ultimate motorcycle.
Seriously, the ultimate motorcycle. If money was really not an issue-you had no limit to the number of zeros you could scrawl on a check-what kind of bike would you build? If you live in a place blessed with limitless ribbons of undulating (and bumpy, poorly maintained) pavement like the San Francisco Bay Area, you’re going to want something that’s light, sweet-handling, and makes a lot of power. It would probably have to be Italian, just because that’s where exclusive, expensive motorcycles come from. Carbon fiber? Oh, yes. Race-spec suspension, brakes and wheels? Mmmm-hmmm. Custom, hand-built frame? Si, signore.
Sounds like you’re talking about an NCR. Since 1967, NCR has been making high-performance parts and entire race bikes for Ducati, which is just a few miles from NCR’s Bologna location. Acquired by Poggipolini Group in 2001, NCR is evolving into a builder of unique, hand-built luxury motorcycles, offering limited-edition (and very expensive!) models such as the Milliona, New Blue and the street-legal Leggera. Turns out that with enough money, carbon fiber and titanium, these guys can do pretty much whatever they put their minds to.
Still, you had better get somebody who knows what they’re doing to help the process along. That’s where Hattar Moto service manager and special projects coordinator Michael McDonald in San Rafael, California comes in. He can use his mechanical engineering degree as well as his considerable experience riding and wrenching to help Hattar’s VIPs get exactly the bikes they need…er, want.
NCR’s Leggera (“lightweight”) is a pretty exclusive and pricey thing to start out with, weighing in at 347 pounds and priced around $76,000. But Hattar’s customer, an experienced dirt-track racer, wanted to explore the boundaries of what the NCR team could do. The donor bike, a 2009 Monster 1100S, was shipped to Bologna, and 200 emails, many photoshop renderings and a long-distance phone bill that probably read like Michael Steele’s bar tab later, a totally different bike started to take shape.
How do you strip 100 or more pounds off a street bike? Two elements are key: the first is a fat checkbook, and the second is a large supply of titanium, that light, hard metal so beloved by aerospace contractors, and by Poggipolini Group, which manufactures titanium fasteners and other parts. The Leggera has plenty of the stuff: frame, swingarm, exhaust, connecting rods, even engine hardware and cam-belt pulleys, all in an obsessive quest to shave the last gram. Even the side stand (a $4500 item) is titanium.”We wanted it to be a real ‘motard,” said McDonald, “so I talked to NCR to find out how I could make it lighter.” That led to a titanium swingarm and a single front 320mm brake disc, “and that took a little time to convince the customer,” McDonald recalls. A single front disc? What is this, 1975? Not at all, says McDonald: when the disc is a $1500 ceramic item and the caliper is a top-shelf $2100 Brembo monobloc (with titanium pistons) and the whole bike weighs but 295 pounds “with a splash of gas” in the stock Hypermotard fuel tank, you don’t really need the extra unsprung mass of the second brake. “Why do I need two front brakes when the bike is so light? When he rides this, it’ll be 40 minutes at a time with the front wheel up in the air.”
When titanium is overkill, other materials come in: the bodywork-which went through eight versions to get it right-is all carbon fiber. The plan was to source full-carbon Dymag wheels, but that company went under and BST items, carbon with aluminum spoke centers and hubs, had to do. NCR has submitted wheels of its own design to the EU for approval.
With that magic trick explained, you’re probably still wondering how to extract 116 rear wheel horsepower out of a 2009 Monster 1100S motor. Again: fat checkbook. That will get you a one-piece billet crank (stroked 3mm), 13:1 pistons, custom-profile cams, a high-flow exhaust and a redesigned airbox (with ram-air). Fueling is by Marelli ECU and fuel-injection, reprogrammed by Marelli’s techs at the NCR factory. Euro 3 emissions? I got yer Euro 3 right here. Still, the motor somehow runs on 91 octane pump gas. The final bill: $140,000. Worth every penny, for the right guy.
If ride reports from McDonald, Hattar boss-man Adeeb Hattar and the customer are to be believed, the bike is everything you’d think. “People tell you it’s 300 pounds and has all that power,” says McDonald, “but the experience is going to exceed your expectations, because you have no reference. It does power wheelies in every gear but sixth. Adeeb and I were laughing for three days after riding.” The customer took the bike out and described scaring himself by going through turns much, much faster than he usually does. One-hundred-sixteen hp seems anemic compared to $15,000 180-hp superbikes, but consider this bike is within 10 pounds of a street-legal Husqvarna supermoto. How can that not be fun? How can you not want one?
For his next trick, McDonald is ordering the NCR “Touring,” a hi-spec build based on the new-for-2010 Multistrada 1200. The goal is to carve off 130 pounds and have more electronics than the stock bike (which is equipped with very sophisticated electronic traction control, ABS and suspension adjustment), while making some obscene amount of power.
Sounds good. MD readers who have made good life choices and are sitting on immense piles of money (as opposed to just immense piles, har-har) can call up Hattar Moto at 415/456-3345 or check out more pictures and video of the bike on the Hattar Moto web site.
Gabe Ets-Hokin is Editor-in-Chief of CityBike magazine, the fabled and eclectic regional San Francisco-based motorcycling publication. MD readers are invited to subscribe by dropping a an email to him at email@example.com.