Growing up in the Nineteen Seventies, my Fab Four had been by no means John, Paul, George and Ringo. They had been Snorky, Fleegle, Droopy and Bingo—The Banana Splits. Conceived by Hanna-Barbera, the present featured 4 creatures who, like prototype sports activities staff mascots, had been blokes wearing furry outfits and firefighter helmets.
They had been a pop band, lived in a shared psychedelic home and obtained into Three Stooges-style slapstick scrapes. Hey, it was conceived in California in 1968, what do you anticipate? It was nonetheless being proven on UK TV years later, when it served as a sun-drenched half-hour of primary-colored eye sweet, particularly for a child in a home-knit jumper, rising up within the washed-out, drizzle gray of northern England.
But what caught in my thoughts most is the six-wheel Amphicat all-terrain buggies the celebs tore round in throughout the title sequence of the present. It was The Banana Splits and their buggies that impressed this 2003 Suzuki VanVan 125. At least partially. The different half was Sideburn, the journal I edit.
Sideburn is closely weighted in the direction of grime observe, however has at all times discovered room for avenue trackers, artwork, images, films, street journeys and journey driving. Still, since turning into the official journal of the American Flat Track skilled race collection in 2020, I had been considering extra in regards to the professional sport, and the way the magazine seemed to new readers who had been choosing it up at races in Texas or Ohio. This Suzuki was a reminder to myself, and potential readers, that Sideburn is about extra than simply racing.
The foundation for the construct should be one of many earliest VanVan’s within the UK, being a 2003 mannequin. These 125s are fashionable with learners, as a result of the seat is so low they usually’re supremely dependable. I’ve at all times beloved the seems to be. They’re comical, lovable, immediately recognizable and as threatening as a gummy bear.
This one had much less that 10,000 miles on it, however 20 homeowners on the logbook. The final proprietor, an older man, purchased it in lockdown and by no means rode it.
With the look of Fleegle’s Amphicat tattooed onto my reminiscence for over forty years, the very first thing was to search out one other VanVan rear wheel, so I may have my very own two-wheeled seashore buggy with chubby rims entrance and rear.
It quickly occurred that Suzuki had been nearly definitely going to spec the VanVan this fashion, however backed out late within the growth course of. The distance between the entrance forks, the width and form of the entrance fender and its mounting all enable the identical 180/80-14 balloon rear tyre and rim to suit straight in—and extra naturally than the inventory, extra conservatively-sized 130/80-18 the bike was delivered with.
It wasn’t sufficient that each wheels had been chunky, they had been despatched to CJ Powder Coating, Grimsby, to be turned two-tone. It was tough to get the clear line the place the 2 colours met, however CJ persevered.
Then the well-known previous British firm, Hagon, laced the present entrance disc hub to the brand new rim with stainless spokes. I managed to snag one of many final model new 14″ Dunlop K180 tires within the nation.
You might need observed the defining aspect of the Sand Flea: the entrance basket that holds a Dometic Patrol 20 cooler than coolbox, a last-a-lifetime piece of equipment I’d been lusting after for some time. JB Fabrication, of Lincolnshire, fabricated a metal tube basket round it. JB additionally welded on brackets for the 6in projector headlight and a pair of Motone Billet flip indicators.
The basket hangs off the triple clamps. How does that have an effect on the dealing with? Well, it’s not going to win any trials competitions, particularly when the coolbox is full of some drinks, a bag of ice and my sandwiches, however I can stay with it.
The deck chair stripe paint job in summer season sorbet colours was accomplished by Paint By Matt, in Leeds, Yorkshire, whereas the seat was embroidered and recovered by Holy Goat Motorcycle Seats, Devon. The newly powder-coated chassis was bolted again along with a Hagon adjustable mono-shock changing the corroded authentic RSU.
The route of the inventory exhaust suited the all-terrain really feel of the bike, and I preferred the outsized inventory silencer, however this can be a customized bike, so it was chopped to make room for a traditional Supertrapp, one of many neatest finish cans you will get to suit small diameter exhausts.
Biltwell Mushman pegs, leftover from my Harley Sportster hooligan racer, had been made to suit. A Motone Cuda taillight and license plate bracket had been bolted to the rear fender, whereas a KC headlight cowl evoked the identical Nineteen Seventies good time spirit in me as recollections of imported Saturday morning TV.
And I lastly discovered a house for the hand-tooled leather-based handlebar pad made for me by Busch & Busch, of Reno, Nevada. I’d had it saved for years in the past, simply ready for the correct venture, and match it to the Renthal bars.
There was only one last item: a flag. Not each bike can carry off a flag, however the Sand Flea may, and one was made by my buddy, Fionnadh Lyle, with but extra Nineteen Seventies inspiration, this time within the form of the SB, for Sideburn, in Cooper Bold font. It’s hoisted on a whippy CB aerial.
With a carrying capability of 20 liters out the entrance, a rear rack for a seashore towel, and flying its personal freak flag, the Sand Flea is a complete 12 horsepower of fine instances, and a reminder that life isn’t at all times about checkered flags, winners and losers.
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