If "dare to be different" is the custom bike builder's credo, then why the heck do so many custom sportbikes look exactly the same? The motivation for customizing your motorcycle is typically to create something unique and original, unlike what anyone else is riding, so you stand out at the local bike night. What to do, then, after you drop more than $10K on chrome and aftermarket exhausts and extended swingarms to individualize your ride only to find your "unique" vision is shared with nearly every other sportbiker on the street?
That was the situation Nick Dagostino found himself in last summer after he finished up the first round of customization on his 2003 Suzuki Hayabusa. "I did all the usual stuff," the Saratoga Springs, New York, resident told us. "Chromed the gas tank, polished everything else, lowered the bike, stretched it 7 inches, but everywhere I went out here I saw 10 more that looked exactly like mine! I hate being in the mainstream; I always want to have something different from the rest. So I went home one night and, halfway into a 12-pack, I thought, 'What the hell can I do that no one's ever done before?' This is what I came up with."
"This," of course, refers to the wild tandem swingarm mounted on his Hayabusa, which hangs a third wheel off the aft end of the bike and guarantees his ride is longer, lower and more outrageous than anything else at the local cruise spot. "I love it," Dagostino says. "It's so stealth. Coming at you straight on it looks like any other 'Busa, but once guys see the 3/4 view everything changes--it's so much fun to watch them do a double take and grab their buddies. At Bike Week they couldn't get their cameras out fast enough."
The swingarm is a custom one-off creation built by Myrtle West Cycle in Longs, South Carolina. Conceived by Dagostino and CAD-developed by the crew at Myrtle West, it is more than 4 feet long and features extra underbracing to ensure strength and stability. Only the center wheel is driven--the rear wheel is fitted with a dummy sprocket that has had its teeth machined off. Dagostino says the logistics of driving both rear wheels are complicated and would likely require a jackshaft and second chain, but driving the second wheel is a goal for the future. There is a rear brake fitted to both wheels right now, but this is also a work in progress. To run both brake calipers off the same lever and get optimum performance will require a proportioning valve to balance the load, and Dagostino says he hasn't been able to find one that looks good enough to add to the bike.
None of this stops Dagostino from riding the bike regularly--he put 2500 miles on since wrapping the project up, 600 of these miles at this year's Daytona Beach Bike Week. "It tracks pretty well," he says. "The only place you really feel the extra wheel is on hard, 90-degree turns. The second wheel will scrub a little bit, just like on a dump truck or any other tandem vehicle, but you know when this is going to happen so you can deal with it pretty easily." Fortunately, Dagostino, who makes his living driving a truck for the New York highway department, has had plenty of practice with tandem-wheeled vehicles.
The bike is dropped as low as it can go using a Myrtle West adjustable triple clamp and revalved/resprung factory fork to adjust the attitude up front. The rear end is rigid and supported by a strut, as on many choppers. "To keep both wheels on the ground you've got to keep the swingarm parallel to the pavement," Dagostino explains. "We couldn't find any shock that could crank down that low, so we used a strut instead." The ride isn't too bad, the slightly masochistic Dagostino says ("Not any worse than a rigid chopper"), though speed bumps do present a serious problem. Dagostino says he's been discussing options with Tricky Air to add a custom Air Ride system to get some spring back. Nicole, Dagostino's long-suffering girlfriend and frequent passenger, will no doubt appreciate this upgrade.
The tandem swingarm, of course, is just the beginning of the mods. All the chrome plating was done by the crew at Santa Ana Plating in Fullerton, California, including the trio of factory Hayabusa wheels (Dagostino is looking for a custom wheel sponsorship, if any wheel makers are reading this), engine cases, brake calipers, clip-ons, rearsets, levers and more. Anything that isn't chrome-dipped (frame, fork, rotors) has been expertly polished by Dagostino's good friends Rich Marshall and Dean Kawczak at LBF Cycles in Feura Bush, New York. The LBF team also assisted with much of the fabrication and assembly.
The rear fender is from Jesse James' West Coast Choppers line, modified by Dagostino to fit on the end of the extended swingarm and cover the third wheel. This extra fender, along with the rest of the bodywork, was sprayed with a DuPont baby blue basecoat and covered with "angry tribal" graphics in various shades of House of Kolor candy blue and purple. Neil Cuomo at Cuomo's Custom Paint in Rotterdam, New York, handled all the painting. The seat covers are custom too, recovered by Dagostino in marine-grade, ostrich-patterned vinyl.
Look closely at the top of the tribal-striped fuel tank and you'll notice a 5-inch, flat-panel color monitor recessed into the upper surface--this transmits an image from the tiny rearview camera Dagostino hid just below the taillight, allowing him to clean up the front of the bike by removing the mirrors. The mirror openings are covered with chromed block-off plates from Schnitz Racing, which also supplied the swingarm-mounted license-plate bracket. An HMF high-mount dual exhaust system and Ivan's Timing Retard Eliminator (TRE) are the extent of the motor mods Dagostino dialed in.
Love it or hate it, you have to give Dagostino credit for doing something different with his Hayabusa. Dagostino says he definitely encounters his share of haters on the street. "Guys always come up and give me crap, saying, 'Sportbikes are supposed to carve corners, how do you do canyons on that?' That one-sided mentality just fuels me to do something different with my sportbike, and break out of that mold."
Even though some might disapprove, the vast majority of custom bike fans absolutely love his machine--in fact, it even caught the eyes of Discovery Channel producers who were filming an upcoming Big, Big Bikes television program at Bike Week. They pulled Dagostino aside for an on-camera interview, after which Dagostino helpfully rounded out their footage with a 2000-foot-long rolling burnout. Smokescreen or not, few people forget this three-wheeled 'Busa, which is exactly the response Dagostino was aiming for.
"I wanted a bike that would be talked about long after Bike Week, and long after Laconia," Dagostino says. "I want people to go home and say, `You aren't going to believe this sick, three-wheeled Hayabusa I saw. It looked like a 200-mph rollerblade!' I love having that effect on people."
Not to mention he never, ever has a problem finding his bike.