The smell of fried something--chicken, or maybe even catfish--hangs thick in the air outside 360 Motorsports in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when we arrive to check out shop owner Eric Shahan's latest bike. Who cares about bikes, we found ourselves thinking--the photo shoot can wait until after we get a mouthful of that! Before we could spy the source of the scent, though, out of the door popped Shahan to introduce himself. Don't take this the wrong way, but 25-year-old Shahan is a big boy himself, and he immediately sensed our distraction. "You can't help but stay hungry down here," he says, laughing. "That's why big guys like us need such a big-tire bike. Anything else kinda looks silly under us, now doesn't it?"
When the lineman-size Shahan, who is also a well-known DJ on the Myrtle Beach party circuit, talks big tires, he's not just whistling the theme to a Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits commercial. Money Shot, the custom Suzuki Hayabusa that doubles as a rolling billboard for 360 Motorsports and as Shahan's personal ride, features a plus-sized 300mm Metzeler out back--the fattest tire you can buy today. And this isn't just some cobbled-together fat-tire kit. Shahan painstakingly designed the TIG-welded rear swingarm himself to insure his ride tracks as straight and true as the day it left Hamamatsu.
Money Shot is a collaboration between Shahan and his chief fabricator and mechanic, Luc Gagne, a Canadian transplant to South Kakalaka with an extensive background in welding and sheetmetal construction. With slammed-and-stretched pro street 'Busas more common than carb-induced love handles in the Myrtle Beach zip code, Shahan needed to build a bike that would deliver a real visual smackdown in order to make a name for his newly opened shop. "I went to a lot of shows and noticed all these big old bikes with these skinny little rear tires just didn't cut it visually," Shahan says. "I knew I wanted something different, so I went home and started making drawings for the offset sprocket and beefed-up swingarm that we'd need to run a tire 10 or 11 inches wide."
Shahan's next step was handing these drawings off to Gagne, who, after six months of intense R&D; work, completed the first prototype swingarm. Turns out this one-off worked well enough that the pair had it chromed and installed on the bike for daily use. The custom swingarm is mated with an 18 x 10.5-inch, 300-series billet spinner rim from RC Components. "We'd go out cruising and people were almost wrecking their cars staring at the bike trying to see what we'd done," Shahan says. "It still makes people stare because on most streetbikes a 200 is the widest tire you're going to see."
The aircraft-grade aluminum swingarm on Shahan's fat-tire 'Busa still uses the stock shock absorber and rear suspension components, though the massive offset necessary to make room for the 300mm tire did require some powertrain modifications. A pair of sprockets on a jackshaft is concealed in the box-section of the swingarm, a setup Shahan says is similar to those on Top Fuel dragbikes, with little torque or horsepower loss when the throttle is whacked open. The substantially strengthened swingarm means the rear wheel runs as true as any stocker, if not more so. Out on the open road the bike handles corners without trouble (whatever corners, at least, the Myrtle Beach area has to offer), and all that traction makes straight-line acceleration almost trainlike. Besides, as Shahan reminds us, the Hayabusa is a sport-touring machine at best. "If it's quick handling you want, buy a GSX-R750," he says.
With the rear end sufficiently beefed up, Shahan set about bringing the rest of the bike up to snuff. The front end was dropped two inches for that all-important dragbike look, while the engine received a new engine management system to accommodate the unmuffled Muzzys Sidewinder exhaust. Shahan took his Sidewinder one step further by cutting the megaphone into a flared pattern to produce a unique exhaust note that recalls an old WWII fighter plane on the attack. Once the motor was wrapped up, Shahan's crew tore the bike down to the bare frame and chromed it, along with the front forks that now sit in a pair of custom billet aluminum triple clamps. Machined aluminum grips and (if you look closely along the swingarm) a set of bright green bull's balls are among the details that make this ride really stand out, even at Harley gatherings.
Of course, much of Money Shot's appeal comes directly from the wicked paint scheme devised and laid down by 360's in-house airbrush artist Jimmy Jackson. Those incredibly detailed layers of Ben Franklins aren't painted on, they're custom-made vinyl stickers copied from real C-notes. Is that even legal? The multicolored tribal-pattern graphics running across the rest of the bike follow the frame lines and bodywork, creating a flowing effect, and as for the front fairing mural, well, nobody at the shop seemed willing to own up to that.
"Jimmy has a sort of dirty mind, so when I told him to just let his imagination run wild when he designed the paint for this bike, I should have known what I'd get," says Shahan with a laugh.
Shahan says he's been slammed with requests for similar swingarms for other popular sportbikes ever since Money Shot hit the scene, and he and Gagne are currently at work developing similar pieces for the GSX-R1000 and Yamaha R1. Speaking of--where's that fried catfish? We've got to get to work packing on a few extra pounds to justify the fat-tire upgrade on our own rides!