Even as the number of sportbikes continues to increase at Daytona Beach Bike Week, you can still feel like an outsider if you show up on a Japanese sportbike. Find yourself in the wrong neighborhood and it's as if Bike Week is just an enormous reunion for every American V-twin ever made, and if you're not wearing a fringed leather vest and a slip-on, elasticized bandanna (excuse us, "do-rag") complete with a "badass" flame motif, you're the odd man out. Secretly, of course, we like it like this--it's always more fun to crash the gate at someone else's party, isn't it?
Of all the gates to crash at Bike Week, perhaps none is as secure and well-fortified as that which surrounds the world-famous Rat's Hole chopper show and competition. Among the world's most prestigious chopper events, this is traditionally the venue where the best chopper builders debut their craziest and most creative bikes. Rat's Hole is also pretty much exclusively an American V-twin event, which makes it the absolute last place on earth you'd expect to encounter the ultimate rice-burner, Suzuki's Hayabusa. But as you can see from these pictures, Jason Sapp's wild, Hayabusa-based chopper is hardly your average 'Busa. And for a full-throttle gate-crasher like Sapp, the holy hell that is the Rat's Hole show was the ultimate gate to break down--which is exactly what he attempted to do at this year's event.
Jason Sapp, you're our hero.
While it might seem unlikely to most of us, chopping a Hayabusa seemed completely natural to Sapp. Get one thing straight--Sapp is a sportbike guy to the core. His daily rider is a stretched and slammed 2001 GSX-R1000, and his day job is running C&S Customs (www.candscustom.com), a sportbike hot-rod shop in Mocksville, North Carolina, that fabricates, among other performance parts, the extended swingarms on Star Racing's championship-winning dragbikes. Sapp and his business partner, Tommy Clark, also happen to be huge fans of one-off, handbuilt choppers, and both had an unnaturally strong desire to build a radical chopper that could take the cake at the prestigious Rat's Hole. Neither, however, have any affinity for what they see as underpowered, unreliable, vibrating V-twin motors, so when they started sketching their dream chopper, it had a Hayabusa motor. Who cares what the purists might think--when you've got 180-plus horsepower tucked under the tank, you can write your own rules.
Not that using the 'Busa mill saved the C&S team any headaches. One reason most chopper builders prefer American V-twins is their visual simplicity. With just two cylinders and no cumbersome liquid cooling, the Harley-Davidson V-twin motor looks clean and uncluttered in a stripped-down chopper frame. Not so the liquid-cooled inline-four that powers the 'Busa--typically hidden behind plastic bodywork, the 'Busa motor is an ugly lump covered with unfinished surfaces, exposed wiring and industrial rubber cooling hoses. A huge part of this project, then, involved cleaning the engine in preparation for its full-frontal nude debut. First the motor was stripped to the bare cases and every external surface was polished by Greg Rose at Reflections in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The wiring was rerouted behind the body panels, and any hoses that couldn't be hidden were dressed up with braided stainless steel sheathing. While the engine was in pieces the C&S team also ported the head and fitted some high-performance cams, and once the motor was back in the frame they topped things off with a quartet of Sudco flat-slide carbs for more power. The finishing touch is a custom radiator from local supplier Ron's Radiator that tucks in almost invisibly between the frame downtubes.
Speaking of, where exactly do you find a chopper frame that can accommodate the extra-wide Hayabusa inline-four? You can't, so Sapp and Clark built their own frame from one-inch chromoly tubing, painstakingly cut, bent and welded to fit. Same with the bodywork--how fun it was to eavesdrop at the Rat's Hole as know-it-all onlookers speculated about the origins of the gas tank and how the headlight had to be a modified this-or-that. Like so much else on this bike, all the bodywork is handmade by C&S. The fuel tank is hand-formed from sheet stock, as is the seat pan/tailsection. The fenders are aftermarket blanks cut to match the tribal lines of the other pieces, and the remaining body bits--fender mounts, air dam, radiator shrouds, engine case guards--are likewise hand-cut and hand-formed. Heck, even the seat cover was stitched in-house. Everything on the bike looks gorgeous and absolutely integrated.
As for that headlight, yep, you guessed it, hand-formed too. The skeleton hand support is fabricated from aluminum tube stock welded and ground to fit--no bondo anywhere. The handlebars are also home-jobs, and all the cables are internally routed. But the pice de rsistance and the one mod that marks this bike as a true chopper, even more than the radically raked-out front end, has got to be the jockey-shift conversion. Believe it or not, this 'Busa's clutch is now foot-operated, and the bike is shifted by hand via a custom vertical shift rod topped with a skull knob that has been meticulously hand-carved to pick up the paint job's flame theme. The skull theme is also echoed in the paint, featuring mile-deep skeleton graphics by Randy Leonard at Quarter Mile Graphics, also located in Mocksville.
Of course, there are a few standard parts on this bike. The forks, for example, are aftermarket 10-inch-over legs, and the wheels are production pieces from RC Components in the Stingray pattern. The rear swingarm is a standard off-the-shelf C&S Customs Hayabusa arm, if you can call an 8-inch-over swingarm that accommodates a 300-series tire a standard part. In an extra bit of trickness, the rear brake disc has been relocated from the rear wheel to the jackshaft mounted at the center of the swingarm in order to clear the extra-wide rear tire.
Roll this all up and the result is a handbuilt custom that blows everyone--chopper guys and sportbike guys alike--away. Even at the infamous Hess gas station on International Speedway Boulevard (unofficially sportbike central during Bike Week), this chopped 'Busa stopped the place dead--especially when it rolled in after dark with its green LED underlighting. Instantly a crowd 30 deep gathered just to catch a glimpse of it, so it seems safe to say "our" people approve of Sapp's efforts.
But the Hess Station is one thing--what about all those chopperheads on Saturday morning down at the Rat's Hole? Despite the big talk from the crowd, Sapp's bike earned him a big, fat nothing in judged competition. But that's always the story with gate-crashing, isn't it? It's great fun in the moment, but when all is said and done you're still not welcome at the party. And to that Jason Sapp can only say, "F*ck 'em," just before he blasts off in a 180-hp cloud of tire smoke.