If you go back to the beginning of the streetfighter revolution back in Britain in the early '90s, it wasn't all about blinged-out chrome frames and $3000 paint jobs. It was about getting your worn-out, crashed and broke-ass sportbike back on the road as cheaply as possible, no matter how much duct tape, safety wire and Krylon it required. Back then no self-respecting hooligan would be caught dead with a set of chromed wheels or a carbon-fiber tailsection, but nowadays it looks like times have changed...
One guy who remembers those bad-old streetfighter days (and wouldn't mind bringing them back) is Francois Buder, a German immigrant who recently relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida, after an eight-year stint racing motorcycles for the German Army (not making that up) and running a scooter sales shop in Cologne. Now Buder's ditched the mopeds for good and runs a shop in St. Pete called European Streetfighter (www.europeanstreetfighter.com), dedicated to the art of "drastically modified motorbikes." One look at the gallery on his Web site and you can see that Buder is well versed in the language of old-school, hard-core, euro-style streetfighters. We liked his style, so we issued him a challenge-show us how to build a badass, true-life streetfighter for a minimum cash outlay.
Buder agreed in a minute, and came back a few weeks later and announced that he had the perfect donor bike selected for the low-buck 'fighter-a crash-damaged 1998 Honda VTR1000 Super Hawk. Yeah, the 101-hp V-Twin sport tourer with the twin side-mount radiators...goofy Euros... But he was the master, so we deferred to his expertise and vision and invited him to do his thing.
When he took delivery of the bike, it was obvious it had been in an accident. The front fairing and windshield were broken, as were the control levers and footpegs. The project kicked off with a thorough inspection of the bike, carefully identifying all the crash-damaged parts that were broken and needed to be removed and replaced, along with inspecting the major components like the frame, fork, swingarm, wheels and engine for any unanticipated damage that could affect the function of the bike.
Once it was stripped down and thoroughly inspected, the real work began. There are a few basic rules that define streetfighters. 1. They are sportbike based; 2. They are naked, with as little bodywork as possible; 3. They have high, dirt-bike-style handlebars to give a better riding position in crowded urban areas and to make the bikes easier to wheelie. Naturally, Buder's first priority was to bolt up a proper handlebar, binning the Super Hawk's stock clip-ons and replacing these with an ABM-brand "Superbike" handlebar conversion kit, including the longer clutch and throttle cables, to give the bike the proper heads-up riding position.
Buder always starts with the handlebar because he says the look of the bar determines the shape of the rest of the bike. "The location of the new bars will tell me what kind of tailpiece to use," Buder says. "I will stand back and look at the lines of the bike with the new bars on and visualize how I want it to look, and then go pull the right pieces out of the storeroom to bolt on."