9 Jan 2014

The Black Arrow - Gary Inman

Gary Inman's radical Black Arrow is one of those bikes that will leave a big footprint in the custom scene. He first showed me these pictures back in July 2013 but at the time I could not post them here on Bubble Visor. Now a few months later the Black Arrow is almost finished, read all about it in the UK mag Performance Bikes. I wanted to know about his ideas for this bike so I send him some questions.


Could you maybe tell me something about your ideas for the bike?

My first job as a journalist was on Streetfighters magazine, where I started back in 1995/96. Since then I've written about a lot of great modified bikes, but the ones that spurred me to build a ground-up custom were the bikes built by Racefit and Steve Elliott in the UK from around 2006 onwards. They are 1980s Suzuki and Kawasaki four-cylinder muscle bikes, but with updated parts and chassis. I've loved big Suzukis since I saw the first street fighters back in the late-80s and early-90s, but I didn't want a Streetfighter GSX-R (I had one back in the 90s). The Racefit bikes are like AC Sanctuary bikes, but tougher.  
What was your plan before you started this bike.

I bought a one-off Reynolds 531 duplex chassis with an aluminium rear subframe and a Martek swing arm from Steve Elliott. He'd had it made, but then rejected the steel frame and had a brand new alloy one made instead. He was never going to use the old chassis and offered it to me for such a cheap price I couldn't turn it down, but I didn't really know what I was going to do next. I bought Braking wheels and discs, GSX-R1000 K3 Showa forks, RobyMoto yokes and Tokico calipers from Jon at Racefit and an GSX-R1100 motor in a million pieces from Mark at RCD. Next I bought GS1000 tank that my friend Marcus MotoDesign found in Sweden. It started coming together, but very slowly. 
Did it change in the process of building it?

I took so long to build the bike, four years from buying the frame to hearing it start for the first time, that other people had been influenced by the bikes Racefit built too. Looking at them made me know what I wanted and didn't want to do. It's evolved through seeing all kind of bikes. There are some parts that I knew I wanted, but I wanted to keep it quite minimal, but also look thuggish. Dumb and brutal.

I had to change the motor. It would have cost too much to rebuild the one I had in parts with new oils seals and bearings - the price of all that was crazy, so I bought another motor. Guy Martin tuned the head for me. It has 1260 CP pistons and Kent reprofiled cams. I always wanted Keihin flatslides too. Lots of people told me it would be a nightmare to start with these, but it started really easily the very first time we tried.
You've made some radical decisions like putting the oil cooler up front.
I have never seen a bike with oil lines  going trough the gas tank before. How did you get the idea to do that?

I've always liked oil coolers up the front, endurance style. A bike that made a massive impression on me is the Japanese endurance Kawasaki, the Asahina Monster
But I wanted to do something different, so I had asked a really talented fabricator, Matt at AH Fabrications, if it was possible to have the oil cooler vertical rather than horizontal. He said it was no problem. 
The idea for the hoses through the tank is something I've never seen either, I think I am the first to do it. A race team would never do it, they'd find a different solution, but this is a custom road bike, so I could do it. Geoff at Co-Built made the tunnel in the tank. The oil lines run through it. There are dry breaks in the oil lines so I can split them to remove the tank without having to disconnect them. 
The hoses through the tank idea was inspired by a 1980 Shovelhead Zero Choppers built in 1999. They have a fuel tank split to hold the motor oil and the take-offs for the oil feeds were on the top of the tank. It's not the same idea at all, but it got my gears spinning.
People have already said, You shouldn't have the oil cooler out the front, you need to mass-centralise, but I don't give a damn. This is a proper bike, that really works and I always wanted it to have one or two radical elements.
What are your plans with the bike when it's finished?

Ride it. I want to take it to the Cafe Racer Festival at Montlhery in June and ride it around the banking. I saw Sylvain's Tzar howling round there last year and was quite jealous.  Mat Dakin photos were taken in the summer when I took the bike to Racefit for opinions on a couple of things. It hadn't run at this point, but the bike now runs and I have to sort out a bunch of niggles, then get it through the UK MoT test so it's road legal. There's a leak from the tank, that I patched up to get it running, but it needs fixing properly.
I'm going to leave the chassis bare and the paint like it is for the first year, at least, then I might get a paint job, coat the frame and anodise some parts, but it's taken so long to put together that I can't bring myself to strip it again. And anyway, I love it looking like this, bare metal and rough edges. I won't be afraid to ride it.
What is Racefit's connection with the bike? Did they make the exhaust or do they play a bigger role in the making of this bike?

Racefit were the inspiration. They've had a hand in some of my favourite bikes from the last 7 or 8 years. They made the titanium Legend system for it. I bought parts from Jon at Racefit (in the 88 shirt). He introduced me to Mark at RCD who made the twin filler and the rearsets and some other small parts. Phil at Racefit also changed all the engine mounting points on the frame, because they were all wrong. That's why I got the chassis so cheap. It was never right and Steve Elliott (wearing the black jacket and sunglasses in the photos) just lost patience with it. Racefit also welded on the tower for the twin filler in the tank and made me some titanium stand bobbins.

But the bike wouldn't have been built without Carl at CFM about 35 minutes from my home. I'm not a great mechanic. I love being hands on, but I don't have the skill, tools or patience to build the bike to the standard I wanted it to be on my own, so I drive to his works and spend a day with him and we work on the bike together. That's one reason it's taken so long to build. The other reason is because I started with a bare frame. I didn't have a donor bike to rip parts off. Next to nothing on this bike has ever fitted to the part next to it. 

The build of the bike has been serialised in the UK mag Performance Bikes. There are usually monthly updates, unless I've been too busy with work and have had to miss a month.  

photos credits: Mat Dakin/ Racefit

Stoked to have a Gary Inman feature on Bubble Visor, thank you very much Gary!















4 comments:

Alexis Moreau said...

This bike is amazing! I LOVE it!

Marcus @ MarcusMotoDesign said...

Whatta beast! Awesome work and style! I have had pleasure to see it during the building years both by Gary's mail updates and in the great PB magazine. It turned out just as Asahina Suzuka 8 hrs bad ass as planned I think!

JamesJ said...

What a creation. So much skill gone into that one bike.

Mark Wilson said...

I've been looking forward to seeing this and it looks fantastic Gary. More Brutalist than brutal and far from dumb. An elegant hooligan. Love it.