When we first saw shots of the Beezerker from Sturgis, we were absolutely amazed. Not just because a Sturgis bike lacked raked-out forks and airbrushed wizards fighting grizzly bears, but because this motorcycle looks like something that exists outside of time, not just outside the custom world. It looks like The Sky Captain’s cafe racer of tomorrow. We had to see and know more, so we reached out to its builder, Christopher Flechtner, resulting in this interview and these amazing studio photographs. Enjoy.
Photos: Ron Martinsen
Originally the Beezerker concept was sparked from an idea I had for a girder fork made with nontraditional means such as sheet metal. I wanted to create something sculptural yet totally functional. After the fork had materialized in my head I found a donor bike I could afford which was a 1965 BSA A65. Not typically the most attractive motor but I became increasingly excited by the design challenge of incorporating such an odd engine with such a unique fork design. I feel the stream lined nature of the motor was really trying to be something new back when it first came out but it just was a bit too odd for it's time. I really like the fact that BSA embraced the switch to unit construction and designed an engine and tranny package that was clearly united where as Triumph felt they needed to retain the look of a pre-unit engine with the side cover design which looked very much like separate components. I like to think of the Beezerker as a timeless design which looks like it could have been created in the 1930s or a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
I built a girder because I have read so much about how they are the perfect front end design. Last year I finished my Special #6 which has an internal springer or leading-link fork of my own design and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to push myself to do something different with a pretty tried and true design. So I designed a fork constructed out of sheet metal which houses a stationary one-off halogen lamp in front of the shock between the linkages. The stationary lamp is the reason for the race-track-oval lens and grill so the fork can travel up and down around the headlight.
The Beezerker looks like nothing else at Sturgis for a reason. As an industrial designer, I am always thinking outside the box searching for unique and unconventional means to solve design challenges. I wanted to create a motorcycle that was absolutely unique, yet something people could easily see elements in which they could relate to. The motorcycle could not be so alien that people would not get drawn in because to me, as a craftsman, I want people to get drawn in to see the craft and detail before them. I found it very difficult at times to make something totally different yet familiar because I was adamant the motorcycle retain all of its utility. So many "show bikes" try so hard to be different that compromises are made to the extent that utility is no longer part of the design. The Beezerker is a street-legal and registered motorcycle that is designed to go fast and have a blast on. Sure it is not the most practical to drive on city streets without a front brake and with a twist clutch but that is where I slipped in my chopper influence. It is a little bit chopper, a little bit cafe racer, a little bit Sci-Fi and a huge bit Speed Shop Design. Don't get me wrong, I love a well designed and crafted raked out chopper, but these days I am finding more often than not the same old thing just a different color flake.
The name Beezerker comes from BSA's nickname "beezer" or "beeza" and the idea of going "berserk.” Now my reference to berserk does not have to do with fighting like an uncontrollable Norse warrior but more in reference to my trance-like design process and the outlandishness of the ideas this sort of focus and rage created. I also wanted the motorcycle to have a bit of a 1960s sort of show bike name...this idea is also where the red lens in the fork comes from as well. Not only is it a tribute to the crazy show bikes of the ‘60s it also looks a bit mad and crazed when it's lit. The red lens is "show" dress and is easily swapped out for a clear lens for street driving.
There are many details to this bike which seem to go unnoticed by people because they are either too subtle or simply unexpected and people just assume.
A good example of this is the exhaust which travels through symmetrical stainless headers to under the motor where it enters the frame, which then merges into one large flat oval tube and travels around the rear tire to exit at the back of the tail piece. Lots of people look at the bike and just assume because they don't see the end of the exhaust it just exits under the motor like TT pipes.
Another feature that often gets overlooked is the mechanical rear brake. Given that my design intent was to create a timeless bike, one that is not easily dated, I could not simply throw hydraulics on the bike because I knew that would automatically place its creation within the past 50 years. I had seen early cable activated disc calipers but that was too easy and too expected. Being a designer I really wanted to re-invent the wheel in a sense by looking outside the motorcycle world and delving into other types of mechanical devises that would use a disc rotor and what I discovered is the types of mechanical brakes used on heavy machinery as parking brakes and similar designs used on conveyor equipment. Years ago while in grad school I had an odd summer job working in a very small machine shop that made friction and mechanical clutches for electrical motors so I had a good idea of creating the proper amount of friction for a given application. Reinterpreting the mechanical brake caliper to work with my rear set was not that far off from what I had experienced before and fabricating the brake shoes was a piece of cake.
I should back up a sec and just mention why I decided to use of the sprocket rotor rather than the typical drum brake. Now I realize they are not the most practical brake because of chain cleanliness issues and if you don't lube your chain it will wear out, but I have gone out of my way to make this brake work as well as a rear brake can work. Keep in mind this is a pretty light bike, about 375lbs, so it doesn't need much to lock up the rear wheel and given it's the only brake you want it to work and feel right. I also like the idea that using a sprocket as a brake rotor is not complicated technology and could have easily been envisioned back in the early part of the century. It's very similar to friction clutch technology.
The Beezerker is all about looking clean and simple which, at times, proved not to be so simple. With no front brake the narrow handlebars could look real simple so I designed a symmetrical twist throttle and clutch grip system that would allow the cables to hang down as mirror images of one another. The grips are an idea I had wanted to try for some time and did so on the Beezerker for the first time and love the outcome. They are lost wax cast 316 stainless steel which I created by molding early BMX grips, the grips I had on my Schwinn mag scrambler, casting them in wax and then having a local foundry cast them in stainless. They have hidden pivot bolts as well as travel stops and cable cradles so all you see is a cable wrapped around the flange and down into the cable housing heading down to the motor. I modified the stock intake manifold to fit a 1.25" SU carb from an MG Midget. I ground off all of the mounting flange for the air filter and counter-bored the opening to receive an exaggerated velocity stack I machined from a chunk of aluminum. The transition is really smooth and the large trumpet looking stack on a polished SU just looks 60's show bike which I just love.
My name is Chris Flechtner and I am the owner, designer, and craftsman behind Speed Shop Design. I have an undergraduate degree in metalsmithing and a masters degree in furniture design. I have been building bicycles, motorcycles, and cars for decades now. Recently I decided to go global and started to show my creations and compete in such arenas as the World Championship of Custom Bike Building. Speed Shop Design is a full service industrial design service which not only creates beautiful one-of-a-kind motorcycles, but also contemporary furniture, lighting and even espresso machines. What is unique about SSD is that it not only can design and draw an idea, it can build working prototypes and even help source vendors for production.
The bodywork of the Beezerker pays homage to the one-piece glass cafe racer kits you would throw on your early CB750. You know, the kits that seem so stinking expensive these days. So I guess you could say I was referencing more than I was corrupting but I do think I did get dangerously close to corrupting the way I challenged the idea of typical streamlining on a motorcycle. The top of the fork is only 4.5 inches wide and I carried that dimension all along the top to the tail piece.
To tie the width of the motor into the tank above it I bulged it out like a ‘70s Ducati to cover the top of the motor and then drastically narrowed it to meet the width of the top.
The bodywork is a nice example of how a design evolves as you work on a project. Originally I wanted it to all literally be one piece but if you look close there is a vertical seam and fasteners that joins the tank with the tail piece. As I was finishing up the welding and finishing of the gas tank I realized it would be impossible to weld the tail panels to it and have it look smooth and seamless because there would be no way in hell to hammer and dolly out the low spots in the tank portion created by the welding process. So that is where the seam comes in, not only does it join the tank and tail to look like the cafe racer kits I like so much, it also introduces a vertical line which picks up the only other vertical line at the back of the fork. I am six-feet tall and the body work fits me perfectly. I can tuck my knees into the tank pockets and lay down and place my elbows down and against the tank, I love the way it feels.
I have so many ideas and now I need to choose one to focus on for AMD next year. I have been challenged by a few of the other competitors to create a bike that will put me on the podium and then afterward get taken to the BUB speed trials where I will run it balls-out on the salt. I need to make up my mind on the power plant before I can iron out the rest of the build. What I do know is it will have another front end of my own design, something that has not been seen before.