“The youth of today, don’t know they’re born”. You hear that all the time, but frankly a lot of the time it’s more than true. The owner of this fine machine is no longer a youth, but remembers the childhood toil required to chase his two-wheeled dreams. Mark, now cresting the hill of middle age, was born into a family running a fair ground but it wasn’t all candy floss and free dodgem rides. Aged 7 Mark decided that motorcycles were for him so set about saving up for one, and traded two years of hard graft for a Honda XR75. Luckily the on-the-job training required to keep the rides maintained provided valuable mechanical skills and ensured self-reliance when the XR needed repairs. This bond between man and machine grew as the years passed but the more modern bikes didn’t quite offer that same sense of achievement.
All grown up and owner of his own successful business, a seaside amusement arcade, Mark was able to enjoy the fruits of his labour heading off on tours of Europe, trying all sorts of different bikes and going through the obligatory Power Ranger phase on overpowered superbikes. Lying in the road, staring at oncoming traffic after a huge highside gave time for pause and reflection. Being a father and a husband took priority over the bucking bronco of a KTM supermoto and Mark took what was to be an 8 year sabbatical from two wheels.
But as anyone reading this will attest, once bikes are in your blood, under your skin and riding roughshod through your mind there isn’t really much one can do to quell that voice. The lure of the good old days became strong, fuelled by custom motorcycle porn, videos of Deus ex Machina’s fine creations and the occasional visit to well known bike blogs. Mark wanted to tinker again, enjoy a youthful freedom to take things apart and fettle; he wanted his XR back. Being nine years old again wasn’t an option so he called Shaun from Down & Out Café Racers to discuss a scratch for the growing itch.
Mark’s only beef was a lack of love for boxers from Bavaria, but after many hours trawling the ‘net he decided that with a little imagination and help from one of the best in the business the welcome back to biking would be a warm one. Whilst out donor hunting Mark found a decent 1978 R80/7 and figured he’d strike with a hot iron and give Shaun a call. A swift detour resulted in two hours chatting through options at D&O HQ, a design was decided and firm handshake exchanged.
As with all D&O builds the first step is a thorough strip-down and inspection. The 800cc motor required refreshing with new rings, push rod tubes and gaskets. Whilst removed, the barrels were powdercoated black to break up the metalic lump, capped off with Airhead rocker covers. Mikuni carbs improve the fuelling and unleash a pony or two from the understressed motor.
Whilst the engine was receiving some TLC the frame was blasted and powdercoated, with the addition of a Down & Out subframe. The beauty of having turned out so many high-end beemers over the years is that a stock of developed parts are just a reach away. Stainless steel fenders, an aluminium battery box and the headlight are all in-house parts and not only fitted to most builds but are also available by mail order.
Time takes its toll on any wiring loom, even a well engineered German one so the guys took no chances and re-wired the whole bike. The last thing you want as builder is to receive that phone call from a customer who’s stranded on the side of the road with an easily avoidable electrical fault.
The finished article rides on new alloy rims, stainless spokes and the now industry standard Heidenau Scout tyres. A subtle and stylish colour scheme seems suited to Mark’s more grownup taste, with his lurid orange KTM days well behind him. The superior finishing of Down & Out’s bikes is what brought Mark up to the Sheffield outfit in the first instance so obviously he is over the moon with the result, and the feeling of being nine years old again; you can’t buy that.
Photos: Simon Krajnyak