If there is a The bike that symbolizes the not-so-easy relationship between Harley-Davidson and athletic performance is the VR1000. Developed in the late ’80s to compete in the AMA Superbike line, it finally hit the track in the mid ’90s.
At the time, it was downhill compared to the competition, and despite its excellent handling, never got the victory Milwaukee hoped for. Still, the VR1000 is an excellent machine in some respects, and it has plenty of fans today, more than 20 years after the racing show was boxed.
One of those fans is Italian customizer Giacomo Galbiati – who builds under the name GDesign. He has been working on bikes and engines since the age of 13 and has never stopped since.
‘Double Face’ is his great homage to the VR1000, using Buell The S1 was registered in 1999 – becoming one of the last S1s to leave the factory in Michigan.
Giacomo’s works are focused on details, design and aesthetics: his attention is first on shape and color, he tells us, then he works on performance. He also describes himself as ‘crazy about history and motorcycles’ and is motivated by a desire to build something out of the ordinary.
“I’ve always liked Harleys,” he explains, “but seeing them in the same custom setting made me give them up — despite their unmistakable engine, torque, and sound.”
But then Giacomo saw a VR1000 superbike — one of only 50 that have survived to this day. It was love that struck lightning and he was inspired to create something new. “I had the idea to build a custom on the basis of Buell S1, but seeing the VR1000 in its most iconic color made me understand what I really wanted to do,” he said.
For Giacomo, the Harley engine represents a pure riding experience, able to convey the ‘feel of a real motorcycle’ without the need for electronics. And the Buell S1, with its tubular frame, is a much better performing bike than a typical ’90s Harley.
It is also blessed with ample power – just under 90 horses – from the air-cooled 1,203cc V-Twin. And like most of that ilk’s propulsion, it has considerable torque. At 78 ft.lbs to the touch, it almost makes the five-speed transmission redundant.
With a sponsor’s bike in his Milan workshop, Giacomo started building a classic bike Harley cafe racer—Decrease each side looks different. Everything is painted black on one side and the traditional Harley racing orange on the other. That’s from the engine to the frame, right down to the brake calipers and the lock holder.
The crank was recovered from a demolished Benelli 500 and adapted to the project, with a small cutout on the bottom front to keep it in harmony with the lines of the S1. The control panel has been repositioned accordingly.
“The twin headlights are a reminder of nighttime endurance races,” says Giacomo. “All the lights on the car are now LED, except for the yellow high beam, and relocating the oil cooler under the cooler improves engine temperature.”
In fact, the new ‘tank’ is a fiberglass shell over the original tank and is derived from the 1980s Ducati 750 SuperSport. It has been tweaked with softer curves. On the back and sides of the barrel are 3D printed badges incorporating the Harley and Buell logos.
The rear end is also fiberglass, taken from molds used by durable motorcycles and finished with a leather saddle designed by LR Leather Goods.
Another notable change is the exhaust system. Most Buells, including the S1, come with low-engine mufflers as standard, but Giacomo wanted something different. So he modified the manifolds to fit the original SuperTrapp exhaust designed for the XR1200.
Up front, there’s a new brake system with custom twin discs and Discacciati brake calipers, and a Tommaselli caliper with USB socket (and mobile phone holder). The rims still look as good as new, but they aren’t – they’re stock S1 wheels with a sparkly ‘grey chrome’ finish.
The engine receives an loader via a DynoJet control unit, which is hidden behind a leather side panel. With a new exhaust and foam air filter, it made Buell ‘a real fiery horse.’
It’s one of those bikes that we’d love to throw over one foot and ride, but sadly, that’s not going to happen. But if you’re lucky enough to tour the Biker Fest in Lignano Sabbiadoro over the next few days, you’ll see this beautiful machine on display there.
And at the end of May, it will appear in London, at the Bike Shed show, alongside an earlier GDesign creation — the ‘Elettracker‘board tracker we introduced last year. That would be a stand worth a visit.