The world we inhabit has always looked at custom-built motorcycles with some trepidation. It’s sort of like having a chemically enhanced bodybuilder run the local marathon—you’re not entirely certain if the poster-perfect musculature and body ink translates into real world efficacy.
This brings us to the Harley-Davidson Street 750. It’s compact, relatively inexpensive, entirely practical and inexplicably quick. Surely, you wouldn’t want to fix what isn’t broken right? Let it not be forgotten that the Street is, first and foremost, a Harley-Davidson, and that bit of drama that usually comes with the territory seems to be absent in this case.
Though relatively sedate for a Harley, the Street makes for an excellent project bike. The 750cc, liquid-cooled, Revolution X engine gives you excellent levels of torque throughout the rev range and goes like the clappers, thanks to the bike’s compact frame and impressive acceleration. Its potential wasn’t lost on ArjunBafna and SaurabhShirke, founders of Motomiu, so they decided to chisel away at the stock Street 750 until they arrived at the Motomiu Katanga Uno.
An unconventional name for an unco the duo decided to name their first (Uno) creation after an African subspecies of lion. With Bafna owning Harley’s Mumbai dealership, there was plenty to pick from the Harley parts bin, so they decided to go with the Showa front forks from a Night Rod, with a 19-inch front wheel and twin-discs to go with it. In true café racer style, it’s got machine drilled, T6 aluminium built clip-on handlebars with large mounts, accompanied by knurled aluminium grips and footpegs. The latter are attached to rear-sets that augment the sporty position that is the mainstay of any café racer.
The resulting effect is lovely to behold. For their first bike, Shirke and Bafna have gone for a tasteful and daringly understated design. There’s a shade of green that borders on British racing green (a personal favourite), offset by matte gold ‘bar mounts, ‘bar end rear-view mirrors and a heat wrapped exhaust that adds to the whole grungy effect and makes for a spectacular looking motorcycle. Even though the ground clearance is higher thanks to a 15-inch high-profile rear tyre, the bike looks squat and agile, like a panther. All the hacking away at unnecessary bits has relieved the Katanga of 20 kg, despite the heavier front end, and this is evident in the urgency with which it can be deployed onto the,er,street. The front end now packs a lot more feedback, and the bike more planted, meeting corners with a lot more certainty. Since there’s serious levels of torque available, you can get the occasional wheelspin on wet roads, but there’s nothing unsettling about how the Katanga handles.
What makes it particularly seductive is that crackling exhaust note, attracting, on occasion, more attention than you can handle. It promptly startled a labrador in my building to break free from his master and start chasing an unsuspecting child. It allows the Street’s relatively subdued V-twin voice to break free, gurgling with the latent fury of an emancipated beast.
You can’t buy one off the shelf, mind you. Besides purchasing a stock Street 750 and donating it to the project, you’ll have to look into funding those Showa front forks, which aren’t cheap. Along with that, there’s the LED headlamp from Harley’s Products and Accessories catalogue, which costs roughly Rs 50,000. In total, the bike will cost you Rs 9.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) unless you opt for the front end from the KTM Duke, in which case it’s Rs 1.5 lakh cheaper. Either way, the Katanga Uno is an expensive proposition, but it isn’t a wasteful one. What you get for that money is an exceptionally well finished bike, almost as if the chaps at Motomiu have been at it for a while. It’s a nice sound to start the day with, and the seating position is reasonably comfortable, even for long hauls.
What you might find annoying over time is how the engine heats up and attempts to slow-roast your legs for supper, but open that remarkably eager throttle, and it’ll all be forgotten. I don’t know exactly how you like your custom Harley, but I love mine with a pair of clip-ons and rear-sets.