Building your dream
A 69-YEAR OLD MECHANIC still having dreams about bikes and building them.
This time we travel all the way to Boise, the capital of Idaho to talk to Bill Layer and check out his mirage turned reality.
Bill modestly invited us to publish something about his latest build, not being sure if we would like what he had produced. It only took the editorial team one glance at the lovely pictures he had sent us to wonder why he would be in doubt of our reaction.
We not often respond in capitals but this was a wholehearted ‘YES’ on our part. And we are sure many of our readers will feel the same way to.
Expert at work
This bike and everything he has done to make it to what it is now is just a brilliant proof of lifelong craftsmanship in its purest form.
Our new best friend is a retired mechanical Engineer specializing in machine design. After 40 years of honing his skills Bill decided it was time to do a ‘ground up’ build.
Now that he is professionally retired he is building motorcycle parts under the name of Synapse Cycles. His parts are used on the street, track and on the Bonneville Salts. Now that’s what we call ‘active retirement’.
When asking him what made him decide to take this step, he amazes us by replying: “After a track day towards the end of 2018 where I was wrestling a 1000cc supernaked around I realized I’m not getting any younger and I needed something easier to ride, I also realized I’ve never done a ground up build and I was running out of time to build my dream bike. So after over year of work here it is.”
After catching our breath for a second we said: “Hang on for a second there, you are talking 2018, that means you were racing a 1000cc bike around the track at the age of 67?”
“Yes I was” he dryly retorts. “Racing is a wonderful way to get the adrenalin going and it feeds me a stream of new ideas I want to try out. “
Feeding the hungry
“so why did you decide to use this particular 2013 Suzuki?”
“I’ve had a couple of earlier generation GSX-R 750’s in the past and know they have amazing potential, don’t really need electronic traction controls and parts are plentiful. Used sport bikes these days can be picked up cheap, this one was purchased from a starving college student at an amazing deal hahahaha!”
“With this machine I wanted to create a motorcycle that would be easy to ride on the track, but also be fully street legal and have a very special look. Classic cafe racers have been an inspiration but I wanted to add performance and more function.
My first thought was to build something to honour the endurance racers of the 70-80’s (I owned a Laverda SF back in those days and always wanted an SFC) but I wanted to have a bike I could use on the street that wouldn’t torture my old body; my next thought was a Café Racer. I’ve always liked the original concept of Café Racers where performance and function are the main goals, so I decided that would be the tone but using a current sport bike as the base for maximum performance. Looks were to be very minimalist with nothing that wasn’t needed but keeping classic Café striped down style with a modern bent. I decided handling would be the main goal so eliminating weight was the first consideration in every decision along with improving all parts relating to the suspension.”
What inspired you the most?
“I admire the custom builder work being done these days which is beautiful but am mystified why people are using bikes with underperforming engines with drive shafts as a base for a Café bike. I think they have lost the original vision of the Café Bike. I feel my inspiration is the same as the original “Ton Up” riders, make it fast and light! So, I decided to build a real race bike for the streets, something they would appreciate and is timeless.”
As mentioned Bill’s ‘magnum opus’ was to be a build from scratch. Jig sawing the original into a super polished dream bike was his intention. The entire design and all the work was done by himself, with the exception of the paint job (‘Still Night Peal’ paint) by James Coorengel and the machining which was done by other friends.
“The biggest challenges were how to make everything properly proportioned, mount the headlight/fairing and how to make the tail section look good since I liked the basic stripped lines of the base bike but not the tail section.
The other big challenge was making the very modified wire harness work with the ECM, many removed sensors/actuators, Woolich harness and the Motogaget Mo.Unit Blue controller (took a couple of test fits with lots of debugging).”
The list is endless
The amount of modified on the Suzuki is about the longest we have ever seen .
Parts designed include:
• upper triple clamp
• headlight supports
• fairing supports
• instruments mount
• fan mount,
• front brake reservoir support
• radiator supports
• front blinker mounts
• regulator support,
• tail tidy and rear underhung brake caliper mount with captured axle adjustment blocks (for easy wheel changes)
• Riser clip-ons were installed for comfort (we see the point considering his age)
• a custom clutch cable was purchased and the remaining controls were installed.
• “Really a lot of manual labour went into cleaning up the lower triple clamp for black paint and replacing the steering damper with a racing unit for function plus cleaning up the front end looks.” Bill explains.
Continuing the long list: “The stock tail was removed and a light weight race subframe was installed with a 2017+ GSX-R 1000 race tail which was modified to make it one piece and to fit the subframe.”
• Added to the subframe a custom enclosure was made that houses the electronics and ignition switch
• The radiator was removed then powder coated leaving the fins uncoated for better cooling and radiator guard installed to black everything out
• Engine performance changes were done to improve airflow by using a full race titanium exhaust. Bill toyed with the idea of manufacturing his own exhaust system but decided Yoshimura knows more than he does about making HP.
• race air filter and the ECM which uses a Woolich flash with quick shifter.
One year later
“Did we miss anything Bill?” we enquire.
“With everything I did I’m sure I forgot some things that were changed or modified for the project, but these are the major ones. There’re still a few things to do and I’m still waiting on a kickstand I designed (like [paintings, bike projects are never complete). At some point I would also like to build a full carbon fiber one-piece tail section to lose a few more pounds and possibly overbore the motor to 815cc for more HP.
The project took just over a year to complete to this point.”
“Are you happy with the way it came out?”
“Absolutely” the Boisean answers. “Seeing my dream in reality and knowing that it is my work gives me great satisfaction. I’ve named it Helium for obvious reasons. I loved doing this project (OK there was some swearing) and wish I would have done it sooner.
My advice to all those young and talented builders: Don’t wait start your project now you won’t regret it. This also project proved to me that most people in the machine trades love projects like this and will do everything they can to help out so don’t be afraid to tell them about your project/vision and beg for a little help.”
And last but not least: how does it ride?
“The completed project street legal weight is under 360 pounds ready to ride with 130 rear wheel HP so it should be big fun! Unfortunately, the day I went to register the bike our DMV closed due to COVID-19 so no ride report, real bummer. I can’t wait to ride it!”
After talking to Bill we did manage to convince him taking the bike out especially for us to give us all a taste of what it is like to ride on the Helium03.
Check out the video.
List of parts used:
• Öhlin’s 30mm fork cartridges with extensions and TTX GP rear shock
• Yoshimura R77 full race titanium exhaust and case sliders
• BMC race air filter
• Woolich ECM flash with quick shifter
• Rotobox Boost carbon fiber 17-inch wheels
• Dunlop Q4 tires 120/70 front 180/60 rear
• Galfer rotors
• Vesrah RJL front brake pads
• Beringer 2D1 rear brake caliper and pads
• Spiegler custom brake lines
• Stahlbus brake bleeder valves
• Koso Thunderbolt LED headlight
• Rizoma headlight fairing
• Woodcraft riser clip-ons and lifting spools
• Attack Performance rearsets
• Motogadget Mo.Unit Blue controller, switches and mirrors
• Apex Racing start/kill switch
• Brembo RSC19 master cylinder
• Motion Pro quick turn throttle, grips and custom clutch cable
• Toby steering damper
• Carbon 2 Race fender and rear hugger
• Febur race rear subframe
• Hotbodies 2017+ GSX-R 1000 race tail
• Custom Dynamics LED tail/brake light bar with integrated turn signals and front blinkers
• Speedcell Superbike battery
• Vortex fuel cap
• EP radiator guard and muffler hanger
• CRG Roll-A-Click folding adjustable clutch lever
• EK 3D 520 chain
• Superlite sprockets
• 12 O’Clock Labs speedo corrector
• Stomp Grip tank pads
• Pro Bolt fasteners (lots of them)
Bike in its original state
Photo credits: Bart Cepek photography