Remember the Buell Blast? The 492cc single-cylinder starter bike was a far cry from the American company’s usual off-the-wall offerings. It was most at home in Harley’s rider training program—until Erik Buell announced the end of the range by dropping one into a vehicle crusher.
So it might surprise you to learn that the maniacal little ripper you’re looking at here is, in fact, a Buell Blast. Think of it as a Magpul Ronin, but smaller and more affordable; a Ronin Lite, if you will.
Except it hasn’t been built by a hi-tech firearms manufacturer, or even a well-established custom shop. This crazy contraption has been conceived by an insanely talented Romanian dude, who now lives in Chicago. And the only thing nuttier than the bike is the story.
It goes a little something like this: Alex used to work as a dental technician back in Romania, but after hours he built everything from custom Ducatis to snow bikes, drift trikes and hill climb cars, in a small workshop.
Then friends in the US encouraged him to relocate, figuring that it’d be a better market in which to pursue his passion. So about two years ago, he packed up and moved to Chicago, and now pays the bills by working as a carpenter’s assistant.
His first paycheck after moving went to a Lincoln TIG welder; then he built a small welding and fabrication table in his apartment. Over the next year he collected more tools, until the urge to start building bikes again took over.
Despite not having everything he needed yet—or enough money to rent a workspace—Alex sourced a low-mileage Buell Blast and got cracking. “I decided to start the build in my rented apartment,” he tells us. “I would take the Buell apart at work, and bring it into the apartment in pieces.”
“That was the easiest part. The hard part started after I figured out what I wanted to do with it, and how many things from my shop I was still missing. Still, I made a design and started to gather parts.”
It took Alex a further six months to save up enough money to buy all the bits and pieces he needed, before he could start work in earnest. “Some of the parts I designed—like bungs, spacers, rear-set plates and small stuff—were made by my friends back in Romania and mailed to me, because I didn’t know where or how to explain to someone here what I needed.”
“The rest I did in-house using my small vice, the handsaw, hammer, TIG welder, drill and Dremel—trying to keep everything as silent as I could, and as clean and organized as possible so my girlfriend wouldn’t leave me!”
“Taking days off from work so I could work on the bike during the day when everybody else is at work. Welding during the day with the window shades on so no one sees the arc light, and with AC/DC playing loud in the speakers so the neighbors don’t hear the ‘buzzzzz,’ and so on.”
It’s not the first time we’ve heard of someone building a bike in an apartment, but it’s the most extensive living-room project we’ve seen yet. These days, all that’s left of the Blast is its engine, carb, and the front half of the frame.
Alex hacked off the rear half of the frame, then de-tabbed the rest, moved the rear shock mount and welded on any brackets he needed. The seat’s a Biltwell item that he loved the look of, so he fabbed up a support to mount it.
That funky front end came from Chassis Design Company in California, and is equipped with a small air shock. “I wanted a ‘modern’ girder front end on my build,” says Alex. He supplied the guys with all the measurements they needed to build it to spec, then welded on his own headlight brackets.
The rest of the rolling chassis is pick-n-mix of the highest order. The front wheel’s from a V-Rod—liberated of its second set of rotor mounts to run a single brake. Out back, Alex retrofitted a Buell XB swing arm, rear wheel and brake setup. And the rear shock was borrowed from a Buell 1125.
Up top is a tiny fuel cell (black), and a cover for the electrical bits (raw aluminum). The tank only holds a gallon, but Alex says it’s the best he could manage for the look he was after.
Performance-wise, he was happy with the stock engine’s output, and the previous owner had tweaked the carb with a Dynojet Jet Kit. So the only mods are a Uni filter, and a new exhaust that’s a mix of custom work and an off-the-shelf carbon muffler. “I’m thinking of a bore-up kit now,” Alex tells us.
In between the big changes are a host of smaller details that could fill a book. Other than the numerous neatly machined details, you’ll spot new bars, Biltwell grips, an LED tail light under the seat, and a mount up front for Alex’s smartphone, which is loaded with a speedo app. “I chose the phone because, being new here, I use the GPS for riding around,” he explains.
“It was fun and somehow frustrating without a garage,” Alex concludes. “Always trying not to disturb the neighbors, and waiting for a day off. And everything taking so much time to do.”
“But it was all worth it in the end, I’ve built the “Franken’Blast” exactly like I wanted to, I didn’t get bored to death and it helped me meet cool people and make friends!”
Our jaws are on the floor—not only at the bike, but at Alex’s incredible resourcefulness too. Just imagine what he’ll achieve when he opens up a proper shop.