If race bikes are motorcycling in its purest form, speedway machines must be akin to holy water. They have no brakes, just one gear, and drink neat methanol.
They’re also rather squashed-looking machines, with stubby hardtails and forks raked steeper than the most extreme sportbike. But this creation from England’s Wreckless Motorcycles is a thing of strange beauty.
The unusual story starts with Wreckless founder Rick Geall, who has a passion for oddball two-wheelers and is probably the only man to ever customize an Aprilia Moto 6.5.
In the 1970s, teenage Rick went to Denmark on holiday with his family. “I got hooked on speedway,” he reveals. “Riders like Ivan Mauger, Peter Collins and Denmark’s own Ole Olesen were dominating the sport, winning multiple world titles.”
Fast forward forty years, and Rick finds himself in possession of a rather pretty 450cc Ducati single—the sought after Desmo version.
“It was in of a jumble of vintage Ducati parts from the early 1970s. I said to Iain, my collaborator in Wreckless: ‘I want to build a speedway bike’.”
Iain, despite questioning Rick’s sanity and knowing little about speedway, tracked down a vintage race frame and swingarm from the same era as the Ducati engine.
“It’s a Jawa, we believe,” says Rick. “It competed at some point, but we don’t have the specific history of it.” Iain started altering the frame to accept the motor and create a rolling chassis.
Things moved slowly as Wreckless focused on their core business. But when Ivan Mauger died last year, the build shifted up the priority list. “Ivan’s death was a kick up the backside to get the bike finished,” says Rick. “Some of his bikes came up for auction, and I was sorely tempted to go and buy one—but never did.”
“So this bike is a celebration of Ivan. But I also wanted to acknowledge a current hero of mine, F1 driver Lewis Hamilton.”
Rick and Iain ploughed their energies back into the build. They found that the SOHC bevel engine had already been modified for classic road racing, with much bigger valves and some headwork done to it. They added a new Amal TT carb to give the motor an extra fillip, and installed new sprockets: 14T up front (“Kind of normal”) and 52T rear (“Ridiculous!”).
The header pipe is handmade, and mated to a tiny 900 gram Akrapovič slip-on muffler, originally designed for the Yamaha R3.
Suspension comes from brand new Stuha adjustable race forks, made in the Czech Republic—another country with a long and illustrious speedway history.
“They’ve been cut and lengthened by about four inches, to give us the clearance we needed for the front wheel,” says Rick. “Mating the frame with an unusual motor can mean altering the frame orientation, which affects the headstock position and then the rake, and so on.” The forks are hooked up to Renthal bars lifted from a KTM SX85.
Those bars are also home to a Daytona Velona tach, and a Beringer ‘thumb’ clutch master cylinder kit. The carb is controlled by a Venhill dual rate throttle, and the grips are from Renthal.
The wheels are the real deal: a custom set built by SM Pro, a British race specialist that can trace its history back 120 years. They’re a standard speedway setup, 23” x 1.60” at the front and 19” x 2.15” at the back, shod with Mitas race tires. (A carbon fiber speedway fender controls the spray of dirt.)
In the interests of making their custom speedway machine a teeny bit more rideable, Wreckless have also sneaked a brake onto the back wheel. It’s a Beringer Aerotec caliper activated via a thumb lever cleverly integrated with the clutch setup. The disc is a custom engraved EBC Vee-Rotor.
Another departure from the speedway norm is a pair of rear shocks. These are Marzocchi MOTO C2R units, originally designed for mountain bikes. They’re adjustable for rebound, have separate low- and high-speed compression controls, and are now fitted with Cane Creek double barrel coil springs.
The seat and bodywork are hand-made. “The tank is a mix of genuine speedway racing parts, and odd aluminum tanks for hiding the electrics, coil, and kill switch,” Rick reveals.
When it came to the paint Rick decided on a Mercedes F1 scheme, in tribute to LH44, and has nicknamed the bike ‘the H4MM4.’
The silver on the frame, swingarm and seat loop is a Ducati ST2 color. There’s gloss black on the rims, a turquoise blue on the hubs and other scattered hard parts, and discreet touches of a carbon effect coating. Plus the odd plagiarized decal here and there.
The colors were shot by Jason Fowler of JLF Designs, who’s worked for not only Lewis Hamilton, but also the late Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon and IndyCar driver Max Chilton.
“The bike isn’t meant to be a ‘serious’ machine,” says Rick. “It’s a caricature: a celebration of the heroes who have left an imprint on my life.”
“I’m lucky, because I could build it for the sheer hell of it. Ducati never made a speedway bike, but if they did, we hope it would look something like this.”
Wreckless Motorcycles | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Daniel Du Cros at Junction11 Studios