Ever since motorcycles started being mass-produced, people have been customizing them. Initially, owners modified their rides to gain performance, and in the days before ultra-light, yet strong alloys and plastics, the most expeditious means of making a motorcycle go faster was to remove weight. So, before adding big pistons or other engine mods, riders would cut their heavy steel fenders and remove other non-essential bits-providing the origin for the term chopper, before it was appropriated by the minimalist excesses of the 1970s. While these lightened machines might not necessarily have looked impressive, they performed better than stock on the back roads, dry lake beds and racetracks where riders gathered.
Times have changed from those simpler days. Now owners modify their bikes not only for improved performance, but also to ensure the exact same one doesn't pull up next to them at a stoplight. Professional builders make their livings (especially at the cruiser end of the spectrum) by constructing one-off bikes for discriminating-and solvent-clients. Then there are those who see a custom motorcycle as a rolling advertisement for a shop or, as in the case of this TL-R, an accessory manufacturer.
Designed to make the maximum visual statement, that would prompt enthusiasts at trade shows and events to linger for a closer look, the Lockhart Phillips (LP) project Suzuki TL1000R is anything but subtle-until you really start to investigate what's been done to this twin. By dividing the modifications into two categories, beautification and function, we can trace the ways the big Suzuki's a bit different from a stocker.
Aside from the screaming paint scheme (which we'll get to soon), the most striking feature on the TL is the four-eyed projector beam headlight assembly. This prototype unit was hand-constructed to gauge interest in tooling up for a production version. The stock headlight and all of its heavy accompanying parts were yanked, and a carbon-fiber shell was slipped into the gaping hole in the fairing. Molded into the fancy shell, four individually directed projector beam headlights were wired to work in pairs. If enough people request this lighting kit, LP may develop a consumer kit from this handmade assembly.
From the bold headlights, close inspection of this Suzuki reveals a host of subtle touches scattered throughout the bike. LP's yellow anodized bolts and other aluminum parts give little spots of color to otherwise drab locations. Even the yellow Pro Grips add a dash of color. Flush mount marker lights keep the rear sleek. Bullet-shaped aluminum turn signals minimize the frontal clutter. A reshaped windscreen gives the fairing a slipperier shape.
And then there's the paint. As peaceful as a freight train careening by your bedroom window at 3:00 in the morning, this design seems to be literally ripping itself apart. Garrett Kai, the driving force behind this project at LP and now associate editor at our sister publication, Motorcyclist, was given a photo of a Triumph T595 with a British flag shredding out of its paint by his boss, Wendell Phillips. Kai decided that a checkered version would be the ticket for this TL and he turned to Hagar Helmets & Design with some sketches of his plan. Aaron Hagar incorporated a paint style that features the finesse and aggressiveness that would rival a vocal track by his famous father, Sammy Hagar. The use of air brushing and pinstriping give the illusion of 3-D, making this bike fly while standing still.
While this TL looks aggressive enough, the meat of the modifications were directed toward improving performance. From the ground up, Dunlop 207GP tires cling to a pair of Performance Machine (PM) Edge wheels. Slowing the front, a pair of full-floating PM discs are gripped by a set of six-piston race calipers. Goodridge Dash 2 braided stainless steel brake lines feed the binders their vital fluids. The fork internals were massaged by Race Tech, as was the shock. Capping the changes to the front end, adjustable triple clamps from Attack Performance make it possible to tune the handling to a rider's preference. Just in case the big twin decides to shake its head, a Toby steering damper will help tame this savage beast. Attack Performance also supplies the exquisitely machined rearsets.
Developing the grunt is a Keith Perry tuned engine. Perry, the head tuner for Valvoline Suzuki, began by balancing and blueprinting the engine as he would for any superstock bike. Stepping beyond superstock prep, he cleaned up the heads and bolted them on over a pair of stock diameter high-compression pistons. Since this project began when the TL-R was first released, Perry was unable to locate the lumpier cams he wanted, and settled for just dialing-in the fuel map with a K&N; Power Commander II. The participants exit through an Akrapovic Evolution race exhaust system.
When all is said and done, the LP project TL1000R serves the purpose for which it was designed. The bike certainly makes people stop and look at how a careful combination of hardware-available from the LP catalog (800/221-7291; www.lockhartphillipsusa.com)-can change a stocker into something special. Of course, the paint helps.