It’s About Time You Met ‘Velocity Baby’
Photography by Will Broadhead
The custom motorcycle world is a confusing place these days, the café racer boom from a few years ago has led to several splinter genres and sub genres, from brats to trackers, race reps, restomods, choppers, crossers, and anything in between. What is apparent is there are some seriously talented people out there, producing some ultra-cool machines amidst the wannabes and trend followers. Putting the labels to the side, I was recently invited to spend a day with a builder who not only creates some fabulous designs, but actually puts rubber to the asphalt and races them too. Allow me to introduce you to Paul Cardy and his classic sprint machine, “Velocity Baby.”
Whilst naming one’s creation could be seen as slightly tawdry, that is where the novelties end. As soon as this bike is wheeled out of Paul’s workshop on my first visit, I know it’s going to be something pretty special. The bullet-tipped nose of the dustbin fairing edges out into the light, breaking from the darkness of the workshop like the nose of a shark, sleek, purposeful, and, literally, to the point.
This type of fairing was banned from competition use on track thanks to its ability to cause its pilot to crash in a stiff breeze. On a vintage machine with straight-line speed on its mind, though, having the ability to cut through the oxygen in front of you is crucial. Paul has always been into cars and bikes, but was first bitten by the sprint bug by chance during a visit to the area of the country where his wife, Hillary, grew up. “We were visiting the west country when we chanced upon a National Sprint Association race meeting, on an old air strip,” he recounts, “From then on I knew I wanted to build a classic sprint machine.”
Some machine it is. It looks so damned svelte with the fiberglass lump leading the charge, painted as it is in a style and color scheme reminiscent of the 1950s, the era from which the donor bike hails. The livery was penned by a graphic design friend of Paul’s and was designed specifically to make the machine look fast standing still, with the colors and lines working wonderfully to that effect.
Of course, this motorcycle is much more than an Airtech fairing, and once you delve underneath you start to discover what makes this drag strip bike tick. Built on a 1959 BMW R69, at its heart sits the twin cylinder boxer synonymous with Beemer motorcycles (the cars are “Bim-ers,” the bikes are “Beam-ers”).
The thumping twin pot has been reworked with parts from a later 800cc engine mated to the bottom end and bored out to 1000cc, an increase in capacity of 400cc over the original! Weight has been saved as well by jettisoning the generator and casing from the motor, leaving behind only the starter motor as excess fat.
Elsewhere there were other challenges to conquer to ensure the bike would be competitive, the first of which was to ensure it had the correct final drive ratio to post quick times across a quarter mile. The BMW is a shaft-driven bike, so while it is more durable than its chained counterparts, adjusting gear ratios is a lot more difficult than just switching to different size sprockets. To overcome this, Paul used the back wheel and swinging arm from a later series 5 BMW motorcycle, all of which had to be modified to fit the existing bike. The swinging arm itself needed narrowing to fit between the mainframe tubes, and conversely the drive shaft needed more length to marry up with the new bevel drive contained within the series 5 wheel.
The bike also went through the usual frame de-lugging process, and the shocks were removed and replaced with solid struts to create a proper hardtail strip machine. The finished product is glorious, and, I am pleased to say, is entered regularly into events such as the Sultans of Sprint and NSA race meetings across the UK and Europe, which I visited earlier this year.
The bike itself also enjoyed a show stopping spot at this year’s Bikeshed Motorcycle Show, but it was never about building a show bike for Paul. This was created from a desire to go racing: “Moving from that first fateful day of watching others race to then taking part yourself is sort of a pinch yourself moment,” Paul tells me as we chat after another successful NSA sprint meeting completed upon Velocity Baby. From a chance encounter to satisfying ones own inspired dream, there aren’t too many of us that can admit to accomplishing that, but to achieve it with the style and jaw-dropping panache that is exhibited by this custom creation, is surely a special achievement that goes behind trap times.