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Black Beauty

By David Neely

This is the bike that Nigel House made. He made everything bar the engine, running gear and brakes.

That is: the frame, tank, mudguards, leather seat and wheels, yes, even the wheels, machined out of solid blocks of billet aluminium. They are, to understate it, a work of art.

The chopper type machine was created over a period of seven to eight months by Nigel, working at night and during weekends. Amazingly, there was no paper drawing to begin with, no hard outline lying on a bench to consult from time to time to ensure it was going to plan. It was all done in his head.

Nigel, who comes originally from Co Antrim and has now a specialist heavy steel fabrication business in England, knew exactly what the finished machine would look like even before he started. “I was able to walk around it and even touch it in my mind. I could envisage it clearly”, he explained.

The design of the 190/200bhp machine was not simply about ‘flows and curves’. Even the ‘empty spaces’ were also important to him, too. It was a project Nigel, aged 37, had in his mind for a long time.

He described the style of the bike as like a pro stock dragster/low rider and it’s powered by a massive American made Merch 131 v-twin drag racing engine. Its capacity is a huge 2,380cc. Obviously there are buckets and buckets of torque.

I’ve known Nigel for many years time. He’s always been interested in bikes and was working at them long before he had his licence when living at home with his parents and then going off to university. He spent lots of time in the garage stripping engines, making parts and building specials, yonks before Orange County choppers appeared on our TV screens.

At this point you might be thinking that his creation is built as a showpiece for his skills, to display at custom shows, but you would be miles from the truth. It’s built for riding. His philosophy about biking is simple.

“For me it’s about getting out of town, particularly on a nice, crisp dry day, off main roads and on to smaller roads. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a low rider or a step thru’, it’s all about the freedom of motorcycling.” And not a short trip at that, for him, but for hundreds of miles.

The engine was sourced from John Merchant, a specialist builder in the States, and it arrived with Nigel in bits in a box. Two 48mm Edelbrock Quicksilver carbs feed the engine and when starting up it’s not unusual for them to spit flames.

The powerhouse drives through a five speed box and the transmission to the rear 18in wheel is by belt. The back suspension is by twin adjustable air shocks, hidden out of sight, giving the impression that it’s a solid rear end.

Stopping power is by Harrison six pot billet brakes and they’re most certainly needed as the machine weighs about 160kgs. “It’s almost like it’s chiselled out of stone”, Nigel said.

Of all the parts he hand crafted, the Reynolds 531 TIG welded frame, the tank, the forks, swinging arm, mudguards and handlebars, the thing he’s most proud of is the bar risers, which hold the swept back bars. He fashioned them out of a solid block of surgical stainless steel; such was his attention to detail.

To fire the engine, decompressors have to be used and then the v-twin engine, maximum revs 4,000 rpm, roars into life. There’s a straight through exhaust, no baffles here, putting out a sound like ‘thunder’, a sound that you’ll only hear at the Santa Pod raceway.

Describing the engine’s power, Nigel said when he opens the throttle the rear end doesn’t step out sideways as on a powerful road bike. “It skips up and down as you lay the rubber down.”

But the superbly painted black bike isn’t finished yet. His next step is to fully encase the forks in stainless steel and also to turn his attention to the engine: he’s going to supercharge it.

You would be forgiven for thinking that his degree was in engineering or something along those lines. Wrong, it was in sociology. He’s completely self taught. He’s undoubtedly an artist and, of course, a biker to boot.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph