Red & White Branko Built Bike

Branko helped Glen express what he wanted in a bike.

WHEN I WAS 20—21 years old I bought my first bike, a Japper of course, but I had to sell it when I started working in my own business. During the next 10 years, I moved from one business to another, from trucks to a newsagency to the carpet industry, and now I have enough time to play so I bought myself another bike; but this time, it was a Harley.

It started out as a stock Natli bike. Basically, it was a pretty picture but, mechanically, it was a stock bike with a 113 cube engine, five-speed box, 240 back tyre.

I rode the Natli bike for two years until someone pushed me off it — a fellow come across on me and hit my front wheel. Once I picked myself and the bike up, he ran back and he said, “Oh, I didn’t see you… actually, I didn’t look so I was never going to see you!”

I decided to rebuild the bike the way I believed it should have been built in the first place, and, of course, I had all the usual insurance arguments you get when you try to rebuild something that was not a standard bike.

I was put onto Branko many years ago for the maintenance on the bike, and he and I hit it off because he really is an old style bike person; you know, a Knucklehead person who does the sort of things that interest me. He’s always been a straight shooter so I trust him, and I chose him to help me with the rebuild.

The forward controls are from Joe Brake. There is no master cylinder that you can physically see on the right-hand side; it looks the same as the left-hand side. They are a bit wider, and we actually gained about 2 ½ to 3 inches overall which I was worried about because I am a short bastard but it made no difference.

I was flicking through an American magazine when I found this tiny little company which made exhaust systems. I took the advert to Branko and said this hot rod look is exactly what I am looking for. I few emails later and they were on their way.

The plate beneath the seat was made by good friends of mine, John Muscat and Titch.

Branko also sourced the hand-stitched brown leather seat from the States. I bought the springs and John Muscat put it all together for me. He did some hidden bolt stuff from the underside so you can’t see bolts or nuts or anything like that.

About a month into the project, Branko said, “Okay, you had better decide what colours you want.”

“I want it fire engine red,” I replied. “Or maybe Ducati red, and I want a big wide GT stripe down the centre.”

“Don’t do it, Glen,” he said. “You’re not going to like it.”

Anyway, I persisted and Branko sent the parts to Mark at Sydney Custom Spraypainting in Guildford who did a great job. I picked up all the new painted parts, because I work down there, and took them to Branko.

“Wow!” he said. “It looks great; much better than I expected.”

I wanted the white stripe to run from the petrol tank, over the plate beneath the seat, and down the rear guard. Mark had run a string line down the three of them to line everything up, but when we put them on the bike, we found the rear guard had been offset by 10 mil. It doesn’t sound much, but when you have a stripe running across the three, it’s amazing how much 10 mil stands out like the preverbal dog’s balls. Branko rang Mark who was quite obliging and offered to fix it. He pushed the stripe over on the rear guard, and we lost the stripe beneath the seat, and it made all the difference.

The bike took close enough to six months to rebuild, mainly through problems like chroming the original wheels which were damaged in the accident. Branko said they couldn’t be re-chromed in Australia but the insurance company assessor wanted to go down that path because, obviously, it was the cheapest route. When they came back they were bubbly, they had colour variations; it was just a bad job. Eventually the insurance company paid for new wheels. The new wheels are PM, same as the old ones, although the profile is a lot neater; more like the newer Harley-Davidson ones.

One of the problems with the original Natli bike had been that it leaned to one side when you rode it. Branko, with his magic, actually got it to ride nice and straight. I don’t know how he did it, moved spacers or something, but it now rides straight, it turns easily, goes around roundabouts easily, and it stops like it should. It now actually behaves like a normal bike should which means I can ride it hard and fast.

The Red and white bike was beautifully put together by Branko Built Motorcycles: 02-4356-1800.

Photos by Wall 2 Wall; words by the bike owner, Glen.

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