The Germans have their own way of doing things. They revel in mechanical perfection and are willing to go to great lengths to achieve it. Case in point: Hal Wing's outstanding MMS Road Star.
The bike has a look and flow that's as seamless as a bolt of silk. It's not just the look of the bike that makes it so special, it's the execution, technology and subtle detail work that make this custom a Teutonic tour de force.
But let's start at the beginning, shall we? Mr. Wing, who's been riding since 1956, is a well-heeled, self-made man who knows what he wants, and is willing to go to great lengths to get it. One day he walked into the showroom of his local Porsche dealership with the idea of picking up a little something or other to play with. Sitting on the floor was Porsche salesman Bryan Samuels' highly customized Intruder VS1400. The bike had been built by MMS Cycles of Ingolstadt, Germany, a serious player in the European custom market. Wing took an immediate shine to the Intruder, which wasn't for sale, though Samuels did let Wing take it for a ride and enter it in a local custom show. One thing led to another, as they often do in these situations, and Wing decided that what he'd really like to augment his collection of vintage and modern motorcycles, and high-performance automobiles, was his own MMS custom.
The aptly named "snake" light,...
The aptly named "snake" light, an MMS original, gives the front end a distinctly reptilian, if not downright evil appearance. While I'm not what you'd call a snake fancier, I have to admit that this one doesn't look bad at all.
Naturally, the first step was acquiring a bike. A lightly scuffed, low-mileage 2001 Yamaha Road Star was soon obtained through the Net. Since the bike was destined to become a radical custom, the fact that it had been surfed down the road was immaterial.
As anyone who's ever commissioned any sort of construction project can tell you, be it remodeling a kitchen, or building a custom motorcycle, honest communication between the contractor and client is the only way to make sure everyone stays on the same page. Although Toni Parak, builder/visionary and owner of MMS Cycles, speaks little or no English (which explains why his shop is not as well known in the United States, as it should be), Wing speaks fluent German. Since Wing has financial interests in Germany, he decided to mix business with pleasure and have a face-to-face meeting with Parak to discuss what he had in mind.
Wing had a definite vision of what he wanted built. Being a direct man, he explained it to Parak in some detail. As Parak had his own vision, he listened patiently, smiled politely and replied, "Trust me." Wing decided to do just that, with the condition that he would pick the bike's paint scheme. Shortly thereafter, the bike was crated and shipped across the pond.
Parak began the project by laying down a few basic parameters. Above all, the bike had to work, both visually and as a motorcycle. Lots of guys can build outstanding eye candy, but often these bits of rolling sculpture work less well as motorcycles. Since Wing rides, and rides hard, Parak knew that any cracks in the bike's character would come to the fore as soon as the clutch was let out. By the way, if you think this is just a bit of smoke meant to puff Wing's ego, you should know that Wing, an avid off-road racer, has offered a $1000 bounty to anyone who can best him and his KTM over his favorite stretch of Utah desert. Since the big Yama-twin has plenty of poke in stock configuration, the engine was left more or less original. The more part being a light touch-up of the heads, a Rebuffini air cleaner and a sweet-looking hand-formed stainless steel exhaust system with SuperTrapp inserts. To accommodate the increased airflow, some judicious rejetting of the stock carburetor was also performed. The less part of the equation applied to the rest of the engine and transmission components, which were left bone stock.
It may not be the easiest...
It may not be the easiest speedometer in the world to read, but it's certainly one of the most sanitary mounting jobs I've ever seen. The sleek air cleaner housing is another catalog MMS item, this one modified to accept the speedometer and indicator lights.
The stock Yamaha frame also remains, though where Yamaha started and Parak finished is impossible to discern. The swingarm was built by MMS, as was the rear shock, which is air-adjustable on the fly by means of a small, hidden compressor. A button on the right side of the handlebar increases air pressure, while one on the left decreases it. This allows Wing to increase ground clearance when he feels frisky, and soften the ride when he's on cruise control.
Rather than simply replace the front fork with something from a catalog, Parak decided to massage the stock forks into something more to his liking. The end result speaks for itself. The fork legs are clamped by MMS' billet trees, which, along with the frame modifications, give the bike a 36-degree rake.
To further enhance the clean look of the front end, V-Team-SuperBike bars are mounted to a Mono-Riser and feature billet grips. All of the pieces carry the MMS label. Check out that spooky looking headlight, another MMS piece. Formed from stainless steel, it resembles the look of a hooded cobra, doesn't it? Appropriately, Parak calls it the "snake" light.
The polished 17-inch x 4-inch front wheel is a Fischer/MMS mated to the stock, though much modified, Yamaha hub, which carries a 130/60-17 Metzeler Marathon. The front brake consists of an eight-piston Spiegler caliper squeezing an 11.5-inch Braking rotor. That's the kind of front brake that can stop the bike on a dime and return $0.08 change.
The 18-inch x 10-inch rear wheel is also a Fischer/MMS mounted to a modified stock hub. It's held off the pavement by a 250/40 X18 Avon Venom.
Cleaning up the rear end of any custom is always a problem. No matter what, you need some sort of drive system and rear brake, with all of their attendant parts and plumbing. Lots of guys hang the brake on one side, the final drive on the other. Parak wanted a cleaner look, so he mounted a Rick's One Side Brake System with an RST rear caliper and Braking rotor behind the rear drive pulley. I think we can all agree that the resulting look was worth the effort.
Sure, it looks clean now....
Sure, it looks clean now. All it took was a custom swingarm, a trick rear wheel and the relocation of several major components. Not exactly something you'd want to tackle between episodes of American Chopper!
Once the running gear was finished, Parak focused his attention on the bodywork. The fenders were hand-formed from steel, the oil tank out of alloy billet. The fuel tank was built in-house from hand-laid fiberglass.
As with any top-shelf custom, it's the detail items that make the difference between best of show and first loser. Check out the Nosh Night turn signals mounted in the handlebar ends; a nice touch, as it keeps the signals from cluttering up the front end. Because both sides of the signals carry a lens, there is no need for any rear turn signals. They remind me of my old '66 BMW R69S, but that's another story. Of them all, my favorite detail item has to be the combination digital speedometer/clock adapted from mountain-bike parts, and the idiot lights mounted in the MMS air-cleaner enclosure--very cool.
Last but not least, check out the forward controls and footpegs. Notice how sanitary they are? Notice how they tuck in and up? Notice how they don't impede cornering clearance? Form is nothing without function, is it?
When it came time for paint, Wing once again had his own ideas. Accordingly, he sent Parak some photos of a particular bike with a particular paint scheme he had in mind. Being particularly polite, Mr. Parak, every inch a gentleman, told Mr. Wing, in a very nice way, of course, that he wasn't about to paint his masterpiece with that particular paint. Once again, Wing decided to trust the judgment of the artist. Parak had Pfeil Design, an Austrian paint shop, lay on the stunning orange pearl with lime-yellow flame paint job. Oh yeah, the seat covering--that's Alcantara, a synthetic, extremely durable and washable suede used by Porsche and Audi for seat inserts and headliners.
After eight months of transatlantic phone calls, not to mention the occasional trip to Germany, the bike was done. Wing had yet to see the finished product. Nonetheless, he had faith that his trust in MMS had not been misplaced. In fact, he and Samuels had begun to kick around the idea of importing the MMS line of custom accessories to the United States. Parak thought it was a great idea, but Wing and Samuels wanted to gauge public opinion. Since Daytona was just around the bend, the boys thought the hot tip would be to drag Wing's as-yet-undelivered as well as unseen bike and Samuels' Intruder down to Florida. They'd set up a booth, run the MMS bikes up the proverbial flagpole and see if anyone saluted.
Here's where it all turned to, uh, excrement. The bike was supposed to be shipped directly to Wing. He'd then put a few shakedown miles on his new toy, check it over and head for Daytona. Due to a shipping snafu, the bike was delayed in Germany for an extra week. It finally made its way onto a plane, which promptly had an engine fire and returned to the airport. Two weeks later the bike arrived stateside. Unfortunately, it arrived in New York City.
"No problem," said the shipper "We'll truck it to Atlanta, and you guys can pick it up on your way to Daytona."
This sounded like the path of least resistance, so Wing's crew and Samuels loaded up Samuels' Intruder and their gear and headed east on I-80. Because business obligations kept Wing in Utah, he'd fly into Daytona and catch up with the guys and the bike there. After pushing their rig through enough rain to put Noah back in the Ark-building business, the pair arrived in Atlanta, only to be told that the crated bike wouldn't/couldn't clear customs. Wing's able assistant Ryan Moss cajoled, convinced and connived until the bike was released at the 11th hour. The only problem was the guys now had less than 12 hours to unwrap the bike, assemble it and get it from Atlanta to Daytona. Moss and Samuels uncrated the bike in the customs parking lot and started thrashing. After a few hours of chasing down tools, screwing the bike together and just staring at it with huge grins on their mugs, they were finished. Remember that until they actually opened the crate no one, including Wing, even knew what color the bike was. Moss thought a call to the boss was probably a good idea at this point.
"It's what color?" Wing asked.
"Orange," replied Moss, "but trust me, it's stunning."
Moss hit the starter button, the bike fired instantly (as if anyone had expected anything less) and after a few laps around the parking lot the crew got back on the road. They hit Daytona dog-tired at 3 a.m. Considering what they'd put themselves through just to get there, merely arriving with their wits intact should qualify both gentlemen for some sort of award.
Wing flew in shortly thereafter. I suppose saying that Wing was immensely pleased and enormously impressed with his new ride would be somewhat of an understatement, but that's what he was. His trust in Parak had not been misplaced. Everything about the bike, including the paint, was perfect.
Excitement goes a long way toward dispelling exhaustion, and as soon as the crowds formed around Wing and Samuels' bikes, all the trials and tribulations of the past week simply ceased to exist. From the get-go the MMS Road Star drew a crowd like dollar day at the Mustang Ranch. Rumor has it that one of the bigwigs at Yamaha didn't even recognize the lineage of the bike. When Wing mentioned that it began life as a stock Road Star, the wig was both dumbfounded and dazzled. He thanked Wing and walked away muttering, "That bike is going to sell us a lot of Road Stars."
Wing also mentioned that during the course of the week he had several blank- check offers to buy the bike, all of which he politely refused.
Granted, the bike was a knockout as a static display, but the question is, how does it work as a motorcycle? Quite nicely, thank you. According to the owner, the bike performs extremely well. Being somewhat lighter than a stock Road Star, Wing's bike has a very good power-to-weight ratio. The mildly breathed-on engine is lively, yet retains the stock motor's reliability and low maintenance. Wing says it also handles considerably better than a standard Road Star. The clean footpeg mounting enhances ground clearance, and when the road turns real twisty, all it takes is a touch of a button to pressurize the rear suspension, raising the bike and providing even more clearance. To cap it all off, the bike is surprisingly comfortable to ride, something that can't be said for many radical customs. The bike's only flaw? It seems that whenever Wing stops, a crowd gathers and Wing is inundated with questions.
When Wing conceived this project, he knew what he was after. "I wanted a bike where nothing stood out, [I wanted] everything to just flow." Of course, the bike also had to be practical, fun to ride and easy to maintain. The last thing Wing wanted or needed was a finicky, hard-to-manage trailer queen. Parak was able to turn Wing's vision into reality in a way few builders could have done. The end result is a stellar-looking bike that performs well and is comfortable to ride. There are no loose ends, warts or excuses. The bike is, in a word, outstanding.
MMS Cycles, Ingolstadt, Germany
Construction and fabrication
For more articles on custom bikes and articles about how to customize and modify your motorcycle, see the Custom section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.