2000 Suzuki Bandit 1200 - Aaaand In This Corner...

Elmo Wheeler's Hard-Hitting Featherweight

"Let me put it like this. It's 355 pounds and has 156 horsepower." That's what Seattle's Bob "Elmo" Wheeler said when we asked him what he likes most about his hand-built Suzuki Bandit chopper. It's just the kind of answer you'd expect from a guy like Bob, seeing as how he crewed for top fuel drag racer Steve Huff and has shot down the strip more than a few times himself.

We met Elmo while shooting some of the other wacked-out creations found in Seattle. Bob rolls up on this chop job and instead of the obligatory American V-twin (or Brit parallel twin), there's a Japanese inline-four in the frame. It instantly bounced us off the rev-limiter.

The big question with this bike was "why?" Elmo answered quickly, "I build lots of stuff. I had a 4 cylinder Honda CB-750 chopper back in the 70s and it ran really sweet. The Bandit had a four-cylinder, big inch, air cooled motor so I bought one and started from scratch."

It was a pretty ambitious project, but he was definitely up to it. Wheeler's been building bikes since the 1960s. He first threw a leg over an iron pony in

64, built his first motorcycle in

66, and in the time since he's built 40-45 bikes for himself and another 20-25 for other people. Elmo has a drag racer's philosophy when it comes to bike building: light and fast. "I start out with the best motor I can, leave it as stock as I can, and get more horsepower through carburetion, pipes, and ignition." You'd think he'd be all into cracking the motor open and boring it to the walls, but that's not the case. Bob likes his bikes as dependable as possible. "I've ridden this thing to Sturgis, Texas, and Nevada and it's never failed me. All I have to do is the maintenance on it and that's it."

Most folks making the Seattle-to-Texas run want to be comfy. Sure, there's that group of people who're into alien probes, zipper masks, and long distance rides on rigid choppers, but most riders want something a little less Inquisition-esque. Bob's Bandit handles long trips like a champ. Not only does it make great power, he's amazed at how smoothly it handles and attributes that to the frame Chris Tweeder built at Wheeler's shop. "If you draw a straight line down the center of the bike, it cuts the front tire, rear tire, and fenders in half. You can ride it at 100 mph without using your hands. I've passed cars at that speed and it was so vibration-free I could still read their license plates as I went by," Bob said. Creating the swingarm was a Pandora's box of challenges. There were a lot of compound curves to deal with and it called for a great deal of precision to get all of them exactly right. Bob had the backbone stretched four inches while they were at it. The reason being that it helps keep the front end on or near the ground during hard launches. Tweeder rose to the occasion and the bike's stability is a testament to his success.

In the seven years he's owned the Bandit he's logged over 50,000 miles on it. Part sprinter, part marathon runner, it's also made it's mark as a show bike. When Wheeler rode it to Reno, Nevada for Street Vibrations, a show judge saw it and talked Bob into entering it in the show, where it won. We weren't shocked when he told us he'd build this bike exactly the same way if he had it to do over again. If it ain't broke why fix it, right? Still, he got his hands on another Bandit motor. His plans for it? "I'm thinking about doing it with a Softail frame this time," he said. Whichever way he designs it, the bike's certain to have two attributes: big power and low weight, just like a drag racer.

2000 Suzuki Bandit 1200
Fabrication: Extreme Adrenaline Technology (EAT), Chris Tweeder
Assembly: Wheeler, Tweeder

Ignition: Dyna 2000
Carburetion/intake: 4 Mikuni 38mm RS38 Flat Slides w/ K&N; filters
Exhaust: EAT with Ceramic Finish by Performance Coatings

Hand built by Chris Tweeder (EAT) from 1-5/8" mild steel tube w/ 32-degrees rake and 4-inch backbone stretch. Swingarm is 1" steel tube.

Forks: Stock 44mm Suzuki Bandit
Shocks: Progressive SuspensionWheels, Tires and Brakes: Stock Suzuki Bandit
Claimed Specifications: 355 lbs wet weight, 156 hp @11500 RPM

Front fender: Buell Blast
Rear Fender: EAT
Fuel Tank: H-D Sport Bob
Gauge: Auto Meter
Bars: Chubbys 1.25"
Foot Controls: EAT
Seat: Fisher Upholstery

Extreme Adrenaline Technology

Performance Coatings

Paint by Gene 253/874-5073

"I'm pretty sure it'd do high nine's at the strip. It's my cruiser."
Bob Wheeler