Denny Berg and the Yellow Submarine

An eye-catching, hand-shifting, rolling surprise.

This article was originally published in the August 2002 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

You've just got to love the look of the "Low Star," a custom that Cobra and Denny Berg built for the show circuit when Yamaha first released its 1600cc Road Star in 1999.

"We'd done chrome bikes and bikes with flashy paint and graphics," says master builder Berg. "What I really wanted to do was a textured bike — to try different metal...and anodized looks."

Berg Custom Low Star
The author and Berg discuss the Low Star.James Brown

Berg and Mike Rinaldi used the stock chassis, but lowered it and cut the frame to make it rigid. Rather unbelievably, all the chassis work was done with the motor in and the swingarm still bolted up. One seemingly minor change — bending the downtube back toward the engine and angling it to carry the line of the front cylinder — changed the bike's look dramatically.

Shifter on Berg Custom Low Star
The hand shifter projects attitude, but the accompanying foot clutch can get you trouble in traffic, the reason it's no longer produced.James Brown

The cool Beach bars (there is a left and right) are similar to the design Berg created for White Brothers back in 1991. When he set out to build this nickel-plated set for the Low Star, he went home and measured the width between the arms of his Lazy Boy to get the right distance. The unique projector beam-style headlight and carb cover were built from spark arresters he saw lying around the Cobra shop, reminding us of Berg's Anything-Goes philosophy. And get this, the treatment of the engine and drivetrain is actually two shades of spray-on Rustoleum.

Denny Berg Custom
Denny Berg's yellow submarine.James Brown

How was the Low Star to ride? It's much, much more manageable and comfortable than it looks, and although its rigid and short on travel, Berg reworked the damping rods and bottoming cones to make suspension action so gradual you never seem to bottom. The only thing even slightly disconcerting about riding this bike was its foot-clutch/hand-shift, which is something I'd never tried before. It worked well, but it was just so incredibly strange not to put my left foot down at stops.

I told Berg I'd be happy to take it home though — so I could practice, of course.