WORKSHOP: How to build a road legal flat-track bike

We take a look at one of the coolest flat-track bikes that’s also road legal and find out from the builder how he did it

THE Kawasaki 650cc parallel twin-cylinder engine may be the unit of choice for Kawasaki’s range of A2 licence machines like the Z650 and Vulcan S in the UK. But over in the USA, the unassuming 70bhp engine takes on a whole different role.

Its lightweight and compact nature mean it’s a perfect fit for the burgeoning flat-track scene, where bikes powered by the liquid-cooled engine take on the might of the Harley-Davidson V-twins in quarter-mile short track events.

But what about when the racing is over and it’s time to ride on the road? Most bikes eligible for flat-track events are suitable for road use. They have no front brake, breakneck geometry and immense power to weight ratios making them something of an animal to live with one the road.

That’s didn’t stop Ryan Malony from wanting one though. And when no road-legal flat-track bike was available, he set about building his own.

Nightmare road-legal flat-track bike
Nightmare road-legal flat-track bike

Here’s the story of how he did it.

“I’m a full-time heating and air-conditioning technician and a part-time bike builder out of my basement. Motorcycles have been in my life since I was a little kid. My whole family races flat track; It’s definitely in our blood. I been racing since I was young, everything from dirt track to drag racing cars. I’m obsessed with going fast.

“I got into building bikes when I was little, building my own freestyle BMX bikes to start with, and as I got older my toys needed to get cooler and faster. I hate stock bikes so that means I can’t help modifying, chopping and re-boring what I build.

“It all started from a discussion about how cool it would be to have a Grand National (top-tier American flat-track) bike for the street and then started the negativity from everyone saying it would be horrible to ride, it wouldn’t work, it’ll be too twitchy…  blah blah blah. So that meant I had to build the best grand national bike for the street ...

Nightmare road-legal flat-track bike
Nightmare road-legal flat-track bike

“I picked up a 2012 Kawasaki 650 engine and decided to run a J&M centre shock frame with a Penske rear shock. I extended the swing arm to get the bike a little longer (for added stability) and had fully adjustable triple clamps made letting me dial the bike in for street use. I used Öhlins forks from a 2015 R1 and shaved one leg down to run a single brake set up. I went with Beringer brakes, with a six-piston front and four-piston rear. The front runs a 310mm disc on 19in PM machine quick-change wheels, meaning I can drop the front disc off for flat-track riding. 

Nightmare road-legal flat-track bike
Nightmare road-legal flat-track bike

“I worked with Anthony Cicero from 16w Fabworks to make all the CNC parts with our one-off footpegs with sealed bearings, CNC side plates to cover up the electrics, CNC kickstand, footpegs, rear shock reservoir mount, shifter and brake.

“I also worked with air Tech streamlining to make a custom carbon fibre tail section and number plate and Saddleman seats made a custom one-off seat for me. The fuel tank is from an XR750, with a built-in fuel pump for my EFI set up.

Nightmare road-legal flat-track bike
Nightmare road-legal flat-track bike

“The biggest pain was cutting down the wiring harnesses and getting rid of everything I didn’t need. It kicked my arse and fought me the whole time, but I got there in the end! For the custom paint I went to the only person I trust for, and that’s Bert’s Graphix - he killed it as usual. I had him paint my friend Jessica Coffin on the tank and then the name of the bike “Nightmare”. The bike got the name because everyone was saying it would be miserable to ride and try and hurt me at every turn, so it fits just fine.

“It’s a fairly mild engine but it’s a fucking animal to ride as it weighs in less than 140kg and loves to wheelie. It’s honestly one of the most fun bikes I’ve ridden and built. It’s such an amazing feeling riding a bike you can push through Tech inspection at a grand national race obviously taking the front brake off and being able to ride it on the street and hurt some feelings. This bike wasn’t built to be babied it was built to be hammered on and abused.

“I also want to thank my sponsors Beringer brakes, Saddleman seats, 16w Fabworks and Berts Graphix for all their help.”

You can check out the Nightmare and some of Ryan’s other builds on his Instagram page: @maloney525_

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