Caiman Urban'n'Dirt No1 3 Walter Stander is quick to point out that when it comes to building bikes in South Africa, it's very much a case of 'swings and roundabouts'. Riding them, no problem, the beautiful roads and diverse scenery offer all you could devour. But putting together that bike in in the first instance is a little more troublesome. A £50 tyre will sting you the same in postage just to get it into the country. And that's if South Africa is even a shipping destination; more often than not it isn't. But these challenges just make you more resilient, more creative. It encourages you to fabricate and modify rather than buy and bolt on. Caiman Urban 'n Dirt have found that they would much rather get their hands dirty in labour rates than spend a customer's budget on a bought in parts. Caiman Urban'n'Dirt No1 4 As Walter cheekily points out: "The distressed wooden garage door for a quaint little shop, listening to ambient jazz while tearing the bubble wrap off a new Ebay ordered speedo, as we eat Paella or Parma ham is not an option for us. Can you smell the jealousy? I can’t! Johannesburg and quaint don’t sit around the same table, but more importantly, to be victorious in our concrete jungle, you need size, infrastructure, scale and skin an inch thicker than a Rhino." But not ones to sit and lick their wounds, a fully equipped 400 sq.m workshop, set up with 16 benches, welding, blasting and on site painting facilities was assembled. Caiman are ensuring that they don't have to rely on unreliable lead times and outsourcing hold ups with their builds. Caiman Urban'n'Dirt No1 5 Caiman are a team of 6 guys; each is responsible for an important part of the value chain. Jaco is the head builder and main fabricator. Ferdi does brakes, wheels, suspension and prepping the rolling chassis. Claude, is the main mechanic, ensuring that the engines and carbs are running, tuned and balanced. Mandla is responsible for prepping, sanding, buffing and finishing. And finally Walter and Tim keep the cash flow fluid by hunting out those donor bikes and customers, ready for new projects. For this build, The decision was made to go completely vanilla; a Café Racer that checks all the boxes. Honda built great engines in the early 80’s and it's a DOHC CB750 that Walter says "forms the basis of a motorcycle that is a lot more Racer than it is Café." Caiman Urban'n'Dirt No1 6 Stripped down to component parts, the sub-frame was looped to accept the in-house solo seat. Once free of clutter the frame was given a fresh coat of powder and the refurbished engine slid back in. Caiman removed the original side covers, but rather than leaving the rear triangle bare, knocked up some nifty drilled aluminium plates. They work well to fill in the bike without making it appear too heavy. Mini speedos, modified levers and drilled foot controls all help to smarten up the points of rider interaction. Retaining the standard CB750 headlight up front keeps it clean and the back is more minimal affair with combination rear/brake light and indicator embedded in the seat hump. A simple, glossy black and silver paint job is suitably low key but the hungry Caiman logo snaps away on the tank beneath your chin. Caiman Urban'n'Dirt No1 7 Mechanically, the bike has been gone over from head to toe. Those Marmite Comstars so beloved by Honda in the '80s have been freshened up. Split, stripped and cleaned, the rim edges were then drilled before reassembly and powder coating. This, quite simply, transforms the wheels and gives them a far sportier look. Wearing a set of sticky Bridgestone boots, the bike deserves to stretch it's legs beyond the city limits. Front forks have been rebuilt with new springs and oil, but the soggy old rear shocks were replaced entirely. Rebuilt calipers now hold drilled discs, reducing unsprung weight further and a set of stainless lines firm up feeling at the lever. Cone filters and a Cowley 4-1 exhaust amplify the sucking and blowing of the 4 cylinder lump, a vital part of the experience. Like in any city, a Cafe Racer can be hard work, with a committed riding position, but the good manners of the base bike and spacious ergos should make it easy enough to handle until the concrete gives way to the canyons. Caiman Urban'n'Dirt No1 THUMB With a full pipeline, the guys are flat out. The first year has admittedly been tough, but having found their feet and with the team gelling nicely, they're now able to have a motorcycle finished every 2 weeks. One to look out for is a Kawasaki Z200 aptly named “Femme Fatale” being built for a female customer. An ever increasing demographic of the Johannesburg custom bike scene, the Caiman crew are putting in a tremendous effort to give the build some subtle changes to make it more appropriate for the fairer sex: Yes, they're painting it pink... Keep up to date with the progress of that build and many others on their Facebook page
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