Steve Culp's Street Fighting S1000RR: Thoroughly Modern Mayhem

In the world of custom built motorcycles, a "Streetfighter" falls into the category somewhere between aggressive and "look at me once more, and I'll cut you."

Not for the timid or weak of heart, Streetfighters exude speed, testosterone and swagger even while standing still. When Shreveport motorcycle builder Steve Culp first saw the BMW S1000RR sport bike, he knew its lineage and its claims of performance made it a perfect candidate for this most unusual category.

 Though Streetfighters come from the world of cafe racing and were made popular by European riders, the movement was very much inspired by the inexpensive and fast-for-their time Japanese bikes. In fact, at most of the bigger bike shows Streetfighters are almost exclusively of Japanese lineage. Culp believed the big, bad BMW could set the Streetfighting world on its ear and plans to debut his German goliath at Daytona Bike Week's Rat Hole and Boardwalk custom bike shows in early March. Culp himself is no stranger to Streetfighter swagger. The bike builder is a former air show pilot who regularly aimed straight at the ground at speeds exceeding 200mph, pulling up at the last minute and barrel-rolling his aircraft into the blue skies above.

Prior to flying and building airplanes of his own design, he was a race car driver for Mazda, Hyundai and Dodge during a rough and ready time in which he who could most intimidate his opponents, won.

It did not hurt that Culp was an extremely accomplished driver who could also repair the cars he broke while (mostly successfully) intimidating the other teams.

For Culp to be building a Streetfighter, then, seems only natural. The story of how it came to be a BMW is not. Steve has long loved vintage bikes---Harleys, BSAs, Indians, Japanese bikes and especially BMWs. He has owned nine antique BMW bikes and his current rider is a 1974 R-90.

 He admires not only their lines but their performance, and he regularly takes his 30-year-old bikes on cross-country treks that most would consider tackling only on a cruiser. A member of a Shreveport, Louisiana BMW motorcycle club, Steve knew about BMW's plans to debut a sport bike to compete with the hugely successful Suzuki Hayabusa, and he had heard the specs. The S1000RR wasn't only a liter bike, it was going to have the highest power-to-weight ratio in its class. It wasn't only going to be agile, it was going to have electronics components that included traction control, race ABS and a gearshift option that allowed full throttle upshifts without using the clutch. In other words, it was going to be a certified Bavarian bad ass.

In Culp's mind, the S1000-double R had Streetfighter written all over it. Believe it or not, one of the reasons behind the Streetfighter decision was practicality. Since Culp passed his 20s some years ago, he has found the crouched position of most sport bikes to be supremely uncomfortable.

He wanted a bike that would go fast, be agile but not cripple him to ride. As he tore the newly-purchased S1000RR down to its frame, he looked for a way to lower the seat by three inches to make it a more comfortable ride.

Though the superfast sport hottie has a thoroughly modern look, Culp saw its heritage and envisoned a way to bring the two together that would be instantly recognizable to any fan of vintage BMWs.

The black color and double white pinstripe harkens to the 1920s and 30s. Culp added diamond dust to the paint so that the bike glitters like a new dime.

The solo saddle is consistent with the vintage BMW look, but the tractor seat with fringe and inlaid BMW-blue stones gives it a retro funky feel that becomes completely modern.

Other vintage-look touches include the front and back fenders, fender braces, headlights, handlebars, bar end turn signals, megaphone exhaust, taillight frame, and a taillight off an early 20's Buick.

Culp built by hand the fairings, the tank cover, the mount for the instrument cluster, the seatmount for the subframe. The grab bar behind the seat is a 1930s Indian rear fender guard and exists for more than esthetics. "Everyone who rides an S1000RR tends to wheelie it," says Culp. "The grab bar is to keep them on the seat." So much about this street-fighting S1000RR is custom that it is often easier to say what is not: the wheels and tires, frame, engine. Period.

"I've taken the bike down to its essentials," says Culp. "This is basically what a chopper is supposed to be. I peeled all the plastic off and let it tell me what it needed to be." Culp has let bikes talk to him before and has walked away with the awards for his efforts. This is the next step up.

His cafe racers took Bike Week '10 by storm, but he wanted to compete head-on with the big boys in a category that attracts worldwide attention. "There are a lot of things on this bike that aren't normal," says Culp. "But a BMW Streetfighter isn't normal, either, so I think it works."

"When people see this bike, I want them to have to stand there a moment and clear their minds. It's not an S1000RR, it's not a vintage BMW, it's something new and totally unique. But unlike many custom bikes, this one is going to perform well and be comfortable to ride...and I can't wait to let it rip!"

To find out more about Steve's background and his marvelous machines, go to:

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