So-called “crotch rockets” are no longer the preferred flavor of motorcycle. A blind man with one ear and no sense of smell could tell you that. Today everything is about café racers. But it was not always so. And I am here to tell you that it will not always be so. And also that it doesn’t even need to be that way right now.
Walt Siegl is a man of many talents whom some would argue makes the most beautiful and fantastic hand-built motorcycles available in the USA today. And perhaps even on planet Earth. I would be one of those people.
I should also admit that I cut my teeth on crotch rocket superbikes in the 1990s. Ducati’s original 955SP track bikes. Suzuki GSXR750s and GSXR1000s. Triumph Daytonas. Hot on the heels of guys who raced WSB (Superbike World Championship) when not stringing sentences together for Fast Bikes magazine.
So I am a man infected with a disease—the disease of speed. For nothing quite matches a superbike for visceral adrenaline-pumping excess. It is the freebase, mainline, speedball of the transport game. The thing that takes you to the edge of the void, and for those who don’t respect it, or get unlucky, into it….
Siegl gets this; perhaps because he grew up racing bikes in the south of France. But I have to believe there is more to it than this. As it takes more than just an appreciation of speed and its superlative highs to build machines which take the experiential needle to the redline; and then bury it against the limiter until it snaps.
Fluid beautiful lines, simplified and purified ergonomics and materials science, aesthetically-pleasing color schemes are the hallmarks of Walt’s shop in New Hampshire. And hands-on performance that literally takes your breath away as your cardiovascular system momentarily wobbles and hits pause when more adrenaline cascades into your system than your heart can handle.
As Walt said himself when designing the new WSM SBK [Walt Siegl Motorcycles Superbike], “My goal was to design a truly special machine that encapsulates traditional European motorcycle design and its racing heritage, and all the emotions that come with that. Riding the bike tops it all off: It behaves so differently than your showroom bike. It is so agile and easy to steer, without feeling flighty, and at the same time quite comfortable.”
That “really caught me by surprise on my first test ride,” he notes. “All the painstaking considerations of ergonomics really paid off. And all the weight-saving efforts are really paying off, not only with the way the bike steers and feels under you, but also how well the brakes and suspension translate, and how effortless the acceleration is. The experience is truly visceral.”
As Siegl says, “The design of this machine is my romance with classic race bikes blending, I hope seamlessly, with modern technology and design. I wanted to hold on to what is so dear to most Ducatistas, the trellis frames, the rattling dry clutches, the torquey thrust of the long stroke motors. It’s a visceral experience.”
All the time and attention spent maximizing the handling and performance of this street-legal track weapon weighing in at an insane 340 lbs succeeded. From OSM carbon fiber parts designed from scratch by Walt to the wholesale redesign of systems to reduce the number of parts, literally no detail has been overlooked. This is how this bike ended up 24 lbs lighter than Ducati’s own 1098R superbike. As well as lighter than the works WSB superbikes the year it was built.
In a world of restomod Porsche 911s and MonteCarlo Offshorer speedboats, the WSM SBK is a hand-built tour de force that belongs in every billionaire superhero’s garage.