Sunday, May 8, 2011

2008 Travertson V-Rex First Ride

2008 Traverston V-Rex
Most concept motorcycles never make it into production, but Christian Travert turned Tim Cameron's dreams into physical reality with the Travertson V-Rex.
The weather couldn't be more gorgeous as I motor down one of Orange County, California's mystifying backroads. With the chrome trimmed throttle fully wrapped, the liquid-cooled V-Twin beneath me hurls forward at a startling rate. The ferocious roar emitting out of the torpedo-shaped muffler builds quickly, yet contradicts the futuristic styling of this burgundy stunner I'm seated on. With the rattle of the engines two big power pulses increasing to an almost sportbike-like crescendo, I grab an up-shift while glancing down at the Harley-Davidson speedometer as the needle slams past the century mark.

But this ain't no Harley. True, it does share a fair amount of Milwaukee DNA as evidenced by the high-revving V-Rod-sourced powertrain, elegant instrumentation and chromed-out switchgear. However, with the machine's chiseled body panels, stuffed elongated stance and eccentric suspension componentry, it looks as if it were plucked right off the floor of Tokyo's concept motorcycle show.

Despite the bevy of people that gravitate to the bike like Keith Richards to a bottle of liquor, a one-off prototype this bike is not.

The Travertson V-Rex began as a fairy tale two-wheeled creation engineered in the binary world by Australian designer Tim Cameron. A life-long motorcycle rider and enthusiast, Cameron has been sketching motorcycles since he was a school boy.

"A lot of my influences come from aviation and science fiction," says Cameron. "I don't pay too much attention to categories and styles of bikes. I've used motocross bike features on road bike designs and as long as it works visually, I'll use it. I just want to create something that leaps off the page."

Like many motorcycle enthusiasts, Cameron was fed up with the stagnant state of cruiser design, so when sketching his 'Dream Bike', one of his objectives was to try and move contemporary cruiser design into the new millennium.

"Currently, cruisers appear to be in stuck some kind of generic time warp," said Cameron. "I wanted to project them into the future rather than poke around in the past for that look that I was after."

Cameron never anticipated his design evolving past the computer screen. But when a certain Frenchman by the name of Christian Travert stumbled upon the 3D renderings on the Web, Cameron's digital vision was about to transform itself into moving metal.

2008 Traverston V-Rex
The unique front end of the V-Rex looks like something you would typically see on the rear of a motorcycle.
Travert emailed Cameron with the subject line "Dream Bike on the Streets of America". And after he name-dropped his 227 mph, jet engine-powered Y2K motorcycle that he helped build, Cameron knew Travert was legit.

"At first, I studied Tim's rendering for a few weeks. I finally found technical solutions to accommodate the look and ride-ability," says Travert. "From day one I was looking for production."

Thousands of hours later, the first production V-Rex rolled out of the Travert's 12-employee, Fort Lauderdale, Florida factory and into the hands of, owner Jack Reynolds. Not one to be stingy, The Newport Beach, California-based business rents the machine to any licensed motorcyclist that can pony up the $300-per-day fee.

With a 79.2-inch wheelbase, the V-Rex is similar in length to a raked-out custom chopper. But unlike those over-stretched pieces of steel, the V-Rex's 670-pound claimed dry weight feels low and centralized. This is due, in part, to its unique short steel frame which uses the V-Rod-sourced engine and cast-aluminum fuel tank as stressed members.

In order to keep true to Cameron's sketch, Travert engineered a unique front suspension system that looks and works much like a swingarm/monoshock setup you typically see on the rear-end of most motorcycles. The curious looking front-end utilizes a double-sided cast-aluminum swingarm that holds the front wheel in place. The swingarm pivots on the vertical steering head axis, while damping is provided by an adjustable shock mounted vertically behind front wheel. The end result is a system that retains all the bump absorbing ability that one would expect from a conventional fork, yet it still delivers a light, nimble feel at the handlebars.

Handling rear suspension duties are adjustable twin shocks mounted horizontally beneath the rear of the engine (pulled off of Harley-Davidson's Softail model), while a single-sided aluminum swingarm guides the belt drive to the 280-series Metzeler tire. Travert's rear suspension design absorbs road impurities well, but the rear shock's limited travel means extended rides on the soft saddle will include frequent rest breaks.

Pushing the futuristic-looking cruiser back and forth exposes just how easy the bike maneuvers in low-speed settings. For a motorcycle of such size, its weight feels centered and turning it around in the tight confines of the parking lot was far easier than you would imagine.

2008 Traverston V-Rex
Feel at the handlebars is light and getting the V-Rex to change direction is easy considering the bikes almost 7-foot wheelbase.
Hop aboard and you'll notice how slim the bike is, especially between the rider's legs. The low, form-fitting leather saddle is, initially, one of the most comfortable we've sampled and the reach out to the swept wing-shaped handlebars puts you in a natural, relaxed riding posture. The low forward-mounted footpegs might be a bit of a stretch for shorter riders, but for my body measurements the entire ergonomic package felt well-balanced.

Turning the upside-down mounted key counterclockwise and flipping the Harley-sourced engine switch brings the bike's fuel-injected system online. Thumb the starter and the 1350cc DOHC V-Twin rumbles to life, emitting a healthy bark even at idle. There's no neutral light or any safety-related starting lockout, so caution needs to be exercised when starting. Once in gear, a slip of the hydraulic clutch, a light dab of the throttle and you're underway.

On the road there's no hiding the V-Rex's economy car-like length, but to our surprise it initiates turns and changes directions quite readily. A simple nudge of the handlebar is all that's necessary to get things happening. However, Travertson's unique front-end setup does take a bit of getting use to. Unlike a conventional telescopic motorcycle fork which will dive under braking or when loaded, the V-Rex does the exact opposite. This makes the bike feel like it wants to stand up and run to the outside mid-corner.

Another factor that limits the V-Rex in the handling department is its ground clearance, or more specifically - the lack thereof. The clearance deficiency reduces cornering prowess, especially on right-hand turns. Parts of the exhaust drag at even the most modest lean angle. Fortunately, the Travertson crew recognizes the problem and has an upgrade that they claim will increase ground clearance by 1.5-inches. Problem solved.

Okay, so motoring through the twisties isn't exactly the V-Rex's forte, but luckily straight line cruising definitely is.

Those who have ridden a V-Rod know that the low-end and mid-range can be slightly lackluster compared to the typical Harley mill. But for those of who aren't shy with the throttle, once the engine is revved up higher in the rpm range, the rider is rewarded with a healthy dose of acceleration. In fact, straight-line speeds in excess of 100 mph aren't much of an issue, and the bike's low, stretched length allows plenty of straight-line stability.

2008 Traverston V-Rex
As a cruiser/custom-inspired design, the V-Rex sports a fat rear, with our test unit rolling on Metzler Marathon rubber.
The V-Rex rides on a set of machined 18-inch wheels shod in fat Metzeler Marathon touring rubber. Continuing with the V-Rex's eccentric theme is a perimeter-mounted single front disc which gets clamped by a six-piston caliper that was lifted off of a Buell sportbike. Handling rear braking duties is a two-piston caliper pinching a single disc. Stopping power on the V-Rex isn't astounding, but when both brakes are applied, the setup is capable of slowing the machine down in a reasonable amount of distance.

In a sea of cookie-cutter motorcycle mediocrity the V-Rex stands out. Cameron's creation gives us a possible glimpse into the future of motorcycle design, while the Travertson team proves that innovative engineering solutions can be applied to even the most outlandish concepts.

To a motorcyclist looking for a new production cruiser, the $43,900 price tag might seem a bit out of reach. But when you consider that other 'custom' production bikes like Orange County Choppers start at roughly the same price, the forty-grand MSRP doesn't seem so unreasonable.

So you want one now, eh? Well, if you're a person who's always shied away from the limelight, then you might want to choose a different ride because wherever you're at on this one, you're sure to become an instant celebrity - for the V-Rex garners attention from every angle, all of the time.

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