It has been said that style never goes out of fashion. In the case of custom bike building, when the style in question is Choppers, then it is definitely never out of fashion. Reinforcing this belief is Walton – a Norton-engined Chopper that took fifth place at the European Championship of Custom Bike Building in Germany and 6th at the Sturgis World Championship
One of the defining features of the 2010 European Championship of Custom Bike Building was the diversity of power plants around with which the bikes competing in the show were built. While it is true that American V-twins are still the most popular choice of engine, many European builders are looking to other manufacturers for a starting point, and one such example is the Austrian bike shop ‘Blech & Drueber’.
Bernhard Naumann and Martin Lagler, the two men who are the creative force at Blech & Drueber, have built a diverse range of custom machines which includes café racers and sports bikes before taking on the traditional styling of a late ’60s Chopper. Not being traditional custom builders, Bernhard and Martin did not feel confined to begin the build of Walton, the bike with which they took fifth place at the European Championship of Custom Bike Building and 6th at the World Championship, with a Harley motor.
Instead they started with an 850cc parallel twin from a 1972 Norton Commando. For the sake of simplicity the matching Norton four-speed transmission was also used. Modifications to the drivetrain package where kept to a minimum; an aluminum manifold to carry the twin Amal carbs, all the oil lines replaced with copper hard lines and a custom fabricated exhaust. The header pipe from the left cylinder runs out and around the front of the down tube of the frame before bending under the engine and then emerging again behind the gear box. The right pipe, however, runs down the outside of the other down tube and then bends around to match the contours of the engine casing and transmission before joining the other pipe.
The choice of Norton for the power plant dictated that an off-the-shelf frame was not available, which led Bernhard and Martin to fabricate their own high-necked frame, which features 43 degrees of rake and twin down tubes. The frame is complimented by a workshop, too. The linkage plates have been machined from aluminum and the legs have been produced in stainless steel. The upper triple tree on the forks also incorporates the risers for the bars, the bars themselves being sleeved into the risers. However, it is the detailing on the front end that sets the forks apart. The front brake is operated by a reverse action lever with an internal cable, as is the throttle.
Both of the cables exit at a bend in the bars and the exposed cables then run over a brass roller to direct them down to the front of the bike. Below the lower fork linkage the brake cable meets a second brass roller, which is bolted to a sliding mount that allows the single cable from the lever to pull the twin cable of the Grimeca twin leading shoe drum brake laced into the front wheel. In order to keep the cable running parallel to the fork leg a further brass roller is mounted on each side of the hub, on custom brackets, to guide the cable.
The unusual detailing continues through the rest of the bike. One such example is the rear brake. The Blech & Drueber forward controls pull a cable, which then runs through a rocker system hidden on the inside of the frame that pushes on a hydraulic master cylinder that in turn operates the caliper on the rear wheel’s combination sprocket and rotor. The caliper itself is then hidden behind the mount for the bike’s taillight.
The wheels, onto which the brakes are mounted, are both 21in diameter 2.75 rims carrying Avon 3.0in tires.
The remaining controls on the bike are taken care of by a suicide shifter made by Bernhard and Martin, which also carries the cable clutch lever. The detailing on Walton is such that the pivot for the shifter is an extension of the motor’s top mount and the linkage for the shifter is routed down between the two carbs.
Continuing the theme of parts having more than one function is the rear fender, which is also the bike’s oil tank and is supplemented by a second tank below the seat. The seat itself is suspended on a one-off cantilever system that pushes a horizontally mounted shock above the transmission.
More one-off parts found on the bike include the aluminum battery box at the base of the frame’s down tubes and the hand-beaten aluminum gas tank. The gas tank does not bolt to the bike, rather at the front small brackets hook onto pegs on the frame, and then it is held firmly in place by leather straps at the rear.
It is this level of detailing that can be found throughout the entire bike that led to Walton placing so highly at the European Championship.