Cafe racers are on the rise these days. Roll down to your local watering hole, and there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll see a grimy cafe’d CB750 or SX650 with enough duct tape on the seat to make a decent lean-to. Grabbing a little 70’s flair is as easy as kicking some life into a cheap Japanese craigslist find, hence all the would-be rockers that have sprung back onto the scene with a vengeance lately. Sure, trends are a dime a dozen, but carefully crafted motorcycles? Well, they’re much harder to come by.
Which brings us to Red Baron, the cleanly rendered Dyna Low Rider-based cafe racer you see here, named to pay tribute not only to the famed German World War I flying ace but also the favorite Spanish rock band of all time, the builder told us. Beginning with one of Milwaukee’s best all around Big Twin cruisers, Fran Manen of Lord Drake Kustoms has done something truly amazing, both in concept and execution.
How this Cafe Racer “Red Baron” was made
All customization is rebellion, but taking a fundamentally good Dyna and turning it into street-stalking cafe racer is almost off the wall. “It’s possibly one of the first Big Twin cafe racers in U.S.,” Fran points out, adding that he feels the model is undervalued in the United States. Deraked with shortened forks and taller external reservoir shocks, Red Baron’s conservative factory geometry has been pushed to its limits with quicker steering, more weight on the front wheel and room for increased lean angles, the likes of which a stock Dyna couldn’t dream of.
And why 80, you ask? “It’s the same number of victories the Red Baron himself earned,”
While the XLCR paved the way for Sportster owners who lusted after a little more lean, this sort of chassis treatment is new to Big Twins. Fran only arrived in the United States to set up shop in Miami four years ago, but he has a strong sense of mechanical history and he’s clearly brought his own flair to the machinery we hold so dear on these shores. Take a look at how far the the Vance & Hines pipes are angled up, a testament to the serious changes that have taken place to the stance. It’s an eye-catching detail, and one that lends a unique profile to a bike that came out of the factory with such radically different intentions.
The lines of the bike become even more racy thanks to the addition of spoked DNA wheels, a 19” hoop in the front and an 18” in the rear. Spokes and rims are color matched to the aggressive black and red color scheme that’s evident in small and large details all over the bike, from custom engine covers and panels to the fork legs and even a horn cover proudly emblazoned with Lord Drake Kustoms’ initials.
The theme is carried over to custom number plates, with the number 80 carefully cut into the panels and then filled with accenting black mesh. And why 80, you ask? “It’s the same number of victories the Red Baron himself earned,” Fran puts simply. The fork brace received a similar treatment, with contrasting black mesh laid under the hole in the brace itself.
More fabrication was required in shaping the bodywork, a key feature on any cafe build. The tail section was done in house at Lord Drake Kustoms, from shaping and molding the tail itself to adding foam under the seat cover for a little more comfort than those tape-slathered cafe bikes I mentioned earlier. Fran even grafted in a slick LED taillight along the back. The tank was modified with a custom dash panel, and then painted carefully to pull the two-color paneled paint scheme in a flowing line from the tank to the seat and across the tail. A bikini fairing adds a hint of wind protection for the rider, while helping create the clean, tapered profile that most cafe racers seek.
Bars are a pair of beautifully machined Roland Sands Design clip-ons, mounted above the top triple tree for a racy but reasonable riding position. The mid controls were retained, and for good reason: you can’t really hustle a bike like this through the twisties with your legs fanned out in the breeze, dragging your pegs on every apex! RSD was also the source for other modern details, like the Clarity Line cam and clutch covers that unwrap some of this bike’s internal workings.
Speaking of those workings, the already substantial 88” Twin Cam was left in a relatively mild state of tune. So how is this bike supposed to live up to its racy billing, you ask? Good old-fashioned power to weight ratio, the credo that any true cafe racer lives by.
Just as Baron von Richthofen brazenly ventured into unknown territory, this Red Baron stepped onto the stage to do battle at the longest running custom bike competition […]
Why add power when you can simply strip weight? With the absence of so many Big Twin accessories, the Red Baron’s power plant motivates the bike respectably. Remember, most cafe builders start with 350’s, 400’s, maybe a 750 if they’re feeling aggressive. Red Baron’s packing almost twice the displacement of a 750!
That being said, a little more air in and out never hurts. Those Vance & Hines pipes I mentioned are responsible for the exhaust side, while an S&S tuned induction system draws air in through the larger 58mm S&S carb. And it wasn’t just the engine breathing hard when Fran brought the bike to Daytona this March to compete at the world-renowned Rat’s Hole show.
Just as Baron von Richthofen brazenly ventured into unknown territory, this Red Baron stepped onto the stage to do battle at the longest running custom bike competition—the Rat’s Hole Show—during America’s prestigious national scene—Daytona Bike Week—for the first ever showing of a machine built by Lord Drake Kustoms. And thanks to the bold choice of platform and artful execution, Red Baron took first place in the Cafe Racer category.
Rock on, Red Baron. Manfred Von Richthofen would be honored.
Red Baron Specifications
Name: Red Baron
Owner: Fran Manen, Lord Drake Kustoms, Miami, FL
Builder: Fran Manen, LDK
Year, Make & Model: 2001 HD Dyna Low Rider
Timeline: 6 weeks
Year/Model: 2001 H-D Narrow Glide
Triple trees: H-D
Extension: 3” under
Year/Model: 2001 Twin Cam
Displacement: 88 C.I.
Lower End: H-D
Carb: S&S 58 mm
Air Cleaner: S&S
Pipes: Vance & Hines
Primary Drive: Chain
Secondary Drive: Belt
Bars: RSD clip-ons
Gas Tank: Sportster, modified by LDK
Oil Tank: Stock
Headlight: Modified by LDK
Speedo: Stock, bracket fabricated by LDK
Pegs: Performance Machine
Fork brace: LDK
Front Wheel: 19” DNA Fat Daddy
Front Tire: Metzeler
Size: 19” x 100
Rear Wheel: 18″ DNA Fat Daddy
Rear Tire: Metzeler
Size: 18” x 160
Color: Fire red and black