Buells have always been slightly oddball machines, winning over a small but diehard set of fans. From 1997-2002, the company produced tube-framed bikes, some of which have taken on a cult status among true believers. One such “tuber” was the Buell M2 Cyclone, situated between the sport hooligan S1 Lightning and the heavier S3 Thunderbolt sport touring models.
Motorcycle.com called the M2 Cyclone “big, fat fun,” with its 93-hp 1200 Sportster engine and wheelie-happy wheelbase. The bike even earned the nickname “The Old Man’s Sport Bike” — a nod to the bike’s sporty yet comfortable ergonomics, perfect for long days of canyon-carving or the rip-roar of the daily commute. Unfortunately, the Cyclone may have been slightly too odd for its own good. Sales numbers were dismal, leading to a limited production run.
Enter Benny Yee of Lane Splitter Garage, a self-described “motorcycle obsessive” who moved out of his parents’ house when they wouldn’t let him have a motorcycle “under their roof.” Benny has wanted a Buell for years — in particular, a tube-framed model. He has a design process we love: he names each bike first, then builds around that theme. For this Buell street tracker, Benny picked a name almost synonymous with the dead glory of the 1980s: “Betamax,” Sony’s doomed rival to VHS recording format. The result is an 80s-inspired Buell Cyclone tracker “that you would ride down to the local video store.”
“Beta MAX” Buell Street Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Benny Yee, I’m a motorcycle obsessive from Brisbane Australia. I’ve been riding bikes of some sort since I was a small fry. I graduated from a BMX after moving out of home after my parents wouldn’t allow me to have one while I was “under their roof.” I’ve been working primarily on customising bikes as a side project since 2012. I work out of my garage mainly on weekends at night as I work full time as a programmer, I also have a small webshop and created a web app along with a mate to help fellow backyard builders keep track of the custom projects called Buildboard.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Beta MAX is a 1998 Buell M2 Cyclone.
• Why was this bike built?
I built this as my personal ride after wanting a Buell since they were first released. Their out of the box design is something that has always appealed to me. I watched the Buell company go through its highs and lows but I never lost the desire to own one especially the old school tube models. There’s always something to be said about Erik’s never give up attitude. I’ll probably ride this until it dies and then do a full rebuild. A couple of friends always have a go at me for owning one but I know secretly they want one too.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I normally name the bikes first and then build around that theme, I find that it helps with the design and overall direction. I named it Beta Max after the Video Cassette player of the same name. Just like the video player, the donor bike also shared the same fate which included a dismal sales record resulting in a limited production run. Also wanted to recycle and reuse as much as I could from what I had on hand. I wanted to give it an 80’s video player touch but with some updated bits and pieces.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The subframe has been shortened and a fender I picked up from a swap meet attached. I shaped and glassed a new more comfortable dual seat. I fabricated a single sided licence plate holder. I used the existing dials but side-mounted the tach and fiberglassed a new speedo mount with some LED indicators.
I also relocated the ignition and added a new toggle to control the new Neon led headlight. I also created some pannier racks from some tubing that hold a couple of custom saddle bags to store replacement bolts for when they rattle off.
• How would you classify this bike?
I’d probably classify this as a street tracker, one that you would ride down to the local video store.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of ?
After riding it for a while now the Oury grips [Editor’s note: BEST grips in the world!] have to be the one of the best design choices. My teeth don’t chatter as much while waiting at the set of lights haha. I’m happy with how my pannier racks turned out and the price of the overall build. The bike also feels a lot nicer to ride with the new seat and wider bars.